In This Episode
- Britney Spears’ father has been suspended as conservator of her estate. Her lawyer requested that a separate hearing be set in 30 to 45 days, and #FreeBritney activists hope Spears will be free by her 40th birthday.
- Members of International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, the union that represents all kinds of people behind the scenes on TV and movie sets, will begin voting on a strike authorization tomorrow. The union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have been negotiating a new contract for the last four months.
- And in headlines: YouTube cracks down on the spread of vaccine misinformation, the U.S. government declared 22 animals and one plant extinct, and the NBA says players who miss games for not complying with vaccine mandates will not be paid for missed time.
LA Times: “Hollywood union calls for strike authorization vote by crew workers” – https://lat.ms/3m5wLMi
Statement: IATSE President Calls on Members to Authorize Strike – https://bit.ly/3ojVdfN
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, September 30th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, the podcast that is no longer offering blood testing after seeing what happened to Elizabeth Holmes’s company, Theranos.
Gideon Resnick: I mean, this is news to me. I have been working on this equipment for hours.
Tre’vell Anderson: All of your hard work going down the drain.
Gideon Resnick: I’m pissed, OK? On today’s show, YouTube cracks down on vaccine misinformation, plus Dollar Tree announces some price changes.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first:
[clip] It’s Britney bitch.
Tre’vell Anderson: In the long-running case of Britney Spears’ conservatorship, she and her team scored a victory yesterday.
[clip of Matthew Rosengart] I’m so pleased and proud to say Jamie Spears is no longer a conservator.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s Britney’s lawyer, Matthew Rosengart, announcing that her father, Jamie Spears, has got to go, at least for now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and so this Los Angeles judge made the decision yesterday, but Tre’vell, it is a little bit complicated. So can you pass out some of the details of where everything stands at the moment?
Tre’vell Anderson: Sure. A quick primer for those who haven’t been paying attention. Jamie has been the court-appointed conservator of his daughter for 13 years. While the conservatorship was something Britney used to say was a positive, she’s since given testimony in court that the legal arrangement has been abusive in her father’s hands. Back in June, she testified, quote, “I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry. It’s insane and I’m depressed. I cry every day.” Jamie continually rebuffed all of these accusations while also refusing to step down. Since then, he has agreed to step down, but that, along with whatever transition might be necessary needed to be approved by Judge Brenda Penny, who’s been overseeing the case.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and so she decided to suspend him. But what does that actually mean?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, Jamie and his lawyer were hoping for an immediate termination, which is different than a suspension. When Jamie filed a petition to terminate the conservatorship, Britney’s lawyer, Matthew Rosengart, immediately accused him of trying to avoid having to answer questions about some funny things with the money, as well as other allegations of abuse. Rosengart said at the time, quote, “To the extent Mr. Spears believes he can try to avoid accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath, he is incorrect, and our investigation into financial mismanagement and other issues will continue.” Of particular note is that Britney has not yet asked for the conservatorship itself to end. She’s asked for her father to be removed as the conservator of her estate. Mind you, he hasn’t been her personal conservator since 2019. And so with the suspension of Jamie as conservator of her estate, he can’t just wash his hands of it all. He’ll have to answer about some of the allegations that have been lodged his way, including reasoning for his salary as well as, quote, “unwarranted commissions and potential self-dealing.” In the meantime, an accountant has been appointed by the court to temporarily oversee Britney’s finances.
Gideon Resnick: So basically, the suspension is what Britney’s team wants because then there’s accountability, as opposed to a termination.
Tre’vell Anderson: Exactly.
Gideon Resnick: Got it. OK. So we should also note here that there are a number of Britney Spears documentaries that have come out recently. Did those play into the case, did they impact it?
Tre’vell Anderson: It I think it’s safe to say that they have helped catalyze the current iteration of Britney’s case, while the #freeBritney movement has been ongoing for some time, The New York Times’ “Framing Britney Spears” doc from earlier this year, renewed many folks is interests. And then the follow up to that documentary called “Controlling Britney Spears” that came out last week, it surfaced new accusations against Jamie. The biggest development was perhaps that he hired a security team that ended up running an intensive, quote, “surveillance apparatus” that monitored her messages and secretly captured audio recordings from her bedroom. Britney’s lawyer cited that documentary in court yesterday. And then there’s a third documentary titled “Britney versus Spears” that came out on Netflix earlier this week.
Gideon Resnick: Got it. So Tre’vell, at the moment, Jamie Spears has been suspended as her conservator. That is for now. But what happens next here?
Tre’vell Anderson: So Britney’s lawyer has requested that a separate hearing be set 30 to 45 days from now, at which time a termination decision of the entire conservatorship will be made by the court. That date is set for November 12th. And so, to quote some of the free Britney folks who are outside of the court yesterday, the hope is that she will be free by her 40th birthday. Here they are:
[crowd chanting] Free by 40! Free by 40!
