Extra! Extra!: Anti-Trans Legislation Succeeds, But So Do Whole Foods and Instacart Strikes (Sort Of)

In the middle of a pandemic, who would have thought that the US government would be stripping basic rights from trans people, infringing on Indigenous people’s right to their land and to self-govern and gutting internet privacy laws at the expense of sex workers (and really all of us)? Meanwhile, climate change denial continues to destroy life as we know it, but corporations don’t care as long as the plebeians still trudge out there to make them money.

It’s been a long week, you guys. This week’s Extra! Extra! covers all the news you didn’t even know was happening.

Idaho Becomes First State to Pass Anti-Trans Legislation

Governor Signs Both HB 500 and HB 509, the Anti-Transgender Bills

Idaho Governor Brad Little Signs Anti-Transgender Legislation

Rachel: Although we’ve been concerned about the advent of these bills targeting trans youth and adults for a while, Idaho has become the first state to actually pass one, and it’s as bad as it sounds. Trans people are barred from legally changing their gender on their birth certificate, and trans women and girls are barred from competing in women’s sports. In addition to being obviously intentionally cruel, these laws, especially the first, are flagrantly illegal – “The birth certificate measure ignores a 2018 federal court ruling that a past law barring transgender people from making the birth certificate changes violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. … There’s an injunction that already absolutely forbids this policy, and the government can’t enforce this law without violating a court order,” said Peter Renn of Lambda Legal, the law firm that represented two transgender women whose lawsuit led to the court ruling. “The ramifications of contempt (of court) are quite furious.”

US Government “Disestablishes” Mashpee Wampanoag Reservation

Message from the Chairman: We Will Take Action to Prevent the Loss of Our Land

Why the Trump Administration Is Moving to “Disestablish” a Massachusetts Tribe’s Reservation

Himani: We all learn a white-washed version of American colonial history within what is now called the United States. The massacres, the forced relocations, the family separations – the vast majority of this gets written out of the official histories unless you go out of your way to learn about it. The little bit that is included is often dressed up and distorted beyond identification; the only comparison I can think of would be teaching World War II history with only passing mention of the Holocaust. And yet, in all of this, it’s so easy to lose sight of the fact that these issues don’t exist solely in the past. Indigenous rights and sovereignty continue to be under assault by federal and state governments.

Natalie: Interesting that you mention American colonial history, Himani… because in the version of history that we do tell… about indigenous people who welcomed the Pilgrims to American shores? Those indigenous people were members of the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. They weren’t formally recognized for years, of course, but they’re there, at one of the most celebrated moments of American history…and yet, we’re erasing them…first in our history books, and now, if the administration is successful, in our land.

Himani: I did not know that, Natalie, and that makes the action taken by the Trump administration last week even more galling. The administration is calling to “disestablish” the Mashpee Wampanoag reservation on the grounds that it was “not federally recognized in 1934, when the Indian Reorganization Act was passed” (as Nik DeCosta-Klipa writes, for Boston.com). The duplicity leaves me speechless.

All of this is a sobering reminder of how indigenous self-government is still at the mercy of a federal government that is only motivated by racism and money. Last year Trump told Senate Republicans not to vote for a bill (passed by the House in May) that sought to protect tribal lands at the behest of the casino lobby.

So that’s how the federal government is spending its time these days with regards to indigenous people. Instead of, you know, taking adequate measures to address the arrival of COVID-19 in several tribal areas. These have been and continue to be among the most under-resourced, underfunded communities in the country and the most vulnerable to critical cases of COVID-19.

Sex Workers Fighting for All of Our Rights to Privacy

Why Sex Workers Are Sounding the Alarm on the EARN IT Act

Rachel: Sex workers and their advocates and allies often warn that sex workers are canaries in the coal mine for the rest of us — what is done to sex workers will eventually be done to everyone else. SO while we should all care that the EARN IT act, a functional extension of SESTA/FOSTA that would significantly increase surveillance and monitoring of online speech ostensibly in an effort to combat child sexual exploitation, would even further decimate sex workers’ ability to safely earn a living, we should ALSO care that it will mean everyone’s freedom to speech and behavior online will be severely curtailed. If you are a non-sex-working person and frustrated by tumblr’s NSFW ban, Instagram’s seemingly arbitrary bans on nipples, emojis, thirst traps and more or your friends being constantly locked out and shadowbanned, EARN IT is going to make things much worse! And sex workers will be in an even worse position than they’re already in, which is more and more vulnerable by the day, especially during the time of coronavirus.

