National Labor Relations Board’s General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo Says College Players are “Employees”

Jennifer Abruzzo Nears Confirmation as Labor Board's Top Lawyer

Jennifer Abruzzo

Dear Commons Community,

College athletes are a step closer to being recognized as employees. In a memorandum, Jennifer Abruzzo, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel, said yesterday that certain college players “are employees” and that they should be protected by labor laws, including those that protect employees when they make efforts to unionize.

Though Abruzzo, who was appointed the NLRB’s general counsel by President Biden this year, does not have voting power on the labor-relations board, her memo sends a strong signal that the administration might back college players who seek to claim the rights that employees are guaranteed. The NLRB or a federal judge could still disagree with her.

Nonetheless, scholars called the memo an important and long-overdue milestone in a decades-long effort to protect college athletes.  As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“It’s hugely significant,” said Robert A. McCormick, an emeritus professor at Michigan State University’s College of Law, who has written several articles on college athletics with his wife, Amy C. McCormick,also an emeritus professor at Michigan State. “We’re very gratified to see these changes happen.”

Abruzzo wrote in the memo that universities should not mislead college players into believing they are not employees. She took issue with the term “student-athletes,” calling it a misclassification of college players, and warned that using it could be construed as an attempt to lead players to believe that they’re not protected by labor laws.

“In appropriate cases, I will pursue an independent violation of Section 8(a)(1) of the Act where an employer misclassifies Players at Academic Institutions as student-athletes,” Abruzzo wrote.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association invented the term “student-athlete” in order to “prevent people from viewing these athletes as employees,” Amy McCormick said. (The term’s origins as a means of fending off workers’ compensation claims are well documented.) She interpreted Abruzzo’s letter to mean that the general counsel might see it as a violation of law if the NCAA or a university were to use the term to try to dissuade players from knowing they have rights.

In 2014, Northwestern University football players petitioned to unionize, but the NLRB declined to assert jurisdiction in their case, effectively rejecting their bid. Abruzzo’s memo does not change that, or any laws, but she laid out some recent developments in the law, in NCAA regulations, and in the “societal landscape,” that show that college players are not mere amateur athletes.

The NCAA invented the term “student-athlete” in order to “prevent people from viewing these athletes as employees.”

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that limits that the NCAA imposes on the education-related benefits that college athletes can earn violate antitrust laws. The decision was viewed as a rejection of the NCAA’s argument that college players should remain unpaid “amateurs” — and that restricting how much they earn in scholarships and other benefits represents a defining feature of the enterprise.

Abruzzo quoted Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s concurring opinion, in which he went even further than the decision and questioned “‘whether the NCAA and its member colleges can continue to justify not paying student athletes a fair share’ of the billions of dollars in revenue that they generate.” Kavanagh suggested, Abruzzo wrote, “that one mechanism by which colleges and students could resolve the difficult questions regarding compensation is by ‘engag[ing] in collective bargaining.’

Abruzzo also noted that the NCAA has suspended its rules prohibiting players from profiting off their name, image, or likeness, opening them up to the chance to earn money from things like endorsements, autograph sales, and certain public appearances.

She also cited recent collective action by players to speak about racism at their colleges and to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Some spoke out during the Covid-19 pandemic to collectively express their desire to play, but under safe conditions.

Ellen J. Staurowsky, a sports-media professor at Ithaca College, said the timing of the memo — when other efforts have been piercing the NCAA’s authority — is important.

“Education efforts, the work of media, enduring persistence of athletes to bring their stories forward,” Staurowsky said. “All of these things are coalescing in this moment to rip off the mask of that narrative that the NCAA has been spinning to reveal that athletes have been denied these rights.”

Abruzzo’s position only applies to private colleges and universities. Public schools are under the jurisdiction of state labor laws.


YouTube to Block All Anti-Vaccine Content!

Sky News Australia barred for week by YouTube over Covid misinformation -  BBC News

Dear Commons Community,

YouTube will block all anti-vaccine content, moving beyond its ban on false information about the COVID vaccines to include content that contains misinformation about other approved vaccines. In a blog post, YouTube said it would remove videos claiming that vaccines do not reduce rates of transmission or contraction of disease, and content that includes misinformation on the makeup of the vaccines. Examples of content that won’t be allowed on YouTube include claims that the flu vaccine causes infertility and that the MMR shot, which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella, can cause autism, according to YouTube’s policies. 

The online video company owned by Alphabet Inc. (Google’s parent company)  is also banning channels associated with several prominent anti-vaccine activists including Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Joseph Mercola, a YouTube spokesperson said.

