"Sunday was the most important sports day since Ali decided not to fight in Vietnam. Yes, I think it was that big. What we don't do in America is talk about these issues openly, but now we could easily create a forum where athletes and city leaders and front offices and police can discuss racial justice. Right now we don't have any of that kind of unity in our communities."

-- Richard Lapchick, Director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, quoted in The New York Times. http://nyti.ms/2yoFXAR

Today's Fair Shots - September 26, 2017

1-We Stand in Solidarity With the Football Players' Union on Free Speech Rights, Safety

2-Popovich: 'People Have to Be Made to Feel Uncomfortable'

3-Health Care Repeal Bill Floundering; Throw It an Anchor

4-Portions of 'Show Me Your Papers' Immigration Bill Allowed to Take Effect

5-Austin City Council Member Wants to Rename Street in Honor of Azie Taylor Morton

6-Khalil on Union Hurricane Relief: 'We Are All in This Together'


1)  When President Trump declared that National Football League players who chose not to stand for the National Anthem at football games were "sons of bitches" and should be "fired," the NFL Players Association justifiably did not take kindly to the remarks.

  Regardless of where one stands on the wedge issue of exactly what the symbolism of the flag requires of Americans, we stand in solidarity with the union, an AFL-CIO affiliate, and we stand in support of every player's right to exercise free speech in the United States of America. I would defend at the most fundamental level the right of players or anyone else to stand at full attention, sit, or otherwise engage in peaceful protest on either side of this divide. 

  NFL team after NFL team chose yesterday, in their own fashions, to defy the notion that Trump gets to set an employment standard on matters of conscience in the private sector: Kneeling, no good; standing with arms locked, fine; we didn't catch Trump's edict on raised fists or intentional absences. 

  The statements put out by NFLPA officials started with the union's Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith:

  The peaceful demonstrations by some of our players have generated a wide array of responses.  Those opinions are protected speech and a freedom that has been paid for by the sacrifice of men and women throughout history.  This expression of speech has generated thoughtful discussions in our locker rooms and in board rooms. However, the line that marks the balance between the rights of every citizen in our great country gets crossed when someone is told to just "shut up and play." 

  NFL players do incredible things to contribute to their communities. NFL players are a part of a legacy of athletes in all sports who throughout history chose to be informed about the issues that impact them and their communities. They chose - and still choose today - to do something about those issues rather than comfortably living in the bubble of sports.  Their decision is no different from the one made by countless others who refused to let "what they do" define or restrict "who they are" as Americans.

  No man or woman should ever have to choose a job that forces them to surrender their rights.  No worker nor any athlete, professional or not, should be forced to become less than human when it comes to protecting their basic health and safety.  We understand that our job as a Union is not to win a popularity contest and it comes with a duty to protect the rights of our members. For that we make no apologies and never will. 

  The union's President, Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle Eric Winston, put out the following:

  Our players are men who are great philanthropists, activists and community leaders who stand up for each other and what they believe in.

  I am extremely disappointed in the statements made by the President last night. The comments were a slap in the face to the civil rights heroes of the past and present, soldiers who have spilled blood in countless wars to uphold the values of this great nation and American people of all races, ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations who seek civil progress as a means to make this country, and this world, a better place.  

  The divisiveness we are experiencing in this country has created gridlock in our political system, given voice to extreme, fringe beliefs and paralyzed our progress as a nation. Divisiveness breeds divisiveness, but NFL players have proven to unify people in our country's toughest moments and we will continue to do so now.

  We will not stop challenging others on how we can all come together to continue to make America the greatest country on earth.

  Union activists should not stop in examining Trump's remarks on the flag. Trump also delivered another wedge point that is just as insidious in the world of labor when he complained loudly that the NFL has changed the rules of the game to reduce dangerous hits.

  During remarks in Alabama, Trump said this: 

  Two guys, just really, beautiful tackle. Boom, 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she's so proud of him. They're running the game! They're ruining the game. That's what they want to do. They want to hit. They want to hit! It is hurting the game.

