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President Biden made an unprecedented show of support for striking autoworkers by joining them on the picket line in Van Buren Township, Michigan. Wearing a union ballcap, Biden urged the United Auto Workers (UAW) strikers to continue fighting for better wages. He expressed his belief that the UAW members deserve a 40% raise and criticized auto companies for not meeting union demands. This visit marks the first time a modern president has joined an ongoing strike, highlighting Biden's pro-union stance. However, the strike poses a dilemma for the Biden administration as it aligns with the White House's clean-energy agenda, which includes a shift to electric vehicles that may result in job losses for UAW members. Despite criticism from former President Trump, Biden's visit demonstrates his commitment to cultivating union support as he runs for reelection. The negotiations between automakers and the UAW are ongoing, and the union has threatened to escalate the strike if necessary.Full Issue
Therapists employed by the state will this week begin consultations with the long-term sick after ministers expressed frustration that the NHS is not doing enough to get people back work. Physiotherapists, mental health counsellors and stroke specialists hired by the Department for Work and Pensions will offer assessments to people claiming sickness benefits in an effort to reduce the number classed as unfit to work. Pilot sessions will begin in London and Birmingham, with the Government hoping to expand the scheme by hiring more therapists. Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said: “Many of our claimants have complex health conditions, and this trial will explore whether they could benefit from support from medical professionals with specialist knowledge.”Full Issue
Millions of additional students in schools serving low-income communities across the country will be eligible to receive breakfast and lunch at no cost, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday. The department is expanding access to the Community Eligibility Provision, which is a meal service option that allows schools to provide no-cost meals to all students. Previously, at least 40% of students’ households had to be enrolled in income-based federal assistance programs to be eligible. The new rule lowers that threshold to 25%. Grants worth $30m from the Healthy Meals Incentives will be distributed to 264 rural school districts across the country. Another $30m in equipment grants will be given to states and school districts with school lunch programs. About $11m in Farm to School grants will be used to serve 1.2m children. Eight states, including California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Vermont, already allow schools to serve free meals to all of their students.Full Issue
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a law that will double taxes on guns and ammunition. The projected $159m in additional annual tax revenue will be used to enhance security at public schools and fund violence prevention programs. California becomes the only state with its own tax on guns and ammunition. Mr. Newsom, known for his support of gun restrictions, is leading a national campaign to amend the U.S. Constitution for stricter gun control measures. The law also now includes a ban on carrying guns in public places and requires microstamping technology on semiautomatic pistols. More than two dozen "sensitive places" that are off limits to firearms, including child care centers and schools. The California Rifle and Pistol Association plans to challenge the tax in court.Full Issue
Legal Matters Scotland
The father of a murdered teenager has expressed concerns about plans to allow single judges to preside over rape trials in Scotland. While he supports other aspects of the Scottish Government's proposals to protect victims and eliminate the not proven verdict, he opposes the introduction of juryless trials for serious sex offences and the appointment of a victims' commissioner. Joe Duffy's daughter, Amanda, was murdered in 1992, and her case resulted in a not proven verdict. "The Scottish legal system is recognised as the only legal system in the world with three verdicts. This is an outmoded, outdated and unnecessary system," he said. It comes as MSPs on the Criminal Justice Committee are expected to spend several months hearing from relevant organisations and victims.Full Issue
During recent years, businesses have undertaken ESG initiatives. However, the risk of litigation related to these efforts has never been higher. ESG litigation is on the rise, with private litigants and government agencies challenging ESG initiatives. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard has further fueled litigation, with private litigants using the Court's reasoning to challenge corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. Companies are facing challenges to their hiring initiatives and board diversity policies. Shareholder lawsuits have also been filed against companies for their commitment to diversity and equity. In response, some companies are adopting a "greenhushing" approach, staying silent about their environmental goals to avoid litigation. However, this deprives companies of the benefits of public pronouncements of ESG programs. Companies are also advised to carefully substantiate their environmental claims and avoid making misleading or overstated claims. Language matters, as marketing words like "clean" and "sustainable" can lead to false advertising claims. Companies should carefully consider their public statements and assess the potential risks and benefits of ESG efforts. Steve Blonder, a legal and business counselor, advises companies to be environmentally responsible while navigating the legal landscape.Full Issue
European banks, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Barclays, have helped fossil fuel companies raise over €1trn from global bond markets since the Paris climate agreement, according to an investigation by the Guardian. The paper analysed thousands of transactions since 2016 and revealed that banks continue to profit from the expansion of oil, gas, and coal by supporting the sale of fossil fuel bonds. Sustainable investment campaigners are concerned that banks are offering "hidden" financial support to energy companies responsible for increasing carbon emissions. The investigation focused on bonds issued by energy companies that publicly disclosed their aims to increase fossil fuel production. Germany's Deutsche Bank, Britain's HSBC, and France's Crédit Agricole and BNP Paribas were identified as the top facilitators of fossil fuel bonds in Europe. Campaigners argue that the bond market has become a back door for big polluters seeking financing for their projects.Full Issue