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(HARTFORD, Conn.) -- Connecticut is the latest state to take action toward passing a law to ban discrimination against race-based ethnic hairstyles in workplaces and schools.

The state's Senate voted 33-0 to pass the CROWN Act, an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair, this week. Now, it's with Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont to be signed into law.

"This measure is critical to helping build a more equitable society, and I look forward to signing it into law in the coming days," Lamont said in a tweet Tuesday.

This measure is critical to helping build a more equitable society, and I look forward to signing it into law in the coming days.

— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) March 2, 2021

In February, Lamont also applauded efforts being made toward the bill. ABC New York station WABC reported the governor stating, "Discrimination of any kind is unacceptable, but we all know there are invisible moments and instances of discrimination that take place each and every day."

He continued, "When a Black man or woman shows up for a job interview or to work, they should never be judged based on their hairstyle."

In 2019, California became the first state to ban natural hair discrimination when the state assembly voted unanimously 69-0, and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law.

Since then, several other states have followed suit, including New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Maryland, with many others proposing to do the same.

These efforts have also led to Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Cedric Richmond proposing the bill to be signed into federal law.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- As Congress debates the latest coronavirus relief bill, many await their much-needed aid, while others, desperate for help, will never see the benefits.

"I have not received any benefits," Rosa Arelvo, an essential worker, said. "I haven't received anything, I think because of my immigration status, because I don't have a Social Security number. ... But I've earned my life in the U.S. working."

Arelvo immigrated to the United States from El Salvador and works as a restaurant cook. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and continued to work as much as she could during her treatment.

It was all later complicated by the pandemic.

"Before the pandemic, I worked 12 hours a day. But, when the pandemic happened, I started working three hours a day," Arelvo said. "I've been asking for food from places. I asked at churches for food. My husband has some hours at work, and I started paying rent in, little chunks ... and there's been nothing. There's been nothing to help."

Arelvo is one of millions of undocumented workers who work in the United States, have struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic and are not eligible for most assistance offered.

There are approximately seven million undocumented immigrants working in the United States, making up 4.4% of the workforce, according to a 2020 Center for American Progress report. Because of their immigration status, they do not qualify for unemployment benefits if they lose their job.

But it's not just undocumented immigrants themselves who have faced difficulty receiving aid. There are around 16.7 million people in America who have at least one undocumented family member living with them, according to the Center For American Progress. People in these mixed-status families, such as when some are citizens and some are DACA recipients but file taxes with a family member who doesn't have a Social Security number, also have struggled to receive benefits.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act did not provide direct assistance to undocumented immigrants or people living in mixed-status households. This prevented DACA recipients, immigrants with legal residency and some American citizens from receiving aid. Attorneys from Georgetown University Law Center and Villanova University's School of Law filed a class action lawsuit last May challenging mixed-status families not being included in the CARES Act. While the lawsuit is still pending, these families were included in the second stimulus package, which passed in December.

"They didn't receive [benefits] because of who their parents are," said Jossie Flor Sapunar, the communications director at immigrant advocacy group CASA. "If the law says you are to receive $600 if you're a dependent U.S. child, then that is what you're supposed to receive, no matter who your parents are."

Because these families have fewer resources available for financial assistance during the pandemic, many have relied on advocacy groups such as CASA, which serves over 100,000 members and has provided financial and food assistance to many undocumented immigrants, Sapunar said, noting that many of them pay taxes.

Research from a Congressional Budget Office report indicated that the IRS estimates about six million unauthorized immigrants file individual income taxes each year.

"Immigrants are paying into a system that doesn't provide any safety net for them. And the prime example of that is all of the stimulus relief checks," Sapunar said.

Biden's COVID-19 relief bill, called the American Rescue Plan, passed the Democrat-controlled House with no Republican support. Republicans have argued that the $1.9 trillion price tag is too big, because the relief package passed in December cost $900 billion.

Last month, support for including undocumented immigrants in COVID-19 relief was tested in an amendment vote. The result was split, with 58 senators, including eight Democrats, voting against including undocumented immigrants in aid.