  Indeed, the NFL has tightened rules on hitting and is especially protective of marquee positions. Yes, it might seem like quarterback Tom Brady gets penalty flags thrown in his favor for what look like love taps by NFL standards, but medical science has caught up with the long-standing knowledge within the game, long denied by the NFL, that playing football may be seriously detrimental to one's health in the long term.

  The NFL playing field is a work environment, albeit a rarefied one, just like a factory or an office. The nature of the game is that hits will be delivered and taken and concussions or worse might occur, but that does not justify a call for reverting to a more dangerous workplace for the entertainment of fans. 

  The latest science on the subject suggests why the league needs to offer more protections, not fewer. We don't need a President suggesting that it would be better for the game if players exposed themselves to even more danger after their playing days are ended. Via The New York Times:

  Athletes who began playing tackle football before the age of 12 had more behavioral and cognitive problems later in life than those who started playing after they turned 12, a new study released on Tuesday showed.

  The findings, from a long-term study conducted by researchers at Boston University, are likely to add to the debate over when, or even if, children should be allowed to begin playing tackle football.

  The results of the study by researchers at Boston University, published in the journal Nature's Translational Psychiatry, was based on a sample of 214 former players, with an average age of 51. Of those, 43 played through high school, 103 played through college and the remaining 68 played in the N.F.L.

  In phone interviews and online surveys, the researchers found that players in all three groups who participated in youth football before the age of 12 had a twofold "risk of problems with behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function" and a threefold risk of "clinically elevated depression scores."

  "The brain is going through this incredible time of growth between the years of 10 and 12, and if you subject that developing brain to repetitive head impacts, it may cause problems later in life," Robert Stern, one of the authors of the study, said of the findings.

  The study is consistent with earlier findings by Stern and others that looked specifically at N.F.L. retirees. That research found that retirees who started playing before 12 years old had diminished mental flexibility compared to those who began playing tackle football at 12 or older.

  A growing number of scientists argue that because the human brain develops rapidly at young ages, especially between 10 and 12, children should not play tackle football until their teenage years.

  Last year, doctors at Wake Forest School of Medicine used advanced magnetic resonance imaging technology to find that boys between the ages of 8 and 13 who played just one season of tackle football had diminished brain function in parts of their brains.

  The N.F.L., which long denied that there was any link between the game and brain damage, has in recent years been promoting what it considers safer tackling techniques aimed at reducing head-to-head collisions.

  Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/19/sports/football/tackle-football-brain-youth.html?mcubz=1 

2)  The National Basketball Association may not be far behind the NFL in reacting to President Trump.

  San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich - one of the greatest of all time in his profession -- was characteristically blunt in criticizing Trump's statement and preemptively declaring he would support his players in any political stance they want to take:

  Spurs players have "the right and ability" to express their political opinions, said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich during the team's media day on Monday, following a weekend that saw football players across the league do just that.

  Popovich didn't mince words when speaking about Donald Trump and the weekend's NFL drama.

  "Our country is an embarrassment to the world," he said during the press conference.

  Of his own players, he said, "They have our full support. No matter what they might want to do or not to do, it is important to them to be respected by us, and there is no recrimination no matter what might take place unless it's ridiculously egregious."

  He said the country needed to have discussions on race and that "people have to be made to feel uncomfortable."

3) It's looking bad for the latest effort by President Trump and the GOP congressional leaders to repeal health coverage for perhaps 30 million-plus Americans, and that's looking great for working people.

  It's not over yet - heck, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz might even vote the right way for the wrong reasons, so call our senators and tell them to vote "No!" on Cassidy-Graham: 888-865-8089 - but The New York Times was all but ready to drop the guillotine on this abomination of a bill.

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  The Affordable Care Act is a historic law that has added tens of millions of American to the health coverage rolls. The ACA could use improvement, not repeal. 

