In This Episode
- President Biden held bipartisan meetings yesterday to find some middle ground for his massive infrastructure bill. On the left, AOC and Bernie Sanders introduced their own version of the bill with a larger commitment to public housing. But passing any infrastructure bill will likely require budget reconciliation as long as the filibuster remains in place.
- The union that sought to represent Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, formally filed objections last Friday to the results of the election there. Workers voted overwhelmingly not to unionize, but the union says that result should be thrown out because Amazon illegally interfered in the process. We discuss their argument.
- And in headlines: attorneys deliver closing arguments in the trial of Derek Chauvin, India experiences an explosive surge of COVID-19 cases, and President Biden will consider making cigarettes less addictive.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, April 20th. I’m Akilah Hughes
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we are celebrating 4-20 by releasing a daily news podcast.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. We are just blazing through these headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we are doing this with a joint effort from the two of us, and we hope you enjoy it.
Akilah Hughes: On today’s show, a legal challenge in the Amazon Union vote, and then some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: But first, the latest:
[clip of Sec. Pete Buttigieg] Ports, airports, rail, transit, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure. [laughs]
Gideon Resnick: OK, that was Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talking about everyone’s favorite subject lately: infrastructure. That’s because President Biden held bipartisan meetings yesterday to get some kind of agreed-to middle ground for his massive infrastructure bill. So Akilah, what is going on with it?
Akilah Hughes: Yes, Joe Biden held his second meeting with members of both parties regarding the two trillion dollar bill that he’s proposed to drastically improve our raggedy country. He says he’s willing to compromise some. You know, fingers crossed, this doesn’t affect the stronger, cheaper Wi-Fi portion of the bill. Like even right now, my Wi-Fi is cutting out and I’m frozen on Zoom.
Gideon Resnick: It’s true.
Akilah Hughes: But it likely won’t matter as Democrats have signaled they’ll just go through budget reconciliation if the Republicans think bridges that don’t collapse is too much to ask.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it is not too much to ask. That’s the answer.
Akilah Hughes: I don’t think so.
Gideon Resnick: The bill is wide-reaching and to push it further to the left. House Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders have introduced their own bill. They did it as a way to say that Biden’s proposal isn’t nearly enough, and here is what they are looking for. So this new bill outlines an investment of $172 billion in green solutions to public housing, which is triple what Biden proposed. So are there compromises being made on the left as well?
Akilah Hughes: Well, it seems like there inevitably will be. Progressive lawmakers from all over are making climate change and our climate impact a priority in these negotiations. And if the Dems go for it, this will be the largest federal investment in our country in at least a generation. And this is part of larger green New Deal legislation that’s expected to be proposed this week. So everybody stay tuned for that.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, indeed. And it wouldn’t be a story about legislation without our favorite F word. Word.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, the fucking filibuster. So, of course, there is still the hurdle of finding 10 Republicans willing to put the country over the seditionists in their party to pass this thing. That is without using budget reconciliation. And Joe Manchin’s outsized power and predilection for doing the wrong thing always remains a hurdle. Still no word on when we can just yeet the filibuster into the trash, but until then, Manchin can sit with the fact that the United Mine Workers of America—that’s the union for coal miners—is totally happy to switch to renewable energy in exchange for jobs. They said as much yesterday in a presentation to him. So if Manchin won’t listen to America, maybe he will listen to this big political force in his home state of West Virginia. And perhaps its moves like this that get him to eventually back Biden’s final infrastructure bill. Otherwise, he’s going to have to explain why their health, and the health of their communities, and the opportunities for them, are just hanging in the balance while he decides if we’re spending $10 too much to save the planet. So we’ll have to see where all of it lands. Now, let’s stay on the topic of unions. There is more news after the initial failed unionization push at the Amazon plant in Bessemer, Alabama. What have we learned since then?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this seems like it’s going to be pretty important. So the union that was trying to organize those workers, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, filed objections to the National Labor Relations Board last Friday. They’re basically saying the results of that recent vote in which workers voted against unionizing should be thrown out because Amazon illegally interfered in the process. They’re also asking the labor board to look into their allegations, hold a hearing which would have to be by April 30th, and then from there come to a decision on whether another vote should be held.
Akilah Hughes: Right. And there were a lot of allegations going on leading up to the vote about how Amazon was interfering. So what were some of the things that the union was claiming?
Gideon Resnick: Oh, it is a lot. So here’s what we know. The union alleges that Amazon fired a union supporter, quote “for passing out union authorization cards in non-working areas.” They also allege that Amazon threatened layoffs or the possible closing of the facility if the unionization happened. There’s also that major issue that we had talked about before, the company pushing that USPS to install a mailbox in the parking lot just as the voting began. And the union has argued that the box, which didn’t have USPS markings on it, basically made it seem like Amazon was running the election, which, of course, could intimidate workers into voting against unionizing. And then, also because of security cameras in the lot, the union alleges that workers may have thought they were being watched as they voted. So a lot of stuff included in these filings. There’s quite a bit more in fact. The complaint lists over 20 objections. We can link to it in our show note so that people can take a closer look. And a spokesperson for Amazon denied many of the claims. And on the mailbox part, they said that was there to make it easier for workers to vote, and that only USPS could access it.
