Texas: School Speech Pathologist Refused to Sign a Pro-Israel Oath, Now Mandatory in Many States — She Lost Her Job – by Glenn Greenwald (Intercept) 17 Dec 2018

A children’s speech pathologist who has worked for the last nine years with developmentally disabled, autistic, and speech-impaired elementary school students in Austin, Texas, has been told that she can no longer work with the public school district, after she refused to sign an oath vowing that she “does not” and “will not” engage in a boycott of Israel or “otherwise tak[e] any action that is intended to inflict economic harm” on that foreign nation. A lawsuit on her behalf was filed early Monday morning in a federal court in the Western District of Texas, alleging a violation of her First Amendment right of free speech.

The child language specialist, Bahia Amawi, is a U.S. citizen who received a master’s degree in speech pathology in 1999 and, since then, has specialized in evaluations for young children with language difficulties (see video below). Amawi was born in Austria and has lived in the U.S. for the last 30 years, fluently speaks three languages (English, German, and Arabic), and has four U.S.-born American children of her own.

Amawi began working in 2009 on a contract basis with the Pflugerville Independent School District, which includes Austin, to provide assessments and support for school children from the county’s growing Arabic-speaking immigrant community. The children with whom she has worked span the ages of 3 to 11. Ever since her work for the school district began in 2009, her contract was renewed each year with no controversy or problem.

But this year, all of that changed. On August 13, the school district once again offered to extend her contract for another year by sending her essentially the same contract and set of certifications she has received and signed at the end of each year since 2009.

She was prepared to sign her contract renewal until she noticed one new, and extremely significant, addition: a certification she was required to sign pledging that she “does not currently boycott Israel,” that she “will not boycott Israel during the term of the contract,” and that she shall refrain from any action “that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel, or with a person or entity doing business in Israeli or in an Israel-controlled territory.”

The language of the affirmation Amawi was told she must sign reads like Orwellian — or McCarthyite — self-parody, the classic political loyalty oath that every American should instinctively shudder upon reading:

That language would bar Amawi not only from refraining from buying goods from companies located within Israel, but also from any Israeli companies operating in the occupied West Bank (“an Israeli-controlled territory”). The oath given to Amawi would also likely prohibit her even from advocating such a boycott given that such speech could be seen as “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or limit commercial relations with Israel.”

Whatever one’s own views are, boycotting Israel to stop its occupation is a global political movement modeled on the 1980s boycott aimed at South Africa that helped end that country’s system of racial apartheid. It has become so mainstream that two newly elected members of the U.S. Congress explicitly support it, while boycotting Israeli companies in the occupied territories has long been advocated in mainstream venues by Jewish Zionist groups such as Peace Now and the Jewish-American Zionist writer Peter Beinart.

This required certification about Israel was the only one in the contract sent to Amawi that pertained to political opinions and activism. There were no similar clauses relating to children (such as a vow not to advocate for pedophiles or child abusers), nor were there any required political oaths that pertained to the country of which she is a citizen and where she lives and works: the United States.

In order to obtain contracts in Texas, then, a citizen is free to denounce and work against the United States, to advocate for causes that directly harm American children, and even to support a boycott of particular U.S. states, such as was done in 2017 to North Carolina in protest of its anti-LGBT law. In order to continue to work, Amawi would be perfectly free to engage in any political activism against her own country, participate in an economic boycott of any state or city within the U.S., or work against the policies of any other government in the world — except Israel.

That’s one extraordinary aspect of this story: The sole political affirmation Texans like Amawi are required to sign in order to work with the school district’s children is one designed to protect not the United States or the children of Texas, but the economic interests of Israel. As Amawi put it to The Intercept: “It’s baffling that they can throw this down our throats and decide to protect another country’s economy versus protecting our constitutional rights.”

Amawi concluded that she could not truthfully or in good faith sign the oath because, in conjunction with her family, she has made the household decision to refrain from purchasing goods from Israeli companies in support of the global boycott to end Israel’s decadeslong occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

Amawi, as the mother of four young children and a professional speech pathologist, is not a leader of any political movements: She has simply made the consumer choice to support the boycott by avoiding the purchase of products from Israeli companies in Israel or the occupied West Bank. She also occasionally participates in peaceful activism in defense of Palestinian self-determination that includes advocacy of the global boycott to end the Israeli occupation.

Watch The Intercept’s three-minute video of Amawi, as she tells her story, here:

Video by Kelly West

When asked if she considered signing the pledge to preserve her ability to work, Amawi told The Intercept: “Absolutely not. I couldn’t in good conscience do that. If I did, I would not only be betraying Palestinians suffering under an occupation that I believe is unjust and thus, become complicit in their repression, but I’d also be betraying my fellow Americans by enabling violations of our constitutional rights to free speech and to protest peacefully.”

As a result, Amawi informed her school district supervisor that she could not sign the oath. As her complaint against the school district explains, she “ask[ed] why her personal political stances [about Israel and Palestine] impacted her work as a speech language pathologist.”

In response, Amawi’s supervisor promised that she would investigate whether there were any ways around this barrier. But the supervisor ultimately told Amawi that there were no alternatives: Either she would have to sign the oath, or the district would be legally barred from paying her under any type of contract.

