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Benny

How Trump Is Helping Tycoons Exploit the Pandemic

Since osha’s inception, in 1970, the agency has enforced federal law that makes it illegal to subject employees to “recognized hazards.” But during the pandemic the Times editorial board has been prompted to ask, “Why is osha awol?” Democrats pushed for the agency to issue an emergency rule forcing businesses to comply with the Centers for Disease Control’s health guidelines for covid-19, but the Labor Department refused.

Instead, on April 28th, forty-eight hours after Tyson Foods, the world’s second-largest meat company, ran a full-page ad in several newspapers warning that “the food supply chain is breaking,” Trump issued an executive order defining slaughterhouse workers as essential. The White House had appointed Cameron to an advisory board on the pandemic’s economic impact. The executive order commanded meat-processing facilities to “continue operations uninterrupted to the extent possible.” The Labor Department released an accompanying statement that all but indemnified companies for exposing workers to covid-19. It assured employers in essential industries that the agency wouldn’t hold them responsible if they failed to follow the C.D.C.’s health guidelines, as long as they made a “good faith” effort.

Meat and poultry workers had to keep working and risk infection—or lose their jobs. By July 7th, osha had received more than six thousand coronavirus-related workplace complaints but had issued only one citation, to a nursing home in Georgia. David Michaels, a professor of public health at George Washington University, who headed osha during the Obama Administration, told me that the agency was “saying that the Labor Department would side with the employers if workers sued,” and added, “That would be unthinkable in any other Administration. osha’s job isn’t to protect corporations—it’s to protect workers!”

The prospect of food shortages understandably caused concern in the White House. Yet reports show that in April, as Tyson and other producers were warning that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear” from American stores if they had to shut down, exports of pork to China broke records—and Mountaire’s chicken exports were 3.4 per cent higher than they were a year earlier. The next month, the company’s exports were 10.9 per cent lower than in 2019, but its exports to China and Hong Kong grew by 23.1 per cent in April and by fourteen per cent in May, according to statistics provided by Christopher Rogers, an analyst with Panjiva, which tracks the food-supply chain. Tony Corbo, a lobbyist for Food and Water Watch, a progressive nonprofit advocacy group, said, “They were crying about shortages, and yet we’re still exporting meat. The shortage was phony.”

Meanwhile, coronavirus cases exploded in the meat-and-poultry industry. Initially, Mountaire released statistics about employee infections. At the end of March, the company told the union that there had been forty-one cases in Selbyville. However, Hill’s shop steward, Manuel Rosales, told him not to trust this number. “Half the plant isn’t there,” he explained, either because the workers were sick or because they feared becoming so. A month later, a television station in North Carolina reported that a Mountaire plant, in Siler City, which employs some sixteen hundred workers, had at least seventy-four positive cases among workers and their families. After that, the company stopped sharing its covid-19 numbers. Mountaire became so secretive, Hill said, that workers “were seeing people disappear, and they didn’t know what the hell was going on.” In many cases, a “co-worker had tested positive, but the company wouldn’t tell anyone.” Rosales, who works in the deboning department at the Selbyville plant, told me, “People are coughing and they don’t look well, but they just want to keep the chicken coming. It’s all hush-hush.”

Cathy Bassett, the communications director for Mountaire Farms of Delaware, confirmed, “We’re not releasing any numbers,” adding, “I don’t even know those numbers. We’ve told our workers that if you’ve been exposed we’ll notify you.” According to Hill, the company argued to the union that it was protecting employee privacy. “They were hiding behind it,” Hill told me. “We weren’t asking for private health information—we were just trying to report the numbers.”

Corbo said that, after “the President said these plants had to stay open,” the meat and poultry companies “clammed up.” Trump’s executive order was interpreted as superseding state and local health departments. In a private conversation with the union, Delaware’s governor, John Carney, a Democrat, admitted that he had wanted universal testing in the plants, and had considered ordering them shut, but felt “handcuffed” by Trump’s order. The result has been an extraordinary blackout of public-health information. “I can look online and find the number of covid-19 cases in nursing homes,” Corbo said. “But not in the poultry industry. If you walk into a poultry plant, you don’t know whether the person next to you has got it. It’s unconscionable.”

