TIME Education

Meet the Mother-Daughter Team Set on Saving Cursive

It's not as loopy as it may sound

A mother-daughter team is fighting a battle that should inspire bands of ruler-wielding teachers to join them in the fray—and will lead others to accuse them of being out of touch with the modern student. Linda Shrewsbury and Prisca LeCroy want America’s future generations to learn cursive, and they’ve just finished publishing their first book on the subject, which Kickstarters gave them over $33,000 to design and produce.

It’s easy to make the argument that class time would be better spent teaching kids to type 80 words-per-minute (or to code for that matter). In this digital age, isn’t giving cursive pride of place in the curriculum the didactic equivalent of teaching teens to ride horses instead of drive cars? After all, the Common Core standards being adopted by states around the country don’t waste any space on laying out penmanship goals.

Courtesy Linda ShrewsburyLinda Shrewsbury, left, and her daughter Prisca LeCroy are on a mission to preserve cursive.

The ladies have plenty of retorts to this line of thinking. Chief among their scientific missiles are studies that show cursive fires up areas of the brain that tracing, typing or even printing letters does not. “They’re doing some studies that seem to suggest there’s something special about cursive,” says 34-year-old LeCroy, who was home-schooled by Shrewsbury before becoming an attorney and is now a full-time stay-at-home mom in Dallas.

Teaching kids old-fashioned penmanship, proponents like her argue, helps refine their fine motor skills and their visual cognition, while beefing up the lobes known to underline successful reading. One study found that students who handwrote rather than typed on writing assignments tended to write more and come up with more ideas.

Then there is the cultural ammunition. Only kids who can read cursive will make a jot of sense out of the original copy of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.—where the two of them recently gave a presentation on this very topic. “Do we want them to actually have the capacity to be historians?” says LeCroy. “Or do we want them to be lemmings?” For Shrewsbury, cursive is a proud old vehicle for fostering artistry and individuality in people, as well as a line the ties us to the past.

“My strongest feeling about cursive is the idea you can capture individuality and personality in a signature and have it be preserved for generations,” says Shrewsbury, a 63-year-old who has taught government to students in Tulsa and English to students in Africa. “I think about the fact that I know the handwriting of members of my family. The idea of throwing away a tradition that powerful and simple makes no senses to me.”

Shrewsbury got started on this mission while volunteering to tutor a 23-year-old student named Josh in a local literacy program. He had learning difficulties, but as they bonded over improving his reading skills, he confessed to her that he had never learned cursive and wanted to be able to sign his name. While it might not make a difference in a legal sense whether one prints or loops their autograph on a contract, to him there was a sense of dignity that he was missing (and, it’s worth noting, printed signatures are easier to forge). So Shrewbury tried to figure out a simple way to teach him the letters and noticed patterns in how the letters are formed—four patterns to be exact: an oval, a loop, a swing and a mound.

These, for instance, are letters that are all formed using a move they call “over oval, back trace.” If you trace the movements, you’ll see what they mean:

CursiveLogic

Using these insights, Shrewsbury says she was able to get Josh writing in cursive in about 45 minutes. “I hear all around me that cursive takes too long to teach and is too hard to learn,” she says.

Unfortunately, TIME cannot reveal all their secrets because rather than tackle this issue through lawmaking—as many would-be saviors of cursive have—these ladies are trying to win the battle through business. The book on their method is called CursiveLogic, and in Shrewsbury’s dreams, these guides will sell like such hotcakes that she can eventually use the proceeds to start local education programs in Tulsa for African-American boys and men who, like Josh, “have fallen through the cracks” of the educational system.

The ladies aren’t arguing that teaching kids cursive should displace typing classes, but not be lost in the dust of progress. LeCroy says that with even the suggestion that it might have benefits—in an era when we’re making more things with pixels and fewer with our hands—cursive is a craft worth preserving. “Wouldn’t it be bad if a generation if kids didn’t learn it?” she says. “Why would we want to strip away that little bit of creativity?”