A press email for Mercola’s website said in a statement: “We are united across the world, we will not live in fear, we will stand together and restore our freedoms.” Kennedy did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

The moves come as YouTube and other tech giants like Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. have been criticized for not doing enough to stop the spread of false health information on their sites. 

But even as YouTube takes a tougher stance on misinformation, it faces backlash around the world. On Tuesday, Russian state-backed broadcaster RT’s German-language channels were deleted from YouTube, as the company said the channels had breached its COVID-19 misinformation policy. 

Russia yesterday called the move “unprecedented information aggression,” and threatened to block YouTube. 

YouTube is doing a great service to its subscribers and followers.  Other major social media platforms should do the same!



Tom Friedman: Do Democrats Have the Courage of Liz Cheney? 

Liz Cheney asks Fox News viewers to reject Trump after being censured by  her state party - Vox

Liz Cheney

Dear Commons Community,

New York Times columnist, Tom Friedman, has a column this morning entitled, Do Democrats Have the Courage of Liz Cheney?  The message in his column is that Democrats have to hunker down and compromise with each other to  pass legislation especially the pending infrastructure bill scheduled for a vote tomorrow. Here is an excerpt.

“..if Cheney is ready to risk everything to stop Trump, then Democrats — both moderates and progressives — must rise to this moment and forge the majorities needed in the Senate and House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill (now scheduled for a Thursday vote in the House), a voting rights bill and as much of the Build Back Better legislation as moderate and progressives can agree on.

If the Democrats instead form a circular firing squad, and all three of these major bills get scattered to the winds and the Biden presidency goes into a tailspin — and the Trump Republicans retake the House and Senate and propel Trump back into the White House — there will be no chance later. Later will be too late for the country as we know it.”

The entire column is below.  Democrats for the sake of the country need to get their act together.



The New York Times

“Do Democrats Have the Courage of Liz Cheney?”

Sept. 28, 2021

By Tom Friedman

Opinion Columnist

A few months ago I had the chance to have a long conversation with Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney. While we disagreed on many policy issues, I could not have been more impressed with her unflinching argument that Donald Trump represented an unprecedented threat to American democracy. I was also struck by her commitment to risk her re-election, all the issues she cares about, and even physical harm, to not only vote for Trump’s impeachment but also help lead the House investigation of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

At the end of our conversation, though, I could only shake my head and ask: Liz, how could there be only one of you?

She could only shake her head back.

After all, a recent avalanche of news stories and books leaves not a shred of doubt that Trump was attempting to enlist his vice president, his Justice Department and pliant Republican state legislators in a coup d’état to stay in the White House based on fabricated claims of election fraud.

Nearly the entire G.O.P. caucus (save for Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger, who is also risking his all to join the Jan. 6 investigation, and a few other Republicans who defied Trump on impeachment) has shamelessly bowed to Trump’s will or decided to quietly retire.

They are all complicit in the greatest political sin imaginable: destroying faith in our nation’s most sacred process, the peaceful and legitimate transfer of power through free and fair elections. Looking at how Trump and his cult are now laying the groundwork — with new laws, bogus audits, fraud allegations and the installation of more pliant state election officials to ensure victory in 2024 no matter what the count — there is no question that America’s 245-year experiment in democracy is in real peril.

Our next presidential election could well be our last as a shining example of democracy.

Just listen to Cheney. Addressing her fellow Republicans on “60 Minutes” on Sunday, she noted that when they abet Trump’s delegitimization of the last election, “in the face of rulings of the courts, in the face of recounts, in the face of everything that’s gone on to demonstrate that there was not fraud … we are contributing to the undermining of our system. And it’s a really serious and dangerous moment because of that.”

This is Code Red. And that leads me to the Democrats in Congress.

I have only one question for them: Are you ready to risk a lot less than Liz Cheney did to do what is necessary right now — from your side — to save our democracy?

Because, when one party in our two-party system completely goes rogue, it falls on the other party to act. Democrats have to do three things at the same time: advance their agenda, protect the integrity of our elections and prevent this unprincipled Trump-cult version of the G.O.P. from ever gaining national power again.

It is a tall order and a wholly unfair burden in many ways. But if Cheney is ready to risk everything to stop Trump, then Democrats — both moderates and progressives — must rise to this moment and forge the majorities needed in the Senate and House to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill (now scheduled for a Thursday vote in the House), a voting rights bill and as much of the Build Back Better legislation as moderate and progressives can agree on.

If the Democrats instead form a circular firing squad, and all three of these major bills get scattered to the winds and the Biden presidency goes into a tailspin — and the Trump Republicans retake the House and Senate and propel Trump back into the White House — there will be no chance later. Later will be too late for the country as we know it.