The union also maintains that Mountaire charged employees for the protective equipment necessary for them to work safely. The company denies this: Bassett told me that Mountaire has distributed cloth masks to workers, although not N95 masks, and, “where possible,” has erected Plexiglas shields between employees, along with instituting daily body-temperature checks. But Williams, the union spokesperson, sent me a screenshot of a Mountaire paycheck stub that shows deductions for “plant supplies.” Williams said that the supplies in question were “gloves and aprons and such,” adding that deductions like these were illegal. At the rally, Hill protested that, if Mountaire’s owner could afford to give “two or three million dollars—or whatever it was he gave—to Trump, they shouldn’t be stealing money from workers’ paychecks.” Noting that Cameron is “Trump’s buddy,” Hill added, “I guess they feel like they can do whatever they want.”

The union’s struggles with the Labor Department are part of a much larger reversal of federal protections for workers, consumers, and the environment under Trump. In 2016, the President promised to “dismantle the regulatory state,” as Stephen Bannon, his former White House strategist, often put it. Given the complexities of federal rulemaking, this proved somewhat difficult in the first three years of the Administration. But the pandemic has offered Trump an opportunity: now that he can invoke an economic emergency, he can relax, rescind, or suspend federal regulations by fiat. In May and June, Trump issued a pair of executive orders directing national agencies to ignore federal regulations and environmental laws if they burdened the economy—again, in many instances, the companies were told that they just had to act “in good faith.” As the Times and the Washington Post have reported, these moves have weakened regulations on all kinds of businesses, from trucking companies to oil and gas pipelines. In Corbo’s view, many in the media have missed one of the biggest aspects of the covid-19 story. “Everyone is looking at the shiny object—the pandemic,” he said. “Meanwhile, the government is deregulating everything. It’s unreal.”

Benny

More from that Jane Mayer article:

A few miles away, at the Oasis truck stop, I met with an employee from the Selbyville plant. A feisty mother with three kids still at home, she explained, with a laugh, that she had put on her “Tina Turner wig” for the occasion.

She had worked in Mountaire’s chicken plant, off and on, for years, after attending a local high school. Although she and her co-workers had felt frightened as more and more colleagues disappeared after contracting covid-19, she was grateful to the pandemic for one thing. “I’ve wanted to speak out for so long—I thank God that this pandemic happened, so that my voice can be heard,” she told me. “It’s terrible in there. I want these people exposed.”

She asked to speak anonymously, because she feared retribution both from Mountaire and from local racists, who, she said, seemed more aggressive recently toward African-Americans like her; when out shopping, she had noticed more Confederate-flag paraphernalia on public display. But she was eager to describe working conditions so exploitative that, as she put it, “it’s slavery, baby.”

Typically, her shift begins at 8:18 a.m. and lasts until 4:54 p.m. Since her youngest child is still a toddler, she works less than full time. As a result, she has lost her seniority, and gets only one week of vacation a year; workers don’t get two weeks until they’ve been employed for four full years. “You know what they give us for Christmas?” she said. “You think I ever got a bonus since working there? They give us two whole chickens and a bag of potatoes. Every year, that’s all we get.” She was paid about thirteen dollars an hour until the pandemic hit. Mountaire then instituted a hazard-pay raise of a dollar an hour, but in June the raise was cancelled. Even local convenience stores, she noted, gave workers a three-dollar-an-hour raise. “And then Mountaire took it back!” she said, shaking her head. “Why are they giving us a one-dollar raise and giving two million dollars to Donald Trump? What are we, animals?”

