Since Sept. 27, Providence bus drivers of the Teamsters Local 251 Union have been on strike. This union represents nearly 100 bus drivers who voted against a contract proposed by First Student Inc. because the drivers feel they are not being given enough retirement benefits. Over 200 bus drivers decided to leave their positions on Sept. 27. The company is only willing to increase their contribution to the members’ 401(k) plan that bus drivers claim is underfunded. The strike began after a 21 day ‘cooling off’ period.
In the time since the strike has begun, Providence city officials have still not found an alternate way to get over 9,000 students to the public schools. They have urged parents to arrange their own means of travel and have made exceptions for students who are late because of lack of proper travel arrangements.
On Sept. 27, the Senate Judiciary Committee led by Chairman Chuck Grassley organized a hearing to give Christine Blasey Ford a chance to share her allegations against Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The Senate’s website called this “a fair and professional forum.” After Dr. Ford testified, saying that she was “100 percent certain” that Kavanaugh was the man who assaulted her in 1982, the Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to advance his nomination to the Senate floor. A final vote will not be taken until the completion of an FBI investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Ford and three other women. The latest accusation was made through an anonymous letter sent to Republican Senator Cory Gardner on Sept. 22. It has yet to be announced when the investigation will be complete, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said there will be a vote this week.
On Oct. 1, Canada, Mexico and the United States formally agreed to the terms of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA. This agreement will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement which President Trump has called a “disaster” and the United States’ “single worst trade deal.” A main goal of the USMCA focuses on car manufacturing. In order to qualify for zero tariffs, a vehicle must now have 75 percent of its components manufactured in Canada, Mexico, or the United States rather than the current 62.5 percent requirement. The USMCA is also making significant improvements to environmental and labor regulations, especially regarding Mexico. Under these provisions, Mexican workers will have a greater ability to organize and form unions.
On Sept. 28, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia’s Central Sulawesi province, generating a tsunami that is said to have killed over 1,200 people. The death toll is likely to rise in the upcoming days. The tsunami hit the country less than two months after an earthquake struck Indonesia’s Lombok Island, killing at least 430 people. Smaller earthquakes have continued to rattle the islands in aftershocks. Search and rescue missions are having trouble reaching those in need because of the conditions. Looting and chaos have reportedly erupted in Sulawesi.