For the past two years, car-hailing app Uber has tried several legal maneuvers to quash an ongoing class-action lawsuit filed by a number of its drivers in California. Theycontend that they've been wrongly classified as contractors, instead of full employees, and that Uber has withheld some of their tips. On Friday, the $50 billion company deployed its latest tactic: An updated driver agreement began popping up on Uber apps nationwide that drivers were required to sign before being able to accept any new rides over the weekend, reports theSan Francisco Chronicle. But many see this agreement as the company's most recent attempt to kneecap the class action lawsuit.
In 2014, Uber rewrote its driver agreements to include an arbitration clause that stripped drivers of their right to sue the company in regular court. On Wednesday, a federal judge in San Francisco threw out that agreement, making it possible for the ongoing class-action to include all of the 160,000 drivers who have worked for Uber in California since 2009.
Two days later, Uber added languageabout arbitration to its driver agreements that could skirt that ruling, preventing new drivers from signing onto the class-action lawsuit. Binding arbitration clauses require workers to resolve disputes in private, confidential sessions with paid arbitrators rather than in court. They also usually prohibit workers both from appealing the initial arbitration decision and, as is the case in Uber's new driver agreement, participating in class actions.
"We believe this is an illegal attempt by Uber to usurp the court's role now in overseeing the process of who is included in the class," Shannon Liss-Riordan, the Boston-based attorney who is leading the lawsuit against Uber, told the San Francisco Chronicle. Liss-Riordan is filing an emergency motion that will be heard by Judge Chen on Thursday, asking the court to prevent Uber from enforcing this new agreement.
If drivers manage to get to the final paragraphs of the complex 21-page agreement, they'll discover that they don't have to sign off on the new arbitration clause at all. By emailing Uber directly with their decision to opt out of being forced to resolve their disputes with binding arbitration, they would be able to continue to drive. The new agreement also won't affect those drivers who are already participating in the lawsuit.
The ongoing lawsuit challenges two aspects of how the $50 billion company treats workers: First, it claims that Uber has misclassified its workers as contractors, depriving them of crucial employee benefits such as vehicle maintenance expenses. It also alleges that the company has been manipulating ride prices by incorrectly assuring riders that a full tip is included in the fare when, in fact, Uber has kept a portion of those tips rather than remitting them fully to drivers. The suit asks Uber to reimburse drivers for lost tips and expenses, plus interest. If the group of plaintiffs grows by 160,000 drivers, the civil penalties requested in this suit could get very expensive for Uber.
Liss-Riordan explains that Uber is trying to thwart the class action because the alternative—lots of individual lawsuits—would be much simpler and cheaper for the company to handle. The time and money involved in hiring a lawyer would deter many drivers from ever pursuing an individual lawsuit. "And of course, Uber does not want to be sued 160,000 times," Liss-Riordan told Mother Jones in October. "What it wants is for most of these drivers just to go away."
Days after a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, killed 14 people, and one day after President Barack Obama called for more gun safety measures in a speech addressing the attack, GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie bolstered his support of gun rights. As news surfaced that the assault weapons used in San Bernardino were purchased legally due to a loophole in California's assault weapons ban, Christie said during a radio interview that Obama's call for limits on assault weapons was "absurd."
This was one of the New Jersey governor's many recent efforts to showcase his pro-guns stance. Last month, he conditionally vetoeda bill that would have made it harder for domestic abusers to own guns. He also recently vetoed a bill that would have required law enforcement to be notified when a person who had been institutionalized for mental illness seeks to expunge his mental health record when applying for a gun permit. And in the past year, he pardoned five people in New Jersey who were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm.
But for most of his two decades in politics, Christie has been a supporter of gun safety measures. In 1993, during his failed campaign for state Senate, he cited Republican efforts to repeal New Jersey's assault weapon ban as his inspiration for entering politics. He repeated his support of the assault weapons ban in 1995 when running for the state Assembly. In his 2009 gubernatorial campaign, Christie voiced his opposition to a federal bill that would have made it easier for permit holders to carry firearms across state lines. As governor, he signed nearly a dozen pieces of legislation restricting guns in 2013, including one that barred individuals on the federal terror watch list from obtaining a permit to buying a gun in New Jersey. His consistent support for gun control has earned him a C, the lowest rating from the National Rifle Association among the top GOP presidential candidates. In 2014, New Jersey was voted one of the worst states for gun owners by Guns & Ammo magazine.
Yet late last month on CNN, Christie refused to express support a proposed bill in Congress that seeks to close this same terror watch list loophole nationwide, saying that he believes this sort of rule-making should be left to states.