Maryland recently passed new legislation that allows low-income non-citizens, including undocumented immigrants who pay taxes, to receive the earned income tax credit.

Since last year, California and Colorado have been providing Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers, which includes undocumented immigrants, access to the earned income tax credit as well.

The American Rescue Plan does not provide the same level of aid to undocumented immigrants as it does to citizens, but it does provide some assistance. Couples who jointly file their taxes only need to have one valid Social Security number and will qualify for one stimulus check.

"Everything is really hard because of immigration status for me," Arelvo said. "It's hard to qualify for things without immigration status. Especially for people like me who need treatment for cancer. We don't have things because we are without status."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


jfmdesign/iStockBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The makeup collaboration you never knew you needed is here and it comes with a side of guac.

E.l.f. Cosmetics has teamed up with Chipotle to launch a fully co-branded makeup collection and custom burrito bowl.

The e.l.f. Cosmetics x Chipotle Collection will include four limited edition items including a palette, lip gloss, sponge and makeup bag.

The "EYES.CHIPS.FACE. Makeup Bag" looks just like the Chipotle chip bag and is designed to fit the entire collection.

Last May, e.l.f. Cosmetics and Chipotle launched a limited edition bundle that sold out in just four minutes.

Back by popular demand, the new collaboration is bigger and spicier than ever.

Along with the makeup collection, Chipotle has made its first consumer brand bowl.

The Eyes. Chips. Face. Bowl will be available from March 10-17 and comes pre-built with vegan ingredients for assembling the vegan makeup formulas.

The makeup collection ranges from $8-$18 and will be available on and starting March 10.

Makeup lovers can sign up now
to be alerted as soon as the collection is available.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Ahead of International Women's Day, Mattel has introduced a new Barbie inspired by the life and legacy of Eleanor Roosevelt.

The latest doll, featuring the former first lady, was revealed on Wednesday and is a part of the company's "Inspiring Women" collection.

Dressed in a floral print dress, a pearl necklace and a black hat, the latest doll is a beautiful nod to the historical icon, United Nations spokesperson and human rights activist.

In addition to being the longest-serving first lady, Roosevelt, also known as, "First Lady of the World," was an advocate for policies surrounding civil and economic rights and was often celebrated for her humanitarian efforts.

"We are delighted to welcome former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to the Barbie Inspiring Women series and to shine a light on how her perseverance as a champion of policies around civil and economic rights made an impact on the world," Lisa McKnight, senior vice president and global head of Barbie and Dolls at Mattel, told People magazine in a statement.

She continued, "As the number one global toy property, we believe in the importance of highlighting past and modern-day role models, like Eleanor Roosevelt, to inspire the next generation of changemakers to dream bigger than ever."

The Barbie Inspiring Women Series presents historical and present-day role models to young girls.

At the beginning of this year, the series also paid tribute to poet, author and activist Dr. Maya Angelou. Ella Fitzgerald and Rosa Parks are also included in the series.

Retailing for $29.99, the Eleanor Roosevelt doll is available at Walmart, Target and Amazon.

Mattel is also celebrating International Women's Day by rolling out its first "You Can Be Anything" digital series which will provide interactive content for families and girls.

The series will feature live streams on Facebook and YouTube with appearances by model and activist Adwoa Aboah as well as actress Yara Shahidi.

“With the virtual event space growing exponentially, we are leaning in with innovative online experiences authentic to our brand DNA, like the Barbie You Can Be Anything Series, to connect female role models who have broken boundaries with families and remind them that kids will become the leaders of tomorrow," McKnight said in a statement.

This initiative will also coincide with the company's commitment to partnering with organizations such as Girls Leadership to fund girl-led research on media representation and a PowerLab classroom designed to address implicit bias in the classroom, internalized racial bias and inequities in representation.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- The kitchen table has become more than just a place to eat dinner for Opal Foster and her 13-year-old son, Jeremiah, of Silver Spring, Maryland. It has also served as an office and a school for a year now.

