Friday, January 14, 2022

George Monbiot does not like Britain's attempt to rein in Gypsy lawlessness

George is a veteran Green/Leftist. He thinks "mobile people" should be given free land and their chronic criminality should be ignored

At last, we are waking up to the astonishingly oppressive measures in the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, intended to criminalise effective protest. At last, there has been some coverage in the media, though still far too little. The Labour party is finally feeling some heat, and may find itself obliged to stop appeasing the Daily Mail and vote against the government’s brutal amendments in the House of Lords next week.

But as we focus on this threat, we’re in danger of forgetting something else buried in this monstrous bill. It’s the provision that turns trespass from a civil into a criminal offence, allowing the police to arrest people who are Gypsies, Roma and Travellers (GRT) and confiscate their homes, if they stop in places that have not been designated for them. Under the proposed law, any adult member of the group can be imprisoned for up to three months. Given that authorised sites and stopping places cannot accommodate the GRT people who need them, this is a deliberate attack on a vulnerable minority.

Put these elements together – the curtailment of protest and the persecution of a minority, alongside blatant corruption and barefaced lies, the bypassing of parliament and the new power in the nationality and borders bill enabling the government arbitrarily to remove people’s citizenship – and you see the makings of an authoritarian state. These measures look horribly familiar to anyone cognisant of 20th-century European history. But they also have deep roots in Britain’s peculiar brutalities.

Similarly, people who are Gypsies, Roma and Travellers have been deprived of places where they can lawfully stop, and then punished for the absence of provision. According to a study by the Community Architecture Group, between 1986 and 1993 roughly two-thirds of traditional Travellers’ sites, some of which had been used for thousands of years, were blocked and closed. Then, in 1994, John Major’s Criminal Justice Act granted the police new powers against GRT people stopping without authorisation. With a cruel and perverse twist, the same act repealed the duty of local government to provide authorised sites, and removed the grant aid funding these sites. Partly as a result, a recent study by the group Friends, Families and Travellers found that, of the 68 local authorities they surveyed, only eight had met their own identified need for Gypsy and Traveller pitches. Though there is a long waiting list of GRT households seeking authorised sites and stopping places, official pitches have declined by 8% in the past 10 years.

Now the new bill would enable the police to confiscate people’s vehicles (in other words their homes) on the mere suspicion of trespass. When their homes have been seized and their parents arrested, GRT children are likely to be taken into care. The police bill would deprive this minority of everything: homes, livelihoods, identity, culture, even their families.

And, like the homeless people trapped between the Vagrancy Act and the housing qualification, it would put people who are Gypsies, Roma and Travellers in an impossible position. To apply for an official pitch, you must demonstrate “proof of travelling”. But if you don’t have access to official pitches, travelling will put you outside the new law. In other words, it is not a particular behaviour that is being criminalised. It is the minority itself.

The new authoritarianism meshes with a very old one, that harks back to an imagined world in which the peasants could be neatly divided into villeins (good) and vagrants (bad), where everyone knew their place, geographically and socially. Of course, the demonisation of mobile people, whether Roma or asylum seekers, does not extend to the government ministers and newspaper editors who might shift between their pads in London and their second homes in Cornwall or Tuscany. It’s about the rich controlling the poor, as if democracy had never happened.


How This Labor Department Nominee Threatens 59 Million Workers

According to a study by Upwork, 59 million Americans, or 1 in 3 workers, performed independent work in 2021. And 9 out of 10 of them believe that “the best days are ahead” for freelancing.

(Freelancing, independent work, contracting, gig work, and self-employment all describe work that individuals perform independently instead of for a traditional employer).

But that could all change if the Senate decides to confirm David Weil to run the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

Weil’s track record in that same position under the Obama administration, and his statements and efforts to attack independent workers, would not only dampen their bright outlooks, but could put their entire livelihoods and ways of living on the line.

Independent work was growing even before the pandemic, as a desire for more flexibility and autonomy caused some people to shift from traditional employment to independent work. The pandemic has only increased the desire for greater flexibility and autonomy. In 2021, 56% of non-freelancers said they are likely to freelance in the future.

Another factor contributing to the rise in independent work is that the be-your-own boss model opens doors to work for people who otherwise couldn’t work. In 2021, 55% of independent workers said they were not able to work for a traditional employer because of personal circumstances such as their health or child care needs.

Independent workers are also significantly happier with their jobs and work-life balance, with about half of independent workers saying that no amount of money would cause them to switch from freelancing to traditional employment.

Many businesses—especially smaller ones—rely heavily on independent contractors to grow and compete with bigger companies. Employers with four or fewer employees use seven contractors, on average, to run their businesses.

Yet, the policies advocated by Weil deny that working for oneself could be better than working for a traditional employer and having one’s workplace conditions, compensation, and hours universally set by a labor union.

One of the Biden administration’s and Weil’s primary goals it to implement the PRO Act—a Big Labor wish list that includes upending independent contracting.

