Millions of workers are ‘bound’ by non-binding contracts

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Millions of American workers believe they are bound by contracts they are not actually bound by, according to University of Maryland Smith Business School’s Evan Starr, and this means less earnings for workers. Starr spoke at length on the subject at the recent Aspen Institute summit and to us on Twitter.

While non-competes are required by employers to protect trade secrets, they are found everywhere, including regular minimum wage workers and volunteers. Around 20% America’s 130 million workers are in a non-compete right now, and 40% have signed a non-compete at some point in their lives.

What Starr has found is that workers are acting as though they are bound by employee contracts based solely on their false belief that the contracts are always enforceable. In many states the contracts are not.

“[W]orkers are chilled just by the existence of the contract regardless of whether it’s enforceable or not, and when you ask workers, ‘What do you know about the law,’ most of them don’t know what the law is, but their default is they believe that contracts they put their name on are enforceable, and they abide by them, even in states like California where they wouldn’t be enforceable if they went to court.

Evan Starr
Evan Starr of UMD Smith B-School

“When it comes to workers choosing to move between jobs what we see is the use of these provisions appears to be what matters, not necessarily their enforceability in court.”

And, according to Starr, one of the results is workers making less money throughout their careers.

“I did one study where we tracked workers over 8 years of their career. We had every single worker in 30 states over roughly a 20-year period, and what we found was that if you start your career in kind of an average enforcing state, you are going to earn 5% lower earnings relative to a non-enforcing state like California, over those 8 years, regardless of where you end up, regardless of where you go.”

Numbers are uncertain as to exactly how many Americans are affected in this way, because states vary so much in regards to non-compete enforceability.

“There’s tremendous heterogeneity across the US in what states will do. In some states you can be fired from your job, and if you get sued over the violation of a non-compete it can still be enforced even though you were fired. In other states it won’t be enforced, and everyone else is kind of in the middle.”

But Starr said it was safe to say that many millions of Americans assume they are bound by non-binding contracts. In California, to use a state he studied recently, there are approximately 20 million workers, so around 4 million may be involved in non-binding contracts. Those numbers can be roughly extrapolated to the rest of the 130 million U.S. workers who live in the other states.

“And that number is most certainly an underestimate given that non-competes are used for workers in states that wouldn’t enforce them for such workers, even though they would enforce them for other workers,” Starr added.

Starr et al’s ‘Noncompetes in the U.S. Labor Force’

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Myanmar military’s foreign minister participates in ASEAN meeting

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YANGON, Myanmar — The foreign minister of Myanmar’s military participated virtually in an ASEAN ministerial meeting on March 3, in which he lobbied for a political road map for Myanmar that would be implemented during the first year after the coup.

At the meeting, ASEAN countries discussed the ongoing situation in Myanmar, but they could not make a common decision on it because each country had its own proposal for how to proceed.

By Htay Win
Photo credit: Shine

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Systematic, institutionalized torture found in Brazilian ‘Old Rust’ prison

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Widespread injuries and scars among prisoners at the “Old Rust” penitentiary in Brazil were caused by punches, kicks, blows, collective beatings, prods with pitchforks, and institutionalized torture, according to a report by the Mato Grosso state’s internal affairs department that concluded prisoners were being subject to institutionalized routine bodily injury by prison officials.

There was virtually no external supervision of what was happening inside Osvaldo Florentino Leite Ferreira Penitentiary, which provides an environment of impunity and stimulates the cycle of endless torture, said the report.

Prisoners were tied to an iron bar and suspended by their ankles and wrists and left in that position until blood no longer circulated, making the body swell and breathing difficult, the report detailed. These acts were carried out by several prison guards and the prison’s director of discipline and detailed by a committee composed of judges, auxiliaries, and public defenders. It was based on a surprise visit that took place between December 14 and 16, 2020. The report and medical examinations were only finalized in late February.

