Episode 30: The Other Repeal Efforts
An attack on the Americans with Disabilities act is quietly working its way through Congress, DC’s recently enacted paid leave policy is at risk of repeal, there’s a new legal aid program that focuses on debt, and Betsy Devos made a dangerous change that you might have missed. Subscribe to Off-Kilter on iTunes.
Republicans called off the vote for their most recent attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, so this week we are taking a break from health care to focus on stories that are getting far less attention than they deserve. Rebecca Cokley, the former executive director of the National Council on Disability and new senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, joins the show to discuss the quiet effort to roll back rights for people with disabilities. Next, DC Councilwoman Elissa Silverman, one of the original sponsors of DC’s new paid family and medical leave policy, calls in to explain why some council members are pushing to change the law. To close the show, we caught up with Ariel Levinson-Waldman of TZEDEK DC, the District’s newest legal aid program.
And since there was too much for just one episode this week, we have a bonus interview with Alyssa Peterson of Know Your IX about a huge change Betsy Devos made to keep college campuses safer — for students who commit sexual assault.
This week’s guests:
- Rebecca Cokley, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Executive Director of the National Council on Disability
- DC Councilwoman Elissa Silverman
- Ariel Levinson-Waldman, Founding President and Director-Counsel TZEDEK DC
- Alyssa Peterson of Know Your IX
For more on this week’s topics:
- Read more about the quiet attack on the ADA making its way through Congress
- If you want to testify on DC’s paid family and medical leave law, call 202–724–4865 or email email@example.com. You can submit written testimony until October 24th and the hearing date is October 10th.
- Lawyers can signup for trainings with TZEDEK DC at their website.
This program aired on September 29, 2017.
Transcript of show:
REBECCA VALLAS (HOST): Welcome to Off Kilter, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m your host, Rebecca Vallas. This week came with a welcome and sizable dose of good news for tens of millions of Americans with Republicans calling off a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end Medicaid as we know it because again, they don’t have the votes. This victory, yet again, was the work of activists in communities across the country making their voices heart and in the case of ADAPT, again putting their bodies on the line and even being dragged out of wheelchairs to kill the bill and protect the gains made by the ACA and Medicaid. So this week Off Kilter is taking a break from healthcare to focus on some of the stories getting far less attention than they deserve. The attack on the Americans with Disabilities Act quietly working its way through congress, D.C’s recently enacted paid medical leave policy which is newly at risk of being repealed and replaced, a phrase that still gives me PTSD. And the story behind D.C’s newest legal aid program called TZEDEK DC.
But first, a story that must be front and center right now, Puerto Rico. I’d like to read from an op-ed by Hector Figueroa, and SEIU leader with deep roots on the island. He writes in The New York Times:
“It’s been more than a week since I’ve had any word in New York from my 93-year-old father in Puerto Rico. He lives in Coamo, a town in the path of the worst storm to hit the island since 1928. My experience has been shared by millions of Puerto Ricans in the diaspora since Hurricane Maria wreaked its havoc on Sept. 20.
The so-called natural disaster wiped out the deteriorating infrastructure of the entire commonwealth, destroying homes and roads, and leaving Puerto Rico without electricity. Estimates are that it will take months to make the grid fully functional again. The loss of communications has meant no news at all from the more remote communities like Coamo, which is also my hometown.
This wasn’t just nature’s work. Another type of storm had been pounding the island long before last week. With no real representation in Washington, Puerto Rico has always been subject to the whims of stateside politicians unaccountable to the island’s people. More than half a century ago, tax breaks lured industry from the mainland to Puerto Rico, but in recent decades those advantages were yanked back. That set the stage for vulture hedge funds to swoop into the vacuum, but left hospitals, schools, electrical and communications grids too underfunded and fragile to weather a Category 4 hurricane.”
“The immediate cause of the humanitarian crisis we’re witnessing now was a one-two punch by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. But the seeds for it were sown by a public debt crisis that has made life harder and harder for Puerto Ricans in recent years. The island tried to meet draconian debt payments by making disastrous cuts to public services. Those measures pushed Puerto Ricans out of work and into poverty. By 2015, 46.1 percent of the population was living under the poverty line, including about 60 percent of the island’s children. The governor at the time, Alejandro García Padilla, declared the debt unpayable and began defaulting on debt payments.
Then came Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Immediate needs on the island include search and rescue, getting communications back up and clearing roads to get goods and help to people who need it. Beyond that, though, Puerto Rico needs Congress to help it recover from the devastation wrought by economic strategies that have failed the island for decades.
Congress and the Trump administration cannot hide behind the Financial Oversight Board created by Promesa — a semi-colonial entity that in effect controls Puerto Rico’s future. To undo the damage done by years of neglect and abuse by corporations that strip-mined profits out of Puerto Rico with federal blessing, Congress must act to create conditions for a sustainable economy.
That plan must begin with the collapsing health system. Puerto Rico is in urgent need of the $295 million in Medicaid funding that Congress approved in the spring, and additional funds to rebuild a system that is putting some of the country’s sickest, poorest and most vulnerable citizens at risk.
On Thursday, the Trump administration said it would temporarily waive the century-old Jones Act, which Puerto Rican officials said was slowing delivery of relief supplies. The act requires ships carrying cargo to the island to be built and owned by Americans, and to make port in the mainland United States before continuing on to Puerto Rico. A temporary waiver will help, but it is not enough; Congress must repeal the act itself, because it has hindered economic growth and stability on the island even in the best of times.
In addition, whatever emergency assistance the Federal Emergency Management Agency sends must come with no strings attached.
It’s time we faced facts about Puerto Rico’s debt: as former Governor Padilla said, it’s unpayable. The only thing Promesa has done for the people of Puerto Rico is put a temporary stay on claims from bondholders and other creditors. Even as he acknowledged the disaster, President Trump reminded people on Monday that the island, “which was already suffering from broken infrastructure and massive debt, is in deep trouble.”
It would be immoral to insist that before Puerto Ricans can rebuild their homes, hospitals, schools and roads, they must pay back this onerous debt. Instead, repayment must be postponed, maybe even eliminated. The banks that have benefited from the debt must take their own losses and let people come first.
Already, the vultures have been circling. Even as Maria hit Puerto Rico, hedge fund creditors were filing motions in court to further their claims to be repaid — sparing no thought for need for rescue, recovery and rebuilding in the coming months.
