Friday, April 1, 2022

Last Call For Unions From A to Z

Workers in Staten Island have become the first Amazon distribution warehouse to unionize, despite a massive labor suppression campaign by the wealthiest company on Earth.

Amazon workers at a fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, have voted to unionize, a first for Amazon, and a stunning win for a grassroots campaign led by former and current Amazon employees.

The historic vote was 2,654 for the union to 2,131 against.

Ballots were cast in person over five days starting last Friday. Roughly 8,000 workers were eligible to vote.

The workers, who pick and package items for customer orders at the facility will be represented by the Amazon Labor Union, an upstart group formed by Christian Smalls after he was fired from Amazon in March 2020. At the time a supervisor at the fulfillment center, he staged a walkout over the lack of worker protections against the coronavirus. Amazon says Smalls violated safety protocols by showing up after he'd been told to quarantine due to a COVID exposure.

Shortly after being fired, Smalls formed the Amazon Labor Union, relying on GoFundMe to finance the operation. The ALU is not affiliated with any national union, leading many to wonder early on whether it could even gather enough employee signatures to petition for a vote. Indeed, a first attempt failed, but Smalls persevered, eventually meeting the 30% threshold necessary to hold a vote.

Amazon mounted a robust anti-union campaign. Inside the warehouse, management hung "Vote No" banners and held mandatory meetings at which workers were urged to reject the ALU, which it referred to as a third party. The company has maintained that it prefers to work directly with its employees to make Amazon a great place to work.

Earlier this year, several union organizers, including Smalls, were arrested for trespassing as they delivered food and union materials to the Amazon parking lot.

Organizers have been calling for higher wages, longer breaks, paid sick leave and paid time off for injuries sustained on the job, among other demands. In Staten Island, Amazon wages start at $18.25 an hour, higher than many of its competitors. But Smalls has argued that in New York, that kind of wage is not high enough.

"Most of these workers do have a second job, or they still get government assistance," he told NPR last fall. "We need to raise the bar higher, especially when you're talking about one of the richest retailers in the world that can afford to do it."

In late April, workers at a second location on Staten Island, a sorting center across the street from the warehouse, will get their chance to vote on whether to join the ALU. Additionally, there are two other warehouses in the complex that Smalls says they are working to organize.

The Staten Island warehouse was only the second Amazon facility to hold a union election. The first, a mail ballot held last year at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, was invalidated by the National Labor Relations Board after it found that Amazon had improperly interfered in the election by having a mailbox installed in the facility's parking lot.

Votes in the do-over election were counted on Thursday, but the results were too close to call. 993 workers voted no, 875 voted yes, and more than 400 ballots were challenged by one side or the other. A hearing will be held in coming weeks to determine if any of the contested ballots will be opened and counted.

Turnout in the second Bessemer vote was 38.6%, down from last year's election when just over over half of Bessemer workers cast ballots, but the share of voters supporting the union grew. In the original election, workers rejected joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union by a more than 2-to-1 margin. Since then, the workforce has experienced large turnover, and organizers say door-knocking and other outreach was easier now that the pandemic has eased.

"This time around we were able to educate more about unions," said Amazon worker Jennifer Bates. "Last year, we weren't able to get as close to the employees to speak with them."


Two observations: One, Amazon warehouses are hell and these are exactly the workers being hurt the most by inflation and corporate greed. Good for them.

Two, they organized without the assistance or interference from national unions like the AFL-CIO or Teamsters. Considering how abysmal national unions have been in the last decade in actually improving worker conditions, the big national unions better ask themselves what they're doing wrong.

But I'm very happy to see this, and we need to have every Amazon warehouse with a union.

Meet Virginia


She doesn't own a dress, her hair is always a mess
If you catch her stealin', she won't confess
She's beautiful, she smokes a pack a day, wait that's me, but anyway
She doesn't care a thing about that, hey
She thinks I'm beautiful. 

Years before she became one of then-President Donald Trump’s most prominent coup supporters, Ginni Thomas was already notorious in his West Wing for, among other things, ruining staffers’ afternoons by working Trump into fits of vengeful rage.

“We all knew that within minutes after Ginni left her meeting with the president, he would start yelling about firing people for being disloyal,” said a former senior Trump administration official. “When Ginni Thomas showed up, you knew your day was wrecked.”

Ever since she became a welcome guest at Trump’s residences, Thomas—an influential and longtime conservative activist, and wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas—had perfected a proven formula of enthralling and manipulating the president’s emotions and mood. On multiple occasions throughout the Trump era, Thomas would show up in the White House, sometimes for a private meeting or a luncheon with the president. She often came armed with written memos of who she and her allies believed Trump should hire for plum jobs—and who she thought Trump should promptly purge—that she distributed to Trump and other high-ranking government officials.