  The mendacious repeal supporters have proceeded again and again and again and again (seemingly ad infinitum) because Obama. But the law has become more popular as family after family realizes it is a life-saver and the politics of how it happened don't matter in the long run:

  Ms. Collins, a Republican, announced her opposition in a written statement, delivering a significant and possibly fatal blow to the party's seven-year quest to dismantle the health law.

  "Health care is a deeply personal, complex issue that affects every single one of us and one-sixth of the American economy. Sweeping reforms to our health care system and to Medicaid can't be done well in a compressed time frame, especially when the actual bill is a moving target," Ms. Collins said in the statement.

  "Today, we find out that there is now a fourth version of the Graham-Cassidy proposal, which is as deeply flawed as the previous iterations," she said. "The fact that a new version of this bill was released the very week we are supposed to vote compounds the problem."

  She added: "This is simply not the way that we should be approaching an important and complex issue that must be handled thoughtfully and fairly for all Americans."

  The announcement came three days after Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said that he could not "in good conscience" support the latest repeal proposal, written by Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. The senators released a revised version of their bill on Monday morning, hoping to win over holdout Republicans in part by shifting more funds to states like Maine and Alaska.

  Mr. McCain, who killed the last repeal effort in July with a dramatic middle-of-the-night vote, faulted Republicans for trying to pass sweeping health care legislation without the participation of Democrats or fulsome public deliberations about the undertaking.  

  Read more: http://nyti.ms/2wScIFs

4)  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is allowing portions of SB 4 to take effect ahead of an appeal by Texas of a district court ruling setting the law aside.

  Today's 3-0 decision means the judges believe there is a strong possibility the parts of the law will survive a legal challenge by civil rights advocates, the Texas Tribune reports. That is exceedingly bad news for opponents of a law that could harm immigrant workers and the Texas economy:

  A panel of three appellate judges ruled on Monday that parts of the state's immigration enforcement legislation, Senate Bill 4, can go into effect while the case plays out on appeal.

  Last month, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia halted the part of the bill that requires jail officials to honor all detainers. He also blocked other sections that prohibit local entities from pursuing "a pattern or practice that 'materially limits' the enforcement of immigration laws" and another that prohibits "assisting or cooperating" with federal immigration officers as reasonable or necessary.

  While a hearing on the state's appeal of that ruling is scheduled for Nov. 6, a panel of U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals judges ruled Monday that the detainer provision can stand for now. The panel ruled, however, that based on its interpretation of the law, the part that requires local jails to "comply with, honor and fulfill" detainers does not require detention based on every detainer issued.

  "The 'comply with, honor, and fulfill' requirement does not require detention pursuant to every ICE detainer request," the panel wrote. "Rather, the 'comply with, honor, and fulfill' provision mandates that local agencies cooperate according to existing ICE detainer practice and law." The court also ruled that jails do not need to comply if a person under a detainer request provides proof of lawful presence.

  The appellate court also ruled that local and college police officers with "authority that may impact immigration" cannot be prevented from assisting federal immigration officers. It said the state was likely to win those arguments during a subsequent hearing and argued the issue has already been settled in an earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision, Arizona v. United States. 

  But the 5th Circuit also said that portions of the measure that prevent "materially limiting" cooperation with immigration officials were too vague. The court held that the word "limit" could be too broadly interpreted and left a decision on that up to the subsequent panel.

  The court offered a mixed ruling on another controversial item in the bill, a section of the law that prevents local governments from "adopting, enforcing or endorsing" policies that specifically prohibit or limit enforcement of immigration laws. The judges kept that injunction in place, but said it only applies to the word "endorse." The bill, as passed and signed, would have made elected and appointed officials subject to a fine, jail time and possible removal from office for violating all or parts of the legislation. Opponents keyed in on the "endorsement" provision as something that would open up most officials to possible fines and jail time.

Read more: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/09/25/appeals-court-allows-more-texas-sanctuary-cities-law-go-effect/

5) News that an Austin City Council member wants to rename a city street for Azie Taylor Morton, the late former Treasurer of the United States under President Jimmy Carter, stirs pride in our office.

