BossFeed Briefing from Working Washington ~ say anything

We are Working Washington

BossFeed Briefing for February 19, 2018. Last Tuesday, a top federal budget official proposed turning food stamps into a “Blue Apron-type program.” Last Thursday, staff of Seattle’s KUOW radio station formed a union, as did some campaign workers earlier in the week. Today is a holiday for many people who work in offices and/or in the public sector, in honor of a wooden toothed man who chopped down a cherry tree and a bearded fellow with a top hat. Today is also the 76th anniversary of President Roosevelt ordering the internment of Japanese-Americans. And tomorrow is the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X.

Say anything 

government cheese

Three things to know this week:

wheelchair symbol The US House of Representatives voted to roll back antidiscrimination protections under the Americans with Disabilities Act, advancing a bill which would require that businesses be provided 60 days notice of accessibility violations and then be given 60 days to remedy the situation before a lawsuit can be filed. No other civil rights laws require similar waiting periods until they can be enforced in court.

investigate The chief counsel of federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Seattle pled guilty to charges that he used department databases to steal the identities of immigrants, obtained almost two hundred thousand dollars through fraud, and even claimed three of his identify theft victims as dependents on his taxes. A colleague in the Seattle ICE office had previously been found guilty of forging evidence in deportation cases.

empty pages Because they’re not classified as employees, Uber drivers and others in the “gig economy” aren’t covered by most laws against employment discrimination, including the fundamental protections in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. One member of Congress has introduced a bill to expand civil rights protections to cover independent contractors, but has zero co-sponsors.


Two things to ask:

skull and crossbones Why? During an investigation of a major chemical company for illegally exposing workers to a harmful pesticide, the company was caught doing it again. They were facing a fine of nearly $5 million for their violations, but under new leadership at the EPA, the penalties have now been reduced to $150,000.

shrug Does that add up? IHOP and Applebee’s, which are owned by the same corporation, have been sued for sexual harassment more often than any other restaurant chains. DineEquity, the corporate owner, claims that it has no control over employment conditions at its franchised locations, though somehow it is able to place national advertisements about menus, food quality, pricing, decor, and customer service.


And one thing that’s worth a closer look:

ear In a new piece in The Baffler, Liza Featherstone writes about the rise of focus groups and the consultant class, suggesting that the practice of careful “listening” by the powerful amounts to a kind of political con. When focus groups were first developed, they were thought to be a way to bring democracy to the economy by letting people have a say about the practices of giant corporations. But as focus groups became more political, and corporate ideology evolved, they developed a new purpose: instead of finding out what people wanted, they became all about finding ways to get people to accept things they didn’t want at all. Featherstone goes further, arguing persuasively that the practice of professional listening became has become increasingly common because the power gap between political elites and the rest of us has grown so vast that no other mode of deeper accountability remains.


Read this far?

tophat Consider yourself briefed, boss.


How Many U.S. Presidents Owned Slaves?

Slavery and the Presidency

Slavery is a central paradox of much of American history. In fact, most of the country’s founding fathers owned slaves.


The United States may have been founded on the idea that all men are created equal, but during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, slaveholding was common among the statesmen who served as president. All told, at least 12 chief executives—over a quarter of all American presidents—were slave owners during their lifetimes. Of these, eight held slaves while in office.

Washington standing among African-American field workers harvesting grain. (Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty Images)
Washington standing among African-American field workers harvesting grain. (Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty Images)


The “peculiar institution” loomed large over the first few decades of American presidential history. Not only did slave laborers help build the White House all of the earliest presidents (except for John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams) were slave owners. George Washington kept some 300 bondsmen at his Mount Vernon plantation. Thomas Jefferson—despite once calling slavery an “assemblage of horrors”—owned around 175 servants. James MadisonJames Monroe and Andrew Jackson each kept several dozen slaves, and Martin Van Buren owned one during his early career.

William Henry Harrison owned several inherited slaves before becoming president in 1841, while John Tyler and James K. Polk were both slaveholders during their stints in office. Zachary Taylor, who served from 1849-1850, was the last chief executive to keep slaves while living in the White House. He owned some 150 servants on plantations in Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Portrait of Isaac Jefferson, slave of Thomas Jefferson circa 1847. (Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images).
Portrait of Isaac Jefferson, slave of Thomas Jefferson circa 1847. (Credit: Fotosearch/Getty Images).

Perhaps surprisingly, the last two presidents to own slaves were both men closely associated with Abraham Lincoln, who led the nation during a civil war caused in large part by the divisions sowed by slavery, and later signed the Emancipation Proclamation and championed passage of the 13th Amendment ending slavery. Andrew Johnson, who served as Lincoln’s vice president before becoming president in 1865, had owned at least half a dozen slaves in his native Tennessee and even lobbied for Lincoln to exclude the state from the Emancipation Proclamation.

The last president to personally own slaves was Ulysses S. Grant, who served two terms between 1869 and 1877. The former commanding general of the Union Army had kept a lone black slave named William Jones in the years before the Civil War, but gave him his freedom in 1859. Grant would later sum up his evolving views on slavery in 1878, when he was quoted as saying that it was “a stain to the Union” that people had once been “bought and sold like cattle.”

Monsanto! Red alert: Avaazer receives 168pg Court Subpoena

Dear Avaazers,

We’ve just been hit with a 168-page court subpoena from Monsanto.

We have only days to respond, and it “commands” us to hand over every private email, note, or record we have regarding Monsanto, including the names and email addresses of Avaazers who have signed Monsanto campaigns!!

This is big. They’re a $50 billion mega-corporation, infamous for legal strong-arm tactics like this. They have unlimited resources. If they get their hands on all our private information, there’s no telling what they’ll use it for.

So we’re going to fight this. Because Monsanto may have unlimited resources to intimidate, but Avaaz has unlimited people power, and our members just aren’t afraid.

Our deadline to respond to the subpoena is just days away — donate to help defend our movement, and let’s send Monsanto a message — every time they come at us, they’ll only make us stronger —

We urgently need to hire outstanding lawyers to go up against Monsanto’s best. Just fighting this subpoena (read it here) will be costly, and it could be just the beginning.

We don’t know Monsanto’s plan, but we know one reason why this is coming — Avaaz has repeatedly beaten Monsanto in huge regulatory battles, including blocking the long-term relicensing of glyphosate, the herbicide that is the cornerstone of their chemical empire. We’re winning. So they’re changing the game.

The subpoena indicates that Monsanto needs all our private information to fight class-action lawsuits against them claiming that their glyphosate caused people’s cancer. If that seems absurd to you, you’re not alone. But they’ve gotten the authority of a US court behind them, and we urgently need the best lawyers behind us. Donate to help defend Avaaz, and let’s send a message of defiance to Monsanto:

There aren’t many corporations in the world that are bigger and badder than Monsanto. The fact that we really can defeat them, shows just how real our movement’s people power has become. If we stick together, with hope and determination, we really CAN change the world!

With hope and determination,

Ricken, Emma, Fatima, Danny, Hui-Ting, Spyro, Marigona and the entire Avaaz team

More information:

Glyphosate — Crushed it!! (Avaaz)

Campaign group Avaaz calls on EU to block Bayer’s Monsanto deal (Reuters)

Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear (Vanity Fair) 

Patients: Roundup gave us cancer as EPA official helped the company (CNN)

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