Because Amawi, to her knowledge, is the only certified Arabic-speaking child’s speech pathologist in the district, it is quite possible that the refusal to renew her contract will leave dozens of young children with speech pathologies without any competent expert to evaluate their conditions and treatment needs.

“I got my master’s in this field and devoted myself to this work because I always wanted to do service for children,” Amawi said. “It’s vital that early-age assessments of possible speech impairments or psychological conditions be administered by those who understand the child’s first language.”

In other words, Texas’s Israel loyalty oath requirement victimizes not just Amawi, an American who is barred from working in the professional field to which she has devoted her adult life, but also the young children in need of her expertise and experience that she has spent years developing.

The anti-BDS Israel oath was included in Amawi’s contract papers due to an Israel-specific state law enacted on May 2, 2017, by the Texas State Legislature and signed into law two days later by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. The bill unanimously passed the lower House by a vote of 131-0, and then the Senate by a vote of 25-4.

When Abbott signed the bill in a ceremony held at the Austin Jewish Community Center, he proclaimed: “Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy.”

The bill’s language is so sweeping that some victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Southwest Texas in late 2017, were told that they could only receive state disaster relief if they first signed a pledge never to boycott Israel. That demand was deeply confusing to those hurricane victims in desperate need of help but who could not understand what their views of Israel and Palestine had to do with their ability to receive assistance from their state government.

The evangelical author of the Israel bill, Republican Texas state Rep. Phil King, said at the time that its application to hurricane relief was a “misunderstanding,” but nonetheless emphasized that the bill’s purpose was indeed to ensure that no public funds ever go to anyone who supports a boycott of Israel.

At the time that Texas enacted the law barring contractors from supporting a boycott of Israel, it was the 17th state in the country to do so. As of now, 26 states have enacted such laws — including blue states run by Democrats such as New York, California, and New Jersey — while similar bills are pending in another 13 states.

This map compiled by Palestine Legal shows how pervasive various forms of Israel loyalty oath requirements have become in the U.S.; the states in red are ones where such laws are already enacted, while the states in the darker shade are ones where such bills are pending:

Map: Palestine Legal

The vast majority of American citizens are therefore now officially barred from supporting a boycott of Israel without incurring some form of sanction or limitation imposed by their state. And the relatively few Americans who are still free to form views on this hotly contested political debate without being officially punished are in danger of losing that freedom, as more and more states are poised to enact similar censorship schemes.

One of the first states to impose such repressive restrictions on free expression was New York. In 2016, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order directing all agencies under his control to terminate any and all business with companies or organizations that support a boycott of Israel. “If you boycott Israel, New York State will boycott you,” Cuomo proudly tweeted, referring to a Washington Post op-ed he wrote that touted that threat in its headline.

As The Intercept reported at the time, Cuomo’s order “requires that one of his commissioners compile ‘a list of institutions and companies’ that — ‘either directly or through a parent or subsidiary’ — support a boycott. That government list is then posted publicly, and the burden falls on [the accused boycotters] to prove to the state that they do not, in fact, support such a boycott.”

Like the Texas law, Cuomo’s Israel order reads like a parody of the McCarthy era:

What made Cuomo’s censorship directive particularly stunning was that, just two months prior to issuing this decree, he ordered New York state agencies to boycott North Carolina in protest of that state’s anti-LGBT law. Two years earlier, Cuomo banned New York state employees from all nonessential travel to Indiana to boycott that state’s enactment of an anti-LGBT law.


So Cuomo mandated that his own state employees boycott two other states within his own country, a boycott that by design would harm U.S. businesses, while prohibiting New York’s private citizens from supporting a similar boycott of a foreign nation upon pain of being barred from receiving contracts from the state of New York. That such a priority scheme is so pervasive — whereby boycotts aimed at U.S. businesses are permitted or even encouraged, but boycotts aimed at Israeli businesses are outlawed — speaks volumes about the state of U.S. politics and free expression, none of it good.

Following Cuomo, Texas’s GOP-dominated state legislature, and numerous other state governments controlled by both parties, the U.S. Congress, prodded by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, began planning its own national bills to use the force of law to punish Americans for the crime of supporting a boycott of Israel. In July of last year, a group of 43 senators — 29 Republicans and 14 Democrats — supported a law, called the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), introduced by Democratic Sen. Benjamin Cardin of Maryland, that would criminalize participation in any international boycott of Israel.

After the American Civil Liberties Union issued a statement vehemently condemning Cardin’s bill as an attack on core free speech rights, one which “would punish individuals for no reason other than their political beliefs,” numerous senators announced that they were re-considering their support.

But now, as The Intercept reported last week, a modified version of the bill is back and pending in the lame-duck session: “Cardin is making a behind-the-scenes push to slip an anti-boycott law into a last-minute spending bill being finalized during the lame-duck session.”

The ACLU has also condemned this latest bill because “its intent and the intent of the underlying state laws it purports to uphold are contrary to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment guarantee of freedoms of speech and association.” As the ACLU warned in a recent action advisory:

While that “new version clarifies that people cannot face jail time for participating in a boycott,” the ACLU insists that “it still leaves the door open for criminal financial penalties” for anyone found to be participating in or even advocating for a boycott of Israel.


More dangerous attacks on free expression are difficult to imagine. Nobody who claims to be a defender of free speech or free expression — on the right, the left, or anything in between — can possibly justify silence in the face of such a coordinated and pure assault on these most basic rights of free speech and association.