Tre’vell Anderson: And that birthday, by the way, is in December. That’s the update on Britney. But Gideon, now let’s turn to a story that could lead to Hollywood’s biggest union strike since World War Two. And it involves members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so this is the union that represents all sorts of people behind the scenes on TV and movie sets, like set designers, camera operators and more. And tomorrow, the membership will start voting on a strike authorization. With results that are expected early next week. And if they do end up striking down the road, that would shut down productions across the country. As I’ve said on the show before, I’m not certain that Nicole Kidman can operate a camera on her own.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughs] So Gideon, let’s take a step back and tell us how we got here.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so IATSE and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have really been going back and forth on a new contract. The contract is for about 60,000 people that are working in TV and movies, and IATSE represents a reported 150,000 crew members across the US and Canada. But the negotiations have been going on for four months or so, according to the L.A. Times. We can link to the story that kind of gets into the weeds on all of this in our show notes. And most recently, IATSE said that producers didn’t even respond to their latest proposals after the expiration of the old union contract this month.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yikes. And so what is being asked here?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so in broad terms, workers want more time for rest. They want better wages and better funding for health and pension plans, among some other priorities. In a recent statement, IATSE also referred to, quote, “excessively unsafe and harmful working hours” and workers on streaming projects classified as, quote unquote, “new media” getting paid less despite budgets equaling or surpassing other projects. We’ll link that statement as well.
Tre’vell Anderson: And Gideon, in the lead up to this, there have been so many horror stories that we’ve heard from union members.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, so many. It’s crazy. You know, examples are reports of shifts extending past 14 hours, skipped meal breaks, sleepless drives home from set, so-called quote unquote, “fraturdays” which are these shifts that start on Friday and extend to like 4AM on a Saturday, and so much more. A lot of those have been cataloged on the Instagram account IATSE stories.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now, you mentioned that the authorization vote is going to start tomorrow. Walk us through that process.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, the vote to authorize is just the first part of whatever we might end up seeing. It requires 75% of people voting to pass the authorization to strike. That doesn’t mean a strike is going to happen right away, it just gives the power to call one if and when they wanted to. And from there, a full walkout is a little more unclear. But at least the possibility of it will likely give IATSE a lot more authority at the bargaining table. An actual strike, of course, would be extremely consequential and really unprecedented. IATSE reportedly hasn’t ever done it in its history. And the last time there was a significant crew walkout was in March of 1945. So quite some time. Of course, more recently there was the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike. And Tre’vell, tomorrow we are going to hear directly from union members about what they are going through and what the conversations have been like ahead of the strike authorization vote. But that is the latest for now.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, WAD squad and for today’s temp check, we are talking about breaking some sacred promises: Dollar Tree announced it will begin selling some items for more than a dollar, as rising shipping costs and inflation take a chunk out of its profits. A few hundred of the country’s nearly 8,000 Dollar Trees already sell products for a premium in a ‘Dollar Tree Plus’ section, but until now, products sold in the main section of each store have all sold for the same insanely low price. Dollar Tree shoppers will soon encounter items priced at one dollar, one dollar 25, one dollar 50, or perhaps other rates we can’t even bring ourselves to imagine. Wall Street responded positively to Dollar Tree’s se big swing yesterday, with shares of the company jumping 13% when trading opened. So Tre’vell, what is your take on the new and improved Just About Dollar Tree?
Tre’vell Anderson: So here’s the thing. I come from a family that loves dollar everything: Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Family Dollar. We can go down the line of dollar stores. And so I’m just thinking that my grandmother is, you know, rolling over in her grave. She loves her deals. We used to go to Dollar Tree and clean up! Why are you spending a $100 a dollar tree? I don’t know.
Gideon Resnick: That’s a lot.
Tre’vell Anderson: But we would. And now she’s going to be paying, she would be paying more because they’re going up in prices. I don’t think she would be happy about that. We should say they didn’t have to tell us that the prices were going to go up.
Gideon Resnick: No!
Tre’vell Anderson: They could have just done it secretly. No one would have noticed—maybe. I don’t know.
Gideon Resnick: Well, I mean, if you take something up and it’s 1.50, and it could be, could be a little dicey, could be a little dicey if you’re expecting it to be one.
Tre’vell Anderson: We don’t want anybody fighting at the checkout counter at Dollar Tree. OK?