   The Austin American-Statesman reports Morton, who worked as an administrative assistant at the Texas AFL-CIO in the early days of the state labor federation, is under consideration in a process launched by Council Member Ann Kitchen to rename Robert E. Lee Road.

    It would take an extraordinarily long memory to recall Morton's stint here, but later generations in this office are proud to know she gained prominence in the civil rights movement while at the state labor federation:

  Morton, who died in 2003, moved to Austin as a teenager in the 1940s and later became the first and only African American to serve as U.S. treasurer. Originally from Dale, near Lockhart, she came here to attend what was then the Texas Blind, Deaf and Orphan School, which sponsored black children, because no schools in her hometown did, Kitchen said in a news release.

  Morton later graduated cum laude from Huston-Tillotson College, worked for the Texas AFL-CIO and became known as a local civil rights activist. She was known for often swimming in Barton Springs Pool in defiance of the segregationist policies of the time.

  After serving as treasurer under President Jimmy Carter, Morton returned to Austin, worked extensively with Huston-Tillotson and served on the Austin Housing Authority board.

  "The City should consider honoring a strong woman with roots in our local community, who dedicated her life to civil service," Kitchen said in the news release. "Changing this street name is an important step for healing our community, given the injustices of the past."

  Kitchen filed the application for a name change Wednesday with the Austin Transportation Department, she said. That will begin a multi-month process of studying a potential road name change, including its impact on residents and public safety.

  Read more: http://www.mystatesman.com/news/local/kitchen-calls-name-robert-lee-road-for-only-black-treasurer/kE2ZTBRONuGbMPE2bCzboM/

6) Brother Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, published a column in the Houston Chronicle that beautifully summarizes the union spirit during and after Hurricane Harvey.

  As always, the best stories are the accounts of remarkable individual deeds in the face of adversity and sorrow:

  When Houston faced devastation from Hurricane Harvey, labor union members joined hands and went to work. For some, heroism fell within their job description: first responders certainly, but also the working people who did everything humanly possible to hold our infrastructure together. They included electric utility workers, water treatment operators, medical professionals and communications technicians. Other union members volunteered, acting on their unwavering belief in the power of collective action and the importance of helping others. They risked everything to ferry people to safety using personal boats, and they collected and delivered essential supplies. They took action.

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  Cory is a water plant maintenance worker for the city of Houston and member of the Houston Organization of Public Employees. He didn't stop working during the hurricane. Part of his job during emergencies like Harvey is to accompany a firefighter to help in rescues. He navigated a large dump truck through flood waters because that is the only vehicle that works in those conditions. On one of their rescue rounds, they found a pregnant woman who was stranded in floodwaters. They got her to the hospital, possibly saving two lives hours before the woman gave birth.

  Countless similar stories drew national notice. When the floodwaters subsided and the national TV crews headed to Florida for the next hurricane, union members did not let up, even as they might have needed relief of their own. 

 

  I met Juanita, a hotel banquet server and member of Unite Here Local 23, during one of the Area Labor Federation's volunteer days of service. Juanita was flooded out of her home and lost everything. Union volunteers helped her remove debris from her home - a scene played out again and again at homes across Houston - so that she might be able to start rebuilding and recovering. It was her first day back after being evacuated. She spent a few days housed at the George R. Brown Convention Center and saw that organizers were struggling to distribute food for thousands of evacuees in that shelter. Even as Harvey raged and destroyed everything Juanita owned, she chose to use her expertise to help her community. She leapt into the task of getting food service up and running so that everyone at GRB had a meal that day. As we gutted Juanita's house and hauled her waterlogged possessions to the curbside, I was overwhelmed, but shouldn't have been surprised, when she made it a priority to serve lunch to the volunteers cleaning out her home.

  Cory and Juanita share the same belief that drives the labor movement: We are all in this together. 

  Read more, including Khalil's shout-out to the Texas AFL-CIO and AFL-CIO's work: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/opinion/outlook/article/Khalil-Union-values-shine-in-the-midst-of-Harvey-12222143.php