TIME Congress

Lawmakers to Introduce Historic LGBT Non-Discrimination Bills

Same-sex marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Same-sex-marriage supporters rejoice after the U.S Supreme Court hands down a ruling regarding same-sex marriage in Washington on June 26, 2015

After marriage equality, the fight for full civil rights begins

On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Merkley and Rep. David Cicilline are set to propose historically broad non-discrimination bills that will protect Americans from losing their jobs—or from being evicted from their apartment or other forms of discrimination—because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Supporters of the bills are using the fact that marriage is newly legal in all 50 states as both a springboard and justification for this next battle to win civil rights for the LGBT community.

The Equality Act will cover the areas of employment, education, housing, public accommodations, jury service, federal funding and credit. “You can be married on Saturday, post your wedding pictures on Facebook on Sunday and be fired from your job or kicked out of your apartment on Monday,” says Cicilline, who became the fourth openly gay member of Congress in 2010. The legality of same-sex marriage, he says, “creates a sense of urgency,” because it will lead to LGBT people living more openly but consequently expose them to the possibility of more discrimination.

There is a vast misconception that it is already illegal to discriminate against gay people—one poll put the number at 87% who believe so—but there are no federal laws that set out protections for LGBT Americans. Twenty-one states currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation, and 18 of those, as well as the District of Columbia, also include gender identity. “There is a huge hurdle our community needs to overcome to convince people that this kind of discrimination is—A—perfectly legal, and—B—actually exists,” says Winnie Stachelberg from the Center for American Progress.

In December, that progressive think tank put out a report to refute the notion that protections for LGBT Americans are “unnecessary,” as conservatives such as House Speaker John Boehner have argued. One in ten lesbian, gay or bisexual people say they’ve been fired from a job because of their sexual orientation, they reported, while nearly one in three transgender people reports being treated unequally at a retail store.

A lesbian couple in Michigan, where a GOP lawmaker tried but failed to pass a non-discrimination law last year, says a pediatrician recently refused to see their six-day-old baby after she “prayed” on the matter. There was no statute under which the couple could file a complaint, says report author Sarah McBride. But, she adds, non-discrimination laws aren’t just about recourse. “They’re also about preventing bad behavior,” she says. “They’re also about making clear what our values are as a country and what we expect our citizens to do, and that’s to treat everyone fairly and with respect.”

A bill that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people when it comes to hiring and firing has been introduced in some form—and then failed to become law—in nearly every Congress for the past two decades. But rather than have another go at passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, or even a broader bill that creates a new law, Merkley and Cicilline are trying a different strategy: amending existing statutes like the Civil Rights and Fair Housing acts so that those long-established protections are extended to cover sexual orientation and gender identity, in addition to race, sex, religion or national origin.

“The only way that we can achieve full equality for the LGBT community,” says Cicilline, “is to make them part of this well-accepted civil rights construct.”

The move is designed, in part, to make it harder to object to the bill—because the Equality Act will “literally be extending the exact same protections” other classes already have—and to stymie the inevitable objections about religious freedom, which almost always crop up alongside debates over such non-discrimination bills.

“It has the value of saying, Look, whatever religious exemptions currently exist in these other protected categories—race, religion, gender, ethnic origin—those same religious exemptions would exist in the context of the LGBT community,” Cicilline says. “Not a single person’s right to exercise their religious tradition or to honor the practices of their own religion are compromised by this legislation.”

Critics of such bills say that legally obliging, say, a pizzeria to cater a same-sex wedding, violates a person’s right to oppose such unions based on religious or moral beliefs. With the battle over same-sex marriage lost, many conservatives are turning their efforts to pushing “religious freedom” or “First Amendment defense” bills to give people legal arguments for such refusals. A poll released earlier this month found that a small majority of small business owners—55%—believe businesses should not be allowed to deny wedding-related services to a same-sex couple based on religious beliefs.

