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Abolish the Au Pair Program

The Au Pair Families of Massachusetts website leads with a lovely family photo: mom, dad, grandpa, two young children, and their au pair, all smiling together in front of the Washington Monument. Another shows a mother, father, au pair, and adorable baby sporting matching red berets. Others feature families and their au pairs laughing with a lobster on the Cape, grinning around a nautical-themed birthday cake, candlepin bowling, riding a carousel.

All are meant to demonstrate that au pairs are cherished members of the family participating in a mutually beneficial cultural exchange, not domestic servants desperately in need of a raise.

A federal judge saw things differently, ruling in December that Massachusetts au pairs are covered by state labor laws, and as such are entitled to the state’s minimum wage (now $12.75 an hour) and other basic labor rights in line with the 2015 Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Starting January 1, pay for au pairs increased from $195 a week to $528 a week, which includes a $77 deduction for room and board.

Until this latest ruling, Massachusetts host families, many of whom reside in wealthy towns like Brookline and Newton, have enjoyed what is, for all intents and purposes, a cut-rate live-in servant. Whether a family had one child or five, a newborn or school-age children, au pairs were legally mandated to work up to ten hours a day and forty-five hours a week for $4.75 an hour.

Criticism of the au pair program has persisted since its founding in 1986. The General Accounting Office argued in 1990 that the sponsoring agency — the now defunct United States Information Agency (a Cold War–era soft power incubator) — was not “adequate to ensure integrity of the program,” while others recommended that the program be discontinued after its initial two-year pilot run because it didn’t meet the requirements of a cultural exchange.

The issuance of J-1 visas, rather than H visas designated for temporary workers, was conditional upon au pairs doing substantively more than babysitting, laundry, and scrubbing toilets. Au pairs were expected to learn about American culture, study English, take college courses, and make friends.

But from the start, au pairs spent nearly all their time doing chores. Decades later, with nearly 100,000 au pairs having participated in the program, little has changed. As investigations from Politico and the International Labor Recruitment Working Group demonstrate, au pairs are an exploited and vulnerable population. Many au pairs say they are expected to be on call 24-7, with little time for classes or studying. They are often saddled with household chores (on top of childcare) that run the gamut from cooking and cleaning to gardening and moving furniture.

Thousands of au pairs have reported sexual harassment, verbal and physical abuse, and isolation. But instead of assistance, many have seen their contracts terminated, have been shuffled to other host families, or, fearing disqualification from access to a US visa in the future, have been pressured into silence by their agency handler.

Both the State Department and the au pair agencies, who earn huge fees facilitating the program, are well aware of these problems. Yet agencies have worked tirelessly to maintain the program as is, lobbying Congress to keep it in place despite trenchant criticisms from elected officials such as Bernie Sanders, workers’ rights groups, and au pairs themselves.

The tide is turning, however. In Denver, lawyers at Towards Justice, a nonprofit law firm fighting for economic justice, helped au pairs from Colombia, Australia, Germany, South Africa, and Mexico win a $65.5 million class action settlement. David Seligman, director of Towards Justice, said of the settlement: “This . . . hard-fought victory of our clients who fought for years on behalf of about 100,000 fellow au pairs, will be perhaps the largest settlement ever on behalf of minimum wage workers and will finally give au pairs the opportunity to seek higher wages and better working conditions.”

The Massachusetts decision could have an equally broad impact. The December ruling was the culmination of a case brought by Cultural Care, an au pair agency, against Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey. Cultural Care sued Healey (who is responsible for administering the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights in Massachusetts) in 2016, hoping to prevent Massachusetts host families from having to abide by the DWBR’s mandate that families pay the state minimum wage, plus overtime and other benefits.

While the case was still in court, Massachusetts families were able to continue paying their au pairs the federal minimum wage ($7.25) minus a deduction for room and board. Now, as of January 1, au pairs have gotten a big raise, and host families are furious. They have started a petition to convince Elizabeth Warren to overturn the wage increase.

Families insist that the au pair program is not a domestic servant relationship because they buy their au pairs cell phones and take them to restaurants and are required to give them $500 during their one-year stay to spend on schooling (less than the cost of 1 credit at Boston University).

Host families say that now they’ll be forced to send their au pairs home because they can’t afford to pay them the state minimum wage. Massachusetts legislators with an eye on their base have stepped in to support host families, proposing legislation to push back implementation of the wage increase until summer and to increase the amount families can deduct in room and board to mitigate the wage increase.

It’s true that childcare in Massachusetts is exorbitantly expensive. Bright Horizons, a popular daycare chain in the Boston area, charges $2–3,000 a month per child for full-time care. But the au pair system is not a solution.

For decades, au pair host families have reaped the gains of an exploitative program, secure in the notion that they are providing a public service as cultural ambassadors for America. These families are ambassadors — ambassadors for the American elite.

