A federal judge on Tuesday struck down an Arkansas law that would have prevented doctors from providing gender-affirming care to transgender youth or referring them to any other health care worker. The state is “permanently enjoined” from enforcing the law, U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. wrote in his decision. The decision marks the end of the first full trial for such a ban. LGBTQ+ legal experts and advocates believe that the decision in Arkansas, which has blocked the first gender-affirming care ban to become law, will set precedent for other lawsuits in states restricting gender-affirming care.
In a March 14 report, we documented how states across the country are attempting to weaken child labor protections, just as violations of these standards are on the rise. The trend reflects a coordinated multi-industry push to expand employer access to low-wage labor and weaken state child labor laws in ways that contradict federal protections. And the recent uptick in state legislative activity is linked to longer-term industry-backed goals to rewrite federal child labor laws and other worker protections for the whole country. Last Friday, this concerted attack on child labor safeguards further expanded. Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signed an expansive bill enacting numerous changes to the state’s child labor laws.
Striking workers gathered in front of a Tyson Foods poultry processing plant in Van Buren, Arkansas, earlier this month, holding protest signs reading “Justice for Workers” and chanting in Spanish “si se puede” (“yes we can”) and “juntos venceremos” (“together we’ll win”). A few weeks earlier, they received notice from Tyson—the multinational poultry and meat processing giant headquartered about an hour away in Springdale, Arkansas—that their plant would be shuttered on May 12. The Van Buren plant employs almost 1,000 workers, many of them immigrants from El Salvador, Mexico, and Laos, some of whom have worked there for decades.
While we Americans like to believe that child labor is a thing of the past, an antiquated detail of a dark history that is safely in our rearview mirror, the sad reality is that, even today, in the year of our Lord 2023, the exploitation of children and their labor continues to be a dismal feature throughout the production and supply chains behind many of our favorite brands and companies, including Lucky Charms, Cheetos, Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Fruit of the Loom, Ben and Jerry’s, etc. There are kids farming the produce that we buy in the supermarket, kids making the parts that end up in our cars, kids cleaning industrial bone saws, office buildings, and houses, kids on construction sites and in the backs of restaurants.
While the far right Israeli regime escalates its repression of Palestinians, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to disturb an Arkansas law that requires government contractors to certify they are not boycotting Israel or “Israeli-controlled territories.” The high court didn’t specifically uphold Arkansas’s anti-boycott law. However, the court declined to review the case because there were not four “justices” who agreed to hear it. So Arkansas’s anti-Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) law remains in effect. The BDS movement was launched in 2005, when 170 Palestinian civil society organizations called for boycott, divestment and sanctions — “non-violent punitive measures” — to last until Israel fully complies with international law.
Little Rock, Arkansas - In June, a federal appeals court upheld an Arkansas law barring state contractors from boycotting Israel, sparking concerns over First Amendment rights in the United States. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a decision made last year by a panel of three judges who found that mandating a pledge to not boycott Israel is unconstitutional. However, the recent court ruling determined boycotts are not expressive conduct and instead related to commercial activity and therefore the state can regulate such actions.
Arkansas state Rep. Nicole Clowney, D-Fayetteville, introduced a bill Thursday that would repeal the state’s criminal “failure to vacate” statute. First enacted in 1901, the law allows landlords to seek criminal charges, which can result in jail time, for tenants who fall even a single day behind on rent and do not vacate a property within 10 days. Everywhere else in the U.S., evictions are exclusively a civil matter. The legislation comes after a ProPublica and Arkansas Nonprofit News Network article in October revealed how criminal charges brought under the statute can snowball into arrest warrants and jail time for tenants. A deputy county prosecutor who criticized the law, saying it essentially criminalizes poverty, was fired for his remarks.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Arkansas’ law against BDS — the use of boycott, divestment and sanctions as a means of protest against Israel —violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, because it plainly does. “The Arkansas Times has successfully challenged a law that prohibits the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israel,” Mondoweiss reports. “The Little Rock-based weekly filed the lawsuit in 2018 and was represented by the ACLU. The paper takes no official position on BDS, but it launched the legal challenge after the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College refused to sign an advertising contract with The Arkansas Times, unless it signed the pledge. A U.S. district court judge dismissed the case in 2019, but last week the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision.”