Foster lost her job last March, joining the more than two million women who left the workforce in the U.S. over the course of 2020.

According to the National Women's Law Center, women have lost more than five million jobs since February 2020. Since the pandemic began, they’ve experienced nearly 54% of overall net job losses versus men. Some economic experts refer to this phenomenon as a “she-cession.”

Foster said she collected unemployment and was able to freelance until she was able to get a part-time job in December. All the while, she continued to work with Jeremiah to juggle remote learning. He has Down syndrome and requires extra help in class.

“In normal situations, you could reach out to somebody else and get assistance. We're kind of all in the same boat -- all stretched way thin,” Foster told ABC News.

Foster is not alone. As the U.S. nears the one-year mark living with COVID-19 precautions, working moms are feeling the weight from the extended pressure.

According to a recent study by the University of Southern California, 44% of women said they were the sole provider of care for their children compared with 14% of men during the pandemic.

The study found that 42% of working mothers reduced their working hours between March and July 2020 versus 30% of men. When compared to households without children, there was no dramatic gender difference in working hours.

Moreover, the study showed nearly half of mothers surveyed experienced mild psychological distress. The percentage of mothers experiencing distress remained higher than men with children and both genders without children from March through July when the study was conducted.

“This new gap in psychological distress observed between mothers and women without school-age children appears to be driven by higher levels of psychological distress among mothers of elementary school-age and younger children,” the study's researchers said.

The study has not been published or peer reviewed.

“Many of [these women] are basically trying to do three peoples’ jobs,” Joan C. Williams, director of the Center for WorkLife Law at UC Hastings Law, told ABC News. “They’re doing their own job. They’re doing the childcare worker’s job. And they’re being a tech aid to their children’s teacher.”

She added, “Of course they’re stressed out beyond belief.”

Since the pandemic began, Nicole Strauch of Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, has gone into work every day as an occupational therapist at a long-term care nursing home. Her husband works from home with her son and their nanny.

“I really kind of felt like a germ coming into the house,” she told ABC News. “I'd strip in the garage and shower and hope that I wasn't infecting my family.”

In December, the nightmare scenario happened: Her facility experienced an outbreak. She said over 90% of her patients contracted the coronavirus and more than 35 of them died.

“These are people I spend 40 hours a week with, every day,” she said. “I know their families. I know what they like for breakfast.”

She said the emotional toll of the outbreak was devastating.

“Trying to be a parent, but then also dealing with death constantly. It was the most trauma I've ever seen,” she recounted in tears.

She went on, “Just trying to care for dying people of COVID all day, not having anyone come into our house because I was around positive patients all the time, and then just trying to be a parent and feel like I'm failing my son because I can't play with him and I don't have the energy to be happy for him.”

For Kristine Tague, balancing her work and life balance has been overwhelming.

“This has taken a huge mental toll on me,” Tague, who works as an airline industry technical illustrator in Texas, told ABC News. “The hardest thing is being OK and saying, ‘Yes, I need to take this break and it's OK.’”

Her toddler is in day care and her kindergartener attends in-person classes. Both institutions require students to quarantine if they’ve been exposed to the virus so she’s set up an area in her home office for them.

“Anytime there's an exposure, it's a quarantine of 14 days with the school district. So, basically I've had to take my children for tests, holding down my toddler, so that way he can get the nasal swab -- not fun,” she said.

Last year, her husband tested positive for COVID-19 and had to quarantine in the guest room. As he recovered, Tague continued to work full-time while taking care of her toddler and helping her kindergartener with remote learning.

“Almost a year later, it’s surreal to me that it’s still going on,” she said. “I'm working on my resilience … anytime I fail and cry and mess up, I just let myself do that. And I get back up again and keep going.”

Tague said she feels fortunate that she and her husband have been able to keep their jobs, but there’s an anxiety about what the future may hold.

“I want there to be a place where my toddler gets to know what it's like to play with other kids … and not have to worry,” she said.

With nationwide vaccination efforts underway, Foster plans to keep marching forward the best she can, hoping relief from the stresses of the pandemic is somewhere on the horizon.