Science Denial Landed Us in This Hole, and It’s Only Getting Deeper

Our Environmental Practices Make Pandemics Like the Coronavirus More Likely

Plastic Wars: Industry Spent Millions Selling Recycling — To Sell More Plastic

Trump Administration Weakens Auto Emissions Standards

Himani: I had been wondering for a while if there was a connection between this pandemic and some of our global environmental practices. In a recent roundup, we linked an explainer to the wet markets and why new viruses keep showing up in them, which offered some hints as to how the way in which we interact with the world is truly the cause of our recent problems. But this Vox interview with Sonia Shah goes even further and connects all the dots between climate change, the ongoing mass extinction that we very much had a hand in setting off, deforestation and habitat loss, agricultural and animal husbandry practices and the pandemic we squarely find ourselves in the middle of.

And yet while scientists keep sounding the alarm, politicians continue to deny reality. Is anyone surprised that the same people who downplayed the pandemic are the ones who claim that climate change is a hoax meant to destroy our economy? And even through all of this, they continue to gut environmental protections. The greatest irony is that the continued refutation of facts is what led to the pandemic which has led to two straight weeks of unemployment claims being filed at the highest rates ever

Do we have the political will power to stop any of this from getting worse?

Election 2020

Trump Campaign Declares War on Dems over Voting Rules for November

Himani: Whether we have the political will power or not doesn’t really matter because – surprise – our so-called democracy is has been under assault. The question on so many people’s minds is how do you hold an election during a pandemic? The Democratic primary (yes, that’s still happening) has been completely upended. What’s very clear to the Trump campaign is that they need to block any attempt at making voting more accessible to secure their stronghold on power. This is quite possibly one of the most infuriating things I’ve read because, much as I hate Congressional Republicans, it really feels like taking corruption to a whole other level to use your campaign’s legal team to block voting reform. But perhaps I’m drawing a distinction without a difference.

Natalie: It’s been interesting to see Republican politicians start to say the quiet part out loud: like Trump saying explicitly that by letting people vote, “you’d never have a Republican elected in this country” or Georgia’s Speaker of the House saying that increased turnout will hurt Republicans. We’ve always suspected that was true — thus the Republican defense of voter suppression efforts across the country — but to hear Republicans voice it aloud is a little jarring.

But here’s the thing that I don’t understand…let’s say this COVID-19 is still an issue in November, how does it benefit Republicans to force voters to go out to the polls on Election Day? The folks most susceptible to the virus are older voters with pre-existing health conditions which…to me…sounds very much like the Republican base? Doesn’t it seem likely that those voters would just stay home and the low turnout would be dominated by a younger demographic which means Republicans would lose anyway? I’m not sure I get their logic.

Let’s Re-Examine Some of These Politicians that Suddenly Seem to Care

We Can Finally See the Real Source of Washington Gridlock

Himani: On the subject of Congressional Republicans, this op-ed from The Atlantic perfectly encapsulates what motivates the Republican party by comparing the fight over the 2009 stimulus package to the non-fight over the 2020 stimulus. It’s power, you guys – not ideology but power. (Who’s surprised?)

At this point, I really do just have to quote the piece, because honestly I couldn’t have said it better:

“McConnell and the Republican leadership saw prolonging the Great Recession as a political opportunity to be exploited. The longer and more grueling the economic recovery, the easier it would be to evict Obama from the White House and Democrats from Congress, even if their own constituents suffered as a result. … The Democratic Party as it is currently constituted correctly understands that it has civic and moral obligations to ensure the well-being not only of its own voters, but of those who vote against its candidates. The Republican Party, and particularly the GOP under Trump, acts as if it has no such obligations, which is why the president himself has portrayed aid to Democratic-controlled states ravaged by the coronavirus as personal generosity rather than his fucking job.”

Andrew Cuomo’s Coronavirus Response Doesn’t Mean He’s Crush-Worthy

Himani: Meanwhile, let’s not forget that when it comes to state and local politics, New York is not solidly blue (see George Pataki, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg). Andrew Cuomo might be talking the right talk right now but as Teen Vogue‘s Monica Klein rightly points out his political history tells a different story.

Natalie: It’s weird to see so many progressives jump to fawn over Andrew Cuomo these last few weeks. I understand that, given our sociopathic president, folks are happy to see competent stewardship during a crisis but: 1. There are other governors out there doing a great job (shout out to Gavin Newsome!) but without the connections to the epicenter of news reporting and 2. As Jay-Z once told us, “even a broken clock is right at least two times a day.”