If host families can’t pay these young women a decent wage and provide them with the respect and opportunity they deserve, the au pair program should be abolished.

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Schiff, Hamilton and Impeachment – WSJ

House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.) in the Senate on Wednesday.


/Associated Press

Senate jurors are responding in different ways to the impeachment case being made by House Democrats. “Gum-chewing, snacking, yawning and alleged napping could be seen throughout the cramped chamber,” reports Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press. But just because a prosecution’s case is boring doesn’t mean it can’t also be misleading. Senators should take care to examine the historical record on impeachments.

As for the napping allegations being leveled against multiple lawmakers, Lee Moran writes at HuffPost:

Sleepy and absent senators attracted the wrath of MSNBC’s Chris Hayes on Wednesday night as the “All In” host chastised them for not focusing 100% on the impeachment trial of President

Donald Trump.

“These peoples’ jobs is to do this,” Hayes said during a panel discussion on reports that at least one GOP lawmaker had fallen asleep during proceedings and others had left the chamber for extended periods.

“I mean, this is literally the job,” Hayes continued. “If you find it too annoying or frustrating or uncomfortable to sit for eight hours and listen, you can resign tomorrow and go get another job. Like, this is your job.”

Of course many voters would disagree with Mr. Hayes and insist that the trial is a partisan detour from the job of representing the interests of constituents. Such voters might also point out that among the lawmakers charged with napping offenses, not all are Republicans.

The A.P.’s Ms. Kellman reports:

Almost immediately after Chief Justice

John Roberts

gaveled in Wednesday’s session of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, bored and weary senators started openly flouting some basic guidelines in a chamber that prizes decorum…

A Democrat in the back row leaned on his right arm, covered his eyes and stayed that way for nearly a half-hour. Some openly snickered when lead prosecutor Adam Schiff said he’d only speak for 10 minutes. And when one of the freshman House prosecutors stood to speak, many of the senator-jurors bolted for the cloak rooms, where their phones are stored.

… Well into Schiff’s second hour of opening arguments, he moved on from discussing the first of two charges against Trump.

“Now let me turn to the second article,” Schiff said. That prompted several senators to shift in their seats and smile at each other in apparent bemusement.

If Mr. Schiff fibbed about the length of his oration, the transgression hardly compares to the years he spent making a bogus claim of “more than circumstantial” evidence of Russian collusion. Nor does it compare to his false claim regarding contacts with the so-called “whistleblower” he used to trigger impeachment, nor his false claim that the “whistleblower” has a “statutory right” to remain anonymous.

Mr. Schiff’s track record is all the more reason for senators to be skeptical of his new message on constitutional history. Still trying to explain why they are trying their case against the President without alleging any actual crime, Mr. Schiff and his fellow Democrats have been quoting Alexander Hamilton and suggesting that a partisan impeachment with a vague charge alleging political motivation is exactly what the founders had in mind.

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe pitched in with a Washington Post op-ed this week. Writes Mr. Tribe:

Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 defined “high crimes and misdemeanors” as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Any number of such violations of the public trust — such as working with foreign governments in ways that make the president beholden to their leaders, or cooperating with those governments to bolster the president’s reelection — clearly must be impeachable even though they might violate no criminal law and indeed no federal statute at all.

But if Professor Tribe had read just a little further in Federalist 65, he would have noted Hamilton’s expectation of criminal prosecutions following the removal of public officials from office. Wrote Hamilton:

The punishment which may be the consequence of conviction upon impeachment, is not to terminate the chastisement of the offender. After having been sentenced to a prepetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence, and honors and emoluments of his country, he will still be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law.

This expectation that officials impeached and removed from office would then face criminal jeopardy helped inspire Hamilton to argue that the Senate and not the Supreme Court should hold impeachment trials. He continues in Federalist 65:

Would it be proper that the persons who had disposed of his fame, and his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should, in another trial, for the same offense, be also the disposers of his life and his fortune? Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that error, in the first sentence, would be the parent of error in the second sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule the influence of any new lights which might be brought to vary the complexion of another decision? Those who know anything of human nature, will not hesitate to answer these questions in the affirmative; and will be at no loss to perceive, that by making the same persons judges in both cases, those who might happen to be the objects of prosecution would, in a great measure, be deprived of the double security intended them by a double trial. The loss of life and estate would often be virtually included in a sentence which, in its terms, imported nothing more than dismission from a present, and disqualification for a future, office.

Given Mr. Schiff’s recent history, it would be almost criminal for senators to accept his version of America’s history. Perhaps they’ll stay awake long enough to dismiss his case.


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Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “Borrowed Time,” now available from HarperBusiness.

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Here’s What Pelosi’s Impeachment Managers Had To Say About The Clinton Impeachment

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent seven of her fellow Democratic representatives to wage the war for President Donald Trump’s removal from office in the Senate, but many of them were singing a different tune during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial.

Here’s what Pelosi’s impeachment managers were saying 20 years ago.