“I can't wait to get back to working just one job,” Foster said. “And letting that be my primary source of income instead of trying to make a dollar out of 15 cents.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Airbnb, Inc. By ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- With COVID-19 affecting travel trends over the past year, Airbnb has added a brand-new search feature to its platform.

Flexible Dates gives would-be travelers more options when it comes to dates and locations of stays.

This new search option offers users more freedom when they choose to travel.

Instead of picking exact dates, they can search options such as a weekend getaway or a month-long stay.

"It’s no surprise COVID-19 continues to change the way we travel, and in addition to redesigning our platform last year to make nearby and longer-term stays easier to find and book, our new Flexible Dates feature aligns with a broader shift in how people will travel in the future," Airbnb said in a press release.

According to the Airbnb travel trends report, a quarter of Americans would consider traveling during off-peak times, and one-third of people have been flexible with their date or location during the pandemic.

“Once people feel safe to travel, they will. But it will look different than before the pandemic. Travel will be viewed as an antidote to isolation and disconnection," Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote in the report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Reese's, Hershey By KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- If peanut butter fans found a genie that dispensed candy instead of wishes, they might ask for something like this new treat from Reese's.

For the first time in over 90 years, Hershey unveiled a sweet spin on its iconic cups that does away with the chocolate.

In tandem with National Peanut Butter Lovers Day, Reese's debuted its new "Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cups" that are a double dose of peanut butter.

The light golden cups are encased in a creamy peanut butter candy-flavored shell and stuffed with the same beloved, Reese’s peanut butter inside.

Although the candy is only around for a limited time, it's the result of an amped-up version of a previous peanut butter-coated iteration that peanut butter fans pleaded to make more of.

"While launching a Reese's Cup with absolutely no chocolate might come as a shock, we’re giving the truest peanut butter fans something to go wild about," Margo McIlvaine, Reese's brand manager, said in a press release. "The frenzy that comes with changing an icon like the Reese's Cup is real – but you can still enjoy the classic plus get more peanut butter flavor with a new option that’s every peanut butter lover’s dream!"

The new cups are available in both standard, king size and miniatures at retailers nationwide starting early April 2021.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty ImagesBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- To celebrate the fifth birthday of its first sustainable sneaker, AllBirds has a cool new shoe that's cozy and cute.

The latest limited-edition Wool Runner Fluff sneaker was revealed on Monday, and it features a fluffy texture from the inside out.

Inspired by the popularity of the brand's previous Wool Lounger Fluff footwear, the label paid tribute by bringing back the beloved style.

Since its initial launch in 2014, the eco-conscious footwear created by AllBirds has been worn by celebrities including Hilary Duff, Jennifer Garner and Cindy Crawford.

The company's latest kicks, $95, are available in a natural white color and features AllBirds' signature ZQ Merino Wool.

Additionally, the midsole is made of SweetFoam Brazilian sugarcane that's described on the brand's website as being able to contour to the shape of your foot.

The Wool Runner Fluffs are also sustainably made with a mix of natural materials such as 100% post-consumer recycled polyester. Theres also castor bean oil layered within the insole to wick moisture and reduce odor.

If you are wondering what makes this release even greater, it's that you can shop it now (before it's all gone).

The limited edition AllBirds Wool Runners Fluffs feature merino wool on the external and internal parts of the shoe. It's also made from renewable materials that are machine washable.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Thinx, the "period-proof underwear" brand, is expanding its offerings with a new line at a more accessible price called “Thinx for All.”

The new collection, which is available at a handful of mass retailers, also features more size inclusivity.

Retailing for $17, Thinx for All includes sizes XS-XL and X-4X.

The brand hopes its new offerings will help more women reclaim their periods and reduce period waste.

“This expansion enables us to get more Thinx Inc. underwear into more underwear drawers -- and less period waste in landfills,” Thinx Inc.'s CEO Maria Molland said in a press release. “Our customers have been asking for more accessible price points and sizing, and we listened, which is why we’ve worked so hard to make Thinx for All a reality.”