In a budget concocted by Cuomo and legislative leaders, the governor showed his true colors: undoing much of the progressive agenda that’s been launched in the state over the last few years. He rolled back criminal justice reform, he broke his promise on marijuana legalization and, in the middle of a pandemic, he’s advocating huge cuts to Medicaid. Cuomo wanted to be president/vice president and once he saw his window closed, he’s showing his true beliefs. He is the broken clock…don’t fawn over him because, every now and then, he happens to get stuff right.

The Fight for Basic Labor Protections Continues

Whole Foods Employees Are Staging a Nationwide “Sick-Out”

Amazon, Instacart Grocery Delivery Workers Demand Coronavirus Protection And Pay

Kamala: Workers at Amazon, Whole Foods (owned by Amazon) and Instacart organized strikes this past week to get higher pay and paid sick leave. These people are putting themselves at major risk to make the money they need in order to live and provide essential services for people who need them. So in my humble opinion, it seems SOOOO reasonable for them to simply ask for double pay and paid sick leave in return. That’s it. Whole Foods did end up raising their pay by $2 an hour more, but that’s absurd. Many Amazon workers are touching thousands of items a day, people working at grocery stores and in food delivery are encountering a lot of potential points of contagion — asking for double pay from the richest man in the world is so chill. My favorite part, however, of these links is at the end of the NPR story, where Mary Louise Kelly has to name that Amazon is a sponsor of NPR, and that’s how Amazon gets to do whatever it wants: because we are all attached to our own tiny pieces of Amazon.

Natalie: I’m reminded of that moment during the primaries where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren were attacked for spending the most money on Amazon, despite constantly lambasting the company for not paying taxes. Like you said, we are all attached to our own tiny pieces of Amazon.

Himani: And this is exactly the problem with having huge monoliths of companies like Amazon, with so much capital in the hands of literally one person – we are all beholden to them for our livelihoods.

Rachel: The Instacart shoppers’ strike won them coronavirus protection packs from the management! As Kamala says, it’s not enough, but it’s a demonstration of why and how strikes work. Inspired by them!

Gun Control — Or, More Accurately, Lack Thereof

LA County Sheriff Will No Longer Order Closure Of Firearms Shops

Natalie: Ugh.

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  1. If you or anyone you know works for Amazon or Whole Foods, please tell them about the employee petition for hazard pay, universal paid leave, childcare subsidies, and shutting down facilities where a worker has tested positive. They can sign at tinyurl.com/covidsafety , and not only support the demand for change but be connected with other workers in their same facility to organize locally <3

  2. I appreciate all the work that’s put into this series, but it’s disappointing to see it continue to focus almost solely on US news, or on international news only as it relates to the US. Perhaps a non-US-based staff member (or in my wildest dreams, a new Global Editor) could contribute?

  3. Did you see the new that Amazon fired the employees who protested & there were threats to do the same to Whole Food workers who did the same?

    • Ah yes, Natalie shared that with me shortly after this was posted. It is so incredibly fucked up.

  4. Another article lambasting Amazon, while Autostraddle continues to direct people to shop there through your affiliate link. “We are all attached to our own tiny pieces of Amazon” indeed.

  5. I’m sorry on behalf of my state. Please believe me when I say most of us are as angry and disgusted with what comes out of our legislature. We are equally upset that our governor would rather throw taxpayer money away in legal fees while we as a state tilt and windmills. This is the first time and it won’t be the last time that I’m ashamed to be an Idahoan.