So, I repeat: Do Representative Josh Gottheimer, the leader of the centrist Democrats in the House, and Representative Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, have the guts to stop issuing all-or-nothing ultimatums and instead give each other ironclad assurances that they will do something hard?

Yes, they will each risk the wrath of some portion of their constituencies to reach a compromise on passing infrastructure now and voting rights and the Build Back Better social spending soon after — without anyone getting all that they wanted, but both sides getting a whole lot. It’s called politics.

And are centrist Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema ready to risk not being re-elected the way Liz Cheney has by forging a substantive compromise to ensure that consequential election integrity, infrastructure and Build Back Better measures go forward? Or are they just the Democratic equivalents of the careerist hacks keeping Trump afloat — people so attached to their $174,000 salaries and free parking at Reagan National Airport that they will risk nothing?

And, frankly, is the Biden White House ready to forge this compromise with whatever pressures, Oval Office teas, inducements, pork and seductions are needed? It could energize the public a lot more by never referring to this F.D.R.-scale social reform package as “reconciliation” and only calling it by its actual substance: universal pre-K, home health care for the sick and elderly, lower prescription drug prices, strengthened Obamacare, cleaner energy, green jobs and easier access to college education that begins a long-overdue leveling of the playing field between the wealthy and the working class. Also, the White House needs to sell it not only to urban Democrats but to rural Republicans, who will benefit as well.

The progressives need to have the courage to accept less than they want. They also could use a little more humility by acknowledging that spending trillions of dollars at once might have some unintended effects — and far more respect for the risk-takers who create jobs, whom they never have a good word for. If Biden’s presidency is propelled forward and seen as a success for everyday Americans, Democrats can hold the Senate and House and come back for more later.

The moderates need to have the courage to give the progressives much more than the moderates prefer. Income and opportunity gaps in America helped to produce Trump; they will be our undoing if they persist.

We’re not writing the Ten Commandments here. We’re doing horse-trading. Just do it.

None of the Democratic lawmakers will be risking their careers by such a compromise, which is child’s play compared with facing the daily wrath of running for re-election in the most pro-Trump state in America, Wyoming, while denouncing Trump as the greatest threat to our democracy.

But I fear common sense may not win out. As Minnesota Democratic Representative Dean Phillips (a relative) remarked to me after Tuesday’s caucus of House Democrats: “The absence of pragmatism among Democrats is as troubling as the absence of principle among Republicans.”


For-Profit Colleges Have the Highest Percentage of Adult Students in American Higher Education!

Age Distribution of College Students by Sector, Fall 2019


Dear Commons Community,

The Chronicle of Higher Education compiled data (see table above) on the age distribution of college students by sector for Fall 2019.  Four-year for-profit institutions had the highest percentage of students 40 and over and the lowest percentage of students 21 and under.  2-year public, 4-year public and 4-year private institutions respectively had the highest percentages of students 21 and under.

It would be interesting to see what has happened to these percentages as a result of the pandemic.


Judges rule New York City can proceed with vaccine mandate for all educators and staff!

New York City doubles down on vaccinations by offering shots at schools -  ABC News

Dear Commons Community,

New York City’s vaccine mandate for nearly all adults working in its public schools can proceed as scheduled, a federal appeals panel ruled last night, reversing a decision made over the weekend that paused enforcement of the mandate until later this week at the earliest.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had originally ordered over 150,000 educators and staff in the nation’s largest school system to receive at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine by tonight at midnight.

But last night, he said he would extend the deadline until the end of the day Friday, meaning that the mandate would take effect next Monday morning, Oct. 4.

The leaders of the unions representing city teachers and principals have spent the last week calling on the mayor to delay the deadline to give schools more time to prepare for potential staffing shortages caused by workers who refuse to get vaccinated.

The original deadline was put on hold late Friday by a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The three-judge panel was scheduled to take up the issue on Wednesday, but it appears to have ruled early.

The vaccine mandate for city educators and school staff has been upheld twice in state and federal courts in recent weeks. The Department of Education mandate is the first strict vaccine requirement for any group of city workers, and it could clear the path for a much broader mandate for all city employees in the coming weeks.

Mr. de Blasio said yesterday that roughly 97 percent of principals and about 95 percent of teachers had been vaccinated, according to estimates from the city and unions representing teachers and principals, and that 87 percent of non-teaching school staff had received at least one shot. Roughly 8,000 Department of Education employees received a vaccination dose over the weekend in anticipation of the deadline.

The leaders of the unions representing the city’s teachers and principals have called on Mr. de Blasio to delay the implementation of the mandate, arguing that schools were not prepared to deal with staffing crunches.