A good model for recovery and moving forward is the Marshall Plan, which Washington passed into law after World War II to help rebuild the economies of Western Europe, restoring confidence and prosperity for generations.
In the past few years, Puerto Ricans like me across the United States have come together to support our families still on the island, and to demand an end to the cuts that have made life harder and harder for our parents, our brothers and sisters. We will send help to them and our communities, but we must also defend them in the States, by resisting any measures from Washington that will make matters worse.
In the past, terrible storms like the one in 1928 set Puerto Rico back. I hope we can use this opportunity to make changes that will leave the island more resilient.
As I await news from my family, I think about the long road back to normality ahead of us. And I hope our fellow Americans will stand in solidarity with us and demand lasting relief from the crisis we face today.”
Those are the words of Hector Figueroa, he’s a leader with SEIU whose family is on the island right now and his words should be taken to heart as all eyes are on President Trump and congress to see what they do next. Don’t go away, more Off Kilter after the break, I’m Rebecca Vallas.
You’re listening to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas. In the current political climate the assault on people with disabilities isn’t apparently limited to attempts to strip them of healthcare, take away services that millions of people with disabilities need to live independently and to work or to make deep cuts to Social Security Disability Insurance. Now a bill making its way quietly through congress threatened to roll back the civil rights of people with disabilities by exactly 27 years. Here to discuss what that threat is, what it means and where its headed is Rebecca Cokely, she’s the former Executive Director of the National Council on Disability. She’s now a senior fellow, I’m happy to say at the Center for American Progress working on disability policy and a friend of the show. Cokely, thanks for coming back.
REBECCA COKELY: Thank you for having me Vallas and it’s wonderful to be here.
VALLAS: I have to call you Cokely because otherwise things are going to get very confusing very quickly.
COKELY: Oh definitely, definitely.
VALLAS: So the bill is misleadingly titled, I want to get this right, “The ADA Education and Reform Act of 2017”. Now I say that that’s a misleading title because what I think it should probably be called is the “Let’s throw the ADA in the sewer and stomp on it with really high sharp heels bill of 2017”. Is that a fair characterization and specifically, what would the bill do?
COKELY: I think that’s more than a fair characterization and after we you know, step on it with some high heels we’re going to stick it in a paper shredder and then use that to line a bird cage. The bill itself would actually push back requirements around accessibility in terms of Title III of the ADA, in terms of accommodations. As you said, this has been the law for 27 years. We’ve had whole generations grow up that have never understood life before the ADA or without the ADA. And what this would do is A, it would put the onus much more on people with disabilities to prove discrimination in very tedious ways and it would also then allow business even more time, a minimum of an additional six months following once the complaint is actually filed, not even to remedy the barrier but to what they are calling, “make substantial progress”. So it could be instead of having an actual ramp so people could access the place, having somebody come out and tell them what the ramp would cost.
VALLAS: So to make this concrete, let’s actually draw up a hypothetical situation. Now say that you are a person who uses a power wheelchair and so for you accessibility in a physical way is actually really important just to even access buildings. And you get to a building and you find you can’t get inside. And you want to enforce your rights under Title III of the ADA. If this supposed education and reform act had actually thrown the ADA in the sewer as we’ve described and as we’ll unpack further, what new hoops would you have to jump through as a person with a disability seeking to enforce your rights under the law?
COKELY: Well I think the really key piece is it requires people with disabilities to actual be legal experts on book, chapter, and verse of the ADA. The way the complaint process will actually shift is it will require such technical language that the average person with a disability is not going to feel qualified or empowered enough to even understand where in the law their particular situation might fit.
VALLAS: So if you are a person who maybe isn’t aware of your rights or actually just to play this out a little bit further, if all that red tape ends up discouraging you from even enforcing your rights, is what we expect to happen basically the lack of enforcement of a law that’s been the law of the land for 27 years? Is that eventually where this heads?
COKELY: I think there’s no other destination for it to head than that.
VALLAS: So I want to back up for a second because you are a member of what’s often called the ADA generation and I would love for you to paint a picture of what life looked before 1990 and before the ADA was in place, something that a lot of folks as you mentioned don’t even really remember.
COKELY: I have the fortune of having grown up at the intersection of the IDEA and the ADA which is why I was part of the crew that initially coined the term “the ADA generation,” actually the first time it was used in a public setting was Secretary Arne Duncan’s ADA commemoration speech in summer of 2009, the first year of the Obama administration. I put it in those talking points. And I very well remember what life was like before the ADA and I think part it’s because I’m part of the 20% of people with disabilities that grew up in families with parents with the same disability that they had. My dad became paralyzed when I was a year and a half and both my parents were little people. I remember my mom being denied tenure before the ADA because she could only use the bottom six inches of a chalkboard. That was actually used to deny her tenure at the college that she had worked at for decades. I remember wanting to go places with my dad, especially once my parents became separated by going places with my dad who used a wheelchair and not being able to enter buildings. I remember my dad wanting to go vote and them having to bring the ballot out to his car and him getting really upset. He had been very active in voting rights issues in the south and the fact that in 1988 he couldn’t vote for the presidential election the same way that everybody in his family could.
VALLAS: So how did the ADA change things? It’s a law that people I think are probably familiar with because of certain buzzwords, whether it’s the mandate that it puts in place that people with disabilities have the right to quote, “equal opportunity” in public life or to participate fully in public life. But break down what it actually has meant for people with disabilities who have grown up with that law now in place.
COKELY: I mean I think for so many people with disabilities you don’t even think about it anymore. And people without disabilities don’t even think about it anymore. You’re walking down the street managing your luggage and you take it down a curb cut which is typically the best example of it that people tend to use. Or trying to get suitcases up a flight of stairs and there’s a ramp. The ADA really did a number of different things that were historic. The first of which really laying out a definition of disability. That was not based on an inability to work or a requirement for health care. Really talking about having a condition that affected the activities of daily living. Being assumed to have a definition so let’s say you are a burn victim. And it doesn’t impact your ability to do your job but you are still discriminated against because you’re perceived as a person with a disability and therefore discriminated against. Or having a history of impairment. So if you’re an individual who had a substance addiction, substance abuse addiction and were in rehab and had come through recovery, that, you have that past history and that qualifies you as a person with a disability. So it really cast a net that took up all of these individuals around the country, millions of individuals with similar experiences tied to being historically discriminated against. As we saw back in 2008 when we got the ADA Restoration Act, restoring that definition because we saw a number of Supreme Court cases, the Sutton trilogy of cases that really limited who could sue under the ADA as a result of things that were perceived as mitigating measures. So let’s say you were an airline pilot and you wore glasses and you were fired because you had a vision disability but you’d have no claim for discrimination because your glasses automatically mitigate the fact that you have any sort of disability.