One common misconception is that the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech only bars the state from imprisoning or otherwise punishing people for speaking, but does not bar the state from conditioning the receipt of discretionary benefits (such as state benefits or jobs) on refraining from expressing particular opinions. Aside from the fact that, with some rare and narrow exceptions, courts have repeatedly held that the government is constitutionally barred under the First Amendment from conditioning government benefits on speech requirements — such as, say, enacting a bill that states that only liberals, or only conservatives, shall be eligible for unemployment benefits — the unconstitutional nature of Texas’s actions toward Bahia Amawi should be self-evident.

Imagine if, instead of being forced by the state to vow never to boycott Israel as a condition for continuing to work as a speech pathologist, Amawi was instead forced to pledge that she would never advocate for LGBT equality or engage in activism in support of or opposition to gun rights or abortion restrictions (by joining the National Rifle Association or Planned Parenthood), or never subscribe to Vox or the Daily Caller, or never participate in a boycott of Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, or Russia due to vehement disagreement with those governments’ policies.

The tyrannical free speech denial would be self-evident and, in many of those comparable cases, the trans-ideological uproar would be instantaneous. As Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, warned: “[T]his template could be re-purposed to bar contracts with individuals or groups affiliated with or supportive of any political cause or organization — from the political Left or Right — that the majority in a legislature or the occupant of a governor’s office deemed undesirable.”

Recall that in 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel tried to block zoning permits allowing Chick-fil-A to expand, due to his personal disagreement with the anti-LGBT activism of that company’s top executive. As I wrote at the time in condemning the unconstitutional nature of the mayor’s actions: “If you support what Emanuel is doing here, then you should be equally supportive of a Mayor in Texas or a Governor in Idaho who blocks businesses from opening if they are run by those who support same-sex marriage — or who oppose American wars, or who support reproductive rights, or who favor single-payer health care, or which donates to LGBT groups and Planned Parenthood, on the ground that such views are offensive to Christian or conservative residents.”

Those official efforts in Chicago (followed by mayors of other liberal cities) to punish Chick-fil-A due to its executive’s negative views on LGBT equality were widely condemned even by liberal commentators, who were horrified that mayors would abuse their power to condition zoning rights based on a private citizen’s political viewpoints on a controversial issue. Obviously, if a company discriminated against LGBT employees in violation of the law, it would be legitimate to act against them, but as Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum correctly noted, this was a case of pure censorship: “There’s really no excuse for Emanuel’s and [Boston Mayor Thomas] Menino’s actions. … You don’t hand out business licenses based on whether you agree with the political views of the executives. Not in America, anyway.”

The ACLU of Illinois also denounced the effort by Chicago against Chick-fil-A as “wrong and dangerous,” adding: “We oppose using the power and authority of government to retaliate against those who express messages that are controversial or averse to the views of current office holders.” That, by definition, is the only position that a genuine free speech defender can hold — regardless of agreement or disagreement with the specific political viewpoint being punished.

Last week, the ACLU’s Senior Legislative Counsel Kate Ruane explained why even the modified, watered-down, fully bipartisan version of the Israel oath bill pending in the U.S. Congress, and especially the already enacted bills in 26 states of the kind that just resulted in Amawi’s termination, are a direct violation of the most fundamental free speech rights:

This is a full-scale attack on Americans’ First Amendment freedoms. Political boycotts, including boycotts of foreign countries, have played a pivotal role in this nation’s history — from the boycotts of British goods during the American Revolution to the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the campaign to divest from apartheid South Africa. And in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware, the Supreme Court made clear that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in political boycotts.

The lawsuit which Amawi filed similarly explains that “economic boycotts for the purposes of bringing about political change are entrenched in American history, beginning with colonial boycotts on British tea. Later, the Civil Rights Movement relied heavily on boycotts to combat racism and spur societal change. The Supreme Court has recognized [in Claiborne] that non-violent boycotts intended to advance civil rights constitute ‘form[s] of speech or conduct that [are] ordinarily entitled to protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.’”

Who can justify that — as a condition for working with speech-impaired and developmentally disabled children — Amawi is forced by the state to violate her conscience and renounce her political beliefs by buying products from a country that she believes (in accordance with the U.N.) is illegally and brutally occupying land that does not belong to it? Whether or not you agree with her political view about Israel and Palestine, every American with an even minimal belief in the value of free speech should be vocally denouncing the attack on Amawi’s free speech rights and other Americans who are being similarly oppressed by these Israel-protecting censorship laws in the U.S.

As these Israel oath laws have proliferated, some commentators from across the ideological spectrum have noted what a profound threat to free speech they pose. The Foundation for Middle East Peace’s Friedman, for instance, explained that “it requires little imagination to see how criminalizing Americans’ participation in political boycotts of Israel could pave the way for further infringements to Americans’ right to support or join internationally-backed protests on other issues.” She correctly described such laws as “a free speech exception for Israel.”

The libertarian lawyer Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, similarly warned: “It is not a proper function of law to force Americans into carrying on foreign commerce they personally find politically objectionable, whether their reasons for reluctance be good, bad, or arbitrary.”