She works in the refrigerated side of the plant, handling eviscerated carcasses. The temperature, she said, is so cold that “it’s unbearable.” Although she is under fifty, she said that she already has arthritis. “Listen, girl,” she said. “My body hurts from that place. My hands. The cold air. Imagine you got to put your hands on that cold meat. I mean, sometimes it’s so cold I have to go home.”

She and other workers complained that, even before the coronavirus struck, their respiratory systems had suffered from inhaling harsh antimicrobial chemicals, such as peracetic acid, that are used to protect chicken from contamination. When she walks through some parts of the plant, “I hold my breath,” she told me.

When the pandemic hit, she said, “a lot of people died.” She wasn’t sure how many fatalities there had been, because her bosses were “not talking about it.” One co-worker she considered a friend—an elderly man named Hyung Lee, who was known as Pop Pop—disappeared. “Everything was hush-hush,” she said. “It was just ‘Go in there and do your work.’ ” Eventually, Lee’s son called to say that eventually, Lee’s son called to say that Lee had died from pneumonia brought on by covid-19, and that Lee’s wife was now “fighting for her life.”

The employee said of Lee, “God, it took him out. I’m hurt. I cried my ass off.” But management was silent. “You think the owner cares about people dying in that hell?” she said. “No! You think they posted one picture of a person who died, in memory of somebody? Nothing. Not one picture.” A co-worker confirmed this account and added, “They didn’t even take up a collection for the family.”

Soon afterward, the employee said, she warned her supervisor that another friend at the plant, an émigré from Guatemala, seemed sick. The supervisor sent the woman to see the company nurse. The employee told me, “The nurse sent her right back on the God-damned line to work. The nurses aren’t worth shit in there.”

The Guatemalan woman eventually stopped showing up for work. One day, one of her four sons called and said that his mother was sick with covid-19 and was on a ventilator. “That woman worked right by me!” the employee told me. “I prayed for her.” The Guatemalan woman recovered, but vowed not to return to Mountaire. The employee told me, “It’s an evil company.”

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sound up

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can’t help myself today

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“There’s an acknowledged need for some kind of entity that’s more than four people but less than however many people who are in the Progressive Caucus,” said Berger. “That there are now more members certainly makes it a lot more possible.”

Squad members, like Ocasio-Cortez, say they’ve been preparing for that very moment, setting small benchmarks in bills over the last year that would set a higher floor for 2021, if and when reinforcements arrive. “I have been very quietly breaking up parts of the Green New Deal and putting them in legislation,” Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that she fought, successfully, to include in the last COVID relief package expanded benefits for undocumented immigrants working essential jobs, in order to establish a policy high-watermark for the future.

“We have been very quietly but very steadily pushing precedent into these packages that are perhaps a little bit more than some of the caucus wants, but we’ve been getting wins in these packages that I think are very easily overlooked in the day to day news cycle,” she said. “That will make it very difficult, should we—knock on wood—take the Senate and take the White House, that they will not necessarily be able to move back.”

https://www.thedailybeast.com/aoc-is-bringing-in-a-slew-of-new-recruits-to-the-squad?ref=home

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Benny

Why Joe Biden is Eyeing Karen Bass for Running Mate

Now, much to Bass’s—and pretty much everyone else’s—surprise, Biden’s team is taking her seriously as a potential vice-presidential running mate. One theory is that she’s being vetted to help Biden win favor with the Congressional Black Caucus, which she chairs. Another is that Biden is trying to use the process to elevate as many black women as he can. Yet another is that he’s looking to distract people from speculating about some of the more likely choices. But inside the Biden campaign is another consideration: Over the next month, he’s effectively going to decide whether there will be a competitive Democratic primary in 2024 (or maybe 2028, if he wins and tries to serve until he’s 86 years old). He’s the leader of the party now. Will he decide its future by anointing a successor, or pick someone, like Bass, who’s less likely to run for president?

Biden has wanted to be president for almost 40 years. Now that the White House finally seems within reach, he does not want to be outshone, according to people who know him. He wants to win, but he wants the win to be about him, not his running mate.