Republicans Sen. Mike Lee and Rep. Raul Labrador introduced companion bills in June aimed at “protecting religious freedom from Government intrusion,” stating that “conflicts between same-sex marriage and religious liberty are real.” While they say their bill is aimed at making sure organizations like religious schools can’t lose their tax-exempt status for opposing same-sex marriage, progressives say it threatens to “undermine” protections Obama extended to millions of LGBT workers with an executive order, as well as the future of a broad non-discrimination law.

Merkley announced in December that a big proposal was coming. The scores of lawmakers he and Cicilline expect to co-sponsor the bills are rehashing this old fight in a time when there are new levels of awareness and acceptance for LGBT Americans, particularly among young people. According to Gallup, a record high 60% of Americans now support same-sex marriage, up from 50% in 2012 and 40% in 2009. Once people learn that protections for LGBT people don’t exist federally or in many states, “they overwhelmingly support the basic idea that LGBT Americans should be judged only on their merits, just like everyone else,” Merkley tells TIME. “It’s time to act.”

TIME People

The Case for Allowing Transgender Athletes in Youth Sports

Students don't always get to pick their team

In a poignant speech at the ESPYs Wednesday, former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner called for transgender youths to be “given the chance to play sports as who they really are.” That was not something that Jenner, who competed as a man, was able to do.

It was a high-profile moment that may help a broader movement to allow transgender athletes to compete on the teams where they feel most comfortable, a policy that has been pushed at the state level by proactive lawmakers, activists and students lobbying state athletic associations.

Transgender boy athletes—students assigned the female sex at birth who identify a male—don’t tend to cause as much of a stir as their counterparts. Critics often argue that transgender girl athletes might have unfair advantages because of the strength or height that comes with testosterone. But supporters say that’s not really relevant in youth sports. And they stress that the benefits to transgender youths struggling to find their place far outweigh concerns about a slightly taller-than-average girl on the volleyball team.

One of those youths is Mac, a 12-year-old in Washington state. Before and after coming out as transgender, he suffered through bullying, pushing and shoving and name-calling. Some of the bullies’ parents didn’t even make an effort to stop the behavior, his mother says. Mac’s transition hasn’t been easy on his family, including a father who was stationed abroad in the military when he found out, or two older sisters, one of whom said at one point she doesn’t “believe” in being transgender.

But both his family and school officials have supported him on the basketball court. When Mac wanted to play on his middle school boys’ team, school officials were thoughtful and accommodating, even though the state’s policy allowing transgender athletes to play on the team that aligns with their gender identity only officially applies to high school sports.

“You have to have an outlet. Mac’s outlet has been sports,” says his dad Joshua, “To let oneself go and let it out. Because on playing fields, basketball specifically, everybody’s equal and there’s no pointing and name-calling. It’s all about teamwork. And Mac’s embraced that.” His coach says that he’s sometimes a step behind the bigger kids, that he has to work harder than they work. “He always persevered. He never gave up, no matter if he was dead-beat tired. He’d still keep going,” she says. And she saw No. 23 getting camaraderie in return: “The whole family-feel, like, I’m in this with these guys. We’re in this together.”

Once Mac gets to high school, he’ll have to go through a “Gender Identity eligibility appeal process” set out by the Washington state athletic association if he wants to continue to play. That involves appearing at a hearing before a committee—which must include a mental health professional—to prove with sworn statements that he “has a consistent gender identity different than the gender listed on [his] school registration records.” The committee will decide if he gets to play, though he can appeal if they don’t come down on his side.

Many states still don’t have policies, but at least a dozen others have some process on the books. In Colorado, for example, a student doesn’t have to sit through a hearing but is advised to submit documentation so the school can “render a decision,” like written statements from parents or friends or evidence of hormone therapy. In California, the language of a law passed in 2013 suggests the student need only say what their gender identity is and which team they want to play on, an approach that has drawn controversy. (Conservatives who believed this would give boys’ license to sneak into girls’ locker rooms tried and failed to repeal the law that makes this the policy for all K-12 students in the state.) In New Mexico this week, a transgender student was told she could not play on the girls’ volleyball team because her birth certificate says she is male.

