"We understand the need for them to academically grow. But we also understand the need for them to live.”
Demanding safe school re-openings, major changes at the Postal Service, and a look at the strangest Democratic primary this cycle
|Rachel Cohen||Aug 4, 2020||2|
Hope everyone’s doing okay. I have a few new Intercept stories to share, as well as a great update on a previous article I sent out.
Yesterday, in cities across 25 states, educators, parents, students and community allies staged in-person and virtual protests to demand safe school reopening plans. I’ve been getting annoyed with some of the media coverage of this issue, which has too often presented it as if everyone wants to go back to school except teacher unions, and that somehow they’re the main impediment to things returning back to normal. This is certainly false, and we know from polling that majorities of parents and school administrators have deep concerns about the risks of going back. Congress hasn’t allocated the level of funding many think will be necessary for schools to afford PPE and sanitation, many schools have dreadful ventilation systems and windowless classrooms, there’s expected staff shortages as older and immunocompromised teachers may stay home and substitute teacher pools dwindle, and what we thought we knew about COVID-19 transmission among children has continued to evolve, and now no one is super confident they can’t carry + transmit the virus.
As one school occupational therapist said to me, “You can spend an entire year asking kids to walk in the hall, and yet we somehow expect them to wear masks for six hours? It’s a joke.”
It’s a genuinely terrible situation, and had we invested in things like school infrastructure and smaller class sizes, some of the incredible problems leaders are dealing with now might look very different. I wrote about the National Day of Resistance that was held yesterday for school re-openings, and you can read about what they’re demanding, and how they feel.
As a bonus: Paul Abowd, a journalist and filmmaker who works at The Intercept, created a powerful 8-minute video of D.C. educators who were organizing in July around schools re-openings. They included it at the top of my story and I’ll post it here too:
Last week I wrote about worrying changes at the US Postal Service. In mid-June Louis DeJoy, a big whig businessman in the logistics industry from North Carolina, who is also a top donor to Trump and the Republican Party, became the new USPS Postmaster General. He’s the first postmaster general in over two decades to have never worked at USPS. The outgoing postmaster general was appointed in 2015 and had been a career-long USPS employee, beginning as a letter carrier in Pennsylvania.
Since DeJoy started, USPS has begun implementing new policies that have alarmed postal workers and they say will invariably lead to slower mail delivery. I wrote about some of these changes and why workers fear this is the first step to privatizing the Postal Service, which is something Trump is on record saying he wants to do. People are also nervous this could affect vote-by-mail in November, if mail delivery slows down and/or people lose trust in USPS and don’t vote at all. (For what it’s worth USPS is one of the most highly trusted federal agencies.)
This is a really big story that people should be paying attention to, and I know postal worker unions are planning to fight back, and pressing Congress to hold hearings in the fall. If you want to get involved and stay informed on some of the advocacy around protecting USPS, check out US Mail: Not For Sale and you can read my USPS story here.
And lastly for new stories, this was one was fun to work on, with The Intercept’s Akela Lacy. We wrote about the Democratic Senate primary in Massachusetts between Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Joe Kennedy III — which is going down on September 1. It’s a weird primary all around, with close to $20 million being poured into a safe blue seat where the candidates themselves are pretty ideologically aligned. Markey, the incumbent who has been in Congress for over 40 years, is running as some kind of grassroots underdog and Kennedy, the grandson of Bobby Kennedy and a man with the most famous last name in Massachusetts, has also positioned himself as some kind of insurgent. We interviewed both men and tracked some of the evolving points of their records. You can read that here.
Now for a cool update:
Back in May, I reported on a crazy situation playing out at the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest government-owned power provider which serves 10 million people across seven southern states. The TVA was created in 1933 during the Great Depression, and part of its mandate is to provide economic development to the Tennessee Valley region. Yet despite this, and despite the 30 million U.S workers filing for unemployment since the pandemic began, TVA management announced plans to outsource hundreds of federal IT jobs to overseas companies.
Unbeknownst to me, my story caught the attention of a lobbying organizing that focuses on outsourcing and offshoring of U.S. tech jobs and in July they began running TV ads and applying pressure on the Trump administration about their hypocrisy on “America First”. You can watch the 30-second TV spot here, which features my story at 16 seconds in.
Due in large part to this group’s efforts over the last month to elevate the issue, Trump caved and signed an executive order yesterday calling to end the outsourcing of TVA jobs! In response TVA very quickly said they’d reverse course.
I texted Gay Henson this morning, she’s a TVA worker of 35 years and the current president of Engineering Association (EA)/Local 1937, which has been leading the fight to save the TVA jobs since last fall. She thought some of the outsourcing was an attempt to undermine their union, and as she has been emphasizing for months, their existing staff was wholly capable of doing the tech work well themselves. Management had never identified any issues with it, and management even admitted the outsourcing wasn’t spurred by a desire to cut costs.
These kinds of labor fights normally don’t have happy endings so I’m just gonna share her response because it’s nice.
Thanks as always for reading and supporting this work,