Gideon Resnick: We do not, we do not condone that in any setting, at any Dollar facility, to be totally clear. Um, just like that, we have checked our temps. Just be aware of this when you go in, you know, it could be 1.25 could be 1.50. Be careful. And we’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: One of the main hubs for people who do their own research, YouTube, is cracking down on the spread of vaccine misinformation. The platform has long prohibited videos with false claims about COVID-19 shots, but a policy that was announced yesterday targets misinformation about other vaccines, like the one against measles. More specifically, YouTube has banned videos that claim such approved vaccines are unsafe, ineffective, or cause health issues like cancer and infertility. The site has already removed channels infamous for sharing anti-vaxx sentiment, such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s, but the company warns that removing all videos may take some time. Russia is already upset about YouTube’s new policy because the company removed the German language channels of RT, a state-controlled Russian network. RT had previously received a strike for distributing COVID-19 misinformation. A Kremlin spokesperson threatened to retaliate against YouTube, but has not decided how yet.
Tre’vell Anderson: Here’s some news that will make you want to renounce your humanity and go to war on behalf of the animal kingdom: the U.S. government declared 22 animals and one plant extinct yesterday, after exhausting efforts to find these species in the wild. The list of extinct species includes the ivory-billed woodpecker, and the flat pigtoe, a freshwater mussel. Scientists say that water pollution and other effects of climate change were behind their disappearances. Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also warned that global warming will only make animals disappearing more common around the world. So Elon Musk will still have to make his spaceship really, really big so he can fit all of them on when he goes to Mars. All right? Human activities like farming and mining currently threaten a million species with extinction. And some animals on that list include the Asian elephant and the Bengal tiger. Following the announcement, Bridget Fahey from the Fish and Wildlife Service said, quote, “It’s a sobering reminder that extinction is a consequence of human-caused environmental change.”
Gideon Resnick: Ooh. That is brutal. Brutal also for invoking Elon. OK. Nothing but net income loss for unvaccinated NBA players. So Wednesday morning, the NBA announced that players who missed games for refusing to comply with local vaccination requirements will not be paid for missed time. Executive orders that were recently passed in New York and San Francisco require that everyone in public indoor spaces be vaccinated. So as a result of that order. Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving and perennial thorn in my side missed media day at the Barclays Center on Monday, while other NBA players like the Golden State Warriors Andrew Wiggins have refused to disclose their vaccination status to the media. After all, what is the point of being extremely tall and insanely athletic if The Man still gets to tell you what to do? On the bright side, though, the NBA’s hard line on vaccines does seem to be working for quite a few players. Star player and sometimes star actor LeBron James disclosed Tuesday that despite initial skepticism, he decided to get vaccinated for the good of the Los Angeles Lakers. While James said that he wouldn’t tell other players what to do, the disclosure from one of the world’s most visible athletes is quite notable. And honestly, it’s a relief, after he spent so much time with Space Jam 2 co-star and vocal anti-vaxxer Foghorn Leghorn. Stay away.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughs] It’s still too early to blast “All I Want For Christmas is You” and expect people to support what you’re doing, but you might want to start planning your mail strategy when it comes to gifts. Starting tomorrow, first class mail and periodicals will have their target delivery time slowed by about 30% as Postmaster General Louis DeJoy implements the latest part of his controversial ten-year plan to overhaul the USPS. Smaller, lightweight mail traveling within its region will maintain a two-day delivery time, but first class packages traveling cross-country can expect slower delivery. The USPS will also add something I’m calling “the Scrooge tax,” from October 3rd to December 26, it will temporarily increase prices on all commercial and retail domestic packages during the expected surge for the holiday season. On the bright side, all this gives you a great excuse when your Aunt Tammy asks why she didn’t get a gift from you yet. Tell Tammy to direct her anger to Postmaster Louis DeJoy while you race to find a Bath and Body Works that still has some good candles in stock.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I will say, you know Tammy, she can express her anger quite well. So be careful.
Tre’vell Anderson: She’ll be all right though. Louis don’t care.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, yes. She’ll be fine. But it’s for the good of the cause. We thank Tammy, as always. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go, there’s only one episode left of Crooked’s podcast, “This Land.” This season, host Rebecca Nagle has taken us inside her year-long investigation into a series of custody battles over Native American children, all leading back to powerful conservative forces quietly trying to dismantle American Indian tribal rights. And the case explored in this season is on its way to the Supreme Court this term, but you can uncover all the details right now. Binge the first seven episodes of This Land now before next week’s finale. You can listen and follow This Land wherever you get your podcasts. That is all for today. If you’d like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, shop at Only Slightly Over a Dollar Tree, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just pro-vaccine screeds from a reformed Foghorn Leghorn like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And the gift is in the mail, Tammy!
Tre’vell Anderson: Be patient, girl.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I got the UPS tracking numbers thing. It’s really long. You just have to trust me. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer, with production help from Jocey Coffman. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.