Thinx for All is meant to be an entry point into the full Thinx underwear brand.

The collection comes in brief, bikini and high-waist styles in black and gray.

Most importantly, Thinx for All uses the same built-in, period-absorbing technology as the signature offerings, but in a streamlined organic cotton design, the company said.

The line is available now on and select Target stores.

It will also be available later this year at CVS and Urban Outfitters locations in the United States, as well as London Drugs in Canada.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Actor Dan Levy may have sworn off eating his candy-coated chocolate friends during the Super Bowl this year, but for all other M&Ms fans, there's a sweet, colorful new treat in the frozen foods section.

M&M's parent company Mars Wrigley unveiled two new ice cream cookie sandwiches ahead of St. Patrick’s Day.

“We’re excited to expand the joy of M&M’S colorworks to the Mars Wrigley ice cream line, starting with a minty green treat for St. Patrick’s Day,” said Jayesh Shah, Mars' ice cream marketing director. “These new flavors add even more options alongside our fan-favorite M&M’S Vanilla and Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches – offering a fun and enjoyable treat for any occasion.”

The two ice cream cookie sandwich flavors will be available in new, redesigned four-packs. The current M&M’S Ice Cream portfolio includes M&M’S Vanilla Cookie Sandwiches, M&M’S Chocolate Cookie Sandwiches, M&M’S Ice Cream Cones and M&M’S Ice Cream Fun Cups.

Also new for the spring are M&M’S Classic Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches, featuring vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate cookies with Milk Chocolate M&M’S Minis baked in.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — Josephine Bolling McCall was only 5 years old when her father was killed in 1947 in a brutal lynching on the side of the historic U.S. Route 80 in Lowndes County, Alabama. She says she’ll always remember seeing him lying dead at the fork of the road.

“In Lowndes County, which was known as ‘Bloody Lowndes,’ if a white man wanted a girl that a Black boy was dating, he simply killed the boy,” McCall told “Nightline” co-anchor Byron Pitts. “I was told that Black bodies were … strewn alongside the highway every weekend.”

McCall, however, says white men in Lowndes killed him for something else: his business success.

She said her father owned a farm where he had about 40 Black employees. He had milk trucks, she said, that had been specifically designed to pick up milk. Her mother would also sell food out of their truck. As a Black man in 1940s Alabama, her father had created different revenue streams in hopes of growing his family’s wealth.

“He had moved himself out of the societal class that we Blacks were supposed to be in,” McCall said. “He had acquired material goods that put him above his place. So he was killed because he was out of his place and deemed to aspire to go higher. … [He was] too prosperous to be a Negro.”

Bolling was one of an unknown number of successful Black entrepreneurs during the Jim Crow era who built their success in pockets across the country, including Tulsa, Oklahoma; Rosewood, Florida; and Bronzeville, Illinois.

Like Bolling, however, their success was targeted; some encountered violent confrontations. Others faced discriminatory laws and informal practices that hindered opportunities -- obstacles that still exist today. Many of the descendants of these business owners are still trying to bounce back from the lasting impact of these injustices.

“At the time of my father’s death, he had $40,000 in the bank in Montgomery, [Alabama],” McCall said, adding that she tries not to remember the value of that amount today. “But the white people took the money from us. Back then, you did not dispute a white man.”

It’s estimated that Bolling was worth up to $500,000 when accounting for inflation. His family said that white debt collectors fraudulently claimed they were owed money after his death and took all of it.

To commemorate her father, in 2007, the Bolling family erected a historical marker near where he died, 150 yards from where his general merchandise store was located.

“He was not accused of a crime -- had not committed a crime,” McCall said. “And yet, murdered for being successful, leaving seven children and a wife.”

One man was arrested following Bolling’s death, but the charges were later dropped by a grand jury. When asked if she ever wonders about what happened to those men involved in her father’s death, she said she once had the opportunity to meet the accused man’s daughter.

