In This Episode
- In defiance of Texas’ new abortion law, one doctor in the state claimed he performed an abortion. On Monday, two men, neither of whom are in Texas, filed the first lawsuits under the law against that doctor.
- More than 1,000 Nabisco employees across five states will begin to return to work following a weeks-long strike. It was the first strike at the company in something like 52 years.
- And in headlines: President Biden delivered his first address to the UN, the Biden administration continues to face backlash for its treatment of Haitian migrants on the southern border, and Instacart workers ask customers to delete the app.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, September 22nd. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, the podcast that is only a few weeks away from successfully burying all memories of the haunted phrase “horse de-wormer”.
Gideon Resnick: I will never think about deworming, I will never think about horses ever again. And that’s a sacrifice that I’m making for everybody else to not think about horses, because they’re nice.
Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, we recap President Biden’s first address to the U.N., plus, an educator in Oregon protests vaccine mandates using blackface, and the outcome is predictably terrible.
Gideon Resnick: Dear Lord. But first, let’s start by giving listeners a lay of the land on threats to reproductive rights in the US. So, so much has happened recently that could upend access to abortion across the country, and the legal landscape is going to be really important to watch and understand. So, Josie, let’s start off with some news about Texas’s new anti-abortion law.
Josie Duffy Rice: Sure, so here’s a quick reminder about the law. It basically gives any person the right to sue anyone who quote, “performs, induces, or aids and abets” an abortion once a, quote, “fetal heartbeat” in an embryo can be detected. That usually happens around six weeks of gestation. And in Texas, 80 to 90% of abortions are after the six week period. And if their lawsuit is successful, the defendant would have to pay the person who brought the lawsuit at least $10,000, though in theory, it could be way more than that. Millions maybe. This was basically a sneaky way of the Texas legislature getting around Roe v. Wade because the person actually getting the abortion can’t be sued, but a clinic receptionist could, or the Uber driver who takes a person to that clinic, or of course, the doctor who performs the abortion.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so to that point in Texas, one person, a doctor, is being sued under this new law, yeah?
Josie Duffy Rice: The Washington Post published a piece by a man, Dr. Alan Braid, who said he performed an abortion in Texas after the law was in effect. And on Monday, a man in Arkansas and another one in Illinois filed the first lawsuits under the new Texas law against Dr. Braid. Oscar Stilley is the Arkansas guy who filed suit, and he is, and I’m quoting him here, a “disbarred and disgraced” lawyer. He is currently on house arrest after being convicted of tax evasion and conspiracy, but he says he’s suing because he believes people should follow the rule of law. He also said that he is not pro-life and believes in a woman’s right to choose, but he wanted the $10,000.
Gideon Resnick: Go scratch lottery ticket or something instead, dude, like . . . And this part is something that really struck you as insane, right?
Josie Duffy Rice: Look, I went to law school, so Gideon and lots of you listening didn’t have to you, and I’m not going to bore you with the minutia of legal doctrine, but this law really contradicts one of the most fundamental parts of the American legal system, which is standing. It’s like something you learn about the third day of law school, right? It basically means that if you want to sue someone, you have to be able to prove they harmed you specifically. So if Gideon steals money from his brother—which he never would, would you Gideon?
Gideon Resnick: No, I can’t.
Josie Duffy Rice: No. Never. Or something. You know, I can’t come in and then sue Gideon. He didn’t hurt me. So this is really basic stuff. But Texas law throws that whole concept in the trash. It basically lets anyone sue—a random person or persons in Nowheresville, Montana or Maine or Missouri—can sue someone in Texas under this law.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and another concern about Texas law is that it could potentially be replicated elsewhere, and that is something that you have been especially watching for. So where do things stand right now?
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, it’s not good. In at least seven conservative states, legislators have expressed interest in passing legislation like Texas’s. And other laws that would restrict access to abortion have been passed and around 20 states this year already. Conservative legislatures are rushing to pass these laws despite the fact that Texas’s law actually isn’t popular with the public. A recent poll by Monmouth University found that 70% of Americans disapprove of private citizens suddenly having the power to enforce the law. And 62% of Americans actually believe that abortion should be either always legal or legal with some minor limitations.
Gideon Resnick: Unpopularity has not stopped Republicans before.
Josie Duffy Rice: No, really hasn’t.
Gideon Resnick: And looming over all of this is the Supreme Court, which is expected to take more action as it relates to abortion rights soon.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, unfortunately, Gideon, that’s right. So on Monday, the court announced that on December 1st, they will hear a case concerning Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act. This law outlaws almost all abortions after 15 weeks gestation and has no exceptions for rape or incest—just like the Texas law. The law explicitly violates Roe v. Wade, which typically gives women the right to an abortion up to 24 weeks. The fact that the Supreme Court has chosen to hear this case is frankly not great news. The court is now run by a bunch of anti-choice jurists, thanks to the three—count them—three Supreme Court justices appointed by Donald Trump. With only three liberals on the court, this means that two conservatives would have to go rogue and vote to uphold Roe v. Wade, which feels unlikely. But on Monday, the Justice Department urged the court to reaffirm Roe v. Wade and asked permission to present oral arguments when the hearing begins on December 1st. In short, it’s a devastating time for those who believe in bodily autonomy and a person’s right to choose. Very depressing. But let’s turn now to some news about unions. So this week, more than a thousand Nabisco employees across five states will begin to return to work following a weeks-long strike. It was the first strike at the company in something like 52 years. Gideon, you’ve been following all of this. So what were some of the big issues at play here?