Akilah Hughes: So they just think we are all the dumbest people on Earth. It’s weird that they want so much of our data if they think we’re so dumb. But anyway, last week you caught up with Jennifer Bates. She’s a pro-union worker at the facility who we heard from before. And you talked to her before this filing. So what did she have to say about how the vote went? Because, you know, it was overwhelmingly against unionization.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, she told me she was pretty shocked by it.
Jennifer Bates: Well, I was surprised, sad, and felt like I’d been gut-punched. Because, of course, we were looking for a victory, and then to know that I have to walk back in and give my coworkers the news, because when I found out I was on my way out to break, and it was just a total shock that we didn’t win. So it was like people just walking off their workstations in awe and surprise, and with sense of question, like: what happened?
Gideon Resnick: She also told me that workers heard some of the very claims that were made in the union’s eventual legal filing, and that Amazon just had this huge advantage in the message they were able to get out.
Jennifer Bates: Part of what happened is when Amazon started the anti-union meeting, one of the things I ran into was like a couple of the younger people said that, you know: I heard that the union is coming in to have their meeting also in here, because we have some questions, because they told us if we vote the union in, they’re going to shut the company down. And if we vote the union in, we’re going to lose our benefits. And one of the young ladies said, yeah, because he also said that we’re going to make less money than we already have.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. And what have we learned so far about why so many people at the facility actually did vote the way that they did?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it seems like people are trying to figure that out right now, and it’s a lot of different reasons. So The New York Times talked to some workers who voted no. Some said that the $15 minimum wage and benefits was personally enough for them. There were some who said that Amazon’s overwhelming anti-union messaging was actually effective. Plus, you couple that with the fact that the union is barred from having a counter-presence within the warehouse, and that because of the pandemic, social distancing hurt the ability for workers to communicate. The president of the union, Stuart Applebaum, also said that the company’s high rate of turnover was a factor here. He told the Times that an estimated 25% of workers eligible to vote in January were gone by the time the vote actually happened.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so what happens next here for the workers in this Amazon facility, and the bigger organized labor push overall?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so Jennifer Bates told me that there are some yes votes that didn’t end up getting cast. So it’s possible then that they could have the numbers if there is another vote. And then outside of Bessemer, she thinks that the whole situation has raised awareness for other Amazon employees that are looking to unionize.
Jennifer Bates: So even with what we’re going through, I don’t believe it’s going to stop other Amazons. I think this one right here is really going to push them to go ahead and get it done, because some of them are already ready, and they know the tactics that Amazon has used to try to destroy this campaign and the unions, the employees joining a unit together. So what has happened with us is we have sounded the alarm to let everybody know what they’ve done so they know what to look for and what not to fall for.
Gideon Resnick: Right. And to our point, the Amazon drive did get the attention of the president and it raised awareness of typical anti-union tactics. It also drew attention to the PRO Act, a bill in Congress right now that would target those tactics. That passed in the House last month and is quickly gaining more support in the Senate. Actually, Joe Manchin recently said he liked that, surprisingly enough.
Akilah Hughes: Like a broken clock, what’s that say about them? Right twice a day.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Yes, exactly. So more on that bill and the future of organized labor soon. But that is the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about scenic jabs. As of yesterday, all U.S. adults are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines. And with that many shots to give, some people are getting them in atypical locations. One choice spot is underneath the 94-foot long blue whale in New York’s American Museum of Natural History. Starting today, all city residents will be able to sign up to get vaccinated there on the museum’s website. So, Giddy, what is your take on this? And would you like to get vaccinated among replicas of large aquatic mammals?
Gideon Resnick: Absolutely. But I have to say that blue whale, the thought always crosses my mind, the same with air conditioners in New York City: what if it falls?
Akilah Hughes: Right. Right. I don’t ever want to be standing under it for too long. You know, there’s a reason it’s underwater, typically.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, exactly. We’re, we are playing with science by hoisting this whale, even though it’s fake, into the air. And you know what? I don’t want to chance it. But no, this would be this would be really cool. I like this idea of like using more and more of these public spaces to get this done. I went to Javitz. That is a nice site and an efficient site, but it doesn’t have the opportunity to while you’re waiting your 15 minutes to see if you’re OK after the shot, it doesn’t have the opportunity to, like, walk around and go to a museum. So, so that would be a nice little plus.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. I think that’d be really cool. And, you know, I think New York City in particular just has so much to offer that has been under wraps. I mean, like it is the city you live in if you want to go out and do stuff. So I am, you know, not a person who loves museums typically, but I would love to get the vaccine at a museum. That seems pretty tight.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Get a shot at the Met. Who cares? You know, no one’s been in it for a thousand years at this point. So same question for you, though. How are you feeling about all of this?
