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Weekly Roundup: January 15, 2021


Aaaaaand we’re back! As the crises deepen, we’re doing our best to maintain our rigorous focus on the deep causes and what we can do about them.

First things first: we have some new editors!

Derrick Rice is a 3L at Yale Law School and a co-founder of the LPE student group. At the Blog, he will be focusing on work and immigration law.

Sam Aber is a 2L at Yale Law School, where he works with the Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic and is (naturally) a member of the LPE student group. At the Blog, he’ll focus on content related to national security policy and American empire, public and private surveillance, and the First Amendment and speech issues. 

At the blog

Kiana Boroumand kicked off the new year by informing US readers about the growing struggle over rent at UK universities and what that struggle reveals about how financialization has transformed both housing and higher education.

Rob Weber surveyed the landscape of legal futurism and argued that to articulate the deep problem with algorithmic decisionmaking, even leftists who are critical of liberalism must embrace and reinterpret core liberal values about the rule of law.

Alicia Ely Yamin and Tara Boghosian deepened the analysis of health justice that has been bubbling up here at the Blog and began to lay the foundations for a democratized health system.

Don Rhodes trained our collective attention on the threat to workers’ rights on the Supreme Court’s docket this term by situating it in the long history of organizers’ struggle for access to the workplace. If that fight is one you want to join, check out that post for information on how to contribute to an amicus brief taking the side of farm workers.

Elsewhere on the Internet

Tariq El-Gabalawy

Hello again LPE world. Nice to be back, and I sincerely hope that you are managing ok during these hectic times. I’m sure many of you have more pressing things on your mind than what I have been reading, so thank you for taking the time. 

Starting with a bit of good news. I’m sure everyone is relieved that the democrats took the senate, so we gotta talk about Federal Judges, right? I was encouraged that Biden requested senate democrats recommend public defenders and civil rights lawyers to fill vacancies, but who knows what will happen. Regardless, this opinion piece by Brendan Woods and Emily Galvin Almanza does a great job arguing that more civil rights and public defense attorneys should be appointed to the federal bench. I hope it serves as an optimistic reminder of what can be demanded of the Biden administration and our new congress.

Now everything else. Like everyone, I could not help but notice the disparity in law enforcement response to the white supremacist that stormed the capital and BLM protestors. It was particularly disheartening to see the meager police presence at the capitol despite the many credible threats and actual acts of violence, when at the same time the state of Wisconsin deployed the national guard ahead of announcing the decision not to charge the officers who shot Jacob Blake seven times in the back. I also found this important take on the dangers of using this failed insurrection to expand anti-terrorism laws because it will likely lead to greater surveillance and persecution of BIPOC communities. And I also read this piece exploring how police departments ignore black officers who complain about their racist colleagues. Yet more reporting investigating the relationship between white supremacists organizations and the many police forces across the nation.
Finally, I am heartbroken by the administration’s executions of Lisa Montgomery and Corey Johnson, and the news that SCOTUS denied Dustin Higgs’ latest appeal. I struggle to find the right words to share in the face of such cruelty, but I do want to acknowledge the humanity that was lost by these acts of state violence. I think it is also worth acknowledging the advocates, families, and communities that fought till the bitter end to oppose state sanctioned murder.

Derrick Rice

This week, I’ve been surveying takes on the newly formed Alphabet Workers Union, minority unionism, and labor organizing in the tech industry. Will the union effectively protect workers? The public? Both? Check out Honda Wang’s recent interview with rank-and-file members from AWU, this past week’s Belabored podcast on labor politics at Google, Max Dewes’ argument on why AWU constitutes “top-first” (as opposed to “bottom-up”) organizing, and a recent three-part series from OnLabor, discussing worker power and promoting morality in the broader tech industry. 

Just yesterday, the California Supreme Court held that the “ABC” test for determining whether a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor or an employee – a determination that impacts a worker’s ability to receive basic employment benefits and protections, one that has a pronounced impact on app-based, “gig economy” workers  – applies retroactively to lawsuits that were pending or were filed between when the court’s 2018 Dynamex decision came down and December 2020.

As a result, gig economy companies (like DoorDash, Lyft, and Uber) may face some legal liability for misclassifying their workers as independent contractors, but will still nonetheless enjoy the benefits of Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that stripped California’s app-based workers of essential wages, employment benefits, and legal protections.The fight over Proposition 22 is not quite over yet, though. On Tuesday, app-based workers along with the SEIU filed a lawsuit in California Supreme Court, alleging that Proposition 22 violates the California Constitution because it broadly and impermissibly limits the Legislature’s ability to regulate app-based employment in the future. Stay tuned.