The fire lists were particularly problematic, as they were frequently based on pure conjecture, rumor, or score-settling, where even steadfastly MAGA aides were targeted for being part of the “Deep State” or some other supposedly anti-Trump coalition, according to people who saw them during the Trump administration. The hire lists were so often filled with infamous bigots and conspiracy theorists, woefully under-qualified names, and obvious close friends of Thomas that several senior Trump aides would laugh at them—that is, until Trump would force his staff to put certain names through the official vetting process, three sources familiar with the matter said.

During the Trump years, these memos would astonish various administration officials, including those working in the White House Presidential Personnel Office (PPO). Some of these officials noticed that as the Trump term went on, the Thomas lists would increasingly feature a disproportionate share of names more suited to an OAN guest line-up than any functional government. (To be fair, well before Ginni Thomas became a recurring visitor, Trump would routinely hire people because they had entertained or excited him, via Fox and other cable-news appearances.)

Officials in the PPO regularly annotated the margins of Thomas’ hire lists, usually including a single line for each rejected name, explaining why the prospective hires did not work out. Some failed background checks, or suffered from security-clearance hold-ups. Other annotations noted that a specific individual was offered a job in the Trump administration, but turned it down for whatever reason. 
Sometimes, the reason for the White House’s preemptive rejection, despite Thomas and Trump’s best efforts, were more outlandish. According to a person who reviewed one of the Thomas lists, one annotation for a MAGA job candidate noted that that individual had made too many extreme or offensive jokes on social media that were still visible.

Another of these annotations claimed that one recommendation for a Trump administration position was, in fact, a suspected foreign-intelligence asset, or spy.

Thomas did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Over the years, some of the specific names that Thomas had compiled and pushed to Trump and his West Wing have trickled out into the press. Among them were Fox News personality Dan Bongino, and the Trump-adulating Sheriff David Clarke.

And according to two sources with knowledge of the matter, Thomas had, unsuccessfully, advised the then-president to hire Frank Gaffney.

Gaffney, a former Pentagon official in the Reagan administration, has spent the past two decades embracing some of the more absurd conspiracy theories circulating in the far right. He has accused conservative anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist of being a secret agent for the Muslim Brotherhood and believes that American adversaries are working on secret electrical device-frying “electromagnetic pulse” weapons to zap America back to the pre-industrial age.
To recap, the wife of a sitting Supreme Court Justice was making hiring and firing decisions for the Trump regime, bigots, screwballs, racists, and crackpots all.

But sure, there was no way this was an influence on her husband's cases, right?

Well she wants to be the Queen
Then she thinks about her scene
Pulls her hair back as she screams
I don't really wanna be the queen
Meet Virginia.

Jobapalooza, Con't

More good news on the economic front as America added more than 430,000 jobs in March.

Nonfarm payrolls expanded by 431,000 for the month, while the unemployment rate was 3.6%, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been looking for 490,000 on payrolls and 3.7% for the jobless level.

An alternative measure of unemployment, which includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons fell to a seasonally adjusted 6.9%, down 0.3 percentage points from the previous month.

The moves in the jobless rates came as the labor force participation rate increased one-tenth of a percentage point to 62.4%, to within 1 point of its pre-pandemic level in February 2020. The labor force grew by 418,000 workers and is now within 174,000 of the pre-pandemic state.

Average hourly earnings, a closely watched inflation metric, increased 0.4% on the month, in line with expectations. On a 12-month basis, pay increased nearly 5.6%, just above the estimate. The average work week, which figures into productivity, edged down by 0.1 hour to 34.6 hours.

“All in all, nothing shocking about this report. There was nothing that was really surprising,” said Simona Mocuta, chief economist at State Street Global Advisors. “Even if this report came in at zero, I would still say this is a very healthy labor market.”

As has been the case through much of the pandemic era, leisure and hospitality led job creation with a gain of 112,000.

Professional and business services contributed 102,000 to the total, while retail was up 49,000 and manufacturing added 38,000. Other sectors reporting gains included social assistance (25,000), construction (19,000) and financial activities (16,000).

The survey of households painted an even more optimistic picture, showing a total employment gain of 736,000. That brought the total employment level within 408,000 of where it stood pre-pandemic.

Revisions from prior months also were strong. January’s total rose 23,000 to 504,000, while February was revised up to 750,000 compared to the initial count of 678,000. For the first quarter, job growth totaled 1.685 million, an average of nearly 562,000.

Among individual groups, the Black unemployment rate fell 0.4 percentage points to 6.2%, while the rate for Asians declined to 2.8% and to 4.2% for Hispanics.
Again, we're looking at explosive job growth where Biden will have dug us out of the Trump Depression in under 18 months, but this is "the worst economy of your lifetime" according to the people that cost us 22 million jobs in 2020. 

And we're going to put those assholes back in charge, apparently. That's the cruel April Fool's joke.
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