VALLAS: So a catch-22.
VALLAS: So as you’re describing attacks on the ADA which now has been the law of the land for 27 years, nothing new folks and as you said something a lot of people don’t even really think about consciously anymore. Attacks on the ADA are nothing new but this latest waves of attacks which is actually gaining steam and I should note now actually was just voted out of a committee in the House of Representatives and is expected to continue to move and possibly even head to the Senate so a very real threat that we’re talking about now. This latest wave of attacks actually comes on the heels of a 60 Minutes piece that allegedly that widespread so-called frivolous lawsuits, people with disabilities who didn’t actually face discrimination, the piece alleges, but who were just trying to sort of milk the system and maybe even get money out of it, don’t we need I suppose the devil’s advocate in this chair. I’m actually even having a hard time saying it seriously, right. But don’t we need to rein in frivolous lawsuits, why is this bill not the right approach to that apparent problem?
COKELY: Well actually even in the original statute, there is means for dealing with frivolous lawsuits. State courts and state bar associations have the means to punish attorneys who are filing lawsuit after lawsuit and those lawsuits are proved to be frivolous. It’s one of those things where congress keeps talking about not wanting to go above and beyond their reach but they actually already created a mechanism to solve this problem and yet they haven’t used it. Furthermore, there are resource, there’s a series of regional ADA technical assistances centers around the country that people can contact to find out more information about how to make their places accessible in the first place. It’s 27 years old! Why are we making excuses to stop people achieving their civil rights which they should’ve had for 27 years which some people still don’t have.
VALLAS: So what’s really behind this? The 60 Minutes piece didn’t create the piece of legislation it just sort of fanned the flames. Who is behind this bill and what’s really going on here?
COKELY: Well I think it’s important to note that it’s both Democrats and Republicans that are behind this bill. There is support on both sides of the aisle for this legislation. We continue to talk about disability rights being a bipartisan issue. Well we’re also under bipartisan attack. You know we continue to hear that business feels attacked because they’ve been asked to do something that they’ve been asked to do every year for the last 27 years. And it’s a little bit ridiculous at this point. I think the idea that after 27 years they can have even more time and then still refuse to be accessible. At what point are they going to have to do it? At what point are they going to have to comply with the law? Or are we just going to keep creating a slippery and slippier and slipperiest slope but actually not a slope because we’re not about accessibility so staircase. [LAUGHTER] A staircase full of banana peels to allow businesses to refuse to comply with the law.
VALLAS: So it’s hard for me to have this conversation without also observing the role of the 60 Minutes piece here as part of a pattern of media coverage, and this is something we’ve talked about extensively on this show often in the context of misleading media coverage regarding Social Security Disability Insurance, something that, an often maligned program that has faced real threats in congress because of huge media flurries that perpetuate myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities and programs that are often there to help. This feels to me of a piece with that pattern of media pretty much only knowing, with very few exceptions, how to paint people with disabilities as takers or abusers of a system that they see a way to take advantage of. Am I off base here?
COKELY: No not at all, I think there really is a myth and a misunderstanding that people with disabilities are collecting monetary damages off of this. It is not like you have a bunch of disabled veterans swimming in Scrooge McDuck’s money bin based on ADA lawsuits. That is not the case. People cannot collect monetary damages on these claims. All you can do, the only remedy that’s available is having that place made accessible.
VALLAS: Attorney’s fees and some other kind of pieces there but it’s for their time and I should note just being the recovering lawyer that I am, for the specific reason because if people can’t actually afford to hire lawyers to enforce their rights under the ADA, having attorney’s fees built into the law was intentionally done to enable people to find lawyers who are willing to take those cases.
COKELY: Exactly. Considering the disability community is a poor community. 50% of people with disabilities live at or below the poverty level. And so nobody is buying yachts or you know, cruising in the Caribbean after suing a 7/11. That’s not the case. And I think however, I think media continues to put out this idea that there are a bunch of disabled people that sit at home all day and go business to business to business and file lawsuits when that isn’t the case.
VALLAS: So last question while I still have you. Is this, is the fight that people with disabilities are facing to be viewed as a legitimate class who faces discrimination and who should legitimately be able to enforce their rights, does it feel still in 2017 categorically different from what other groups that face discrimination and all kinds of structural barriers if not physical ones, are facing at this point in time?
COKELY: In some ways yes, in some ways no. I think I can connect it most likely with, or most easily with how you know several of our allies in communities of color felt about the rollback of affirmative action programs. You want your children to have a better future than you. You want your children to have better access to services, to programs, to school, to the world. And if this passes, my children are going to have a tougher life than I had, and that just doesn’t seem right.
VALLAS: And it doesn’t seem very American.
COKELY: No, not at all.
VALLAS: Rebecca Cokely is the former executive director of the National Council on Disability. She is also now very happily, let’s do a little shimmy for those who can’t see, a little shimmy because she’s now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress where she gets to hang out with me and I get to hang out with her as we further build out our disability policy work here. But we’ll have lots more on our syllabus page about this bill, its chances and how you can get involved but Rebecca thank you for helping break it down into English and for coming back as always.
COKELY: Thank you for having me here Vallas.
VALLAS: Don’t go away, more Off Kilter after the break, I’m Rebecca Vallas.
You’re listening to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas. For several years the nation’s capital has joined other left leaning cities and states in pushing forward legislation to improve the plight of struggling workers. Now facing growing unrest from business owners and internal division over their own priorities, D.C. lawmakers are preparing, we’re told to take a break from further beefing up worker protections and labor standards. And one of the protections in the crosshair is D.C.’s recently enacted paid family and medical leave policy enacted last year. I’m so pleased to be joined by Councilwoman Elissa Silverman who has been one of the key champions of that paid leave policy, she joins me by phone. Councilwoman, thanks so much for joining the show..