“I did not do that,” she said. “I did not think I could … I guess, upset her, not knowing who she was. … I did not know enough about the circumstance to infringe on her rights as a human.”

McCall said her family fell into poverty after her father’s death. Her oldest brothers dropped out of school and found jobs and her mother started working at a dry cleaner, she said. Today, the Bollings still have not acquired half the wealth Elmore Bolling had built.

Wealth disparities between Black and white Americans persist. In 2019, the median white family held nearly eight times the wealth of the typical Black family, according to the Brookings Institute.

“You have to have some generational wealth in order to move up the ladder,” McCall said. “So when you’re cut down from the bottom with nothing to build on, and that’s basically where Black people are, you have nothing to build on.”

Like her father, McCall said that generational wealth should be built through “our intellect and amount of work we put into something.”

“We do not want handouts,” she added. “That would be the last thing. My father believed in work. He had strong work ethic.”

Seven hundred miles north, in Richmond, Virginia, the membership-based Jackson Ward Collective is working to connect Black-owned businesses to the resources they need to reach success. In what was once the capital of the Confederacy, the Jackson Ward district had become a center for Black wealth at the turn of the 20th century.

“Jackson Ward was once considered the birthplace of Black capitalism,” said Melody Short, a co-founder of the organization.

“There was always good eating in Jackson Ward,” co-founder Kelli Lemon added. “That is where entertainment was. I know that some of the richest Black Americans got their start in Jackson Ward.”

However, by the 1960s, much of the historically Black district fell into ruin as residents faced mounting obstacles.

“Many of the things that we associate with thriving communities, like running water, sewer systems, plumbing, cleanliness [and] trash collection, were all neglected,” said Julian Hayter, a historian and professor at the University of Richmond. “Public officials built what was then the Richmond Petersberg Turnpike … which leveled roughly 730 homes.”

Hayter said residents also faced redlining, “a risk assessment system that in effect designated particular areas based on whether or not they were worthy to receive loans.”

“Green and blue areas were generally given the green light for development -- almost exclusively white areas -- whereas red and yellow areas … were predominantly African American, Jewish, poor whites, Latinx,” he said.

Rasheeda Creighton, another co-founder of the organization, said there are still limitations to the size of a loan a Black person can get.

Shantelle Brown, Pharm. D., is a member of the Jackson Ward Collective and owner of HOPE Pharmacy in Richmond. She says the biggest issue she faced with opening up the pharmacy was securing capital.

“They didn’t see that I would be able to obtain the prescription growth, the finances to pay them back,” Brown said of the banks she sought loans from. “They didn’t see it just based on the area that we were in.”

She went on, “The amount that I was asking for, I had more than that in the assets that I had and so, in looking at that, that often makes me think, maybe they just did not want to take that chance on me. Maybe, because of the color of my skin.”

Even though her pharmacy has proven itself essential to the area during the COVID-19 pandemic -- she’s even been providing the COVID-19 vaccine -- Brown worries about funding for the long-term.

Short says that in order for there to be a level playing field for Black Americans, there needs to be equity in business, land and real estate ownership.

McCall, who has dedicated her life to education, is now turning the 1800s-era single-room school that she once attended into a museum and adult learning center in honor of her father.

“I’ve been the first Black in a lot of circumstances,” she said. “First Black [physical education] teacher -- a couple of times -- first Black administrator … first Black president of the Alabama Association of School Psychologists. Being the ‘first Black,’ you learn that you’re not making it because you’re the ‘first Black.’ You’re making it because you have certain attributes and you can do certain things, and that’s been fulfilling.”

When asked what her father would think about her today, McCall said he’d be “proud.”

“I wish I had the business sense that he had,” she said, “but I do have the fortitude.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Official White House Photo by Adam SchultzBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden threw his support behind labor unions in a new video posted on Twitter that comes right as Amazon workers in Alabama are voting on whether to unionize.

The president did not mention Amazon by name but alluded to the high-profile organizing efforts at the e-commerce giant, saying, "Today and over the next few days and weeks, workers in Alabama and all across America are voting on whether to organize a union in their workplace."