Opponents also sometimes voice fears that more lenient policies will be abused. In a speech earlier this year, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee argued that the country was “forcing little children to be a part of this social experiment.” He added, in a mocking tone: “I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E. I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I’d rather shower with the girls today.'”

Despite these claims, there has been no evidence of foul play in locker rooms or bathrooms in the school districts that have had such policies on the books for years. And, on the other hand, there are abundant stories to be heard from transgender adults about they often found it traumatizing to be forced into the girls’ line when they felt they belonged in the boys or pushed down the pink-toy aisle when all they wanted was a truck. Affirming students identity by allowing them to play on the team where they feel they belong, experts say, can be one of the earliest feelings of acceptance they get as “one of the boys” or “one of the girls.”

When it comes to the competition question, experts say the Olympics and ninth-grade basketball need to be considered separately. Such levels of competition can hardly be compared in terms of demands, what a win means, what people are getting out of it, or how much a small advantage or disadvantage matters. At elite levels, officials may need to set out strict rules to account for genetic or hormonal advantages.

But Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a former Olympic swimmer who leads Champion Women, an advocacy organization for girls and women in sports, says the debate over hormones misses the point when it comes to kids. “We have tons of research that looks at what the benefits of sports are, and what we find is for both boys and girls, that it provides this lifetime of benefits,” she says. “They’re going to be more likely to employed full-time. They’re much more likely to be in STEM activities. And the health benefits are enormous and not just for this person, but when you think about big-picture society. Sports are a social good and we need to make sure there’s inclusion.”

Hogshead-Makar argues that it simply isn’t a material consideration—especially given the natural variety in height that males and females can have. “High school sports are high school sports,” she says. “What you want is as many kids as possible to be doing this endeavor. … It’s like math class. This offers too many benefits to keep people out.”

The first openly transgender NCAA Division I athlete, Kye Allums, played on the women’s basketball team at George Washington University after coming out as a transgender man. He argues that being athlete transcends gender. “Strength is not a measure of hormones or testosterone. A lot of the strength comes from your heart and what you work for,” he says. “Sports is about winning. It’s about competing. It’s about respect. It’s about heart. It’s about teamwork. And it’s about playing the came. It’s not about what’s underneath your jersey.”

TIME housing

San Francisco Revamps Airbnb Regulations

Investors love Airbnb, but the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The hometown of accommodation-sharing website Airbnb has come to a tentative resolution in a long fight over how often people can rent out their houses and apartments online.

After multiple rounds of debate over 60-day, 75-day and even 120-day caps on rentals, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to keep the current 90-day cap in place when the host is not present and allow unlimited days when the host is present.

The fight is far from over, however, with one supervisor even calling the vote “somewhat moot.” Earlier this week, a measure qualified for the November ballot that would cap both hosted and unhosted rentals at 75 days per year. The initiative would also require platforms to list only hosts who have registered with the city, a tenet of the current law that has been largely ignored by local hosts. The measure has been labeled as “anti-Airbnb.”

The debate is not just a local skirmish. Airbnb has faced concerns from lawmakers in New York as well, while cities across the country have debated limitations and even bans on companies like Uber, a ride-sharing app, as local governments struggle to update long-standing regulations in light of new technology.

The new San Francisco ordinance, which passed in a 6-5 vote, will create what supporters call a “one-stop-shop” office to handle issues related to short-term rentals, whether that’s getting through the registration process or handling neighbor complaints.

While investors love Airbnb, the reaction in its own backyard has been mixed.

The city is in the midst of a housing crisis. While some locals have been evicted from their homes by landlords hoping to rent them out on Airbnb full-time, others have testified that they’ve only been able to stay in their homes because of the extra income home-sharing has afforded them. An extensive report on the issue by the San Francisco Chronicle found that more than 150 homes seemed to be rented full-time on the platform, suggesting that might be stock taken out of the strapped rental market.

During the meeting, supervisors debated when private companies should be asked to share data and when participation in new economic opportunities turns an activity like driving or sharing an apartment into a business. “I do believe that home-sharing is here to stay, and we should support appropriate and responsible home-sharing in San Francisco,” said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who sponsored the new ordinance with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “But we must protect our city from turning into a city solely of short-term rentals.”