National Review’s Noah Daponte-Smith last year denounced the Cardin bill seeking to criminalize advocacy of the Israel boycott as “so mind-bogglingly stupid that it’s hard to know exactly what to say about it,” adding that the bill “penalizes political beliefs and so is both unconstitutional and unconscionable.” The conservative writer continued: “The senators who currently support it should be, quite frankly, ashamed of themselves; they have lost sight of one of the founding principles of American government, allowing it to be overshadowed by the spectral world of the Israeli–Palestinian dispute.”

Meanwhile, though, there is an entire pundit class that has made very lucrative careers from posing as defenders and crusaders for free speech — from Jonathan Chait, Bill Maher, and Bari Weiss to the glittering renegades of the intellectual dark web — who fall notoriously silent whenever censorship is aimed at critics of Israel (there are some rare exceptions, such as when Chait tweeted about Cardin’s bill: “BDS is awful, but this bill criminalizing it sounds insane and unconstitutional,” and when Weiss criticized Israel for barring a Jewish-American boycott advocate from entering).

CNN’s recent firing of Marc Lamont Hill due to his pro-Palestine speech, and the threats from the chair of Temple University’s Board of Trustees to fire Hill from his tenured position over his contempt for the views expressed in that speech, produced not a word of protest from this crowd. The same was true of the University of Illinois’s costly decision to rescind a teaching offer to Palestinian-American professor Steven Salaita for the thought crime of condemning Israel’s bombing of Gaza.

But as The Intercept has repeatedly documented, the most frequent victims of official campus censorship are not conservative polemicists but pro-Palestinian activists, and the greatest and most severe threat posed to free speech throughout the west is aimed at Israel critics — from the arresting of French citizens for the “crime” of wearing “Boycott Israel” T-shirts to Canadian boycott activists being overtly threatened with prosecution to the partial British criminalization of the boycott of Israel.

Put simply, it is impossible to be a credible, effective, genuine advocate of free speech and free discourse without objecting to the organized, orchestrated, sustained onslaught of attacks on the free speech and free association rights undertaken specifically to protect the Israeli government from criticism and activism. Self-professed free speech defenders who only invoke that principle when their political allies are targeted are, by definition, charlatans and frauds. Genuine free speech advocates object to censorship even when, arguably especially when, the free speech rights of their political adversaries are assaulted.

Anyone who stands by silently while Bahia Amawi is forced out of the profession she has worked so hard to construct all because of her refusal to renounce her political views and activism — while the young children she helps are denied the professional support they need and deserve — can legitimately and accurately call themselves many things. “Free speech supporter” is most definitely not one of them.


I Got Rejected 101 Times – By Emily Winter (NYT) 14 Dec 2018

I Got Rejected 101 Times

Being told no is inevitable in most creative endeavors. But maybe I could win by losing.

By Emily Winter

Ms. Winter is a comedian.




My dog wags her tail whenever I say no.

Bingo is a rescue, and I’ll never know where she picked up the idea that “no” means “yes,” but it’s about as annoying as you’d imagine when you’re trying to get her to stop eating poop, for example. On the other hand, she’s the happiest creature I’ve ever met. So at the end of 2017, I wondered what my life would be like if I could turn no into yes, and I made it my 2018 New Year’s resolution to get 100 professional rejections.

If 100 seems absurd, recall all those stats about how today’s young adults are essentially rejection magnets: We change jobs and careers more frequently than ever before, are more likely to rely on the gig economy, relocate more and need new friends in those new cities, and we’re marrying later. It feels as if the only constant is change, and that means we’re forever at the whim of other people’s judgments, opinions and decisions. It’s unsettling at best. At worst, it’s crippling.

My particular treacherous path is as a writer and comedian. My gigs tend to be short, and I’m at the mercy of “right place, right time.” I can send off a great script or writing packet, or have a killer set at a packed stand-up show, but if the decision maker happens to be grumpy, or is in the bathroom during my set, or already read a similar submission, or is pals with another candidate, or thinks my look isn’t trending, or used to date someone with a similar name, or thinks I’m too old, or too young, or too liberal, or too conservative, or gets laid off right before she intended to hire me, I’m back to square one, wondering what I did wrong.

As 2018 began, though, I felt empowered by the knowledge that turning my failures into accomplishments would mean I’d be gaming the system. Both acceptances and rejections would count as a sort of win, and I liked those odds.


In pursuit of 100 rejections, I put myself forward for opportunities I’d previously thought were for smarter, funnier, cooler people. And sometimes I wasn’t rejected. I wrote for new publications, got a joke-writing gig on my favorite comedian’s radio show and interviewed guests on my podcast who I’d thought wouldn’t waste their time on me. At a stand-up show this fall, a peer told me the thing every comedian wants to hear: “I see your name everywhere! You’re killing it!”

But, of course, I couldn’t just take the compliment and move on. Instead, I explained that statistically speaking, I’m a giant, pathetic failure.

You have 1 free article remaining.

Subscribe to The Times

[Never be uninteresting. Read the most thought-provoking, funny, delightful and raw stories from The New York Times Opinion section.]

And I was failing, more than ever. Writing jobs, script contests, auditions, magazine pitches, comedy festivals — the turndowns piled up. I’d convinced myself that this experiment would shield me from the pain of individual rejections, and guess what? It didn’t. I’d be waiting on the subway platform, nonchalantly scrolling through my emails and bam! A rejection. I’d look around and wonder: “Do these commuters know they’re standing next to the saddest of all sad sacks?! They must. It’s obvious. I’m a bumbling fail potato.”

