Cenk Uygur of TYT summarizes what happened in the OH-11 race; it’s concurred to a certain extent by Jordan Chariton of Status Coup.
More news, tweets, etc in comments below. See you there!
More news and commentary below.Continue reading →
Hello Birdies, This is the Rachel Maddow show from last evening. It’s about 42 minutes, but she lays out the potential reverberations from the Dobbs ruling. https://youtu.be/jw8LDDfTY2c More news in the comments. This is also an open thread. See you there.Continue reading →
Cenk Uygur of TYT summarizes what happened in the OH-11 race; it’s concurred to a certain extent by Jordan Chariton of Status Coup.
More news, tweets, etc in comments below. See you there!
What started out as a lonesome, quixotic battle to unionize workers against online retail behemoth Amazon is getting a major boost from national progressive lawmakers.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallied around Amazon Labor Union members and warehouse workers on Staten Island as the union prepares for the start of a second vote on Monday at a distribution center known as LDJ5, where some 1,500 employees ready orders for delivery.
“What this struggle is about, it’s not just Amazon Staten Island. This is the struggle that is taking place all across this country. Working people are sick and tired of falling further and further behind while billionaires like [Amazon founder Jeff] Bezos becomes much richer,” Sanders told the crowd of more than 300 people gathered near the bus stop that’s become the nucleus for ALU’s drive.
The once-longshot organizers are hoping to replicate their success earlier this month when they pulled off a history-making upset at the JFK8 Amazon warehouse across the street from LDJ5, becoming the first Amazon union in the country.
After receiving minimal support from progressive stakeholders, who remained largely silent during the unionization drive, the prevailing theme for Amazon Labor Union’s leaders going forward is solidarity.
Calling the rally “Solidarity Sunday,” Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls told THE CITY that presenting a unified front is “very important” for boosting worker morale ahead of the vote.
“You have to have politician support. We have to have the community supporting us and today was a good example and a good start to that leading up to the election that takes place tomorrow. So we couldn’t have asked for anything better than to have Bernie and AOC show up today,” Smalls said, wearing a red, yellow and black bomber jacket embroidered with the words ‘Eat the Rich.’
The ALU’s demands remain the same at LDJ5: a $30 an hour minimum wage, better working conditions, including two paid 30-minute breaks and an hour-long paid lunch break, better medical leave, additional paid time off and eliminating productivity rates that require workers to pick a certain number of items per hour.
But organizing workers at LDJ5 comes with its own set of challenges, and Amazon has no plans on relenting against the union, having already filed objections to the first vote claiming that the National Labor Relations Board is giving the ALU preferential treatment.
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
‘Lies and Rumors’
Amazon has been shutting down the LDJ5 facility for an hour each shift to pull workers into so-called captive audience meetings staged by management to discuss the pitfalls of unionizing, said Maddie Wesley, an LDJ5 worker since August 2021 and the treasurer of the ALU.
The mood inside the distribution center has been “very intense” in recent weeks, Wesley recalled to THE CITY, as she was about to begin her Sunday afternoon shift.
“It’s a smaller facility, so we thought that would actually make it easier. But what’s made it difficult is that rumors spread quicker in a smaller facility, and so Amazon’s method of spreading lies and rumors has been somewhat effective because everyone kind of knows each other in the building,” Wesley said.
Among those rumors is that ALU leaders bought lavish cars with the money the union raised so far — almost $323,000 through GoFundMe, up from the roughly $100,000 they received prior to the first vote at JFK8.
Wesley said she’s heard rumors that she purchased a Mercedes Benz and that Smalls bought himself a Lamborghini.
“I got a little toy one from the dollar store,” Smalls joked.
Across the street at the JFK8 warehouse, management has been “grabbing people” and asking them to meet privately with Amazon lawyers and human resources to question them about whether they were coerced to vote in favor of unionization, said Pasquale Cioffi, a process assistant at JFK8 and supporter of the ALU who has been working for the company for two years.
“They’re putting pressure on the workers,” said Cioffi, who’s known as “Uncle Pat” among workers and the union. “They’re grabbing people, they’re taking them to the office and they want to know if they were somehow threatened.”
The unionization drive was sparked by Smalls’ termination in the spring of 2020 for allegedly breaking safety guidelines after organizing a protest over what workers alleged were inadequate COVID-protection measures.