When he's been questioned about his newfound support of gun rights, Christie has insisted it's an authentic evolution. "I have grown up a bit and changed my view and been educated on it," Christie said on Face the Nation last Sunday, when asked about his previous support for an assault weapons ban. Christie said his views began to change when he became a prosecutor and saw that firearms are necessary for law enforcement to manage crime.
Though the NRA has yet to revise its rating for the candidate, Christie has won critical support in New Hampshire—a key primary state and also a GOP electorate that tends to oppose stricter gun control. Last month, Christie won the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, the New Hampshire Union Leader. He's since been endorsed by the state's House and Senate majority leaders, and several other political figures.
Christie's revamped position on guns seems to have convinced many of New Hampshire's leaders that he could win a pro-gun constituency. But the most fervently pro-gun groups in the state aren't sold. On Wednesday, the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition, one of two major gun rights groups in the state, sent an email blast to its members warning them to be wary of Christie's purported Second Amendment bona fides.
"Don't be fooled!" writes NHFC in its message, outlining Christie's pro-gun-control history. "The truth is Chris Christie has been an anti-gun activist for his entire political career…Being pro-gun is doing the right thing when no one is looking."
"I am a warrior for the babies," he shouted, according to the New York Times.
He also yelled, "I am guilty. There will be no trial," and "Seal the truth, kill the babies. That's what Planned Parenthood does," according to Rick Sallinger, a reporter with CBS4 news in Denver who was in the courtroom.
These outbursts could be an indication of Dear's motives for the clinic attack.
Law enforcement officials in Colorado Springs have been hesitant to talk publicly about what may have spurred Dear to act. Several media interviews with people who know Dear have revealed that Dear passionately opposed abortion. After he was arrested, he reportedly told the police, "no more baby parts." Also, one of Dear's ex-wives said he had vandalized a South Carolina abortion clinic years ago by putting glue in the locks on its doors.
After multiple shootings across the country in the past week, including a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14 people, a Missouri state lawmaker decided to take a provocative approach toward gun control. State Rep. Stacey Newman, a Democrat, prefiled a bill this week for the next legislative session that, if passed, would subject potential gun buyers to the same rigmarole of restrictions—a 72-hour waiting period, an explanatory video, a doctor meeting, a facility tour, reviews of photographs, and more—that are already imposed on or have been proposed for Missouri women seeking abortions.
Prior to any firearm purchase in this state, a prospective firearm purchaser shall, at least seventy-two hours prior to the initial request to purchase a firearm from a licensed firearm dealer located at least one hundred twenty miles from such purchaser’s legal residence, confer and discuss with a licensed physician the indicators and contraindicators and risk factors, including any physical, psychological, or situational factors, that may arise with the proposed firearm purchase. Such physician shall then evaluate the prospective firearm purchaser for such indicators and contraindicators and risk factors and determine if such firearm purchase would increase such purchaser’s risk of experiencing an adverse physical, emotional, or other health reaction.
The bill also requires gun purchasers to watch a 30-minute video about firearm injuries, to tour an emergency trauma center at an urban hospital on a weekend night, when rates of gun-shot victims are high, and to meet with two families who have experienced gun violence and two local faith leaders who have officiated a funeral recently for a child killed by gun violence.
This symbolic bill is reminiscent of the trend that cropped up several years ago, when legislators across the country filed tongue-in-cheek measures proposing restrictions on vasectomies corresponding to state abortion restrictions. None of those measures passed, and Newman's bill is also virtually guaranteed to fail in Missouri's Republican-controlled legislature. Newman's intent is to highlight the high hurdles to getting an abortion in Missouri relative to the lack of accountability required for buying a gun.
"If we truly insist that Missouri cares about 'all life', then we must take immediate steps to address our major cities rising rates of gun violence,'" Newman told St. Louis magazine. "Popular proposals among voters, including universal background checks and restricting weapons from abuser and convicted felons, are consistently ignored each session. Since restrictive policies regarding a constitutionally protected medical procedure are the GOP’s legislative priority each year, it makes sense that their same restrictions apply to those who may commit gun violence."
Attendees at a University of Colorado vigil for those killed in Friday's shooting at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic
Last Friday, three people were killed and at least nine were injured when Robert Lewis Dear allegedly shot them at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood facility. This assault was the latest in a recent surge of violence against women's health clinics following the release of doctored videos this summer by anti-abortion activists who claim the videos show Planned Parenthood staffers selling fetal tissue.
But even before this summer, US abortion providers have weathered a long and deadly string of violent attacks. On Sunday, Michelle Kinsey Bruns, a feminist organizer and the woman behind Twitter account @ClinicEscort, tweeted a roundup of 100 attacks on women's health providers, beginning with the 1976 arson attempt at an abortion clinic in Eugene, Oregon, and ending with the response from some anti-abortion activists to Friday's shooting in Colorado.