Rep. Adam Schiff:

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 22: In this screengrab taken from a Senate Television webcast, House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks during impeachment proceedings against U.S. President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol on January 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Senate Television via Getty Images)

When California Rep. Adam Schiff first gained his seat in 2000, he did it by campaigning against Clinton’s impeachment, according to the Daily Caller News Foundation. His opponent, Republican Rep. James Rogan, had supported the impeachment, which Schiff then referred to as “partisan.” (RELATED: Republican Senators Are Literally Playing With Kids’ Toys During The Impeachment Trial)

“The district simply has not been a priority for [Rogan]. He has been more engaged in national partisan ideological crusades than in issues important to the district,” Schiff told the Los Angeles Times in January 2000. “I think voters want to get away from the strong partisanship we’ve seen in Congress and elect someone with a good record of working in a bipartisan way to find solutions.”

“Schiff’s campaign literature hammers away on Rogan’s role in the impeachment proceedings,” The Washington Post noted in a May 2000 article.

While Schiff saw the Clinton impeachment as “polarizing” and “partisan,” even with five Democrats joining Republicans at the time, he hasn’t applied that criticism to Trump’s impeachment, which not a single Republican has supported and two Democrats have opposed.

Rep. Jerry Nadler:

(L-R) Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Chairman of House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Chairwoman of House Financial Services Committee Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) listen during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chairman Nadler announced that the House Judiciary Committee is introducing two articles on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for the next steps in the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Chairman of House Judiciary Committee Rep. Jerry Nadler listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol December 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. Chairman Nadler announced that the House Judiciary Committee is introducing two articles on abuse of power and obstruction of Congress for the next steps in the House impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Behind Pelosi and Schiff, New York Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler has been the top player in Trump’s impeachment proceedings. In 1998, however, he argued a purely partisan impeachment would “lack legitimacy.”

“There must never be a narrowly-voted impeachment or an impeachment substantially supported by one of our major political parties and largely opposed by the other… Such an impeachment would lack legitimacy, would produce divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions,” Nadler said in 1998 during the Clinton impeachment proceedings.

Today, however, Nadler’s fears over national unity have disappeared amid the even-more-partisan Trump impeachment. (RELATED: McConnell Makes Changes To Senate Impeachment Trial Rules)

“This is a continuing threat to the integrity of our elections,” he said on ABC. “This president conspired — sought foreign interference in the 2016 election. He is openly seeking foreign interference in the 2020 election.”

Rep. Zoe Lofgren:

Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California says conservatives' and Republicans' concerns about political censorship on Facebook, Google, and Twitter are unjustified. (Image: House Judiciary Committee Hearings YouTube screenshot captured July 17, 2018.)

Democratic Rep. Zoe of California says conservatives’ and Republicans’ concerns about political censorship on Facebook, Google, and Twitter are unjustified. (Image: House Judiciary Committee Hearings (YouTube screenshot captured July 17, 2018.)

California Rep. Zoe Lofgren is the only person to be on Capitol Hill for all three modern day impeachment proceedings: Nixon, Clinton, and now Trump.

Like her fellow impeachment managers, Lofgren opposed Clinton’s impeachment, and even argued against the public release of evidence uncovered in the special counsel investigation into Clinton.

“When we got [Ken] Starr’s Referral, I believed that, at a minimum, we should have read what it said, and discussed it, before we released it to the nation,” she wrote in 1998. “Instead, we released the Referral and this was followed in fast succession by thousands of pages of additional material that the nation need not have seen. We justified this wholesale release by insisting that the people had a right to know, presumably so they could be persuaded by the facts and constitutional standard as to what was the right course to follow.”

During Trump’s impeachment proceedings in the Senate, however, Lofgren has made the same argument she criticized Republicans for making in 1998: That the American people deserved the full story.

Lofgren also criticized Republicans in for holding closed-door hearings during Clinton’s impeachment, the very thing Republicans now accuse Schiff of doing in the House prior to Trump’s impeachment. (RELATED: Check Out These Media Personalities Arguing Witnesses Shouldn’t Testify In Clinton Impeachment)

“While our system of government is based on openness, we repeatedly hid behind closed doors to conduct our business. The House Judiciary Committee met to decide what salacious material to make public but for the most part instead engaged in spirited debate about the Constitution, fairness, our country, and our future,” she wrote. “All motions made to open the meeting or to release the transcripts of executive sessions were voted down by the Republican majority.”

The Young Guns:

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 15: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (C) announces the appointment of (L-R) Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) as managers of the Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol January 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Several of the impeachment managers weren’t around for the Clinton impeachment, however, and don’t have comments on the record.

These include New York Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, who first took elected office in 2006 and joined Congress in 2012; Texas Democratic Rep. Sylvia Garcia, who took elected office in 2013 and joined Congress in 2019; Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings, who joined Congress in 2016, and Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, who joined Congress in 2019.

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