In the months since, Smalls, his best friend Derrick Palmer, and other current and former Amazon workers have staked out a bus stop on the sprawling Staten Island campus, talking to workers about the benefits of joining a union as they go to-and-from their jobs.
The ALU’s unconventional tactics — like hosting barbecues and events outside of the facilities and deploying a robust social media presence on Instagram and TikTok — have so far proved successful against the multi-billion dollar online retailer.
In the days leading up to the Monday vote, The Rolling Library, a mutual aid group, partnered with the ALU to offer free books and COVID tests to workers. Meanwhile, members of the union stationed themselves outside of LDJ5, setting up a table outside one of the warehouse’s entrances to distribute union literature, snacks and barbeque fixings.
Within the distribution center, a 975,000 square foot facility opened in the fall of 2020, Amazon has ratcheted up its union-busting effort, deploying the same anti-union literature, posters and TV images it did at the warehouse across the street, workers said.
“It’s everywhere, all over the facility ‘please vote no,’ ‘please vote no,’” said Wesley.
According to Smalls, Amazon is “doubling down, tripling down on union busting.”
“It’s easier for them to isolate workers, so it’s a challenge. It’s definitely a challenge for organizing and they’re demonizing them and we have to withstand the onslaught of that as well. But I think the momentum is with the workers,” Smalls said.
The organizing effort secured a key win earlier this week when an administrative judge ordered that Amazon would have to reinstate and pay lost wages to Gerald Bryson, a JFK8 worker who helped lead the protest over working conditions at the warehouse. Bryson was fired by the company after staging another demonstration and getting into an argument with a coworker.
AOC: ‘NYC Is a Union Town’
The vote count for LDJ5 is slated to begin on May 2. In the meantime, the ALU is asking Amazon to recognize the union and begin negotiating a contract, which the ALU leadership considers the “real fight.”
“First and foremost, Jeff Bezos, Amazon, everybody, we got to recognize the fact that they did this thing and won a union election fair and square right here in New York City,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “And now what we need to do next is make sure we support them.”
“All of us as a city need to remember that New York City is a union town. Here in New York, you gotta treat our people right. If you can go to space, you can give our people a bathroom break,” she added, referring to Bezos’ “astronaut” tourism.
Propelled into the spotlight, Smalls has been a fixture on cable shows and late night TV in the weeks since the historic win — appearing on Tucker Carlson’s FOX News show and the Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
Media interest has also blossomed with dozens of cameras and reporters from major news outlets swarming to cover the ALU’s Sunday event, a far bigger crowd than at their press conference two weeks ago.
“We expected that after the win. We didn’t know it would be that rapid. This is about how we balance and stay grounded and stay true to what the ALU represents and don’t get distracted by the outside,” said Smalls.
“It’s been a whirlwind of things. I’m just trying to balance things as best as possible,” he said.
Brought em to the trenches today Solidarity Sunday today might have to become a Union Holiday the way we rallied today‼️ @amazonlabor @DerrickPalmer_ @BernieSanders @AOC #LDJ5 #VoteYes #ALUfortheWin x 2 ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/XaHrGqksew
— Christian Smalls (@Shut_downAmazon) April 25, 2022
(photo attribution: Josefa Velasquez)
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From an e-mail from the publisher of The Lever (formerly known as The Daily Poster)
Just a quick thanks to so many of you for your kind words about this weekend’s Academy Awards. While we didn’t win an Oscar, the entire experience was fantastic. As a journalist, my trip to Hollywood felt like being a stranger in a strange land — but it was worthwhile.
I had the opportunity to meet so many talented people, and not just meet them — but also talk to them about how we can continue building the movement for climate action. I also had the chance to use my five minutes of Hollywood notoriety to stand with hotel workers in their fight for their rights.
In all honesty, I never expected to be nominated for an Oscar much less win one, but after we were given the prestigious Writers Guild award for best original screenplay, I was told I had to write a short speech in the event lightning struck and we won (we didn’t). Here’s what I wrote down and had in my pocket:
I left this whole experience with two big takeaways — one that’s upsetting, and one that’s encouraging.
First, I believe Don’t Look Up has become more relevant than ever — and that’s terrifying.
The film was initially greeted by cheers from climate activists and scientists, who have felt ignored and marginalized amid a worsening crisis. That was great. But it was also met with derision from some critics who portrayed the movie as too over-the-top — even as our government makes the climate crisis worse while temperatures have been 70 degrees above normal in Antarctica.