Farrell, and other city lawmakers, cautioned against deciding this issue by ballot, because after a law is put in place that way, officials must return to voters in order to make any changes to it. He said that the economy and business models are changing too rapidly to put such a high bar in place for updating related laws. “We’re in the top of the first inning here,” he said.

TIME Television

Meet TV’s Newest Transgender Star

Teenager Jazz Jennings is redefining gender for young Americans

Actress Laverne Cox doesn’t like to be called a role model. She prefers the term “possibility model.” And TV is giving 14-year-old Jazz Jennings the platform to be one, too.

In case you’re not the type to follow TV lineups, Cox is the transgender woman playing a transgender inmate on the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black—which is quickly becoming just one of many shows with a prominent, ongoing storyline about gender identity.

Netflix has another show, Sense8, a sci-fi drama about people around the world who become telepathically linked, one of whom is a transgender hacktivist in San Francisco. Amazon’s Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman who transitions late in life, was recently renewed for a third season to air in 2016. Meanwhile, there will be three new reality series that follow transgender leads: I Am Cait, an E! docu-series about former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner; Becoming Us, an ABC family show about two transitioning dads and their adapting children; and I Am Jazz, a TLC show that premieres Wednesday about Jennings’ tale of navigating the world as a transgender teen.

MORE The Transgender Tipping Point

While some may feel like transgender issues are being exploited or overexposed by (reality) show producers, putting people like Jennings on TV can serve a vital purpose for other young people who are questioning or grappling with their gender identity—that innate sense of being male or female that doesn’t always match up with what the doctor proclaims in the delivery room.

Many transgender people, especially older ones who had to come to terms with their feelings in a world before the Internet—much less a Netflix series—will say they didn’t have the courage to be honest with themselves and come out until they encountered another transgender person in real life (or, as Cox might say, a possibility model).

“What made the difference for me was being in San Francisco and meeting a transgender man,” says Masen Davis, former executive director of the Transgender Law Center. “And seeing that he was healthy and well and had a job and had good friends.” At the time, Davis says, “We all just assumed that if you were transgender, you were going to lose your family, you were going to lose your friends, you were going to lose your job. You would have to start all over.”

Nina Chaubal, a transgender woman who immigrated to the U.S. from India and worked at Google before helping to found Trans Lifeline, says that moment came for her at a conference where she saw a transgender woman featured as a speaker. “When you see someone you identify with who meets your definitions of success, it gives you the hope that you’ll be successful,” she says. “And that matters. That matters a lot.”

Part of the reason it matters is that discrimination and family rejection can still be daily, traumatizing issues for transgender people, particularly young ones. This new era of shows touches on transgender issues with more dignity than the pitfalls of previous decades, like salacious chair wars on the Jerry Springer Show and dismissive “Tranny Hooker” credits on Law & Order. But even a more respectful media spotlight is no magic wand fixing the much higher-than-average rates of homelessness, poverty and harassment they experience as a demographic. A staggering 41% of transgender people interviewed for a National Gay and Lesbian Task Force study said they had attempted to commit suicide.

And so examples like Jennings—while they might seem like a network’s attempt to cash in on the zeitgeist as much as a thoughtful exploration of America’s margins—have the potential to make a big difference for viewers who need an example to live by (that might make life seem more livable) and to provide some basic education about LGBT issues for others.

“There are more media representations that young trans people can look to and say, ‘That’s me,’ in an affirming way,” Cox told TIME last year. They’re also giving people chances to talk about important policy issues, like how in the majority of states, it is legal to fire someone or deny them service or kick them out of their apartment because they are gay or transgender.

At the tender age of 14, Jennings seems aware of how valuable it can be to see a transgender teen just being a teenager. So is the example of her accepting, loving mother, regardless of whether this TLC treatment ends up being tasteful. That’s not to say the content of the show does not matter, but that a silver lining will remain. “The main thing that really keeps me motivated in continuing to share my story,” Jennings tells TIME, “is the fact that I know change is being created when I see people who tell me that I’ve really affected their lives. It’s just a beautiful thing.”