I asked Bass whether she’d see the vice presidency as the culmination of her career or a stepping-stone to the presidency. She started with a long answer about wanting to focus on the work in front of her, and mentor the younger political generation, which has inspired her. “The vice president has considered himself like a transitional leader. That’s how I view it, because I envision a next stage of my life, whenever that comes,” she said.

I stopped her: If there were an open race for the presidency in 2024 or 2028 and she was Vice President Bass, would she run?

“I cannot envision that. That’s the best I can say. I mean, I’m 66. I can’t see that,” she said.

“Joe Biden is going to be 78,” I pointed out.

She paused. “Well. I don’t know how much time I have.”

When Barack Obama picked Biden as his running mate in 2008, Biden was also 66. Obama told Biden to think of the job like “the capstone of your career,” and the assumption that Biden wouldn’t be angling to run for president himself was part of the rationale for putting him on the ticket.

Bass came up as a community organizer in Los Angeles and worked as a physician assistant in emergency rooms during the AIDS crisis. She was at the infamous intersection of Florence and Normandie as the sun set in 1992 during the LA riots, and almost got hit by bricks. For the past month, she’s been shepherding a policing-reform bill through the House without losing a single progressive or moderate vote.

She “was not high on the list that the team had initially proposed,” a donor who’s spoken with Biden about the deliberations told me. But she seems to have moved up as the vetting committee has looked at her record and considered her upsides against the little obvious baggage she’d have. In this case, being largely unknown nationally means that she wouldn’t start out as polarizing. “He wants what he did for Obama,” the donor told me. “He sees that as what that job is: You speak truth to power; you step out there on the edge when it’s an existential issue. He sees her and her record as proven and time-tested—though she’s not known among large voter blocs, and not lifted up with a strong media presence.”

The donor is right about Bass’s distinctive appeal: Probably no other person alive would be the subject of a column by the conservative columnist George Will calling for Biden to pick her as “transitional leadership to get the world’s oldest party, and the world’s oldest democracy, to calmer days,” and also be described to me by Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota as not only “a colleague, but a dear friend.”

At the end of may, Bass flew to Houston to attend George Floyd’s funeral. She looked at the picture of him with the dates of his life underneath, and realized that the year Floyd was born, 1973, was when she’d first become active in her L.A. neighborhood, pushing for police reform. Now Floyd was dead, and she was in charge of a bill he inspired. She felt humbled. “And then, of course, it saddens you in the sense that, 47 years later, people discover, ‘Gee, there’s a problem.’”

Bass was from the south side. Antonio Villaraigosa, the future mayor of Los Angeles, was from the east side. She was organizing around police abuse. He was organizing around immigrant rights. “We were calling ourselves ‘progressive’ when nobody did,” Villaraigosa told me last week. He said they realized early on that they’d be able to do more by fusing a Black-brown coalition, and they showed up for each other’s issues, and for collaborative fights, such as pushing back on the proliferation of liquor stores. They became friends. “We had each other’s phone number,” Villaraigosa said. They still do. “She was someone who, back then, I took notice of because she was a worker bee. She didn’t need to be in front of a camera all the time,” he told me, which sounds like a line, but reflects a career in which Bass spent 30 years launching, then deliberately moving on from, a series of community organizations. She still doesn’t like having her picture taken, and thinks it’s silly. “If it’s meaningful to somebody, then I’m okay with it. But it ain’t my favorite thing.”

