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What We Know About the Catastrophic California Boat Fire

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Today, we’re starting with an update on the horrific fire that engulfed a scuba diving boat near Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands early on Monday, most likely killing dozens of people.

The search-and-recovery effort continued through Labor Day, transforming a picturesque divers’ paradise — an area that The Ventura County Star described as “the Galápagos of North America” — into the site of one of California’s worst maritime disasters.

Here’s what we know so far:

What happened

In the predawn hours on Monday, a haunting distress call was apparently made from a commercial scuba diving vessel named the Conception.

Bob and Shirley Hansen, the owners of a fishing boat that was moored overnight several hundred feet from the Conception, said they saw fire shooting through holes in the vessel and explosions “every few beats.”

the full story.]


Noam Scheiber, who covers workers and the workplace, to tell us more about the battle over labor in California’s gig economy — which could have big implications for the rest of the nation.

Assembly Bill 5, when the legislative session enters its homestretch.

If it passes, the bill would guarantee employment protections, like a minimum wage and unemployment insurance, to millions of workers currently classified as independent contractors across the state, including construction workers, cable installers and, of course, drivers.

[Read Noam’s story about how Los Angeles has become a hub for grass-roots labor activism.]

But many more people than that may ultimately be affected. Veena Dubal, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said that policymakers, labor leaders and academics around the world were closely following the legislation and may model their own gig worker laws on whatever California decides.

“It could have global implications,” Professor Dubal said, citing a recent conversation with an official at a large German union.

said they would jointly spend $60 million funding a ballot initiative to exempt their drivers from employment status if the Legislature doesn’t do so first. The delivery platform DoorDash later announced that it would kick in $30 million as well.

[Read more about how the fight over Uber and Lyft drivers’ rights split labor.]

Driver groups like Rideshare Drivers United are trying to make up with grit what they lack in financial heft. The group is scheduled to depart the Los Angeles area for Sacramento, nearly 400 miles to the north, next Tuesday around midnight. They hope to return by about 10 p.m. the following day.

Showers will most likely be scarce, as will a good night’s sleep. But the group is offering drivers at least one perk: Free parking near the Burbank airport while they trek north.

And there will also be the satisfaction of victory should their personal lobbying help push the measure across the finish line. “If it passes, we all call in sick,” Mr. Sandness said at the group’s weekly meeting Wednesday evening. “Because we’re employees, baby.”


(We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.)

  • After an outcry over the Trump administration’s abrupt move to end a policy allowing immigrants to stay in the country for lifesaving medical care, officials said they will reconsider the decision. [The New York Times]

  • The Federal Trade Commission voted to fine Google $150 million to $200 million to settle accusations that YouTube illegally collected information about children. It would be the biggest civil penalty ever gotten by the F.T.C. in a children’s privacy case. [The New York Times]

  • Harry Bridges was a celebrated San Francisco labor leader who helped organize dock workers in the city in the 1930s. He still doesn’t have a long-sought memorial statue at his namesake plaza. [The San Francisco Chronicle]

The New York Times]

  • House plant obsession may be ascribed to millennials, but the trend had its first go-round in the 1970s, when a Melrose Avenue plant shop handed out an early synth album that was supposed to help plants grow. [Los Angeles Magazine]


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    Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

    California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

    California Today correspondent, keeping tabs on the most important things happening in her home state every day. @jillcowan

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