These acts were carried out by several prison guards and the prison’s director of discipline and detailed by a committee composed of judges, auxiliaries, and public defenders. It was based on a surprise visit that took place between December 14 and 16, 2020. The report and medical examinations were only finalized in late February.

“It is important to mention that several prison system officials presented testimony before the magistrates, confirming the assaults on prisoners which, together with the footage of the testimonies, photos and examinations of the body of crime, indicate the occurrence of systemic torture in the unit,” said the report. “It was like an establishment policy, something institutionalized indeed.”

Severe overcrowding, lack of hygiene, water rationing, humidity, mold, lack of ventilation, vermin, pests, plus untreated yeast and skin infections contributed to an environment of disease and violence, the report also concluded.

After the inspection, the Secretary of State for Public Security removed 12 guards from the prison, including the director, the deputy director, the head of discipline and other agents accused of mistreatment. However, they have not lost their jobs, and they are working at other prisons, according to advocates for the prisoners.

By Milan Sime Martinic

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Curbing planned obsolescence: March brings new rules to EU that will make electronics last longer, easier to repair

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Consumers in the 27-nation bloc now will have the right to expect that their consumer electronics will have parts available and be able to be repaired for up to 10 years. New rules take effect this month following legislation passed last November by the European Parliament aiming to reduce electronic waste, monitor energy use, and protect consumers means.

“To be sustainable, products must be repairable, so that they can remain on the market for as long as possible. It is time to stamp out practices which prevent or hinder product repairs,” says the legislation in addressing premature obsolescence.

Europeans can now rely on their Ecological Design Directive’s “Right to Repair Rules” that require manufacturers include repair manuals with their products, and that standard tools can be used for repair and dismantling, including easier battery replacement and easier recycling. The directive also requires consumers have easier access to how much electricity household devices consume.

By Milan Sime Martinic

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At least 7 dead in confrontation after 4 story fall at university in Bolivia

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Packed tightly and fighting, hundreds of students at the Public University of El Alto pressed and shoved against a railing that collapsed as the balcony appeared to crumble at the base, dropping 11, leaving a mounting death toll, and at least 4 young people in intensive care. The dead range in age from 19 to 27.

The tragedy came after a call to an extraordinary general student assembly which bucked biosecurity regulations and agglomerated protesting young people on a high hallway protected by a balustrade that gave way.

One woman can be seen in video footage lunging toward another young woman who is pressed into the railing as it gives way, dropping her from a height of over 50 feet. Various videos shows her in a pile of bodies at the bottom, and the lounging woman trapped by the weight of other students on her feet while she hangs precariously upside-down and is pulled to safety.

Investigations are under way into the decision to congregate so many people, the nature of the confrontation, and structural faults in construction.

By Milan Sime Martinic

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New GOP narrative emerges it was Antifa and not Trump supporters that stormed the Capitol, FBI classifies act ‘domestic terrorism’

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Pro-Trump politicians and right-wing media figures Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Matt Gaetz, Sean Hannity, Wisc. Sen. Ron Johnson, MyPillow chief Mike Lindell, and a growing chorus of Republicans magnified by right-wing media are repeating the claim that it was Antifa and “fake Trump protesters” that stormed the Capitol.

Meanwhile, FBI chief Christopher Wray has classified the assault as “domestic terrorism.”

“This attack, this siege was criminal behavior, plain and simple. And this behavior, which we, the FBI, see as domestic terrorism, has no place in our democracy,” said Wray Tuesday at a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Despite denials from pro-Trump participants in the Capitol siege that there were Antifa supporters in their midst, Rep. Gaetz, who stood on the ransacked House floor and claimed that many rioters “were members of the violent terrorist group Antifa,” repeated the claim again at CPAC this past weekend.

The repetition of the new narrative reaches audiences that have been told for months by Trump that Antifa is a dangerous terror group, providing an alternative that could be easier to accept than that of MAGA fans as domestic terrorists.

By Milan Sime Martinic

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