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Coming up on Connections: Monday, September 6


First hour: "The Uncertain Hour"

Second hour: "Sacred Ground: A September 11th Special from NPR"We bring you special programming on this Labor Day. 

In our first hour, Jerry Vasquez always dreamed of working for himself. So when he saw a notice in the PennySaver advertising janitorial franchises, he decided to go all in. He bought a franchise janitorial business with a company called Jan-Pro. Things started out alright. His clients liked him. They’d leave him notes, some with smiley faces drawn in. But, he says, he soon realized he was earning less than minimum wage doing a really dirty job. He could barely get by on the rates negotiated by Jan-Pro. He was in debt to the company and he started feeling like had little control over a business that he owned. Jerry had wanted his own business — and on paper, he did — but it felt like something entirely different. As Jerry would soon find out, some of Jan-Pro’s other franchisees felt similarly — they were stuck. So Jerry decided it was time to fight back. He and some of his fellow Jan-Pro franchisees sued the company, saying they’d been misclassified as independent contractors when they should have been employees (entitled to minimum wage, over time, and other protections). But the argument over what defines an employee has a long and strange legal history. We'll dive in and explore the origins of the federal minimum wage, why lawmakers wrote the law as broadly as they did, whom it applied to and whom it excluded. And we’ll tell you about this odd but powerful phrase, “to suffer or permit to work,” that’s at the heart of lawsuits like Jerry’s.

Then in our second hour, on September 11, 2001, Tim Lambert was a young journalist at WITF in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The day was a blur of news, the collapse of the twin towers, the burning side of the Pentagon and closer to home, the charred pit near Shanksville, where a fourth hijacked plane had gone down. It caught Tim’s attention for a brief instant. He owned land near Shanksville, passed down to him from his grandfather. That night, when Tim finally dragged himself home, he saw a blinking message on his answering machine. It was his dad-telling him he was sure United Airlines Flight 93 had crashed on Tim’s land. And he was right. That phone call began a 20-year journey for Tim. He'd find himself involved in the recovery efforts in Shanksville. He'd find himself growing closer and closer to the family members of the people on the plane. He'd find himself a caretaker of the land until a fitting memorial could be built. And because he was a journalist, he'd find himself with a vantage point into 9/11 that no other reporter in America had.  

Evan Dawson is the host of "Connections with Evan Dawson." He joined WXXI in January 2014 after working at 13WHAM-TV, where he served as morning news anchor. He was hired as a reporter for 13WHAM-TV in 2003 before being promoted to anchor in 2007.
Megan Mack is the executive producer of "Connections with Evan Dawson" and live/televised engagement programming.