"Unions put power in the hands of workers, they level the playing field, they give you a stronger voice, for your health, your safety, higher wages protections from racial discrimination and sexual harassment," Biden said. "Unions lift up workers, both union and non-union, but especially Black and Brown workers."

"So let me be really clear, it's not up to me to decide whether anyone should join a union," the president said. "But let me be even more clear, it's not up to an employer to decide that either. The choice to join a union is up to the workers -- full stop."

Biden added that there should be "no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda" from employers toward unionizing efforts. He noted that the law guarantees workers the right to choose whether or not to join a union, emphasizing that "no employer can take that right away."

"So make your voice heard," the president told workers.

The video has garnered some 2 million views on Twitter since it was posted Sunday evening.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., shared the video to his followers on Monday morning, thanking Biden for speaking up on the issue.

"If Amazon workers in Alabama -- a strong anti-union state -- vote to form a union, it'll be a shot heard around the world," Sanders wrote. "If they can negotiate higher wages & better working conditions in the South, it'll benefit every worker in America. Thank you, Mr. President, for speaking out."

Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, have begun voting on whether to form a union, The Associated Press reported, calling the efforts Amazon's "biggest union push in its history." Mail-in voting is expected to go until the end of March.

Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which is supporting Amazon workers' efforts in Alabama, issued a statement Sunday evening thanking Biden for his message.

"Thank you, President Biden, for sending a clear message of support for the BAmazon Union workers in Alabama seeking to bring the first union to an Amazon warehouse with the RWDSU," Appelbaum said.

"As President Biden points out, the best way for working people to protect themselves and their families is by organizing into unions," the statement added. "And that is why so many working women and men are fighting for a union at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama."

Amazon did not immediately respond to ABC News' request on Monday for comment on Biden's video or the unionizing efforts.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- A new report demonstrates the "devastating" impact of the coronavirus pandemic on New York City's arts and entertainment sector, as many venues, including Broadway theaters, have remained shuttered for nearly a year.

One year ago, nearly 87,000 people were employed in the arts, entertainment and recreation sector in New York City, according to the New York State Department of Labor's Current Employment Statistics -- not including freelancers or the self-employed.

By April, after the statewide stay-at-home order went into effect, that number fell to 34,100, and it has "barely budged" since then, said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office released the report.

Arts, entertainment and recreation employment in December was down 66% year-over-year -- more than any other sector in the city's economy, according to the report.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has had a profound and a very negative effect on this industry," DiNapoli said during a Facebook livestream on Wednesday. "It's forced venues to close, thousands into unemployment and pushed businesses to the brink of collapse."

The numbers paint a "stark and devastating" portrait of an industry that was "more than thriving" until the pandemic, DiNapoli said. From 2009 to 2019, employment grew by 42% -- faster than the 30% rate for the private sector overall, the report said.

Manhattan is the hub of the city's arts and entertainment industry, home to a majority of its venues and jobs.

"Every job and business in this previously booming sector needs to come back," Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said during Wednesday's livestream. "It was lost. It needs to come back. Right now Times Square is vacant."

Brewer is concerned that people in the industry have left the city for good due to the lack of work.

"We can't lose their talent," she said.

The report "puts the numbers behind the feeling that the arts and culture have been hit so hard, and that it is right now the least-recovered sector, despite much effort," she added.

The comptroller pointed to a new federal relief package, which includes $15 billion nationally for shuttered arts organizations and designates over $284 billion to revive the Paycheck Protection Program of the CARES Act, as a potential industry salve.

While performing arts venues, including Broadway theaters, remain closed, some venues and cultural institutions have started to reopen in New York City with restrictions and mitigation measures in place.

Zoos and aquariums started welcoming guests back in July, followed by museums in August, with mask-wearing and social-distancing requirements, capacity limits and timed entries.

This week, Madison Square Garden and the Barclays Center held their first sporting events with fans in almost a year, with capacity limited to 10%. Movie theaters in New York City can reopen starting March 5 at 25% capacity.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn't announced a timeline yet for performing arts venues, though he said on Feb. 8 that the "overall effort is heading towards reopening with testing."