Read next: The 25 Most Influential Teens

TIME Smartphones

Here’s How to Battle Your Smartphone Addiction

There is bad news, but there is also good news

Can you see a smartphone right now? Is it yours or someone else’s? Where is your smartphone? In your bag? In your hand? You probably lost it!

If reading that paragraph just made you a little anxious, then congratulations, you are a human alive today. And if reading those questions made you palpitate and sweat like a perp in a lineup, then don’t worry, you’re not alone. And you’re probably not very old, either.

In a series of polls related to smartphone use released last week, Gallup found that about half of smartphone users check their phones several times an hour or more frequently; 81% of people said they keep their phones near them “almost all the time during waking hours” and 63% do so even when they’re sleeping. The condition is especially severe among the young, one-in-five of whom cop to “checking their phone every few minutes.”

While that might elicit a “tsk, tsk” from grandparents appalled by such behavior, all this checking doesn’t just come at the cost of neglecting the world around us. Researchers have been building a body of disheartening-but-fascinating research about the mess of mutual dependence that is our relationship with our smartphones. They’ve connected it to anxiety and stress and our increasing state of distraction.

There is, however, a way we might break the cycle of addiction, even if we all have to go through our own withdrawal montage.

But first, the disturbing news. In a 2015 study conducted at the University of Missouri, media researcher Russell Clayton found evidence that some people feel their phones are part of them—kind of like a leg or an arm. In a clever ruse involving word search puzzles and a blatant lie about signal interference, Clayton was able to get a snapshot of about 40 college students’ physiological states when their iPhones started ringing across the room but they were unable to answer them.

“Their blood pressure and heart rate increased. Their self-report of anxiety and unpleasantness also increased,” says Clayton, now an assistant professor at Florida State University. The students also became worse at doing word search puzzles, suggesting poorer cognitive performance. Yet his eeriest finding — beyond evidence that future generations will probably go straight into anaphylactic shock when separated from their devices — was that people reported a physical lessening of themselves when they did not have their phones.

“They reported feeling a loss of identity,” he says. “When objects become possessions, when we use them a lot, they’re potentially capable of becoming an extension of ourselves.” When digital natives born today grow up to be toddlers who are crying because a parent takes their iPad away, Clayton says that could leave us with interesting questions: “Are they upset because they can’t play their game? Or are upset because they don’t have the iPad, the object, the possession?”

Perhaps the person who has done the most work in this field is Larry Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University. Rosen is in the middle of writing a book on our technology-addled brains. In his research, he’s found that if there’s a phone around—even if it’s someone else’s phone—its presence tends to make people anxious and perform more poorly on tasks. These effects, he’s found, become more acute among heavy users, those people checking their email and social media every 15 minutes or walking around with their hand tucked snugly around their phone. In a 2014 study, he separated college students from their phones. “The heavy users, 10 minutes in they’re already anxious and their anxiety kept going up and up,” he says. “And who are the heavy users? They’re the young people.”

Technology tends to “overact” our brains, draining us of unfettered, daydreaming-type creativity, he says. Today’s average college student, a member of the first generation to really grow up digitally native, now focuses and attends to one thing for about three to five minutes before feeling the need to switch their attention to something else, he says: “It makes us very tired. It makes us very miserable. It overloads our brains. … It is not good for us.” In his work, Rosen has referred to these gadgets by using an acronym for Wireless Mobile Devices — or WMDs, for short.

It might seem like going cold turkey is the best approach, but Rosen says that taking kids’ phones away or other forms of digital detox—like going away for a week to a place with no signal—aren’t sustainable solutions. “The real world comes back and crashes in,” he says of kids whose parents separate them from their devices. “And then they realize they have 400 emails, they have 30 text messages and they’ve got 100 posts from Facebook friends that they have to go back and like and comment on. So taking the phone away or restricting them is only going to create more anxiety and not really solve the problem.”

