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This week in wins: House passes landmark bill protecting workers and consumers

Progressives won victories in California, where a new law protects workers in the gig economy, and a new task force in Minnesota will address violence against Native women.

By Dan Desai Martin - September 20, 2019
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Nancy Pelosi

If you are looking for reasons to celebrate, know that college could soon become tuition-free in New Mexico and the House of Representatives is ready to tackle high prescription drug prices.

In addition, California is determined to protect workers in the gig economy and the dictionary takes a stand for how we use pronouns.

Those are just some of the wins this week. Here is more good news from across the country.

FAIR Act sails through the House of Representatives

On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal (FAIR) Act by a 225-186 vote. The legislation would prevent companies from forcing workers and consumers into arbitration, where disputes are settled without a judge or jury.

Vox reported that forced arbitration clauses make it harder for employees to sue their boss for instances of sexual harassment or racial discrimination, and arbitration cases are usually less successful than court cases for those who have been wronged.

“Forced arbitration agreements undermine our indelible Constitutional right to trial by jury, benefiting powerful businesses at the expense of American consumers and workers,” Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), the bill’s lead sponsor, said on Friday.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

New Mexico looks to make all state colleges tuition-free

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced a plan Wednesday to make all colleges and universities in the state tuition-free for New Mexico residents. Under the plan, students could attend any of the state’s 29 public colleges and universities, regardless of income.

“It means better enrollment. It means better student success. In the long run, it means economic growth, improved outcomes for New Mexico workers and thinkers and parents,” Lujan Grisham said. “It means a better trained and better compensated workforce.”

The program will cost the state between $25 million and $35 million per year, but an expert on higher education said the cost is well worth it. “Right now they are losing talented people dropping out of college because their families are too rich to be able to qualify for the Pell grant and too poor to be able to finish college, that’s economically inefficient,” Sara Goldrick-Rab, a professor at Temple University, told NPR. “This program will pay for itself.”

House unveils plan to tackle prescription drug prices

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a prescription drug plan Thursday that would allow Medicare to negotiate prices for seniors and younger people, the AP reported.

The law would push the Medicare program to negotiate the prices of up to 250 different prescription drugs, including insulin.

Pelosi said the goal is to see the legislation signed into law, hoping both Trump and Republicans in the Senate will work with the House to find common ground.

“We don’t want a political issue at the polls,” Pelosi said at a news conference. “We want a solution in Congress, and we want it now.”

Saturday early voting remains in Virginia’s Prince William County

The residents of one Virginia county came close to losing the ability to vote early in this year’s key elections. After a proposal to cut Saturday early voting hours due to budget concerns was floated in Prince William County, the board of elections voted 3-0 to keep the previously posted hours, starting Sept. 20.

“This election has the most direct impact on local citizens so we want to make sure people have as many opportunities as possible to vote in this election,” Keith Scarborough, the board’s secretary, said about the decision.

On Nov. 5, Virginia residents will vote for all members of both the House of Delegates and the state Senate. At the moment, Republicans hold a slim, one-seat majority in each chamber.

California law protects workers in the gig economy

California workers in the gig economy will soon have wage and benefit protections, thanks to a new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, NPR reported. The law is intended to protect drivers who work for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

“The hollowing out of our middle-class has been 40 years in the making, and the need to create lasting economic security for our workforce demands action,” Newsom said about the new law.

The law clarifies the difference between employees and independent contractors, ensuring companies provide proper benefits such as a minimum wage, health benefits, and paid sick leave.

New task force to address violence against Native women in Minnesota

On Thursday, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill creating the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force, KBJR reported.

Minnesota ranks ninth in the nation when it comes to violence against Native women, and Native women face a significantly greater likelihood of being murdered than the national average. But Walz hopes to turn things around.

“This history must end and it must end with us,” Walz said.

Merriam-Webster dictionary acknowledges ‘they’ as a singular pronoun

Merriam-Webster dictionary announced 530 new words and phrased on Thursday, from the silly (“vacay” is now acceptable as short for “vacation”) to the specific (“Aphantasia,” the inability to form mental images).

In addition to those changes, the dictionary now recognizes “they” a singular pronoun for anyone who identifies as gender nonbinary. The change has already widely taken place in the common vernacular, and Merriam-Webster recognizes the long history of using “they” as a singular pronoun.

In a short article about the usage, Merriam-Webster acknowledges the the use of “they” as singular goes back hundreds of years, and it’s use a a singular pronoun for gender nonbinary individuals goes back at least to the 1950s.

Come back next week for more good news.


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