COUNCILWOMAN ELISSA SILVERMAN: Thank you Rebecca for the invitation.
VALLAS: So just to get folks up to speed, remind us the story behind D.C.’s paid leave law, the Universal Paid Leave Act, what does it do. It’s often called the nation’s most generous policy of its kind. Is that a fair description and what’s in it?
SILVERMAN: So I don’t think that’s quite a fair description. So let me say hello to all your listeners. So in October of 2015, I introduced a bill along with my colleague David Grosso to have a paid family leave program in the district. And we had a 14 month hearing process in which we had three hearings actually, one of the most exhaustive hearing processes we’ve had at the council. We had one hearing that had I think over 100 witnesses from the public. We had one hearing of national experts. We had one hearing of local experts. So it was a pretty exhaustive review of the law. And what we ended up passing in December of last year was a program, a social insurance program that would provide 8 weeks of family leave, so that’s when you’re welcoming a new child into your family either through birth or by adoption. 6 weeks of, sorry 8 weeks of parental leave is what we called it, 6 weeks of family leave which is if you need to take time off from work because you’re spouse is sick or your mom might be in the final stages of her life. We often have people testify, some heartbreaking stories about children, adult children who couldn’t see their parents in the final stages of their life because they just couldn’t afford to take time off from work. And then two weeks of care for yourself. So it’s an 8, 6, 2 leave package. How do we pay for it? It was going to be paid for, it is going to be paid for with a .62% payroll tax. It is a payroll tax that would be paid by the employer and I just want to make a note there that the reason we did that is because the district is not a state and congress prohibits us from taxing those who do not live in the district but work in the district. So we can’t do a commuters tax for example, so we can’t tax Maryland and Virginia residents because it is prohibited by our Home Rule Act that was created by Congress.
So those are the basic contours of the program. Those who would be eligible for leave would be people who work for private employers in the District of Columbia and it’s who work a majority of their time in the district.
VALLAS: But as I alluded to at the top, the law while it actually went into effect and is actually the law of D.C. is now itself at risk of part of this apparent reversal in how D.C. lawmakers are viewing whose side they should be prioritizing, that of workers or that of business. How did we get to a place where now the law itself is actually in jeopardy?
SILVERMAN: So what happened is that there was aggressive lobbying by some of our bigger interests. We have a few bodies that represent big corporate interests in our city. One of them is called, you know, we have a chamber of commerce of course, and we have a regional chamber of commerce called the board of trade but there’s another entity that’s very influential in district politics and it’s called the Federal City Council. And this is a group that’s made up of a lot of the heads of sort of some of the biggest businesses in our city. And they often weigh in somewhat privately although now more publically on public policy matters. And basically they got to the ears of some council members and said, well we don’t want to have employers pay for it so we want to revisit how we pay for it and how the program would be administered. So what happened is that the law did pass and in fact, all of our laws have to go through congress, it was approved by congress so it’s now the law, those 8, 6, 2 packages now the law. But some members have introduced bills that would change the financing scheme and the administration of the program to change it out of a strictly social insurance program to one that might mandate employers, larger employers to just provide the benefit. And what is called either self insured, basically they would pay it out of pocket.
VALLAS: So one of the sets of language that’s being used to describe what proponents of undoing this law would actually like to see happen is repeal and replace. And I have to say those words are still giving me PTSD, especially as the health care debate is sort of revived this week with the latest zombie GOP attack on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid. But repeal and replace is what proponents of business interests in this debate are saying they’d like to see happen. You described the current law as a social insurance model. What they want to do is replace it with something else that looks more like an employer mandate. Can you help us understand what that would look like and what that means?
SILVERMAN: Sure. So there have been five bills introduced. Repeal and replace, I think it’s accurate Rebecca. I mean we are putting I think every one of these bills puts the family leave program at risk. It puts that program at risk. So what and I think there are some people, some of my colleagues who do want to see a family leave program in place. I think there are others who frankly don’t and the more chaos, the more things are debated and held up the less likely we’re going to put a program in place and I think that makes certain people really happy. So I certainly don’t want that to happen. To answer your question about the employer mandate, so there is several bills that do this. They say that if you’re an employer with one of the bills is 50 or more employees, one of them is 100 or more employees, you have to provide the family parental and self leave benefit. You have to provide it and you have to pay for it yourself. So if an employee comes to you and says, “I think I’m eligible for this,” you have to provide it. Now I think there are a lot of hazards with a employer mandate. First of all, we see this with our other worker protection laws, like paid sick days that a lot of employers don’t provide it. They don’t follow the law. So we have a real enforcement issue here in that it might be a difficult to enforce. They we have the second issue of that especially lower wage workers might be hesitant to ask for the benefit. And certainly if it’s not, the benefit of having a social insurance program is the employer isn’t involved in the dispersal of the benefit and the payment of the benefit.
Basically they pay the payroll tax and if you’re eligible then you get, under the Family Medical Leave Act you can take the time off and under our program you would get paid for it. So the employer mandate presents a lot of complications and it also then has an impact, so two of these bills would say ok, well larger employers, we just tell you you gotta provide the benefit and pay for it and the smaller employers, employers who have you know 50 or less or 100 or less, depending on the bill would be part of this social insurance program. Well we’re a small jurisdiction, right? We only have about 400,000 workers to begin with so there’s a question about whether if you take sort of this tranche of workers out whether you can have a solvent insurance pool. Whether you can make an insurance pool work. So I think there are a lot of question marks about the employer mandate approach and I have spent time with some economists who, including some conservative ones who say that it is very hazardous to take an employer mandate approach and they do not want to see that happen.
VALLAS: So I mentioned at the top that this is just one of several issues that are either in the crosshairs now newly or actually being stalled. There are a number of various proposals that you and Councilman Grosso and others have been championing such as fair scheduling and other policies that would provide basic protections to workers who right now are often very precariously connected to the labor market because of a set of rules tilted in the employer’s favor. What do you see as what’s on deck for the weeks and months ahead, both with regard to the paid family leave law and its fate but also potential opportunities that you’re now seeing as less likely to move forward in this new climate.
