🗞️ Astroworld tragedy under investigation
This week: The Astroworld tragedy comes under investigation, Amazon drivers finally get their pay, and the University of Florida pulls the ol’ switcheroo. Plus, California lawyers may face new fees, and Biden vax mandate halted.
Rapper Travis Scott and organizers of the Astroworld music festival in Houston, Texas, now face at least 16 lawsuits following the death of 8 festival-goers and the hospitalization of 25 others during the November 5 event.
The suits against Live Nation Inc, ScoreMore, and other organizers of the festival claim that the situation was preventable and that gross negligence led to the tragedies. Additionally, the Houston Police and Fire departments have opened a criminal investigation on the matter. "The crime would have to be gross negligence rising to the level of criminal misconduct, and that is an extremely high bar,” Steven Adelman of Event Safety Alliance told the New York Times.
Some plaintiffs have referenced a similarly unruly crowd and a lack of security during the 2019 Astroworld Festival as "evidence of the alleged negligence of Live Nation, Scott, and others in planning the event," according to Law360.
Others are asking why, after police officials had declared the concert a "mass casualty event", Scott continued to perform for another 40 minutes.
A Cozy Relationship
The New York Times also reports that efforts to investigate Travis Scott for criminal negligence are complicated by his relationships with city officials. Scott knows the Houston Police Chief and has a key to the city, while Scott's mother participated in a turkey giveaway event with Houston's mayor.
Live Nation is refunding the tickets of all attendees, and Scott has offered to cover the funeral costs of those who were killed at the festival. The tragedy will forever be a stain on Scott's career, however, it is unlikely he or Astroworld's organizers will be found criminally negligent.
The FTC will begin mailing repayment checks to the over 140,000 Amazon Flex drivers affected by wage theft between 2016 and 2019. The FTC's lawsuit against Amazon was settled for a total $61.7 million in February. $60 million of the settlement will be sent back to the drivers.
The average repayment is said to be $422, according to The Verge. The FTC has also prohibited Amazon from “misrepresenting any driver’s likely income or rate of pay, how much of their tips will be paid to them, as well as whether the amount paid by a customer is a tip".
In 2016, Amazon lowered its Flex drivers' pay without notifying the drivers, and claimed that the tips would supplement the difference. "In total, Amazon stole nearly one-third of drivers’ tips to pad its own bottom line,” said FTC Commissioner Rohit Chopra.
Labor Rights Woes
Beyond this suit, Amazon has been actively fighting unionization efforts amongst its employees. In August, a National Labor Relations Board officer said Amazon's conduct interfered with a unionizing vote at their Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse. Meanwhile, an Amazon internal report found that its delivery drivers are urinating in bottles while on the clock due to scheduling pressures created by the company.
A settlement of about $60 million for a corporation worth over $1 trillion is, well, the cost of business. The way Amazon historically treats its employees, however, doesn't seem to be changing any time soon.
The University of Florida is reversing its decision to bar three of its professors from providing expert testimony in a federal voting rights case. The suit, filed in May against Florida Secretary of State Laurel Lee, argues that a state law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis discriminates against voters of color.
All three professors specialize in voting rights and election law.
Paul Donnelly, an attorney for the professors, told NPR that "it's unprecedented in American history for a public institution to attempt a ban like this. ... It's chilling the exercise of free thought and speech."
The university announced that it has created a task force to assess any future conflict of interest requests by faculty.
Why The Sudden Shift?
According to the New York Times, critics of the university's initial freeze of the professors claim the action reeked of political interference—namely from Governor DeSantis, who has close ties to UF and its president, Kent Fuchs. The chair of the school's board of trustees is also a close friend of the governor's. Both the governor's office and the university have denied the claims.
It seems odd that a public university would deny its own professors provide testimony in a federal case on the very matter those professors are experts in. It’s even odder for that university to reverse its decision as soon as a bit of media attention is placed on it.
📤What Else We're Forwarding
Higher Fees: The State Bar of California may be raising its licensing fees to pay for random audits, reports Law360. The potential move is a response to claims the firm Girardi Keese misappropriated the money its clients received from settlements.
Jab Block: A federal appeals court has temporarily halted the Biden Administration's vaccine requirement for businesses of 100 employees or more, says NPR. The court said the decision was based on potential "grave statutory and constitutional issues".
🎧 Music we’re working to
Today we’re listening to Wes Montgomery, an American jazz guitarist from Indianapolis. He learnt to play the guitar at the age of 20, and developed a unique technique in plucking the strings with his thumb - to avoid disturbing his neighbors late at night! We’re playing his 1967 release A Day in the Life, which reached Number 1 on the Billboard Jazz Chart. Kicking off with a Beatles cover, the album continues with jazz, pop and bossa nova. Widely considered as one of Montgomery’s best albums, we hope you enjoy!
How would you rate this week’s newsletter? 🤔
See ya next week!