  6. Look, I will stop saying anything after this, and I’m only saying something because I don’t seem to be the only one who has a thought or two that veer in the same direction:
    Autostraddle needs to have a moment and take a deep breath and serious conversation about where y‘all wanna go and what you would like to be and represent.
    Because I know you all have not voted for Trump and his cronies and I know you are all outraged, all the time about what‘s happening, but, and I am sorry about this, outrage about how terrible these people are without reflection upon one‘s own behavior is just not cutting it anymore.
    You and I, each and every single one of us, is responsible for their actions, for how they react and how they choose to be interact with the world.
    This is a responsibility that‘s become starkly clear atm, and I am sorry, Team autostraddle, you know I love you to pieces, but right now, I’m considering withdrawing my gold member status because I feel that the ideology you represent no longer lines up with my own.
    At the moment you are a website that endorses an „ America First“ ideology, whether you consciously mean to or not.
    The whole Covid dilemma that touches all of us is largely ignored in favor of „business as usual“, while you have the unique opportunity to educate and empower and bring together an otherwise largely underserved demographic.
    The most comforting and constructive words in that regard have been hidden in the monthly horoscope section,btw.
    Yes, we are sitting in a burning house, but we‘re sitting in it together. All of us are scared and tired and anxious. Playing all the games and watching all the shows is totally useful, but it‘s not enough.
    I have come to you guys looking for an update on the am/pm daily routine articles, on how to self care better, a roundtable every other day, how to show solidarity and support small and queer businesses, anything really, but no such luck.
    Supporting a head in the sand approach and largely focusing on boredom during quarantine is also a political statement and not one that‘s aligning with my views of empowerment through knowledge.
    I am sorry if I sound harsh, but I have been in strict self isolation for a month outside of work (I‘m an ER doc in a hotspot with insufficient PPE) and I literally cannot ask anyone else if putting that friend you‘ve been quietly in love with for years into your advanced directive is a good idea. I mean, do you ask your friends first before you put their names down in general? How do you check in with an abusive family member when you’re worried about them?
    How can you help your community if you have a steady income, how can you help when you don’t?
    I do see that you’re trying to be a fair employer and trying to support the freelancers and don’t want to be just trying to scrape by, but guys, at what cost?
    A friend of mine posted a meme the other day that said something about that what we do and support now defines the world of the “after“.
    Support a local small business now and it might survive the lockdown, give your money to a large business and that‘s what will remain.
    What’s the world going to look like after the fire has burnt out?
    We get to decide. But we have to start with ourselves first.
    Who do we want to be?

    • I appreciate your comment and your support of Autostraddle, @amidola, and I hope it continues. While I can’t speak for anyone else here (particularly the editors), I do want to offer a personal response.

      What strikes me about your comment — and, honestly, others’ comments on other posts about why we’re not covering Batwoman or Motherland right now (because people do care about pop culture at this moment, even if you don’t) — is how little grace is extended to us, as people. I’m not sure at what point Autostraddle stopped being a community and started being some regular old amorphous Internet news site that people come to…but, let me tell you, it’s disheartening.

      We’re real people behind these bylines. My teammates have shared their experiences of living during this perilous time…being candid about how we’re grappling with isolation and the toll its taking…but, like the rest of the world, the ground beneath us is shifting. We’re experiencing this pandemic more personally now: with some getting sick and others watching friends and family members get sick from afar. Some of have lost regular jobs and are concerned about how to make rent or afford the necessities. You’re right that all of us are “scared and tired and anxious” but you only afford latitude to yourself to really grapple with that and that is tremendously unfair.

      I’m so proud of the work that’s being done here…how we’ve pivoted away from planned projects to meet the needs of our community. I’ve been so impressed by the on-the-fly creativity of my teammates, I feel like I can’t cheer loudly enough. Last week, I took over AAA and you know what got the most fervent response? My links to stories about sports. People were excited about that taste of normalcy and were able to share how they felt about being without sports in the comments. Maybe it doesn’t feed your spirit but it might help others and that’s important too.

      I love writing about news and politics for Autostraddle. I see it as an invaluable opportunity to, as you say, “empower with knowledge,” but between my regular work (most of us qualify as freelancers, FYI) and the new responsibilities foisted on me by Covid-19, this moment calls my attention elsewhere. I’d love to spend my time imagining what our political world looks like, post-corona, or figuring out the politics behind the disparate responses to Covid globally, but I don’t have the time or the emotional bandwidth to do so right now (ascribing it to an “‘America First’ ideology” is offensive). I hope that’ll change in the future but, for the moment, I’m just so grateful for the grace Autostraddle’s editors have extended to me and my colleagues. I wish others would be as kind.

      You’re right to note that we’ll be forever changed by this moment…that “what we do and support now defines the world of the ‘after'”…but this is a measure of that too, I think. If we’re seeking to define the world of the “after,” we’d be well served by extending more grace to members of our community right now.

  7. I appreciate the feedback about the US focus of news roundup, @amidola and @makhaira. Speaking for myself (and certainly not for Autostraddle as a whole or for any other writers or editors), I want to provide a little context for how I think about what goes into the news round ups.