SILVERMAN: So I do want to pause on one point that you made earlier Rebecca I think about your language in the opening was left leaning cities. I would say that the reason why we’re seeing a lot of bills about protecting workers is because all those cities have growing inequality. One interesting thing that came out of the census data that was released, the American Communities survey earlier this week that while D.C., white residents in D.C. are doing quite well and their income is actually growing, black residents in this city are seeing their income declining. And it’s things like paid family leave and fair scheduling that I think can help reduce that income inequality gap. In terms of what’s on board, unfortunately we’re still going to have to deal with the paid family leave debate, even though in my opinion we have a law and we should start implementing and I should say the mayor, Mayor Bowser and her team are taking the initial steps to implement it.
But we are going to have a hearing October 10th and for district residents who are very interested in this issue, I would encourage you either to testify, it’s going to be 10:30 AM in room 500 of your city hall and state legislation, the John A. Wilson building which is right at 14th and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. And if you want to testify in person, you just can call 202–724–4865, I’ll repeat, 202–724–4865 or send an email to the committee of the whole which is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you can’t come in person, you can also submit written testimony and you would send that as well to email@example.com. So what’s likely, I don’t know what’s likely to happen I’ll be honest with you Rebecca. This is unprecedented for us to pass a law and all the sudden saw oh, we’re going to hit the pause button here. I can tell you it’s very frustrating to me. We had 14 months of conversation about this bill and for the certain business community members to say well there wasn’t enough conversation, well where were you for 14 months? But what’s happened has happened so we will have that hearing and then we’ll have to see what will happen after that.
I can’t predict what will happen, I am chair of labor and workforce development committee and we certainly are interested in fair scheduling. I actually had a roundtable on the bill about a little less than a year ago so for those listeners who aren’t as familiar, fair scheduling means a lot of things in probably in every jurisdiction. But in our jurisdiction there was a bill that was introduced last session that basically did three things. It would say that if you work in a nationally branded retailer, restaurant, so we’re talking about the CVSs, the Targets, the Buffalo Wild Wings of the world, that you are entitled to get your schedule two weeks in advance. So right now there are some workers often find that their schedules change almost at the last minute. And the reason why this is a problem and certainly a problem for me not only on my labor side but on my workforce development side is we have a lot of people who are working at a retail store and going to school. Or they’re parents of small children so every time their schedule changes that means they can’t go to class or they’ve got to change their childcare arrangements and that’s costly. It’s costly to them not only in terms of the dollars but in terms of of their future.
The second thing the bill would’ve done is say that if your schedule does change within the less than two week period that you’re entitled to some compensation for that change. And the third thing that it would do is say, and this is a big problem that some of our retailers that often retailers will not fire, they’ll hire an additional person part time instead of giving those additional hours to a current employee to get them the full time hours. And what the bill would say is if you have additional hours you’re hiring for, first chance for those hours should go to a current employee rather than creating a new position. So that’s what the bill did. It got caught up in all kinds of nonsense I can’t even say it better than that. Which is that it was mischaracterized by members of the business community, I have to say that it applied to small business. The face of the campaign against this scheduling was Ben’s Chili Bowl which is if you’re a district resident or even been to the district, very famous restaurant in our city. There only has like four outlets I think at most so fair scheduling would’ve never applied to Ben’s Chili Bowl. And it also got up in honestly some ethics issues with one of my colleagues so I want a fresh start for fair scheduling and I’m not sure we’re going to take it up. I can tell you we’re definitely not taking it up until we’ve ironed out paid family leave so that’s something that I’m interested in and we’ll have to see what happens with paid leave.
Councilmember Grosso has also reintroduced a bill, fair pay bill basically looking at making sure that there’s gender equity in pay and not allowing employers to ask about salary before an offer is given. So that is currently within our committee right now.
VALLAS: Elissa Silverman is one of the members of D.C.’s city council. She’s as you can hear one of the most tireless champions of progressive causes and policies that we have in the district and I can’t thank you enough, councilwoman for what you do everyday fighting for working people. I’d love for you to repeat one more time that phone number that people can call if they’re interested in testifying at the hearing in favor or to share any views that they might have on D.C.’s paid family leave law.
SILVERMAN: Well thank you, Rebecca, for your interest in local affairs. So let me give the phone number again if you want to testify you would call 202–724–4865 or send an email to COW@dccouncil.us. And you can submit written testimony actually until October 24th, the hearing date is October 10th.
VALLAS: Councilwoman Silverman thank you so much for coming back to Off Kilter and look forward to having you back soon.
SILVERMAN: Thanks so much.
VALLAS: Don’t go away, more Off Kilter after the break, I’m Rebecca Vallas.
You’re listening to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas. Debt can have often life altering consequences. The loss of the drivers liscense that a mom needs to get to work, seizure of the family bank account or even lost job opportunities due to bad credit. These kinds of collateral consequence can set off a spiral that can end with unemployment, homelessness and even incarceration. Having a lawyer can make all the difference but as is the case across the United States, most D.C. residents facing debt related legal problems get no legal help whatsoever. That’s the problem a new organization here in Washington D.C. is seeking to address. It’s called TZEDEK DC, and I am so pleased to be joined in studio by the head of the organization, Ariel Levinson-Waldman. Ariel, thank you so much for joining Off Kilter.
ARIEL LEVINSON-WALDMAN: Thank you Rebecca and thanks CAP for hosting us.
VALLAS: Well I should be clear up front in full disclosure, I am a member of the advisory committee of this organization because anyone who knows me knows I’ll pretty friggin’ passionate about access to justice for low income people but tell us a little bit about what is TZEDEK DC, what is the story behind starting this organization?
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: Well first thank you for those passions and they are the reason we’re so proud to have you on the advisory council. The reason we started grows exactly out of the problems you identified in your opening spiel. Which is we have a major access to justice gap here in our nation’s capitol which has symbolic importance and also has the most lawyers per capita of anywhere in the country and so you would think that if anywhere that would have the model of where folks need legal help you would have lawyers available to provide them, the District of Columbia would be able to provide that leadership. We’re not there in the debt space right now 95% of low income District of Columbia residents facing debt crises never get any legal help.
