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Warren Responds to Questions About Her 1971 Teaching Job

Warren responds to questions about being fired due to her pregnancy in 1971

First up, I’ve gotten a question from several listeners about a story going around pertinent to Senator Elizabeth Warren and a teaching job in 1971. She talks about this experience in her stump speech, and it also appears in her 2014 memoir titled A Fighting Chance. Reading here from the book:

“In 1970, just after I finished college in Houston, Jim was transferred to IBM’s office in New Jersey. Soon after we moved, I got my first real job, as a speech therapist for special-ne kids at a nearby public school. I was twenty-one, but I looked about fourteen. By the end of the school year, I was pretty obviously pregnant. The principal did what I think a lot of principals did back then—wished me good luck, didn’t ask me back for the next school year, and hired someone else for the job.”

Okay, so the gist of that story is that Warren was a school teacher in 1970, and in that era, there were no legal protections, in terms of keeping jobs around, for women who became pregnant. We didn’t have FMLA, we didn’t have the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and women were routinely expected to leave their jobs in order to go have their kids. That’s the broader point, and the specific claim Warren makes there is that the principal did not invite her back for her next year, and hired somebody else to do her job. Warren, in her book, then goes on to talk about raising that child.

Yesterday, an article by Collin Anderson in the Washington Free Beacon made waves by publishing minutes from several meetings of the Riverdale Board of Education covering parts of 1970 and 1971. The records confirm that in 1970, Warren was offered a part-time speech therapy job at roughly $3,000 dollars a year. Then in April of 1971, there is a motion to extend her contract again, among various other teachers. Then in June, in other words, right around the end of the school year, there’s a note in the minutes that Warren’s resignation was, “accepted with regret.”

The Free Beacon article claims that these meeting minutes contradict Warren’s story, though in fact they seem to confirm parts of it. Now there is ALSO a story going around that shows a video of Warren speaking at UC Berkeley in 2007. In that video, she doesn’t mention the specifics of why she left that job, and suggests that it could have been her choice. Reading from CBS News here, and this is Warren speaking in the 2007 video:

“”I worked in a public school system with the children with disabilities. I did that for a year, and then that summer I didn’t have the education courses, so I was on an ’emergency certificate,’ it was called. […] I went back to graduate school and took a couple of courses in education and said, ‘I don’t think this is going to work out for me.’ I was pregnant with my first baby, so I had a baby and stayed home for a couple of years.””

Now, for what it’s worth, the minutes do reflect that her job was on an emergency certificate. So that part of the story is not part of the debate. The question boils down to whether Warren left the teaching job voluntarily or not—specifically, whether her pregnancy was a factor. And a side question is why she told the story the way she did in 2007. That 2007 version doesn’t talk about the principal.
Okay, so what does Warren have to say about all this? Well, she gave an interview to CBS News last night. In an article by Zak Hudak and Bo Erickson, Warren stands by her book, which is also basically her stump speech. Reading from the article:

“”All I know is I was 22 years old, I was 6 months pregnant, and the job that I had been promised for the next year was going to someone else. The principal said they were going to hire someone else for my job,” she said.”

And here’s a bit from that CBS article about the 2007 video. QUOTE:

“Asked by CBS News why she told the story differently at Berkeley a decade ago, Warren said her life since her election to the Senate in 2012 caused her to “open up” about her past. “After becoming a public figure I opened up more about different pieces in my life and this was one of them. I wrote about it in my book when I became a U.S. Senator,” she said in a statement from her campaign.”

Okay, and reading once more from that CBS News article:

“Warren also told CBS News that she was, in fact, officially offered the job for the following year as the school board minutes indicate. “In April of that year, my contract was renewed to teach again for the next year,” Warren said. She also said she had been hiding her pregnancy from the school.”I was pregnant, but nobody knew it. And then a couple of months later when I was six months pregnant and it was pretty obvious, the principal called me in, wished me luck, and said he was going to hire someone else for the job,” Warren said.Asked repeatedly whether she meant she was fired when she said the principal showed her the door, Warren said, “When someone calls you in and says, the job that you’ve been hired for for next year, is no longer yours, we’re giving it to someone else. I think that’s being ‘shown the door.'””

Okay, so the main thing we have to acknowledge about this story is the cultural context of 1971. Now, I was NOT YET BORN at that time. So I can’t give you my direct read on that year in the New Jersey school system.

But I can say, with experience, that there IS a difference EVEN TODAY between what the minutes of a meeting say in terms of resigning “with regret,” versus the reality of leaving a job—ANY job. It’s not like the principal went home and started writing a letter that said, Dear Mrs. Warren, we’re firing you because you are pregnant. That’s not how this ever worked—that’s not how most people leave ANY job, even if they’re, you know, shown the door. So it’s important to at least acknowledge that the cultural scene in the very early 70s was VERY different than what it is today, nearly 50 years later.