This all crescendoed this weekend — the film’s message about distraction was reflected in how Oscar controversies generated so much more media attention and commentary than the collapse of a New York City-sized piece of the Antarctic ice shelf. (I actually missed the Will Smith shenanigans — I had stepped out for a quick drink at the bar with Adam McKay after we didn’t win).
As I left Los Angeles yesterday, I wished the world of Don’t Look Up was a fantastical fiction, but as Neil deGrasse Tyson said: “Everything I know about news-cycles, talk shows, social media, & politics tells me the film was instead a documentary.”
But there is good news: The incredible success of Don’t Look Up tells us that there is a pent-up audience demand for films, television shows, podcasts, and journalism projects that wrestle with the scariest and most discomfiting issues of the day.
Think about it: Our film became the second most watched movie on the world’s largest streaming platform, won the Writers Guild’s award, was nominated for four Oscars, and directly boosted the climate movement. Along the way, I had the chance to use a national television appearance to hammer corporate media for its financial ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Taken together, this film has been one of the most successful projects I’ve ever been involved in — and that success suggests that lots and lots of people are hungry for content that does more than merely distract, entertain, and titillate. There is an appetite for content that holds power accountable.
That’s what we do here at The Lever every day with all of our climate and political reporting — and we can only do it thanks to readers’ ongoing support. Reader subscriptions and gifts in our tip jar fund our work and make our news operation possible.
Thanks again for all the kind words about the film — my hope is that it helps kick off a new era of media content that finally takes the climate crisis seriously.
Rock the boat,
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“If we are going to make real progress on the urgent crises facing all of our communities, we need lawmakers who are committed to legislating boldly – that's Nina.” pic.twitter.com/HXRyVxSAZV
— Daniel Marans (@danielmarans) June 29, 2021
Before there was the Squad, or even the glimmer of a movement by insurgent progressives to challenge incumbent congressional Democrats, a progressive Black woman legislator in Cleveland contemplated what to many Democrats was unthinkable at the time: challenging a respected Black congresswoman from the left in a primary, in this case Representative Marcia Fudge of Ohio, in 2012.
In the end, Nina Turner didn’t run against Fudge, but even announcing she was considering it made her an outsider to establishment Democratic Party politics. In a way, she’d always been one. She had come up as a college professor, city council member, and state senator, always a Democrat. But one of her earliest moves was backing a 2009 ballot initiative to reorganize the Cuyahoga County government that many local Democrats strenuously opposed. It passed overwhelmingly.
Turner again made establishment enemies when she went from publicly supporting the Ready for Hillary super PAC—the unofficial stalking horse for the presidential candidacy of the former senator and secretary of state—to becoming a top surrogate for Senator Bernie Sanders in his 2016 primary campaign.
The Political Revolution Comes to… Buffalo?
Now Nina Turner may be poised to actually join the Squad. In her run to fill the seat vacated when Fudge became the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, the former Ohio legislator has the endorsement of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Cori Bush, four women of color who either defeated an incumbent or ascended after an incumbent stepped down. She’s also backed by Progressive Caucus chairs Pramila Jayapal and Katie Porter, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison—and, of course, Bernie Sanders.
One of 13 Democratic candidates in the race, Turner is leading in campaign funding—her campaign announced in mid-June that she had raised over $3 million—thanks largely to her ability to tap into Sanders’s movement. Her volunteer events often brim with die-hard supporters of the Vermont senator. At almost every gathering, Turner tells her audience that her focus is on “‘the least of these’—the poor, the working poor and barely middle class.” She’s running on Medicare for All, free college, a $15 minimum wage, criminal justice reform, and voting rights.
The key to this race, though, will be winning over her district’s many Biden supporters—the president won roughly 80 percent of the general-election vote here last year, as did Clinton four years earlier—without losing her admirers on the Sanders left. She’s already drawn fire from a leftist fringe for her perceived betrayals, most notably for defending members of the Squad who declined to “force the vote” on Medicare for All earlier this year. “For the love of God, do not throw away the Squad members!” she told a lefty podcaster. Meanwhile, her leading rival, Cuyahoga County councilwoman and Democratic Party chair Shontel Brown, is running on her ties to the president. A recent ad includes a photo of Brown with Biden and features a cable host telling Turner, “You’ve been highly critical of President-elect Joe Biden.” The ad closes with: “I’m Shontel Brown, and I’ll work with Joe Biden.” (By press time, Clinton had endorsed Brown.)