VALLAS: I want to make sure we got, people are actually letting that stat sink in because it’s a really staggering number. You just said 95% of D.C. residents facing debt related legal problems don’t get legal help.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: That’s exactly right and even more troubling is that 90% face so many obstacles that they never seek help. And our community outreach and financial literacy based model goes right at the challenge. We think it’s extremely important to be right in the [INAUDIBLE] communities, with our friends in the churches in the community centers where our clients get together and make information readily accessible and send a clear and positive message that the legal system can help you. So many of our residents, especially in the current climate are incredibly distrustful and scared of the legal system particularly our immigrant community and so we’ve really worked hard on a number of strategies to get know your rights materials to the client community and before folks are dealing with that lawsuit so they can seek help in a clear and easy way and get a representative to the court house.
VALLAS: So this is something, it reminds me so much of my days as a legal aid lawyer and I describe myself usually as a forever legal aid lawyer or a recovering legal aid lawyer but I’m really not recovering at all because I’m still talking about it, I’m still working on this work. But I remember back to my days handling legal aid cases where a lot of the time the folks that made their way to us were actually really the lucky ones. Even people we ended up advising but having to turn away because we didn’t have the resources to represent most of them, they were the lucky ones and the reason I say that crazy as it sounds is because as you just said so many other folks were facing exactly the same types of problems but had no idea that they should even be talking to a lawyer because they didn’t even realize they had rights that were being trampled on.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: The most common outcome in the District of Columbia and in every jurisdiction in a debt case is a default judgment. And the debt collection industry has really exploited this situation and so that the common pattern, the most common pattern in a debt lawsuit is that the defendant never responds either because she never actually learn about the case or she sees so many obstacles, for example what happens if I have to take off work, will I get fired? How do I navigate the legal system, it’s not clear to me and I definitely cannot afford a lawyer and the legal system for so many in our client community has been only hostile and only caused problems. Family members or friends have been incarcerated, they’ve been subject to discipline in school, they’ve had other problems and so this is a civil case and the defendant is faced with the question of should she exercise her choice to show up in court. And right now the most common outcome was no response and a default judgment. And this has a number of really bad outcomes for the client.
VALLAS: So explain the default judgment, it’s a legal term but it means something really important here.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: It does and a default judgment means that even though it wasn’t a fair fight, there was a lawsuit filed by a financial institution with a lawyer against someone who never participated in any hearing because there’s a hearing and the defendant is not physically present or represented. The court will award judgment which means money to the financial institution debt collection plaintiff. And I should say these are typically entities owned by a hedge fund that have come into existence for the sole purpose of purchasing debt from creditors for 2, 3, 4 cents on the dollar and then as a business model suing every single person on that spreadsheet for 100 cents on the dollar without typically a great deal or any due diligence. Jon Oliver has this very powerful piece in which he demonstrates that in some cases as little as 4 seconds of due diligence has been done before that macro is hit and the lawsuit is printed against the individual. What this means in terms of real people’s lives, that a default judgment means that the credit report is impaired, and that creates obstacles for future employment and access to credit. It often also can lead to garnishment of wages so now the person’s paycheck seemingly out of nowhere has less money in it and this causes real trauma to the clients who show up and saw I didn’t know there was something going on in a court case but now I see that there’s less in my check and when I look back at the paperwork it’s saying it’s because of this court case. What can I do? And this is weeks or months after they could’ve gotten help had the rules been set up in a fairer way to allow for that fair fight.
VALLAS: So basically to boil that all down, there is a system with rules that are set up wildly in favor of the large financial institutions that have figured out basically how to work the system. They’ve got it all automated and they can literally create computer programs that you were just describing to create a bunch of litigation that they know is going to be easy as pie because basically no one’s going to show up and protect their own rights and at the end of the day they now can start milking money out of people who didn’t even know it was happening to them.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: That’s right and that’s really why we think it’s important to be doing both individual representations and giving advice and getting information but also to change the rules and create a fairer playing field. And so we have a coalition of terrific organizations that are working on systems reform and I just want to mention three areas that we think are really important. One, we need to stop the suspension of driver’s license for the non payment of debt. This is something that’s happening in the District of Columbia and throughout the country. Just next door we have a case in Virginia involving 900,000 Virginians who had their license suspended. This is a crazy way to do public policy and it in effect punishes people who don’t have money for being poor. Of course folks who do have money pay the fee or the late fee from the parking ticket and they move on. When we suspend the license now the client can’t get to that job interview or can’t commit to getting to that job or even worse is put in a situation where she has to drive just to get a family member to a medical appointment or to get groceries. And now this really tracks what we see a spike in arrests and the criminal process being introduced for people’s real day to day challenges simply for driving with a license.
VALLAS: So something that starts as a parking ticket can really spiral into an entire life crisis.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: It really does. We had a government official tell us the other day that 2 out of every 3 arrests made by the DC Metropolitan Police Department includes an arrest for driving without a license.
VALLAS: 2 out of 3.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: 2 out of 3 and so this is really something we’re talking about in the wake of Ferguson and Ferguson has been a great I think national way of illustrating this very tight relationship between civil and criminal legal system problems. And so we think it’s very important number one that we attack this driver’s license suspension issue right here in the District. Number two we think it’s important the rules be fairer with respect to garnishment. Before someone’s paycheck gets cut they ought to get notice. And there ought to be, right now a person can have a quarter of her wages deducted even if she is making a very low salary. We think the rules ought to be fair in that respect as well and we have some terrific advocacy going on in the council on that piece.
VALLAS: Sounds pretty common sense, you should have to tell someone before you start taking a quarter of their paycheck every two weeks.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: Exactly. And then the last piece involves a bill that’s currently pending at the council, we’re quite excited about it, it has 7 of 13 councilmembers of publicly supported the bill. And it’s a very again, as you say common sense measure and it goes to what are going to be the rules for filing a lawsuit in a debt case. And what the bill says and it’s introduced by a terrific member of the council, Mary Che, it’s supported by people like Elissa Silverman who is coming on later today. What the bill says is number one before you file that debt lawsuit you should have to read the contract and make sure you’ve got the right person at the right address with the right amount.
VALLAS: And maybe for more than 4 seconds you should have to read it.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: For more than 4 seconds we think. We think that justice and basic decency calls for that. And then also number two what it says is you should have to make sure that it’s within the statute of limitations because right now hundreds and hundreds, if you go back to the DC superior court you’ll just see dozens and dozens of cases where the table has a lawyer on one side and the other table is empty and the court is just reading out default judgment after default judgment after default judgment and that leads to all the other problems we were talking about earlier and often times those cases are not in fact meritorious but there’s been nobody on the other side to say you got the wrong guy, you got the wrong address. It wasn’t within the statute of limitations. People get into this terrible cycle that could be avoided if these rules upfront required a little more fairness and diligence before that lawsuit gets filed.