This would not seem to be the best mindset for a political career in the 21st century—and certainly not, if she’s picked, for a national campaign that will play out largely via socially distant camera shots. And Biden has privately expressed concerns about whether, given how underexposed Bass has been, she would be able to take or deliver a hit without stumbling under the pressure. Biden is risk-averse, and Bass does not have the cross-examiner’s mentality of Harris, or the economic incisiveness of Elizabeth Warren, or the Situation Room experience of Susan Rice, or the Purple Heart heroism of Tammy Duckworth. She still takes the approach she did organizing on the sidewalks in the ’70s, as displayed in her response to the massively disproportionate coronavirus rates among Black Americans. Treat and trace now, she argued, and grapple with systemic inequities when the hospital rooms aren’t full of dying Black patients. “I always say, ‘If the house is on fire, you send the fire department; you don’t send a structural engineer to talk about the foundation of the house,’ which is what everybody was doing,” Bass told me. “Everybody was talking about ‘Well, Black folks have all these underlying conditions.’ Well, that’s true. But right now, we’ve got to put the fire out.”

humphrey

orlbucfan

The more I read about Byedone, the more I know I ain’t voting for him!

phatkhat
phatkhat

Well, Bass sounds a lot more palatable than the others they are considering. Val is all COP, and is strictly law’n’order. She wouldn’t fix the police at all. Kamala is … phony. Warren’s a snake and an opportunist. Duckworth is a warmongering neoliberal whose latest sop to Biden is co-sponsoring a bill (with a Republican) to incentivize public water companies to sell out to Big Water companies. Fuck Duckworth.

I want Tammy Baldwin or Barbara Lee, at the least. Bernie or Nina would be better, but none of those will happen.

polarbear4
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rather have warren than bass personally. maybe not. warren would feel more pressure to respond to her type of progressive, and a lot of those do you want Medicare for all and the green new deal

Benny

In New Ad, Ani-Monopoly Group Hits Richard Neal Over Ties to Blackstone, Corporate Welfare

Trump’s 2017 tax bill reduced the top corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent. Democrats campaigned on rolling back the cuts, but when Neal, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, introduced legislation last summer expanding tax cuts for low-income families, it didn’t touch the corporate tax rate.

Individuals from Blackstone have given $48,600 to Neal’s campaign this cycle, making the company his top contributor so far, out of a total haul of more than $3 million. Individuals from the group started giving to Neal in large amounts in 2019, HuffPost reported.

Released by Fight Corporate Monopolies, a political nonprofit founded by the anti-monopoly American Economic Liberties Project, the ad is the second this month going after Neal for his ties to Blackstone. In the first ad, the group criticized him for “protecting Blackstone’s profits” by helping to kill a bill to stop surprise medical billing last year. Neal’s campaign told HuffPost that he introduced his own bill on the issue and that the original bill would have hurt hospitals in his district. The group announced that it would spend a total of $300,000 on TV ads targeting Neal in his district. They spent $150,000 on the first ad buy, which will run for another week, and are putting another $150,000 into the second ad buy, starting Monday.

Former Bernie Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir is consulting for the group, which has so far only spent money on ads about Neal. Shakir said the group intends to focus on other races, such as those for attorney general, state legislative office, and other down-ballot seats, in primaries and in November general elections. (Shakir is married to Sarah Miller, the executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project.)

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit group, Fight Corporate Monopolies is not required to disclose its donors. Shakir declined to share who its donors are, stating that they have asked to remain anonymous but that a number of progressive foundations have contributed funds.

Morgan Harper, a Justice Democrats-backed candidate who unsuccessfully challenged Ohio Democratic Rep. Joyce Beatty in April, is a senior adviser to the group.

“President Trump’s tax cuts did little for Richie Neal’s constituents, but they mean everything to the corporations backing his campaign,” Harper said in a statement. “Neal’s habit of putting corporate profits above people’s needs will only continue if he isn’t held accountable.”

In a statement, Neal’s campaign defended his work on the tax bill and went after Fight Corporate Monopolies, as well as Alex Morse, Neal’s primary challenger. “Fight Corporate Monopolies is a dark money shill for Alex Morse’s campaign, which we know because they have only targeted Richie and never let the truth get in the way of an attack ad,” spokesperson Kate Norton said in a statement. “The Economic Mobility Act is the most significant pro-work, poverty-reducing tax bill in at least a decade, period. This is the latest attempt to distract from Alex Morse’s failed record managing Holyoke.”