Over the summer, two of my best friends in my field realized some of their professional dreams. I was thrilled for them. But. Well, you know the but. Alone, I got so jealous that I lay on my apartment floor and cried until a line of cry-drool wrapped around my colossal, quivering head. Then I felt guilty for being jealous, and cried about that. Then I looked at my rejection list in disgust. Why had I spent eight months clinging to defeat? What a stupid plan! It suddenly felt as though I’d spent the year cocooning myself in a comforting blanket, and just realized the blanket was made of worms.


Had it all been a terrible idea? I emailed Angela Duckworth, the author of “Grit: The Power and Passion of Perseverance,” to ask her what she thought of my rejection resolution. She made me feel scientifically sane.

Dr. Duckworth explained that what I was doing was “exposure therapy”— making myself more comfortable with failure to reduce my fear of it. It was a relief, sitting at my desk, scrolling through the same inbox that contained messages like “not at this time,” “not a fit” and “unfortunately,” to see an expert in tenacity and achievement say that all this rejection was actually helpful. She argues that grit is more important than innate talent when it comes to success. So I kept at it.

It’s the middle of December and I have 101 rejections and 39 acceptances. I’m so tired, and that’s how I know I did it right. If I weren’t exhausted, it would mean I’d just spent the last year asking for things without putting in the work to earn them. To me, there’s nothing more off-putting than entitlement.

And when you think about it, entitlement is rampant in so many aspects of our lives. This fall, I caught up with a single friend, Andy, who was sick of going to weddings alone, and frustrated by the idea that love would find him, that “if it’s meant to be, it will be.” Waiting is its own form of entitlement, and Andy wanted to do the work. So in October, he decided to treat his search for a meaningful, monogamous relationship as if he were on the job hunt: He’d cast his “résumé” out as far as he could and go on as many “interviews” as possible until he found a great fit, making it clear that he wasn’t up for gigs or part-time arrangements. By going on a date almost every night instead of once a month, he’d put less pressure and nervous energy into every meeting.

When we compared notes, we admitted that our experiments weren’t a magic solution. Andy is still unattached, and I’m still living paycheck to paycheck. But we’ve taken more chances and come closer to getting the things we want.

So I don’t regret committing to this masochistic rejection project. It made me feel embarrassed, depressed, overwhelmed and self-indulgent. But I also felt that I was moving forward instead of standing still.

Emily Winter (@EmilyMcWinter) is a comedian and contributor to NPR’s “Ask Me Another.”


Syria edition of classic board game Risk now available

Pawtucket RI – Toy manufacturer Hasbro today presented a new version of the classic strategy board game Risk which will be commercially available from spring 2018. In Risk Syria, up to 32 players (Russia, USA, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Germany, Iran, etc.) can engage in a proxy war on the battleground of Syria using an unending series of dice games to dispute the bombed-out city of Aleppo and the handling of so-called ‘Islamic State’.
The special feature of Risk Syria (€55.99, US$ 64.99) is that neither Assad’s government in Damascus nor the extremists take part in the game as powers in their own right. Instead, they are just game characters (soldier=1, tank=5, combat helicopter with barrel bomb=10) who are mercilessly played off against one another and sent to the slaughter by the real powers in the background.

One of 25 mission cards included in the game

Risk fans will quickly become confident with the mechanics of the game. Many rules are quite close to the original, such as the workings of attack and defence. The novelty here is that for every defeated soldier unit, five Syrian civilian units must also be removed from play.

The game is finished when there are no more Syrians. After a duration of about 37 hours, which is typical for Risk, the power that benefitted most of the civil war has won. Mission cards are drawn at the beginning of the game and define the players’ goals. These include increasing your profile in your home country, strategic access to natural resources, increasing your sphere of influence and strengthening your domestic arms industry.
If the Syria edition of Risk is well received on the board game market, Hasbro has plans to develop further board games relating to topical events. Potential future projects include a Greek version of Monopoly, Akropoly (all players start with horrendous debts), Trump Jenga (the player who builds the tallest tower wins the right to grope the female players) and ‘IS’ Chess (with a veiled queen who always follows one square behind the king; camels instead of knights; eight suicide bomber pawns).

A Future Without Unions Is a Terrifying Dystopia – by Matt Taylor (Vice) 29 June 2018

From even crazier rent to low pay to no weekends and shitty bosses, it’s a lot like the world we live in now—just worse.

It’s mid-afternoon in late June two decades from now, and the weather in New York City is gross: hot, humid, slimy. You’re trying to find your way to a job interview when you pass a child yanking on her father’s arm, confused by a throng of people marching in a circle in front of them. They seem angry—there’s a lot of yelling and chanting and jockeying going on—but the most confusing part, at least to the toddler’s eye, is a giant inflatable rat.

“Dad, what’s that?”