Michael Mulgrew, the president of a powerful teachers’ union in the city, United Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that “the city has a lot of work before it to ensure that enough vaccinated staff will be available by the new deadline.”

The New York City Department of Education said in a statement that the court’s ruling “is on the right side of the law and will protect our students and staff.”

This decision makes sense and errs on the side of caution!



Book Launch Panel Tonight: Chet Jordan’s “Establishing an Experimental Community College in the United States..”

Dear Commons Community,

There will be a panel discussion tonight (via Zoom) that will focus on Chet Jordan’s Establishing an Experimental Community College in the United States: Challenges, Successes, and Implications for Higher Education.  Jordan’s book is an in-depth case study of the development of Guttman Community College, established by the City University of New York with the aim of increasing two-year completion rates. Jordan has done a masterful piece of commentary on the difficulties that Guttman has had since it admitted its first students in 2012.  He provides an insider’s view having joined the faculty in 2017, and details the academic and administrative reforms undertaken at Guttman.  He examines a range of curricular, administrative structure, governance and policy issues that were unique to the school. Most importantly, he offers critical commentary on why the reforms failed to bring the expected results.

In addition to Chet, the panel will include Howard Wach, Lavita McMath-Turner, Charles Pryor, and me.

If you wish to attend, please register at the following:

Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell Get Booster Shots!

President Joe Biden receives a COVID-19 booster shot during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021, in Washington.

Dear Commons Community,

Yesterday,  78-year-old Joe Biden and 79-year-old Mitch McConnell got their booster shots.  The Democratic president and the Republican Senate leader urged Americans across the political spectrum to get vaccinated  with boosters when eligible for the extra dose of protection.

The shots, administered just hours apart on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, came on the first workday after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration recommended a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 65 and older and approved them for others with preexisting medical conditions and high-risk work environments.

Both leaders said that even though the booster doses provide more enduring protection against the virus, they weren’t the silver bullet to ending the pandemic.  As reported by the Associated Press.

“Boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated,” Biden said.

Nearly 25% of eligible Americans aged 12 and older haven’t received a single dose of the vaccines. They are bearing the brunt of a months-long surge in cases and deaths brought about by the more transmissible delta variant of the virus that has killed 688,000 in the U.S. since the pandemic began.

“Like I’ve been saying for months, these safe and effective vaccines are the way to defend ourselves and our families from this terrible virus,” said McConnell, a polio survivor.

Biden got his first shot on Dec. 21 and his second dose three weeks later, on Jan. 11, along with his wife, Jill Biden. The first lady, who is 70, received her Pfizer booster dose in private at the White House on Monday afternoon, said her spokesperson, Michael LaRosa.

“Now, I know it doesn’t look like it, but I am over 65 — I wish I — way over,” the president joked. “And that’s why I’m getting my booster shot today.”

Biden has championed booster doses since the summer as the U.S. experienced a sharp rise in coronavirus cases driven by the delta variant. While the vast majority of cases continue to occur among unvaccinated people, regulators pointed to evidence from Israel and early studies in the U.S. showing that protection against so-called breakthrough cases was vastly improved by a third dose of the Pfizer shot.

But the aggressive American push for boosters, before many poorer nations have been able to provide even a modicum of protection for their most vulnerable populations, has drawn the ire of the World Health Organization and some aid groups, which have called on the U.S. to pause third shots to free up supply for the global vaccination effort.

Biden said last week that the U.S. was purchasing another 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine — for a total of 1 billion over the coming year — to donate to less well-off nations.

Biden took questions from reporters about his vaccination experience and matters of the day as a military nurse injected the dose into his arm.

The president said he did not have side effects after his first or second shots and hoped for the same experience with his third.

Vice President Kamala Harris, 56, received the Moderna vaccine, for which federal regulators have not yet authorized boosters — but they are expected to in the coming weeks. Regulators are also expecting data soon about the safety and efficacy of a booster for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

At least 2.66 million Americans have received booster doses of the Pfizer vaccine since mid-August, according to the CDC. About 100 million Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 through the Pfizer shot. U.S. regulators recommend getting the boosters at least six months after the second shot of the initial two-dose series.

Glad to see Biden and McConnell agree on something as important as vaccine booster shots!


Video: “60 Minutes” Interview with Liz Cheney – `I was wrong’ in opposing gay marriage in past!

Dear Commons Community,

Rep. Liz Cheney says she was wrong to oppose gay marriage in the past, a stand that once split her family.