But that’s just the start. Among other things, the PRO Act would also: take away workers’ privacy and their right to a secret-ballot election; upend the labor market by overturning the franchise business model; invalidate 27 states’ right-to-work laws; and legalize secondary boycotts (subjecting neutral businesses to union-led strikes, boycotts, and harassment).

With most of the PRO Act’s radical agenda not possible through regular order nor through the reconciliation process, a Wall Street Journal commentary noted, “The White House will deputize the Labor Department to implement as much of it as possible through regulatory fiat. Weil would be a chief enforcer, and history shows he won’t be shy.”

Weil’s tenure over the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division under the Obama administration included regulatory measures that made it harder for people to work for themselves and harder for businesses—especially smaller ones—to grow and thrive.

The attack on franchise businesses under Weil—based on an academic paper he wrote about it as opposed to any real-world experience—was estimated to have cost franchise businesses as much as $33.3 billion annually, reduced employment by 376,000 jobs, and caused a 93% spike in lawsuits against franchises.

The Trump administration undid that damage—rightly determining legal liability based on whether a company has direct and immediate control of a worker. But now, the success and survival of thousands of franchise brands—including about 730,000 individual franchise operations and 8.4 million workers—could be on the line, including 39% of female franchise owners who say they would not have been able to own their business without the franchise model.

And Weil has proven his audacity to ignore statutory limits of administrative authority. If confirmed, Weil will likely attempt to revive his previous overtime exemption rule that was determined “unlawful” by a federal court in 2016. The judge in that decision—Obama-appointee Judge Amos L. Mazzant III—said, “the department exceeds its delegated authority and ignores Congress’ intent.”

The labor market is incredibly strong right now and a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been increased flexibility, autonomy, and more family-friendly workplace policies. Most workers don’t want to step back two years in time, less yet more than half-a-century to the one-size-fits-all industrial-era union model Weil wants to impose.

Moreover, with agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration already overstepping their statutory authority through vaccine and testing mandates on private employers, Congress shouldn’t arm the Department of Labor with someone who has proven his penchant for overstepping authority.


Who Is Ray Epps? DOJ Won’t Say

Top federal law enforcement officials have declined to answer numerous questions about Ray Epps, the Arizona resident captured on video encouraging Jan. 6, 2021, protesters to breach Capitol Hill.

Controversy has surrounded Epps in recent months due to questions about his possible connection to law enforcement. Despite video evidence of him making repeated calls for action, Epps hasn’t been charged in relation to the Jan. 6 incident, and his photo has been removed from the government’s list of most-wanted people from the event.

The Democratic-led House committee investigating the breach reportedly stated on Jan. 11 that it has interviewed Epps, and that Epps denied any connection to law enforcement.

But at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier that day, Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) were unsuccessful in obtaining answers about Epps.

Cruz asked Jill Sanborn, FBI assistant director for national security, 10 questions about Epps and other potential undercover feds, none of which received substantial answers.

Sanborn admitted that she is aware of Epps, but said she doesn’t have “specific background for him.”

When Cruz asked whether Epps worked with the FBI, Sanborn declined to answer—likewise for when Cruz asked about whether federal informants participated in the riots, encouraged the riots, or removed barriers.

“I cannot answer that,” Sanborn responded to each query.

“Five seconds after Mr. Epps whispered to a person, that same person began forcibly tearing down the barricades. Did Mr. Epps urge them to tear down the barricades?” Cruz asked.

“Similar to the other answers, I cannot answer that,” Sanborn replied.

Cotton asked a similar line of questions to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the head of DOJ’s national security branch.

Olsen said he wasn’t aware of any plainclothes officers among the Jan. 6 crowd, and that he didn’t know whether any undercover agents entered the Capitol.

“Your answers are all ‘I don’t know,’” Cotton said. “Did you prepare for this hearing? Did you know it was happening before this morning?”

Olsen also said he didn’t have any information about Epps.

“This was a man on the most-wanted page for six months. Do you really expect us to believe that you don’t know anything about him?” Cotton asked


Joe Biden's workplace COVID-19 vaccine mandate blocked by US Supreme Court

The US Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses, with the conservative justices deeming the policy an improper imposition on the lives and health of many Americans.

Mr Biden voiced disappointment with the conservative-majority court's decision to halt his administration's rule requiring vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests for employees at businesses with at least 100 employees.

Mr Biden said it was up to states and employers to decide whether to require workers "to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated".

The court was divided in both cases, centring on pandemic-related federal regulations at a time of escalating coronavirus infections driven by the Omicron variant in a nation that leads the world with more than 845,000 COVID-19 deaths.

It ruled 6-3 to block the rule involving large businesses — a policy that applied to more than 80 million employees.

The court's majority downplayed the risk COVID-19 specifically posed in the workplace, comparing it instead to "day-to-day" crime and pollution hazards that individuals face everywhere.

The court said it was not an ordinary use of federal power, but instead "a significant encroachment on the lives — and health — of a vast number of employees."

The court said the rule affecting large businesses, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),

"Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life — simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock — would significantly expand OSHA's regulatory authority without clear congressional authorisation," the court added.




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