You know what it is, of course. Maybe your mother was a labor organizer way back when. Maybe your cousin helped unionize an online postcard startup that went bankrupt before any employees could see the benefits of a contract. But the child’s father, perhaps 35 years old and gainfully employed at an Amazon subsidiary, doesn’t know or doesn’t care. He shrugs and pulls the kid down a side street to avoid the hubbub.Many Americans today would recognize what was going on back there as a picket line. Labor unions and impassioned workers interested in forming them—or winning concessions from management without an official union—have picketed workplaces across the United States for well over a century. Along the way, as documented in countless films, books, songs, classic Simpsons episodes, and even memes, they won incredible victories: the 40-hour workweek, healthcare benefits, an end to child labor, and much more. Union density—the percentage of American workers who belong to one—peaked at over a third of the total labor force in the mid-1950s, thanks in part to a sort of pact between business and organized labor after World War II. Unions were institutions stitched into the fabric of mainstream America just like churches or Rotary clubs.

About seven decades later, unions are in decline and workers are in as much trouble as they have been since the 1920s. Inequality is out of control, right-wing populism is on the rise, and, thanks to a bombshell Supreme Court ruling Wednesday, organized labor is about to shrink. Union members and advocates hope the latest frontal assault from the right could help rally its membership to put up a renewed fight, but that fight is going to be a brutal one.

Despite the downward trend, the worst-case scenario is rarely contemplated: What would happen if unions actually disappeared entirely? It might seem like a crazy proposition, since polling data shows young people are high on organized labor. On the other hand, breaking unions is pretty clearly an end desired by the right-wing billionaires dictating who gets to serve as judges in the courts and hold elected office.

Obviously, if unions were erased from America, the income of unionized workers would fall. But according to research from left-leaning think tank Economic Policy Institute (EPI), declines in unionization are linked to a drop in the pay of nonunion workers, too. And the implications of organized labor’s total collapse go way beyond paychecks. Without unions, racism and tribalism might get worse, cities could look physically different, rent would likely be even harder to keep up with, and weekends might become a thing of the past.

More than anything else, what emerged from conversations with economists, labor experts, sociologists and futurists is that a society without unions would look a lot like the increasingly gilded-age reality we live in now—just worse. And it’s not nearly as implausible as you might think.

“We don’t have to sort of wonder and fictionalize it,” Celine McNicholas, director of labor law and policy at EPI, told me. “History gives us an indication—before we had meaningful labor representation and unions—of what our economy looked like.”


McNicholas was referring to the era before the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which enshrined collective bargaining in American law at the height of the Great Depression. The preceding era was not a pleasant one. Strikes were brutally and bloody put down by private security forces contracted by nervous—or just plain vindictive—bosses. Labor actions could resemble actual combat, like West Virginia’sMine Wars.” Workers were literally locked inside factories, sometimes resulting in their deaths. And pay was often so low as to make them wonder how they might endure next day, much less the next week or year.

“Paychecks would very much continue to erode because labor standards would be under attack,” Jared Bernstein, a former economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden now at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a left-leaning think tank, told me.

There’s a potential 2038 where you might find yourself trying to cope with postmodern versions of those same pre-NLRA forces. Maybe your gig at on online retailer’s “fulfillment center” that paid you five dollars an hour would require dealing with 80-plus degree temperatures in a windowless warehouse with no one around in the event a machine impaled a worker against a wall. Why would the bosses bother with basic safety protections if the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) had been trimmed down to a shadow of its former self by a corporate-dominated Congress?

To wit: Unions don’t just negotiate pay-rates or basic benefits like healthcare for workers. They also hold bosses accountable for shady shit going on at the workplace. “Unions are a political force, particularly public-sector unions, which is exactly why the right has been tilted against them for so long,” Bernstein explained.

Right-wing interest groups like ALEC and Republican politicians like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have long framed their dismantling of collective bargaining as a matter of fairness or budget issues. Why should union workers have it better than everyone else, especially if—as in the case of public-sector workers—their generous contracts come at the expense of taxpayers? But these seemingly practical concerns mask a deeper agenda: transferring wealth from workers to their bosses and the investor class. Unions effectively siphon money from management and government and give it to workers; if you could keep more of the money produced by your business—or the government you consider an extension of it—wouldn’t you? It’s no surprise that the relentlessly pro-business Republican Party has been on an anti-union crusade for decades. And if unions did not exist—and labor protections were further weakened as a result—the slope could get slippery, fast.


Unions’ dissipation wouldn’t just affect the lot of people at the workplace or their economic life—it might change the face of American culture. Among other things, experts said, it could unleash even more ethnic tension and foment the kind of nativism preyed on by demagogues like Donald Trump. Suffice it to say it’s probably not a coincidence that the reemergence of straight-up white nationalism in mainstream American politics came after decades of union decline.

“The solidarities that feel real to people tend to be tribal,” said Todd Gitlin, a social-movement historian at Columbia University. “There’s a lot of evidence that unions are the best anti-racist institutions we have.” One study by historian Timothy Minchin found that membership in the AFL-CIO* made white voters who might otherwise have been reluctant to embrace the first black major-party presidential nominee more willing to give the new guy a shot.

By their very nature unions bring people together to talk about their shared problems. Workers of the future may be in dire need of that—remote work is on the rise, and a lot of app-enabled occupations are solo endeavors where you’re basically taking orders from your phone. In the post-union future, there’s no reason for you and your fellow “independent contractors” to actually gather in the same physical—or even online—space to chat. In fact, your boss won’t allow that kind of scheming. Without your workplace exposing you to people from diverse backgrounds, your knowledge of other ethnic, gender, and cultural identities will largely be confined to what you see when streaming internet content from one of the two providers that will enjoy a joint monopoly over such services.