The good news is that Rosen does have a plan: weaning off devices bit by bit and making a public statement that you’re going to do so. This second part is key. Only if you’ve warned your parents and friends that they shouldn’t take it personally when you don’t text them back or like their picture right away, he says, will you be able to actually relax, no longer in fear of offending anyone who expects you to be on all the time. Meanwhile, you must wage an internal battle against your own FOMO.

“You announce to the world that you’re only going to check your phone once a half hour,” he says, “and then you allow yourself a minute or two every half hour to check in, return a call, text back, and then turn it off and put it away.” Then perhaps get bold and go up to an hour. Then perhaps two hours, in an attempt to eventually make the phone less like the limb it has become and more like the really cool toaster it could be.

“A lot of it,” Rosen says, “is self-induced anxiety.”

Read next: Try These Apps and Sites for Selling Your Old Stuff

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TIME Labor

Uber Challenges Class-Action Lawsuit in New Motion

Uber
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images The Uber Technologies Inc. logo is seen on the ground at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 26, 2014.

The company's lawyers argue that the 160,000 Uber drivers in California have "little or nothing in common"

Uber filed a motion in a California court Thursday opposing a class action lawsuit against the company, marking the latest salvo in the increasingly pitched battle over how workers are treated in the multi-billion dollar on-demand economy.

The lawsuit filed in California’s Northern District Court alleges that Uber drivers in California should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Uber challenged the certification of the class in its motion, arguing that the more than 160,000 Uber drivers in the state have “little or nothing in common,” aside from having downloaded and used the Uber app “at some point over the past six years.”

The suit is one of several pending cases that could have profound implications for the on-demand economy, which includes some of the world’s hottest technology startups. Companies like six-year-old Uber, now valued at $50 billion, have been able scale fast in part because they classify many of their workers as independent contractors, which frees them from costly obligations like remitting payroll taxes and paying worker’s compensation and other duties that typically accompany an employer-employee relationship. Nor does the company reimburse drivers for expenses like gas and car maintenance, which the lawsuit alleges are owed to tens of thousands of drivers for years of work.

In its motion, Uber argues that a successful class action suit “could force Uber to restructure its entire business model.” It could also have a ripple effect across the burgeoning startup culture, leading other companies with similar structures to recalibrate. In addition to the case against Uber, lawsuits challenging the status of workers are pending against Lyft, Uber’s chief U.S. rival; Postmates, which offers on-demand delivery; Homejoy, which offers on-demand cleaning; and Instacart, an on-demand grocery shopping service.

The lawyers pursuing these cases believe that the companies are skirting labor laws by identifying themselves as technology platforms that connect willing workers with users who need services, rather than, say, a taxi service that employs drivers. “They’re claiming there’s something new and different because their services are provided through technology, through a smartphone,” Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer for the plaintiffs in the suit against Uber, told TIME in an earlier interview. “But there’s nothing new about this.”

Uber is adamant that they are not a traditional employer. Its motion challenging the class certification emphasizes the variety among drivers, the different amounts and ways they use Uber’s app and the various terms of agreement they have with the company. The filing also included declarations of from about 400 drivers in the state, many of whom say they value the freedom of the current arrangement and don’t want anything to change. “I don’t want anyone to take away this flexibility by suing Uber,” writes an L.A.-based UberX driver named Janice Fry.

The company says a ruling against it could eliminate that independence. “As employees, drivers would drive set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive using other ridesharing apps as well as the personal flexibility they most value,” Uber said in a statement.

For example, Uber emphasizes that many of its drivers also work for competing companies like Lyft and Sidecar, and sometimes have multiple companies apps on at once. In its motion, Uber claims the suit “would force drivers to pick one app over all others.”

Yet that would only be the case if Uber and its competitors required drivers to do so under a legal principle known as duty of loyalty, which gives companies the right to sue two-timing workers. The companies could instead lay out terms that allow employees to work for more than one ride-app outfit. “They could promise to waive that right,” says Sachin Pandya, a law professor who specializes in labor and employment at the University of Connecticut. “There’s no prosecutor going around charging workers for being disloyal.”