"There are venues that we want to start to reopen with testing and capacity limitations," Cuomo said at a press conference. "Theaters, arenas, why can't you do it with Broadway? You can."

The Broadway League, which represents theater owners and producers, had previously announced that Broadway performances will remain suspended through May 30 of this year.

To help promote arts and culture, the state recently launched a new performing arts program, NY PopsUp, which will feature over 300 free events statewide in 100 days.

Next month, New York City will start accepting applications for Open Culture NYC, a permitting program that would allow institutions to hold socially distanced performances on city streets. The city has also recently created Curtains Up NYC, a program to connect live performance venues to up to $10 million in federal grants.

As live venues have struggled to hold on for almost a year, some won't be reopening. Among the latest closures, the Peoples Improv Theater, a nearly 20-year-old comedy venue, announced last week that it was shuttering its main space in Manhattan.

"It's been over 11 months that we have been shut down and eventually we have to surrender to survive," owner Ali Farahnakian said in a statement. "So we are in the process of surrendering the space. ... Godspeed to a brighter future."

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(NEW YORK) -- As New York City restaurants reopened at 35% capacity Friday, one iconic eatery got creative with how to fill empty tables and encourage social distancing.

Peter Luger Steak House teamed up with Madame Tussauds to bring iconic celebrity wax figurines into the famous wood-paneled dining room.

The star-studded experience includes Jon Hamm hanging by the bar, Audrey Hepburn, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Fallon all seated at their own tables and Al Roker waiting to direct diners upstairs.

"The restaurant industry is vital to New York City's economy, and it's been particularly hard hit this past year," Daniel Turtel, vice president of Peter Luger, said in a statement. "We're excited to welcome diners back indoors at 35%, and thought this would be a fun, safe way to fill some of the seats that need to remain empty as we continue to fight the pandemic. It has been wonderful working with the fabulous team at Madame Tussauds New York."

The New York City icons wax figures will remain at Peter Luger Steak House through Monday, March 1.

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(WASHINGTON) -- NASA officially named its headquarters in the nation's capital after Mary W. Jackson, the agency's first Black woman engineer, with a ceremony honoring her legacy on Friday.

"With the official naming of the Mary W. Jackson NASA headquarters, we ensure that she is a hidden figure no longer," NASA acting Administrator Steve Jurczyk said during Friday's ceremony, which was largely virtual due to the pandemic.

"Jackson's story is one of incredible determination. She personified NASA's spirit of persevering against all odds, providing inspiration and advancing science and exploration," Jurczyk added. "There is no denying that she faced innumerable challenges in her work, work that would eventually help send the first Americans to space."

Because of engineers like Jackson, Jurczyk said, "America and the world was not only able to dream of landing among the stars but to make that dream a reality."

Jackson's work was spotlighted in the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book, "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race."

The book was turned into the Oscar-nominated movie "Hidden Figures" later that same year, with actress Janelle Monae portraying Jackson.

The virtual ceremony Friday featured a slew of speakers who honored Jackson's work, including poet Nikki Giovanni, who read an excerpt from her work, "Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea."

Two of the trailblazing engineer's grandchildren, Wanda Jackson and Bryan Jackson, also spoke at the event Friday. Mary W. Jackson died in 2005 at 83 years old.

"Grandma was a very loving, caring, and feisty woman," Wanda Jackson said. "She was that type of person who would do anything for anybody, no questions asked."

Wanda Jackson reflected on visiting the NASA headquarters as a child when her grandmother was in training, and how despite the myriad of accomplishments, "she never gloated or bragged about anything she did."

While she is being honored publicly now, an emotional Wanda Jackson said, "she was always special to us."

"She was always our hero," she said. "She was always our star."

Bryan Jackson said his grandmother "paved the way for so many without us even knowing."

"She was a warrior," Bryan Jackson said. "Someone who wouldn't take no for an answer if she felt she was making a change to better something."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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