Cheney, R-Wyo., a fierce critic of fellow Republican Donald Trump, also told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” (see video above) that she views her reelection campaign as the most important House race in the nation as forces aligned with the former president try to unseat her. She voted to impeach Trump over his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

In the interview aired last night Cheney said she had little affection for President Joe Biden, who she believes has embraced harmful polices for the economy and national security with the Afghanistan withdrawal. “But the alternative cannot be a man who doesn’t believe in the rule of law, and who violated his oath of office,” Cheney said.  As reported by the Associated Press.

The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney was an ascendant Republican leader before the Jan. 6 riot, yet she is increasingly defined by her public opposition to Trump and his hold on the GOP. Cheney, 55, noted that she still talks with her father every night and that they share the same views on rejecting Trump.

Liz Cheney famously broke with her family in 2013 by opposing gay marriage ahead of a failed Senate bid. Her objections caused a rift with her sister, Mary, a married lesbian. Mary’s spouse, Heather Poe, posted on Facebook that year that Cheney’s position was offensive and that “I always thought freedom meant freedom for EVERYONE.”

In the interview, Cheney said her opposition to gay marriage was misguided and she channeled her sister-in-law’s Facebook post in explaining why she changed her position.

“I was wrong. I was wrong,” she said. “It’s a very personal issue — and very personal for my family. I believe that my dad was right. And my sister and I have had that conversation … Freedom means freedom for everybody.”

While still opposed to gun control, abortion and the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” the Wyoming congresswoman finds herself on the outs for voting to impeach Trump after his Jan. 6 rally preceded a mob storming the Capitol in hopes of overturning his reelection loss to Biden. Trump continues to falsely claim election fraud in spite of results being certified by states and Republican election officials and courts rejecting dozens of legal challenges.

After voting to impeach Trump, Cheney lost her leadership post as chair of the House Republican Conference. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi put her on a nine-person committee to investigate the Jan. 6 assault and she serves as vice chair.

Trump has vowed to defeat Cheney in next year’s primary election by backing Republican Harriet Hageman, an attorney. Cheney, seeking a fourth term, said nothing less than the authority of the Constitution is at stake.

“I think it’s going to be the most important House race in the country in 2022. And — and it will be one where people do have the opportunity to say, ‘We want to stand for the Constitution,’” Cheney said. “A vote against me in this race, a vote for whomever Donald Trump has endorsed, is a vote for somebody who’s willing to perpetuate the big lie, somebody who’s willing to put allegiance to Trump above allegiance to the Constitution, absolutely.”

The Wyoming congresswoman criticized House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California for sticking with Trump after the assault on the Capitol.

“What he’s done is embrace Donald Trump,” she said. “And if I were doing what he’s doing, I would be deeply ashamed of myself. I don’t know how you explain that to your children. When you are in a situation where you have somebody who did what Donald Trump did, it is absolutely clear he cannot continue to be somebody you embrace.”

I don’t agree with everything she says and stands for but her comments about gay marriage are welcome!



Ana Navarro slams Donald Trump Jr. after his dig about obesity: ‘Your dad is a phone call away… assuming he answers your calls’

Dear Commons Community,

Ana Navarro is fighting back against Donald Trump Jr. after he made a dig about obesity at her expense. 

Navarro, 49, initially tested positive for COVID-19 alongside co-host Sunny Hostin while filming Friday’s episode of The View. The TV personality has since learned through subsequent tests that the result was a false positive, and has continued to test negative for the virus. 

Former first son Trump couldn’t resist commenting on her initial diagnosis — which was revealed moments before Vice President Kamala Harris was due to appear on The View — by tweeting that it was “time for a national conversation about the dangers of COVID-19 & obesity.”

On Saturday evening, Navarro responded to the fat-shaming message by poking fun at Trump Jr.’s relationship with his father, former President Donald Trump.

“Thanks for your concern. I don’t have COVID. Fortunately for you, if you want to have a conversation about the effects of obesity on people with COVID, your dad is a phone call away… assuming he answers your calls,” she wrote. “Or just ask your sister to call him for you.”

On Saturday, Navarro took to social media to share that she was safe and healthy following the false positive. 

“Hi everyone. Got my third negative PCR test just a few minutes ago, and came straight to the airport to fly home,” said Navarro in an Instagram video, in which she could be seen wearing a leopard-print mask and cuddling her dog while waiting in the airport. “Obviously, what happened yesterday was a false positive. A very public, very inopportune, very melodramatic false positive. But fortunately we’ve now tested three times, and all three have been negative.”

Navarro went on to thank the people at the Conrad Hilton where she quarantined, as well as the “angels” at The View.

Ana doesn’t hold back.



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