On the morning of Dec. 8, about 30 workers at a George's poultry plant in Springdale, Arkansas, staged a walkout to protest their working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. The family-owned company, one of the 10 biggest poultry producers in the U.S., is headquartered in Springdale and also operates processing plants in Virginia and Missouri as well as a prepared foods division in Tennessee, with more than 4,800 employees across all locations. The plant that workers walked out of is one of the company's three plants in Springdale and is not unionized. The Springdale walkout, which the workers plan to continue until their demands are met, was the first labor action of its kind by poultry workers in Arkansas, said Magaly Licolli, the leader of Arkansas workers' justice organization Venceremos.
In sealed depositions, Mayflower residents describe illnesses, property damage and a smell that still haunts them. Some say they felt pressured to sign settlements. Melissa Hays never would have remembered the day of her humdrum outing at Harp's, a neighborhood grocery store in her hometown of Mayflower, Arkansas, had she not suddenly been overwhelmed by the noxious, chemical smell of oil. It was March 29, 2013. Few in Mayflower will ever forget it. As Hays ran her errands, ExxonMobil's Pegasus pipeline, which ran beneath this small town, burst without warning along a defective 22-foot seam...
By Georgina Gustin for Inside Climate News - A federal appeals court has let ExxonMobil largely off the hook for a 2013 pipeline spill that deluged a neighborhood in Mayflower, Arkansas, with more than 200,000 gallons of heavy tar sands crude oil, sickening residents and forcing them from their homes. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday overturned federal findings of violations and the better part of a $2.6 million fine imposed on Exxon's pipeline unit in 2015 by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). The regulator had accused the company of failing to maintain the decades-old Pegasus Pipeline and to prioritize testing of a segment of older, high-risk pipe where a 22-foot gash eventually opened along a metal seam. Exxon challenged the violation and fine, arguing there was no proof its actions contributed to the spill and saying it had conducted adequate testing of the pipeline as required by law. The appeals court agreed, saying the company met its legal obligation when it "conducted a lengthy, repeated and in-depth analysis" of the pipeline and its risks.
By Kim Bellware for The Huffington Post - He criticized the University of Arkansas’ lack of racial diversity in 2002 and attacked President George W. Bush for the government’s response to Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War in 2005. The latter may have been part of the reason he lost his re-election bid for the Arkansas Court of Appeals a few years later. In 2011, he won a seat on the state’s 6th Circuit court. “We have never, in my knowledge, been so afraid to admit that people can have personal beliefs yet can follow the law, even when to follow the law means they must place their personal feelings aside,” Griffen told The Associated Press on Saturday. Griffen’s ruling on Friday had put another wrench in the state’s plan to start the series of eight executions on Monday and complete them before its supply of one hard-to-obtain lethal injection drug expired. Two of the eight prisoners had already been granted stays of execution when a federal judge on Saturday halted those of the remaining inmates on grounds that the state’s hasty schedule denied them due process. McKesson Medical-Surgical moved to lift Griffen’s temporary restraining order following the federal court ruling, arguing that the order had become unnecessary.
By Sarah K. Burris for Raw Story - Black Live Matter protesters marched along Interstate 40 Sunday evening to advocate for the lives taken by police in the last week. Marchers began the protest in downtown Memphis at 6 p.m. at the FedEx Forum, according to Fox13, but once they began walking on I-40 to the bridge, traffic was shut down. Hundreds stayed on the bridge, though Tennessee Highway Patrol and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office helped the Memphis Police Department keep the protest nonviolent.