Gideon Resnick: Yes. The strike actually kicked off in Portland in early August and then eventually spread to Colorado, Illinois, Georgia and Virginia as well. And members who were represented by the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, or BCTGM for brevity, said that they were being asked to make unfair concessions during their most recent contract negotiations. And so among the chief concerns was that the parent company, Mondelēz, was wanting to make some 8-hour shifts into 12-hour ones without overtime. The overtime pay would only be available by the 6th and 7th days if the hours had all been worked throughout the week. And adding insult to injury there were some Nabisco management teams working from home while the production line continued to come in. The workers also pushed to restore a pension plan, which had been replaced by 401K program in 2018. And new hires were also reportedly being asked to pay more in health insurance. And it’s not like Mondelēz was struggling. The company actually reported a gain in revenue during parts of this year compared to the last, amounting to billions in profits. It seems the pandemic has really turbo-charged snack sales and they were doing quite fine.
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, you know what they say when you have billions in profits, you should take more away from your workers. So how did all of this come to an end?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So the union BCTGM announced on Saturday that employees had overwhelmingly approved a new contract, the details of which came out in images that were posted by the news and advocacy outlet More Perfect Union. So workers are now set to receive raises of 2.25% in 2021 and 60 cents an hour for the next three years. All employees are set to get a $5,000 bonus, as well as a doubling of 401K matching contributions starting in 2022. And that proposed health care plan change is no more.
Josie Duffy Rice: Great, so what’s the reaction from workers themselves about this agreement? How do they feel?
Gideon Resnick: They seem to feel pretty good. The contract passed with something like 75% approval. And I spoke with Keith Bragg yesterday. He’s the president of BCTGM Local 358, and he’s worked at the Nabisco plant in Richmond, Virginia, for about 45 years. Today is actually going to be his first day back there with the strike over. And here is some of what he had to say:
[clip of Keith Bragg] The reason that we went on strike, we gained all of those things, and we actually got some other things that were a plus for us. So we’re very happy with the outcome. So right now, we have to see then how things go, but right now it seems to be an effort on both sides to go back to work and that things continue as normal.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, but Josie, not everybody was thrilled. Some workers in Portland had pushed back against the deal, saying that it still offered too many concessions to the company. For one thing, it allowed for the creation of weekend crews that would work three 12-hour shifts without eligibility for overtime in exchange for working fewer days a week.
Josie Duffy Rice: I see. So this strike also happened right around the same time as one among Frito-Lay employees, also represented by the TCTGM union. And that ended in a contract ratification, too. So how conscious were the Nabisco employees of all of this kind of happening at once?
Gideon Resnick: They seemed to really be quite plugged in. And Bragg described it as not only a matter of workers’ rights in the US, but across the globe. And he talked about an effort to build and maintain solidarity there.
[clip of Keith Bragg] We felt that what we were fighting for here in the United States is important, because it has an impact on what happens to these other unions. And we are now ready not only to celebrate our success, but to join in the fight with these other brothers and sisters in unions all over the United States. It’s not just about us, but for the benefits of the labor movement as a whole.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, more on this and other labor movement stories in the US soon. And one story that we are particularly watching, a potential strike among members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. That is the union that represents some tens of thousands of theatrical film and television employees who work behind the scenes. They’re asking studios for things like better rest periods and improved wages. If they strike, it would shut down TV and film productions nationwide. All due respect to Nicole Kidman, I don’t think that she could operate a camera on set. More on that soon, but that is the latest for now.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and today we’re doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created pretty much chaos in our world. In Oregon, a staff member at an elementary school near Portland mounted a small protest last Friday, which achieved the rare combined effect of being both incredibly problematic and utterly inscrutable: she showed up to work in blackface and dressed as Rosa Parks to communicate her opposition to, wait for it . . . a vaccine mandate—we all saw where that was going—for all public school employees in Oregon. Rosa Parks, as we know, helped spark the Montgomery bus boycott by refusing to give up her seat for a white man. If we’re being generous, we can find a connection in the way that this woman is refusing to give up her ability to develop severe COVID. Even more confusing somehow is the method the staffer chose to darken her skin, which was to use the chemical iodine. Surely this is one of the most dangerous options, besides direct application of car exhaust. The employee has been put on administrative leave and the school condemned her actions. But it seems the protests didn’t occur in isolation because just a couple of months ago, a county commissioner in the same area was censured for comparing vaccine passports to Jim Crow laws. It’s all very bad and a thought provoking representation of the anti-vax community. So for the elementary school staffer who did blackface to protest vaccine mandates, here’s The Solution:
Gideon Resnick: We need to turn off Facebook for a little while until we figure out exactly what is going on. Now, this reaction might seem extreme and of course, we don’t have any hard evidence to suggest that this woman uses Facebook or has let it overtake her critical faculties so her mind can no longer be distinguished from a post that is blocked by the CDC. But all signs point to Facebook’s influence. When we see someone questioned basic science, equate themselves with civil rights heroes, and do creative things with dangerous chemicals on their face, you can pretty safely say that Facebook is open on their computer and it’s displaying a group with 10,000 members called people who also do those three things I just mentioned almost every second of their lives. Now, my guess is by the time Facebook has been off for one week, the number of people checking into Oregon hospitals for iodine face burns and pathologically misguided acts of resistance will have dropped by 100%. If I am wrong, we can always try turning off random websites until something clicks. Wikipedia can be next, so I don’t stay up until 2:00 a.m. on the personal controversies section for Fred Rogers.