VALLAS: So give me an example in the last couple minutes that we have, give me example of the type of person that TZEDEK DC has represented and that is facing these types of problems that can become crises if not for a lawyer.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: Many of our clients have no income, are unemployed but I actually want to talk about a client who had a job and a great deal of education because she’s also typical in many ways of our client community. Sally came to us as a, she had been a schoolteacher, she has a master’s degree so this is a very well educated member of our community and she got pregnant. And during her time as a teacher she experienced health difficulties from her pregnancy and she quit her job because it was no longer possible to physically do the work. She ended up living on her aunt’s couch with no assets and no income and a baby daddy who was threatening her and her future child and she had taken out a loan from a creditor and that creditor sued her and we worked with her to represent her in the debt suit and we were able to get the debt suit dismissed. I should also say that so many women in the District but this is also a national issue experience in parallel intimate partner violence and debt or financial problems and so we see this pattern repeatedly. So we were able to work with her to get the debt case dismissed and really see that weight lifted from her shoulders in the ninth month of pregnancy which was really moving to our team to see her experience that sense of protection. But also to work with family law lawyers and get a restraining order against the father of her child who had been threatening. We see all these different life patterns but that’s just a recent example that for our team highlighted how intense and human the debt challenges can be. It can seem like a technical thing to have a spreadsheet and a bunch of numbers but these usually have such huge impact on our client communities lives.
VALLAS: And such an important point you make about the intersection of intimate partner violence and of the kinds of debt problems that the people you’re seeking to help through this organization often face. So as we close out what I wish could be an hour long conversation or a longer because you know me when I get talking about legal aid you guys have some exciting events coming up including a celebrity chef kugel off. It’s actually happening next week. Tell folks where they can learn more and also come hang out and eat kugel with me if they are interested.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: Thank you I really want to encourage folks who are interested in learning more, getting involved to go to our website, that’s www.tzedekdc.org. For those looking to volunteer you’ll see a little form on our website. We really welcome it and our whole model is to force multiply and get that capacity by bringing out volunteers from the faith community, from the Jewish community, from the lawyer community and from folks in the business community who really believe in access to justice. I’ll mention for the lawyers out there we have trainings going on in October and November and please sign up on the website if that’s something that’s of interest to you to roll up your sleeves come down to small claims court, work with us or do legal research.
VALLAS: And we’ll have all that information on our website, Medium.com/@offkiltershow but the website is Tzedekdc.org and that’s the name of the organization as well so if you’re like me and you’re not sure which you love more, access to justice or kugel you’re in luck, this week you don’t have to choose. Ariel Levinson-Waldman is the founder and director of TZEDEK DC and a good friend. Ariel, thank you so much for the important work you’re doing.
LEVINSON-WALDMAN: Rebecca, thanks so much.
VALLAS: And that does it for this week’s episode of Off Kilter, powered by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. I’m your host, Rebecca Vallas, the show is produced each week by Will Urquhart. Find us on Facebook and Twitter @offkiltershow and you can find us on the airwaves on the Progressive Voices Network and the WeAct Radio Network or anytime as a podcast on iTunes. See you next week.
Transcript of bonus interview:
REBECCA VALLAS (HOST): You’re listen to Off Kilter, I’m Rebecca Vallas. While all eyes have been on health care, immigration and now tax last week Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education quietly made a huge change to the nation’s policies on sexual assault on college campuses. And what she did will make college campuses safer for students who commit sexual assault. Right before DeVos announced the change I sat down with Alyssa Peterson, one of the leaders of Know Your IX, a student led group who focuses on ending sexual assault on college campuses. She’s also, I will note the inaugural producer of this very radio show and today makes her debut as a guest.
Alyssa we miss you but it’s so great to hear your voice.
ALYSSA PETERSON: Thanks so much for having me.
VALLAS: So get us up to speed, what’s going on here? What is Betsy DeVos and her Department of Education thinking about doing?
PETERSON: So on September 7th Betsy DeVos gave a speech at George Mason where she talked about revising a document known as the dear colleague letter which is a document that the Obama administration created to help survivors understand their rights. In addition to talking about that document she’s mentioned rolling back enforcement of Title IX and also issuing new documents that would make it easier for schools to mistreat survivors of sexual assault.
VALLAS: So help make that a little more concrete. I mean Title IX is something that itself should probably be explained a little bit. It’s a federal civil rights law that applies to education institutions but in particular a very specific provision here that she and her department of education are looking at closely that’s really important in the context of campus sexual assault and it’s very important to the rights of survivors. What is the provision that she’s looking at and what is she actually planning on doing with it?
PETERSON: She’s looking at a document called the dear colleague letter which helps clarify Title IX’s obligations that schools have to follow. Basically it says schools have to provide survivors with accommodations, they need to, if appropriate, discipline students who perpetrated sexual violence. And the document makes it very easy for students like myself to hold our school accountable when they mistreat and abuse survivors.
VALLAS: And part of that process, and I want to get into your own personal experience and how this plays out but part of that process and part of what she’s looking at really comes down to the standard of proof at issue when colleges and universities are actually looking into complaints of sexual assault. You yourself have experienced sexual assault on a college campus, I myself am also a survivor so these types of experiences are incredibly personal, they’re not academic, they’re really part of our lives but help us understand what that standard of proof means, why it’s important as part of this process and I don’t know if your own experience helps tell that story.
PETERSON: Yeah so I think, so something known as the preponderance of the evidence, and effectively if a person comes to a school and says I’ve been sexually assaulted and I can’t go to school with my perpetrator in my class, the school should initiate a disciplinary proceeding and effectively they will weigh both students education equally and if it’s more likely than not that a student perpetrated sexual violence they will be punished for the perpetration and effectively what that does is it’s a standard that balances both students educations equally which means that it’s a civil rights standard as opposed to other standards like clear and convincing which effectively tilts the scales away from survivors and in my personal experience I did not report my sexual assault to the school in part because I was afraid that the school would not take my report seriously. And what Betsy DeVos is doing is allowing schools to tilt the scales against survivors which will make it even harder for us to come forward.