Okay, so back to the CBS News coverage:

“Interviews with retired teachers who worked for the Riverdale Board of Education at the same time as Warren suggest that while they do not remember Warren or the circumstances of her leaving the school, the workplace culture at the time may have left Warren with no option but to move on when her pregnancy became apparent.Two retired teachers who worked at Riverdale Elementary for over 30 years, including the year Warren was there, told CBS News that they don’t remember anyone being explicitly fired due to pregnancy during their time at the school. But Trudy Randall and Sharon Ercalano each said that a non-tenured, pregnant employee like Warren would have had little job security at Riverdale in 1971, seven years before the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed.”The rule was at five months you had to leave when you were pregnant. Now, if you didn’t tell anybody you were pregnant, and they didn’t know, you could fudge it and try to stay on a little bit longer,” Randall said. “But they kind of wanted you out if you were pregnant.””

Okay, so that’s what we have on this story at the moment. Warren stands by her story. The two teachers who were there at the time confirm that the story is plausible—though, they don’t remember Warren, which kinda makes sense, because she worked there for just one school year, two days a week, almost 50 years ago.

Sanders releases his campaign finance reform plan and it’s a doozy

Yesterday, Senator Bernie Sanders released his latest policy plan. Titled “Get Corporate Money Out of Politics,” the plan does…well, it’s what it says in the title. Let me just read from the first segment of the plan.

“End Corruption of National Party Conventions. In 2016, seventeen donors gave three-quarters of the Democratic National Convention funding, with large corporations like Bank of America, Peco Energy, Comcast, and Facebook each donating over $1 million [dollars]. Their lobbyists were everywhere and filled the VIP suites. This type of corporate sponsorship is a corrupting influence and must end if politicians are going to represent the American people.As the Democratic nominee, Bernie will: Ban corporate contributions to the Democratic Party Convention and all related committees.As president, Bernie will: Update and strengthen the Federal Election Campaign Act to return to a system of mandatory public funding for National Party Conventions.”

So, here, we are talking about the DNC convention—the event where the delegates officially get together and vote for the nominee who will run in the general election. As I mentioned last week, that $3 dollar checkbox on your taxes goes into an election fund, and those conventions can draw from that fund. Both the DNC and RNC can fund their conventions using public money. AND they can raise a ton of cash from corporations.

The next heading in the Sanders plan is: “End Corruption of Presidential Inaugurations.” Obviously, it is about how the inauguration process—that big event on the big lawn with all the people—is largely funded by corporations. And those corporations include federal contractors. So, you know, Sanders suggests let’s knock that off.

The next big heading is, “Public Election Reform.” And this is where the Sanders plan really gets tough. Sanders points out that the fundraising committee for the DNC back in 2016, “was led by an insurance executive and a Comcast executive.” And he goes on to address something that I talked about last week when Montana Governor Steve Bullock opted in to public financing—again, that $3 dollar checkbox on your taxes—for his campaign. Reading from the Sanders plan:

“In addition to fixing how the National Parties raise money, we need to stop the influence corporations have on individual candidates running for office. The FEC no longer acts like enforcement agency, and ne to be replaced to effectively regulate campaign finance. And to address the outsized influence large corporate donors have on candidates, America must move to publicly fund federal elections in order to ensure a fair playing field free of the corrupting influence of large donors.”

In a section just below that, he promises that as president, he would:

“Abolish the worthless FEC and replace it with the Federal Election Administration, a true law enforcement agency originally proposed by former Senators John McCain and Russ Feingold.The new FEA would have three members — a chair and two administrators. All members must have a background in some form of law or ethics enforcement, which would also include former judges.The hearing for violations of campaign finance laws would be conducted before an administrative law judge and the FEA can impose civil and criminal penalties for violations.The members would have 6 year terms and the chair would have a 10 year term to prevent any one future president from picking all three members.”

So, yeah, this is a serious middle finger to the current FEC system, but also a fairly practical reform plan. I’ve talked about the FEC quite a bit on this show, and its current situation is, to put it mildly, broken. It could be glued together right now, or you just throw the whole thing away and replace it with what Sanders proposes here. Using the existing bipartisan FEA plan seems like a practical idea.

But, wait, that’s not all! In addition, this plan would ban ALL advertising during presidential primary debates, AND would, “Institute a lifetime lobbying ban for former members of Congress and senior staffers.”