“Highly critical” of Biden might be an understatement. A July 2020 Atlantic feature on how Trump could win in November featured this colorful quote from Turner about how, despite Sanders’s endorsement, she still wasn’t keen on voting for Biden. “It’s like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still shit.”
Turner has praised Biden as president, especially his Covid response. But will those earlier attacks hurt her? “I think it hurt her in the beginning, but I think people have gotten past that,” says Turner backer Samara Knight. “People are hungry for change. Nina brings hope.” Knight, an executive vice president of SEIU 1199, is a Biden supporter and also backed Clinton in 2016. Her union endorsed Turner after interviewing both her and Brown. “She’ll fight for us,” Knight says.
Brown has recently floated tributes to Israel at the top of her campaign website, as she’s welcomed support from the PAC Democratic Majority for Israel, which spent $1.4 million on ads attacking Sanders in 2020. The group is attacking Turner now for past statements conditioning US support for Israel on justice for the Palestinians.
“I’m a Democrat,” Turner tells me flatly. She runs through her party bona fides: as a city council member and state senator representing the city of Cleveland; as a Barack Obama delegate, twice, to the Democratic National Convention; as the Democratic nominee for Ohio secretary of state in 2014; as the engagement chair of the Ohio party. No one can take that away from her just because she supported Sanders, she says. “Sometimes, challenge isn’t pretty.”
Democratic voters will decide in an August 3 primary. An internal poll released on June 1 showed Turner at 50 percent and Brown at 15 percent, trailing “undecided.” But observers say the race could tighten, given Brown’s access to outside money.
Not a lot of news as the Senate and Congress are on recess. But still plenty of things to discuss! Place your comments below.
1st annual Juneteenth holiday in the US. Of course, post office will be delivering mail, but next year, they will get a day off…along with the bankers.
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Shortly after a slate of insurgent progressives endorsed by the Las Vegas Democratic Socialists of America pulled off a clean sweep in Nevada State Democratic Party elections over the weekend, the party’s executive director notified newly elected chair Judith Whitmer that the entire staff, as well as every consultant, was quitting.
The “mass exodus” of party staffers following the progressive takeover of the Nevada Democratic Party leadership, as well as the establishment’s funneling of hundreds of thousands of dollars out of party coffers in anticipation of the results, is detailed in new reporting by The Intercept, which described the election outcome as the culmination of a years-long “battle between the insurgent progressive wing of the party and what’s known in Nevada as the Reid machine—a tightly run operation still guided by former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.”
That fight, The Intercept’s Akela Lacy and Ryan Grim explain, “began five years ago, when Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders organized support for his 2016 presidential primary run, while Reid was working behind the scenes to help his opponent, Hillary Clinton.”
“Over the next four years, outside organizations like DSA exploded in size and strength,” Lacy and Grim write. “The Sanders campaign focused on organizing tens of thousands of young Latino voters in the state, with the goal of activating people whom the party hadn’t bothered with before. And it worked: In the 2020 cycle, after investing heavily in Nevada, Sanders won a commanding victory in the Nevada caucuses. When the Sanders campaign ended, the organizers behind it were ready to take their project to the next level.”
The years of tireless grassroots organizing has paid off, as evidenced by former Sanders delegate Judith Whitmer’s win in the Nevada Democratic Party’s leadership elections on Saturday. Also emerging victorious were Jacob Allen for first vice chair, Dr. Zaffar Iqbal for second vice chair, Ahmad Adé for party secretary, and Howard Beckerman for treasurer, spurring what one local newspaper described as “a dramatic shakeup of the state party’s power structure.”
In a statement on Saturday, Sanders applauded Whitmer’s election at the hands of the state party’s governing members, saying the new party chair “knows that we must invest in year-round grassroots organizing focused on the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.”
“If we build a political movement that speaks to working people,” the Vermont senator added, “we will continue to build on our political success in Nevada.”
As the Las Vegas Review-Journal noted, “Whitmer has spent years organizing and encouraging young progressives to serve on the very state central committee that elected her. She was endorsed by the state party’s Left Caucus, which she founded, and the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America.”
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