VALLAS: So there’s a lot of legal jargon that ends up being really important here. So you mentioned preponderance of the evidence. You contrasted it with another different legal standard which is called clear and convincing. Anyone who watches Law and Order, who’s ever seen it is probably familiar with the concept of beyond a reasonable doubt. We can get into that too. All of these are different standards of proof that mean very specific things. But to break it down what you said and just sort of I think it bears repeating, preponderance of the evidence really comes down to evidence shows that the reported sexual assault more likely than not occurred. So like literally more than 50 percent likelihood, then we’re likely to see a school to discipline the student who is alleged to have committed sexual assault pursuant to the school’s code of conduct. So that’s what we’re really talking about here but what is it that Betsy DeVos is proposing to do that would tilt the scales away from survivors and actually make things more favorable for people who are perpetrating sexual assault on college campuses.
PETERSON: So Betsy DeVos wants to make it so schools could choose the standard. This actually contradicts the Bush administration’s work. The Bush administration actually in 2004 found Georgetown University, my alma mater not compliant with Title IX because they used a higher standard than preponderance of the evidence. So Betsy DeVos is effectively walking back decades of work on this issue and allowing schools like Notre Dame who have been sued repeatedly for valuing football players over survivors, she’s going to let them choose their standard. And to no surprise, a lot of schools are excited about this because it will make it less likely that they will have to deal with this issue and it allows schools to freely discriminate against survivors by valuing their educations less.
VALLAS: So it would in effect make it harder for survivors to actually be able to go to school, right? I mean that’s what I’m hearing you say. If you yourself experience sexual assault and you come forward but the school says eh, I’m not sure that you’ve really met our burden, we think that you need to prove say beyond a reasonable doubt that this individual you’re accusing committed sexual assault, then that puts the survivor in the position of not really being able to feel safe on campus or in the classroom because they are having to jump through all kinds of hoops to prove something that’s incredibly difficult to report already.
PETERSON: Yes, exactly and I think the issue is people think about, when they think about campus discipline, they’re not thinking about the survivor’s access to education, what the school is often forced to do is to figure out do, will the survivor drop out because she has to see her rapist in her dorm everyday or it will expel someone or punish them who has perpetrated sexual assault. So the issue is when you raise the standard in so far as the person who is alleged to have perpetrated this sexual assault receives more protection than the survivor it sends a message that the school does not value the survivor’s education on equal footing.
VALLAS: Now you mentioned that schools are actually, many of them are getting excited about the prospect of having more control over this process and being able to get out of having to protect survivor’s rights. They wouldn’t put it in those terms but that’s really what it comes down to. But there’s also been some level of disagreement even on the left as to what the right way to handle these cases is.
PETERSON: Yeah, absolutely. I think people on the left have talked about this as an issue of due process and it is but I think there are some important things to consider. First, the campus system is not the criminal system, the penalties in the criminal system such as incarceration are deserving of additional procedural protections but the campus system is a civil rights system so we should be talking about this as a civil rights issue and valuing both parties’ education equally. Another thing that the left has really gotten wrong is they’ve decided to ally themselves with Betsy DeVos, a person who served someone who brags about sexually assaulting women and is utterly unconcerned with due process and it’s been frustrating as a feminist to see feminists who work against school to prison pipeline, who work against pushing out girls of color for school dress code violations. Feminists are actually concerned with their process and have put out numerous recommendation to make the process more fair but instead some folks have misguidedly attacked feminists in favor of working with Betsy DeVos. That’s profoundly disappointing.
VALLAS: Well back to due process as well, because hey I’m a fan of due process, I fight for it most days, it’s something that folks who are really of all political stripes often will point to as one of the cornerstones of our legal system, of our justice system and a right that is something to fight for on behalf of all populations including people accused of crimes and that’s actually a lot of what I do in my job is try to help folks understand why being accused of a crime is something that shouldn’t necessarily stick with you for the rest of your life, especially if you were never convicted. A topic we’ll be discussing throughout this show in other contexts. But help me understand why as you noted the sexual assault reporting system in the campus context is and needs to be separate and distinct from the way the criminal justice system operates, where due process really is king.
PETERSON: Yeah, so I think the criminal process is focused on vindicating the state’s interests against an individual. The criminal process has actually been known to abuse survivors as well communities of color alike. And I think looking at the campus process, the campus process is one about educational access, it’s supposed to situate both parties equally and what I would add is actually the dear colleague letter that Betsy DeVos is actually interested in ripping up actually affords very strong procedural protections for both parties, both parties get access to notice. Both parties have access to appeals and they actually vastly exceed the protections in the U.S. constitution and for me if we want to protect due process and protect the students who are accused of sexual assault we would enforce the dear colleague letter. And I think I say this as someone who this summer I worked on behalf of folks with criminal records who are seeking expungement, who is deeply sympathetic to the issue of overcriminalized. That’s not what’s going on in the campus system. The campus system is about education access, not criminalization.
VALLAS: So for folks who are interested in learning more about this or they’ve already heard enough and they want to get involved, this is not the same kind of fight we’re watching with health care or with the tax and budget fight, this is not a legislative battle. We don’t see congress gearing up with legislation to try to make change, we’re not watching them try to repeal laws that are already on the books. What we’re watching, as you described, is Betsy DeVos looking to actually exercise her authority to with the stroke of a pen, undo decades of progress in fighting for survivor’s rights and educational access following sexual assault. What is it that folks can do if anything to raise their voices and to actually get involved in trying to stop this step from being taken by the Department of Education?
PETERSON: Yeah I think basically schools are going to see this opening as an opportunity to backslide on what survivors and alumni have forced them to do. So what would be most helpful is for listeners to mobilize and tell their schools to uphold Title IX and support survivors. I think alumni can be particularly powerful in this fight. Alumni can withdraw donations and they can use their voices to hold their school accountable.
VALLAS: Alyssa Peterson is one of the policy and advocacy coordinators of Know your IX, a student led group whose work focuses on ending sexual assault on college campuses and fighting for survivor’s educational rights. Alyssa, it’s wonderful to have you on the program, both on the air but as a guest out there doing work on the issues that we care about. We miss you here and thank you for what you’re doing to try to stop this terrible action from moving forward.
PETERSON: Thanks so much.