“The retreat into more tribal identities fills the gap when you have no set of durable organizations to bridge those divides,” explained Washington University in St. Louis sociologist Jake Rosenfeld. Specifically, white men have sometimes been brought into the fold of modern social tolerance in part by affiliations with labor. “Even today, with unions at their weakest state, unions are the only organization that brings that otherwise very conservative on all dimensions part of the body politic”—white men—”in a more progressive direction, and tempers those other passions.”

Of course, it hasn’t always been true that pro-union elements were forces for social tolerance. The William Jennings Bryan-led populist revolts of the 1890s and early 1900s often leaned in to white supremacy. But in the last century, as the progressive era gave way to the Civil Rights movement, unions have often been a partner in fighting for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community, and other groups seeking equal protection under the law. An end to unions means those voices will be more difficult to hear.


Of course, a union-less future might not exactly be devoid of workers’ groups vaguely devoted to something resembling solidarity. But such organizations might be like the weak Independent Drivers Guild that formed in 2016 to represent Uber workers in New York. That group gave drivers a voice on issues at their workplace, helping them advocate for minimum-pay rules and even win changes to tipping policies, but denied them the power to collectively bargain contracts with Uber. That means it can’t secure full-time employee status for its members, much less demand better, more structural pay or health or other benefits. And it should be noted it only seemed to come into existence at all because an actual union—the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers—helped organize for it.

The total elimination of organized labor might seem like a fantasy, but everyone from union skeptics to pro–labor movement historians suspect the way workers band together, if they do at all, is due for a change soon.

“Our disrupted society is going to need some different way of having workers, somehow, respond,” Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, California, told me. Kotkin actually believes workers currently do better in low-union-density environments like right-to-work Texas where housing is cheaper on average than union bastions like Washington State and New York. But even as he cheered the idea of public-sector unions’ power being reined in, he painted a dark picture of an America where gig workers who lack unions essentially rely on the goodwill of rich people who want to keep things calm.

“If you look at the long-term vision of the oligarchs, it’s really a society where very few people make money,” he told me. “Everyone else is propped up to live a decent—they don’t live in hovels, but they never accumulate anything, and they become essentially serfs, which is where we’re headed.”

Whether you like or hate unions—or have mixed feelings about them, as Kotkin does—it seems perhaps most clear their continued demise or outright vanishment would not only affect inequality but what every American’s daily life looks like. In a not-implausible 2038, you and your partner might struggle to pay the $4,000 rent on your halfway-decent one-bedroom apartment in a large city. Unions and their allies in the Democratic Party and broader progressive movement have tended to be at the forefront of forcing the business community to include affordable housing in their latest massive projects. If the rent is too damn high now, it’ll get higher still once that movement is kneecapped. And if your pay is minuscule and you have no one fighting to guarantee you halfway plausible living expenses, things could get ugly.

“If I didn’t have a union job, I would not be able to pay my rent,” said Rosy Clark, a 30-year-old DSA member living in Brooklyn whose public-sector teachers’ union will be affected by the recent Supreme Court decision. “I would have to live differently. I would have to live with more people. I would have to live further away from where I work. And I would have to have a less comfortable living situation by leaps and bounds.”

Unions have been instrumental in securing things we now take for granted like a 40-hour work week. Without them, businesses might try to roll back even basic benefits, especially for lower-paid workers. In a union-less future, Clark suggested, you might not even have a weekend.


If the study earlier this year that found a 3.5 percent decline in Democratic presidential vote-share in “right-to-work” (or anti-union) locales was on point, it’s fair to assume the drop-off would even bigger were unions to fold entirely. If unions weren’t around to provide tens of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of foot soldiers every election day, progressive candidates would face an even heavier climb, especially outside big cities. The Democratic Party would suddenly be struggling in ways it’s hard to imagine today.

“The party would not collapse because its base of support is much broader than only organized labor—the coalition includes civil rights groups, feminist organizations, immigrant right groups, suburban educated voters and more,” Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, told me in an email. “That said, it would be devastating since—even in 2018—organized labor still is one of the few sources of mass mobilization that exists for the party.”

Thanks to the collapse of the labor movement in recent decades, we’re already getting a sense of what this looks like in states and localities nationwide.

“For many American workers, unions are kind of a foreign concept,” Neil Gross, a sociologist at Colby College who has written about the intersection between the decline of unions and the rise of Trump, told me. “It’s hard for them sometimes to grasp what it is they do and why they should have to be a part of it.”

If you wanted to run for office 20 years from now as a progressive in an America without unions, doing so would be an even heavier lift unless you were able to fund your own campaign. The study that showed how the collapse of union protections could erode Democrats’ political power also found that as a consequence of states passing anti-union laws, fewer working-class people sought—and won—positions of power.

The complete disappearance of unions is not an absurd hypothetical—this is a near-term possibility that is effectively already the case in some southern states that have always done everything they can to crush labor.

“For a lot of people in a lot of places, we already live in a union-less society,” Peter Frase, an editor at Jacobin magazine and author of Four Futures: Life After Capitalism, told me.

Frase cautioned, like Gross and some other experts and activists, against assuming workers wouldn’t find new ways to organize even in union-hostile states. More than one pointed to the teachers’ strikes in Oklahoma and West Virginia and hotel workers in Nevada as examples of how people can build solidarity even when the law is stacked against them.