Josie Duffy Rice: That section better be no lines long. So that was The Solution. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: President Biden delivered his first address to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, and he largely focused his speech on the importance of global cooperation.
[clip of President Biden] Our own success is bound up in others succeeding as well. To deliver for our own people, must also engage deeply with the rest of the world. To ensure that our own future, we must work together with other partners, our partners, toward a shared future.
Gideon Resnick: The Biden administration is currently facing a number of global challenges, such as criticism for the way the US left Afghanistan, and increased tensions with France after leaving it out of a national security deal. However, Biden’s speech focused more on the United States leading on the world stage and working with other countries on issues like the pandemic and climate change, especially after the Trump administration embraced a, quote, “America first” style of foreign policy. Biden did not mention China by name, but he did speak about the challenges posed by Beijing, such as cyber attacks. Meanwhile, China’s President Xi Jinping told the U.N. that his country would stop building new coal-fired power plants abroad. China currently emits the largest share of greenhouse gases and is by far the biggest producer of coal in the world. Some environmental activists welcomed the announcement as a major step to address climate change.
Josie Duffy Rice: The Biden administration is continuing to face backlash for its treatment of Haitian migrants on the southern border. Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and civil rights leaders like Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, have criticized the administration for continuing to use a Trump-era immigration rule to expel migrants without offering them the chance to seek asylum. Many also criticized the recent images of Border Patrol agents appearing to use whip-like reins to threaten migrants camped along the border. The Homeland Security Department announced yesterday that it will be launching an investigation into those pictures and videos, to see if there were any unacceptable responses by law enforcement in those instances. And if you saw the videos or pictures, you know, there’s really no question about it.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, not a lot of context needed. Instacart workers put out a message for the company’s customers earlier this week asking them to delete the app. The Gig Workers Collective, a San Francisco-based nonprofit representing around 13,000 Instacart shoppers, launched its hashtag Delete Instacart campaign on Monday. The workers are asking customers to stand in solidarity with them as they ask the company to fulfill five of their demands, which include paying them by orders rather than batches, reintroducing item-based commissions, ensuring that the rating system does not punish workers for things that are out of their control, and providing occupational death benefits while workers continue to put themselves at risk during the pandemic. The Gig Worker Collective says it has been seeing shoppers’ pay declines since the start of the pandemic, which is also when Instacart brought on hundreds of thousands of new contractors due to the demand. So for now, we recommend using the old fashioned way to get groceries while you’re on your couch, AKA asking extremely inconvenient favors of your one friend with a Costco membership.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, and if you’re that friend, you have to do this one for freedom. Roald Dahl may achieve his dying wish of being owned by a major media company. Bloomberg is reporting that Netflix is close to purchasing the author’s entire catalog, which has sold more than 200 million copies worldwide. Netflix already made a licensing deal in 2018 to adapt many of the author’s works into animation. Projects that have been announced include to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory series helmed by Taika Waititi plus two adaptations of Matilda and one of The BFG. The newly reported deal is far bigger and is unusual for Netflix, since the company doesn’t often make acquisitions. If this all goes as planned, we’ll be exploring the imaginative worlds of Mr. Dahl with the Stranger Things kids for many years to come.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, those kids will be good so long as they stay away from the personal controversies page that Roald Dahl has on Wikipedia. I’ll just say that.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Spoiler alert. He was pretty anti-Semitic. Not ideal, not ideal.
Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines. OK, one more thing before we go: this week on X-Ray Vision, Cody Ziglar and Alicia Lutes join host Jason Concepcion to explore the new anime series Star Wars: Visions, and answer the question, with so many great Star Wars TV shows, do we still need more movies? Provocative, my friends. New episodes every Wednesday. You can follow X-Ray Vision on Apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, turn off Facebook, and tell your friends listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you are into reading, and not just texts that say, yeah, I have to go to Costco this week anyway, like I am, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And don’t eat this stuff in the chocolate factory, Stranger Things kids.
Gideon Resnick: You’ll get stuck in a tube and some alien will come for you and you know . . .
Josie Duffy Rice: Honestly why with a stranger things kids listen to us? They’re way richer.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded in mixed by Charlotte Landes. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and Me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.