    When the roundup started just over a month ago, we started with a primarily US focus for three reasons: (1) there is a lot going on in the US alone to fill up more than a single post every week, (2) that is where most of our readership sits so it’s important in talking about the nuances of what’s happening in the US, and (3) writing about news from other parts of the world for a predominantly white, Western, and largely US audience requires a lot of thought, work, and care.

    We immediately got feedback on that and changed course the following week and every week since until this one. In this past Monday’s COVID-19 roundup, I made a conscious decision to focus on how the pandemic was playing out in the US because of how quickly things escalated here and how much happened with the stimulus package which would literally affect the lives of so many of our readers who have lost jobs or income. I acknolwedged this up front in that post. As I said in that intro, I planned to turn back to global coverage of the pandemic, and have detailed plans to address that this coming Monday.

    Going back to my third point above, including non-US news in the round up is also not as straight forward as that might seem for a couple of reasons. First, to write about the news requires substantial knowledge of a country. For instance, when I see people write about Indian news without understanding the basics of the history, culture, and current political situation, I find it to be incredibly offensive and to be of greater detriment than benefit. I take care not to impose that naivety on other regions, which makes it difficult to write about global issues in the round up and also why I often hesitate to drop an article about something happening in another country without background and context unless the article sufficiently covers that itself. Second, to incorporate local news sources requires fluency with the English-language media landscape of those countries – ie which sources are reliable and which ones aren’t. And then, depending on where in the world we’re talking about, there may also be issues of censorship.

    US and UK-based news sites like NPR, Vox, the NY Times, and The Guardian actually do a decent job of covering global news items while providing sufficient context to understand what’s going on. Unfortunately, those articles sometimes come with click-bait headlines targeted at a US audience, but we try to link to articles that provide meaningful coverage from beyond just a lens of “how does this affect Americans?” Sometimes these outlets give journalists and activists from other parts of the world an opportunity to share what’s happening because they can’t say those same things in their local media. I find those pieces to be invaluable, and we have linked to a few of them. (On another note, I know that the Guardian UK has a problem with being transphobic, and I am personally trying to not link to their UK newsroom when possible.) 

    Full-time newsrooms address some of these challenges by having correspondents whose entire job is to specialize in the news for a specific region of the world. In the absence of those kinds of resources, we do what we can. The news round up is something all Autostraddle writers are welcome to participate in, and those who are interested write for it.

    I’ve thought a lot about your feedback to the point that I went back and looked to see what was in the previous round ups. I’m not trying to be defensive, but I do want to genuinely ask what you’re looking for in terms of global coverage? Because despite everything I’ve mentioned above, we have included news from other parts of the world in most of the posts and have written about those issues when we believed we had something valuable to say about it.

    All that being said, if you ever feel that something major happened in another country or region that we’ve missed, please, by all means, feel free to contribute to the conversation and link it in the comments. 

    • Thank you for this thoughtful reply, Himani, which I appreciated very much even though I didn’t comment this time. I, too, miss a more global coverage but I understand that it’s often not really possible for the reasons you stated. I think what I miss probably more is the possibility to talk about non-US or not-only-US related issues without fear of derailing the discussion. Does that make any sense? Speaking only for myself, I don’t need that many links to one article or another. But I‘d love to hear from fellow Straddlers all over the world what’s going on in their countries. Not only but especially now. Maybe AS could provide more space for that?

      • Thanks @exceptforbunnnies – I love hearing from other Straddlers and very much appreciate those conversations when they happen. I personally don’t find it derailing. A particular moment that comes to mind is when some folks started a detailed conversation about the (at the time) upcoming UK elections and Canadian politics in the comments section of the politics survey post. I learned a lot, and always, always welcome conversations like that. So please feel free to share your thoughts on something that’s happening, even if it isn’t necessarily applicable to what was covered in that news round up.

        • Thanks for the replies. As I mentioned in my earlier comment, if this column is continuing long-term, I think having a non-US-based staffer involved (or ideally, rotating between several) would be helpful. I recognise the impossibility of providing comprehensive global news coverage, especially while the staff are in crisis mode, but international readers are already saturated in US news, and many of your US readers live, work, and study internationally – and would welcome more global perspectives on AS.

  8. Thanks for this post. It is incredibly informative and covers things I may not have come across I may not have unless I was actively looking for. Being from the UK Autostraddle gives me fantastic coverage of things happening in the US and is a place that houses such a wide range of lgbt+ content that consistently blows my mind with how dedicated and talented everyone behind it is!

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