Akilah Hughes: I mean, I think it’s cool. It’s funny. When I was reading the question initially, I was like: oh, they can get the vaccine in atypical locations, like their ass or something like? [laughs] I didn’t think we were talking about like locations in the world. I, I was very small minded in that regard. But I think that, you know, if we’re talking about out in the world, I absolutely would love to do it in an experiential fashion. I was just in the back of a community center parking lot. But I, you know, had it been like Disneyland or like at a—you know I don’t really know what museums they have out here—the Broad Museum? You know, that’d be great. Next to that, like, statue of the giant lady or those really big tables, I think is what they have there. I would, I’d love to do that, among modern art, you know, get some culture with my my cultures with my, my antibodies, you know. I’m diggin it.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Get, get a shot at the tar pits. I think that’s still a thing. [laughter] That’s part of the museum. That would be cool. .
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Totally. Mm hmm. I would say at the beach, but there’s so much sand. And just like that we have checked our temps. Stay safe, get vaccinated if you can y’all, and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin is now set to be determined by jury after both sides delivered their closing arguments yesterday. The prosecution told jurors to, quote “believe their eyes” when they saw the video of Chauvin pinning George Floyd to the ground for more than nine minutes. The defense stuck to their argument that Chauvin was following his police training. Chauvin’s team also made what seemed like a last-ditch attempt to throw out the entire trial by arguing that comments made by Democratic Representative Maxine Waters could have influenced the jury. OK. Waters had told reporters over the weekend that protesters need to stay on the streets if Chauvin is acquitted. The judge ultimately denied the defense’s request for a mistrial. And later this week, we’ll be joined by Jamiles Lartey from the Marshall Project to discuss the trial in depth.
Akilah Hughes: India is experiencing an explosive COVID surge, with more than 250,000 new cases added each day. The country’s capital, Delhi, is currently the worst hit city, and officials have imposed a strict week-long lockdown after the city recorded its highest single day spike in cases, over the weekend. The spike overwhelmed the city’s health care system and led to a severe shortage of beds. India is one of the world’s largest vaccine producers, and it has been forced to delay the export of doses, which could devastate vaccination campaigns in developing countries. Experts say the government ignored warnings of a huge second wave following a dip in cases from the initial vaccination efforts.
Gideon Resnick: Scary stuff. Our streetwise 1950s president wants to tackle a streetwise 1950s problem: cigarettes and how they could be made safer. The Biden administration is reportedly considering making tobacco companies reduce nicotine levels in cigarettes to the point where they are no longer addictive. That’s according to The Wall Street Journal, which also said that Biden could ban menthol in cigarettes so the products would be less appealing to young new smokers. Now, based on what I know about young people, if you really want to scare them away, replace the menthol with some freaking homework. Research has shown that when nicotine levels are reduced, smokers are more likely to quit or pursue less harmful alternatives like e-cigs. Likewise, the FDA has found that menthol cigarettes are harder to quit and probably pose a greater health risk than regular cigarettes. The FDA has to respond to a petition to ban menthol cigarettes by April 29, so we could see movement on this by then. Inevitably, any new policies would face legal challenges from Big Tobacco.
Akilah Hughes: I thought you were going to say corn pop. But I’m glad it was cigarettes. We may have underestimated the size of T-Rex’s squad. A group of fossils that was discovered in Utah indicates that Tyrannosaurs hunted in packs rather than alone. Until now, most researchers thought these dinosaurs didn’t have enough brainpower to work together. Brutal. But these fossils suggest that a group of four or five of them died together in a flood 76 million years ago. That means that the initial formulation of T-Rex as a sensitive, soft-spoken loner was not correct. Another interesting aspect of this story, the site of the fossils discovery in Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante gives more weight to the argument that the boundaries of protected areas in this part of the state should be expanded. Trump shrunk both Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monument in 2017. Either one of these places could hold the clues to whether Triceratops was actually super popular, or just had a close group of day one ride-or-dinos he knew he could always count on.
Gideon Resnick: I love ride-or-dinos, and I love that old nature is saving current nature in a way. That’s beautiful.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. You know, nature finds a way. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go: right now, Senate Democrats have the power to stop the wave of voter suppression law sweeping the country by passing the For The People Act. But first, they have to come together and eliminate the filibuster
Gideon Resnick: To do your part to end the filibuster, head over to votesaveamerica.com/forthepeople. Then use our new whip count to find out where your senator stands. If they are on the fence, give them a call, using our call tool.
Akilah Hughes: Together we can un-break the Senate and save our democracy. Check out votesaveamerica.com/forthepeople.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like to show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, become our ride-or-dino, and tell your friends to listen,
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just all the beautiful notes in T-Rex’s yearbook since he’s the most popular dinosaur like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick
[together] And have a happy 4-20!
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. If you get done listening to this podcast, maybe go bake some cookies.
Gideon Resnick: Grab some It’s Purple. How about that?
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, go ahead. I think it’s available. Take out some house plants.
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.