Alex Morse, mayor of Holyoke, Massachusetts, who is also backed by Justice Democrats, as well as Indivisible and the Sunrise Movement, is running to unseat Neal in the September 1 primary. His campaign has raised $518,880 so far and is highlighting Neal’s refusal to support Medicare for All or a Green New Deal. Morse has also gone after Neal for dragging his feet on trying to force Trump to release his tax returns, an issue that has drawn criticism from constituents as well. (The Supreme Court sent the issue back down to lower courts earlier this month.) Morse, who is rejecting corporate political action committee money, is also highlighting Neal’s corporate donors.

Neal is one of a number of powerful Democrats with strong ties to corporate interests and accepted the most corporate campaign money last year, Sludge reported. He has also been one of the Democratic caucus’s most stalwart opponents of Medicare for All. After a historic Rules Committee hearing last April on single-payer legislation, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Pramila Jayapal secured a second hearing on the measure last June in front of the more powerful Ways and Means Committee. Ahead of that hearing, Neal urged his colleagues to avoid using the phrase “Medicare for All,” The Intercept reported.

I guess Matt Stoller is connected to this group somehow?

Faiz’s numbers just went up in my book.

polarbear4
polarbear4

hope he works every day of his life to make up for what he contributed to Bernie’s dropping out.

orlbucfan

Who or what is the American Economic Liberties Project?

Benny

We Can Want to Stop Trump and Still Require Biden to Earn Our Votes

Lest you believe I am being unfair, I want to remind you that previous calls for Biden to heed the demands of Black voters have been, thus far, dismissed. On May 14, seven notable Black women graciously reminded Biden of the debt he and the Democratic party owe to Black voters, and Black women voters, in particular. After all, it was a landslide victory in South Carolina among Black voters that propelled him forward. Not even a week later, Biden had arguably the greatest (worst) faux pas of the campaign. In response to a line of questioning about his record and his platform for Black people, a frustrated (and all too comfortable) Biden retorted, “If you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t Black.”

Black advocates and journalists were met with derision when they dared to demand something in return for their loyal vote. The callousness and disregard displayed by Biden is representative of the cycle of political violence that is thrust upon Black people in America. Only now, there is a desperate attempt by the Democratic party and the left generally to salvage the appearance of a functioning democracy. Because of the violence enabled by this political system, the action of not voting allows one to deny their participation in a system that not only does not benefit them but in some cases actively harms them. James Baldwin was right. In those times, our indifference to this political structure is in direct relation to its investment in our well-being and our collective future. To be clear, this is not the righteous indignation of many disenchanted Bernie Sanders supporters because, at the end of the day, the system still works for them.

The democracy we believe in is one that, in fact, this country has never experienced. We must remember that the American political system has its origins in the negotiation of Black humanity. It was not designed to support governance that prioritizes—in any way—our collective self-interest. To the contrary, Black people are historically used to advance the interests of others—interests which in many cases undermine our own. Our Black Party is established to be an independent political voice for the interests of Black people. We are committed to building Black political power and fiercely advocating for radical change that dramatically improves the quality of life for Black people in America.

For us, demanding the presumptive nominee to do the real work of earning our votes is a last-ditch effort to prove that there is still value to saving this democracy as we have envisioned it. I believe it is possible. We are mobilizing to power the Black agenda by bringing the voices of the activists in the streets to the halls of power where they belong. When combined, this makes for a powerful machine that could catapult any electoral hopeful to victory at the highest office.

Our vote and that support, though, must be earned. Unless and until it is, like Chauvin, Biden will continue to keep his hands in his pocket.

Candace Hollingsworth is the mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, where she is the youngest and first African American mayor in the city’s 134-year history.

orlbucfan

AAs aren’t the only ones beefing. How about the rest of the Rainbow Coalition (per Jesse Jackson) who want M4A, and climate change fixes?

phatkhat
phatkhat

And I hope that the working class black people realize that a large portion of the CBC are wealthy neoliberals that couldn’t care less about the working class of ANY color.