So, essentially, Sanders is taking a variety of spots where corporate influence is currently present in elections, in lobbying, in parties, in events, and annihilating it. It is by far the most comprehensive plan like this that I have seen. We had plans like, for instance, the Democracy Dollars thing from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand many months ago, and that was its own detailed plan running many pages. Here, Sanders gives it one sentence. He writes, “A new system of Universal Small Dollar Vouchers would give any voting-age American the ability to “donate” to federal candidates.” So in other words, Sanders sees the public financing of elections and the mechanism by which people donate money to candidates as a small detail, whereas some other candidates see it as an entire policy area.

An article for The Hill by Alex Gangitano is titled, “Lobbyists pan Sanders proposal to end corporate donations for party conventions.” On Twitter, Sanders linked to that article and simply added one word: “Good.”

Now, Sanders does have a little overlap with a Warren plan related to lobbying, and of course, some overlap with Democracy Dollars, which are supported by multiple candidates. But for the most part, this is new stuff, and it goes farther than anybody else currently in the field. Now, as for how much this will cost and how he intends to pay for it? No idea. There is no mention in the policy of cost or funding.

Klobuchar raises almost $5 million dollars

Next up, a quick story. Senator Amy Klobuchar raised $4.8 million dollars in Q3. That’s up by about $1 million dollars from Q2, which is pretty good. It’s growth, and growth is what you need right now. It does put Klobuchar near the bottom of the pack in eighth place in terms of Q3 fundraising, but she has the benefit of being in the debate next week.

Having said that, Klobuchar has not yet qualified for the November debate in terms of polling. She has one poll, but ne four—and O’Rourke in the same boat. They both have the number of donors they need, but they both have a lot of 2% polling results that really need to be 3%.

How Hickenlooper’s fundraising is going as a Senate candidate

And last up today, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has turned in his Q3 numbers…for the Senate race in Colorado. If you’ll recall, Hickenlooper joined the presidential race on March 4th, then dropped out on August 15th. Precisely one week later, Hickenlooper announced that he would run for Senate in Colorado against incumbent Republican Cory Gardner.

So how’s that going?

Well, if his fundraising is any indication, it’s going quite well, thank you very much. Reading from a story by John Frank in The Colorado Sun:

“John Hickenlooper raised more than $2.1 million [dollars] for his U.S. Senate campaign in less than six weeks, a record haul in Colorado that affirms his Democratic front-runner status in a top-tier race.”

Now, let’s compare that to how much money he raised as a presidential candidate. NBC News correspondent Mike Memoli did the math, and tweeted, “John Hickenlooper raised $3.2 million [dollars] in the first four months of his presidential campaign.”

Okay. So $2.1 million in six weeks. $3.2 million in 16 weeks. In other words, wow, people are enthusiastic about Hickenlooper as a Senator.

Now, let’s compare that six-week raise to what Gardner, his likely opponent, managed to bring in. He had a full quarter, which was, you know, three months long, and in that period he brought in $2.45 million dollars. That’s a little more than Hickenlooper, but it sure ain’t twice as much—and he did have twice as much calendar time. Having said that, the Gardner campaign apparently has $6.7 million dollars in cash-on-hand as of the end of September, so Hickenlooper still has a lot of catching up to do over the coming months.

So the big picture here is that Hickenlooper is currently in a Democratic primary for that Senate run. He faces NINE Democrats in the primary, but so far he appears to be the favorite there, despite his late arrival.

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Well, a cold rain’s a-gonna fall tomorrow, so right after the show, at peak 50-degree daytime temperatures, I am getting out there to unhook all the hoses and stuff. Meant to do it yesterday, took a nap instead. It was great. Meanwhile, the flame ash—a tree in the front yard—has turned a mixture of bright red and deep purple—there’s a picture of that on my Instagram thing, which is linked at the top of the show notes. That is a sure indicator of two things. One, fall is here, and two, there is about a big storm that knocks all those red leaves off and makes a big mess for me to rake up. So. Onward we go. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.

LinksChris Higgins on TwitterChris Higgins on InstagramElection Ride Home on TwitterElection Ride Home on FacebookElizabeth Warren stands by account of being pushed out of her first teaching job because of pregnancy (CBS News)County Records Contradict Warren’s Claim She Was Fired Over Pregnancy (Washington Free Beacon)A Fighting Chance (Google Books/Elizabeth Warren)Get Corporate Money Out of Politics (Bernie 2020)Sanders tweet re Gangitano story (Twitter/Bernie Sanders)Bernie Sanders takes aim at the DNC with his new anti-corruption plan (Vox)Bernie Sanders to take on DNC over convention funding (CNN)Amy Klobuchar raises $4.8 million in third quarter (Politico)Which 2020 Democrats Raised the Most Money This Summer? (NYT)Memoli tweet re Hickenlooper raise (Twitter/Mike Memoli)John Hickenlooper posts Colorado fundraising record in his first six weeks as U.S. Senate candidate (Colorado Sun)