But certifying the drivers as employees could introduce other tricky questions. If an employee-driver is riding around with both Uber and Lyft apps on, for instance, which company would be on the hook for reimbursing them for gas? Which company would need to make sure they take legally required breaks?

To showcase the variety of situations that Uber drivers are in, the company states that there are 17 different terms of agreement that drivers have agreed to over time. They emphasize that while some drivers essentially work full-time, others use Uber to supplement income from a part-time job, or hire subcontractors. While some follow Uber’s “suggestions” on how to act or dress or comport themselves, others do not, they say. Drivers work when they want, where they want, as much as they want, being paid per job rather than being assured minimum wage and overtime. Drivers can choose to accept requests or contact Uber to ask for a fare to be lowered (if they made errors), they write.

Many of these details speak to arguments about control over a work environment that are key elements of arguments over employee status. How much control Uber has in writing, and in practice, can heavily weigh judges’ opinions about how workers should be classified. In a recent California Labor Commission ruling, for instance, a commissioner deemed an Uber driver to be an employee in part because Uber was “involved in every aspect of the operation.”

That ruling determined the status of only one driver, and Uber has appealed it. If the district court lawsuit is certified as a class action, it has the potential to affect far more workers. A hearing is scheduled for August.

TIME Drugs

Denver Activists Fight for ‘Social’ Marijuana Use

Skeptics say reformers are going too far

Denver residents are gearing up for another battle in the marijuana wars.

While activists in states like Nevada and Massachusetts are working on ballot measures to legalize recreational weed, a coalition in Colorado is collecting signatures to allow “limited social marijuana use.” As it stands, people in the state capital can consume marijuana only inside places like private homes or a rare “vape-friendly” hotel room. That, reformers say, can leave locals isolated and visitors not knowing where to turn.

“I enjoy drinking a beer but I don’t feel like I should always have to do it sitting in my home,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which spearheaded the effort to legalize pot in 2012. “And people who are visiting from out of town are able to purchase marijuana but are not able to consume it legally.”

Tvert, along with attorney Brian Vicente, are leading the initiative to get the issue on the ballot in November, calling their effort the Campaign for Limited Social Use. In order to qualify, they’ll need to collect the signatures of 4,726 registered Denver voters by early August. But some local leaders feel that advocates are pushing their luck this time.

Visitor guides for marijuana tourists explain that in the eyes of the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act, smoke is smoke, whether from a cigarette or a joint. That means blazing is not allowed in restaurants or most hotel rooms; a maximum of 25% of rooms may allow smoking at any one property and many inns don’t allow smoking at all. People can—inconspicuously but often illegally—consume edibles or use vaporize pens or “resort to a wet towel by the door.”

Tvert says that when he and other reform leaders like Vicente worked on the language for Amendment 64, they had intended for people to be able to consume marijuana more like people consume alcohol: While lighting up in the middle of the street was never something they fought for, they did want people to be able to consume it together in spaces reserved for adults. In cities such as Pueblo, local officials have interpreted the law to allow for “marijuana clubs,” while Denver officials more narrowly say consumption is not allowed in places “open or accessible to the public.”

Under the proposed ballot initiative, commercial establishments that sell alcohol on site would be able to allow marijuana consumption on their premises—which might mean someone vaping at the cocktail bar or smoking a joint in a fenced-in outdoor area. It would also allow for cannabis-only businesses—meaning they do not serve alcohol but do serve as a place to vape—and would give Denver the power to regulate them, setting restrictions on hours and locations.

Pushing for cannabis-only clubs would likely have been an easier fight. “Marijuana advocates in Denver have enjoyed a tremendous amount of public support over the past decade,” the Denver Post editorial board wrote in June, in a piece titled “Vaping in bars, smoking on rooftops? Public pot plan goes too far.”

“We bet,” they wrote, “Denver residents will see this measure as going too far.”

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