On the other hand, people are increasingly working independently or in jobs that don’t build solidarity through physical proximity, as factory gigs once did. That would make building some kind of new model from scratch increasingly difficult. And if cities that currently have unions helping advocate for affordable housing were to suddenly be free to let the forces of capital develop as they see fit, places like Seattle and San Francisco might be even more unlivable, further complicating the project of gathering like-minded liberals in one place to force change.

Kotkin, for his part, anticipated an “increasingly feudalistic society” where the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world might believe, say, that “everybody should get a rent subsidy so they can live in a little one-bedroom apartment.” On the path we’re on, he suggested, tech gurus will essentially be left to set social policy on their own. Who knows, sometimes that might work out to their benefit if the guru in question wanted to help them.

“But they’ll never own anything and they’ll never have their own company,” he told me. “They’ll just be serfs to the lord.”

*AFL-CIO is the umbrella union that includes VICE writers and editors.

Public Sector Union Fees Are Dead. What’s Next? (Bloomberg Law) 13 Sept 2018

A potential ruling that could block public sector unions from representing nonmembers would deliver another blow to organized labor, which is still reeling from the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that cut off the collection of union fees from public workers who are not members.

A conservative advocacy group’s effort to upend exclusive representation in the public sector will get its first test later this month in federal court.

The Buckeye Institute is supporting plaintiff Kathleen Uradnik, a political science professor at St. Cloud State University, in her First Amendment lawsuit challenging the Inter Faculty Organization’s authority to represent her and other workers who aren’t union members. A Minnesota federal judge on Sept. 20 will consider her request for a temporary order to block the union from acting as nonmembers’ sole bargaining agent.

A ruling in Uradnik’s favor could put the poli-sci professor and her university in uncharted territory, potentially leaving her on her own to negotiate wages and benefits while freeing the school from its obligation to bargain with the IFO. And more cases are in the pipeline.

The Buckeye Institute has filed federal lawsuits on behalf of public employees in three different states, challenging a union’s authority to act as the sole representative for all workers in a bargaining unit.

Union Power in a Post-Janus World

The Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision in June banned public sector unions from collecting fees from nonmembers that would be used to pay for nonpolitical expenses while also calling exclusive representation into question.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the Janus majority opinion that a state’s requirement that a union must serve as public workers’ exclusive bargaining agent is a “significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts.”

Relying on Janus, Uradnik’s lawsuit says the Inter Faculty Organization’s designation as her exclusive bargaining representative violates her rights to free speech and association protected by the First Amendment.

“This is about the free speech rights of workers and whether they can be compelled in matters of public concern,” Buckeye Institute President Robert Alt told Bloomberg Law. “Janus dealt with one part of this question—can you be forced to subsidize a union’s speech—and raised grave questions about whether you can be forced to associate with a union.”

An injunction against the Inter Faculty Organization would extend beyond just the representation of Uradnik and other employees at St. Paul State University, Alt said. The union represents professors, coaches, librarians, and other employees at seven state university campuses in Minnesota.

IFO President Brent Jeffers cast the lawsuit as “part of a nationally coordinated strategy by powerful forces aiming to destroy collective bargaining.”

“It is a direct attack on our shared values and collective voice,” Jeffers told Bloomberg Law in a prepared statement.

The other lawsuits backed by the Buckeye Institute were brought on behalf of a public university professor in Maine and a public high school teacher in Ohio.

Spillover Effects in Private Sector

It’s unclear whether public employers would have an obligation to negotiate with unions that aren’t designated as a bargaining unit’s exclusive representative, University of North Carolina labor law professor Jeffrey Hirsch told Bloomberg Law. States with anti-union officials would likely resist negotiating unless they absolutely had to, he said.

Abolition of exclusive representation could also open the door to multiple members-only unions representing different factions of employees working alongside one another, Hirsch said.

Catherine Fisk, a labor law professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said a successful First Amendment challenge to exclusive representation in the public sector also could eventually bleed into the private sector.

A state action that violates the First Amendment is more obvious when it’s the government acting as an employer, Fisk told Bloomberg Law in an email. But there might also be state action in the private sector because government agencies, through the authority of the National Labor Relations Act or the Railway Labor Act, appoint unions as exclusive representatives if the unions win majority support of workers in bargaining units, Fisk said.

Union Armored With Knight Precedent

The IFO says the Supreme Court has already rejected a First Amendment challenge to a union’s exclusive representation of faculty in the Minnesota community college system. It cited the high court’s 1984 decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight in its bid to kill Uradnik’s motion for a preliminary injunction.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit also recently reaffirmed the constitutionality of exclusive representation under Minnesota law in its Aug. 14 ruling in Bierman v. Dayton, the union said. The circuit court said in that ruling that Janus didn’t mention Knight nor supersede it.

But Uradnik said in her motion that Knight doesn’t support the IFO’s exclusive representation of nonmembers. While Knight upheld a restriction on exclusive bargaining representatives in certain bargaining activities, there was no issue of compelled speech, she said.

The case is Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Organization, Dist. of Minn., No. 18-cv-01895, motion for preliminary injunction filed 7/31/18., D. Minn., No. 18-cv-01895, motion for preliminary injunction 7/31/18.