In This Episode
- President Biden and other leaders formally endorsed a new global corporate minimum tax at the G20 Summit in Rome. Under this agreement, corporations trying to avoid taxes by moving their profits to low-tax countries will now be forced to pay the difference. The world leaders also made several pledges on the environment ahead of a UN Climate Summit that began in Scotland.
- Employees at several Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area of New York have been looking to unionize, and the National Labor Relations Board last week gave them the go-ahead to hold elections. If they vote “yes,” it would be a first for the company and could lead to a broader push around the country.
- And in headlines: the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for children 5-11, American Airlines canceled over 1,800 flights this past weekend, and The Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inducted Carole King, Jay Z and more.
- The Buffalo News: “Buffalo Starbucks workers get ready to vote on union” – https://bit.ly/3myqtpK
Gideon Resnick: It’s Monday, November 1st. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, the only podcast that can rival the electric chemistry of Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson holding hands.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, you’re kind of freaked out. You’re also intrigued. You’re definitely going to stay for more. That’s what we’re getting at.
Priyanka Aribindi: Kravis. Kim and Pete. Like, that is what we are competing with. We are up there in that level of excitement, confusion, but you’re into it. You can’t stop watching. On today’s show, the FDA greenlights the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11. Plus, American Airlines grounded 1,800 flights this past weekend.
Gideon Resnick: That is quite a few. But first, let’s bring you some updates from this year’s G-20 summit in Rome. And let’s jog people’s memories really quickly here, what was this summit about? Priyanka? Who was there? What are some of the basics?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, OK. Happy to get everyone up to speed. The G-20 is an annual summit of leaders from the world’s leading 20 economies. They meet every year over two days to discuss major economic and social issues affecting the world. The goal is that by the end of the conference, they can all release a joint statement committing their countries to certain cooperative actions. This year’s summit was the first in-person since the start of COVID and was Joe Biden’s first as the president of the U.S.. They were expected to discuss everything from climate change to the supply chain to the pandemic and more.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, quite a lot on their plate. So what do we know about what actually happened?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, OK, let’s start with the good stuff. So on Saturday, President Biden and other leaders formally endorsed a new global corporate minimum tax of 15%. This follows months of negotiation and years of declining tax rates on corporations worldwide. So under this agreement, corporations that are trying to avoid taxes by moving their profits to low-tax countries will now be forced to pay the difference. And supporters are hopeful that because so many countries have agreed to this minimum rate, companies will stop trying to relocate their headquarters abroad to evade taxes.
Gideon Resnick: They will move on to the next tax evasion thing they can figure out.
Priyanka Aribindi: Precisely.
Gideon Resnick: OK. So also climate conversations at this summit. Very, very highly anticipated, of course. What happened there?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely. So in terms of climate, this meeting was a gathering of really heavy hitters. The G20 countries basically account for 60% of the world’s population and an estimated 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone there seemed to acknowledge that climate change is a major issue, but not everybody was ready to make the firm commitments that are really necessary to combat it. So by the end of the summit yesterday, G-20 members agreed to stop coal financing by the end of the year and to contain global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. But as I was saying, there is no firm commitments on key elements like the net zero pledge to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, or when every country will phase out coal as an energy source. The group also acknowledged that methane emissions are a major contributor to climate change, but they as a group did not express support for the Global Methane Pledge. Experts on climate policy are saying that the agreements they did reach are making modest progress, but that they lack the substance and the explicit goals that are really necessary to see follow through here.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it seems like everybody’s waiting for people to actually meet the moment, and we’re still sort of waiting.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, not great.
Gideon Resnick: And then in addition to that, there were some holdouts to even these agreements as well, right?
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, definitely. So President Biden said he was disappointed that more wasn’t done. Here is what he had to say:
[clip of President Biden] The disappointment relates to the fact that not only Russia, but China basically didn’t show up in terms of any commitments to deal with climate change.
Priyanka Aribindi: China and Russia, for example, are top carbon emitters and likely the reason behind the lack of a unified target date for hitting those net emission goals. India, China and Russia likely made it difficult to settle on a specific date to end the use of coal. And Australia refused to support the Global Methane Pledge. So really, a few major holdouts across many of these provisions.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And so given all that, what has the reaction been like to these agreements that they did make then?
Priyanka Aribindi: People invested in the climate crisis are understandably a bit frustrated. Greta Thunberg complained of world leaders who are just making climate statements, saying quote, “because it makes them popular.” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was leaving the summit with his quote, “hopes unfulfilled.” Claire Fyson, who’s an expert who co-leads the policy team at Climate Analytics I thought stated this really well. She basically said: all eyes are on the G20, if they don’t move fast enough, the rest of the world can’t compensate for that.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Everybody is looking for a leader and a person to bear responsibility for their own actions and appears they’re still sort of waiting. So this was just the beginning, though, of this round of major climate talks that we’re going to see.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So the 12-day UN Climate Change Conference just started in Scotland yesterday. That is another annual summit, but this time it is all about global warming. So 20,000 diplomats, heads of state, and activists will all be there with the goal of setting new targets to cut emissions. This year’s results are especially highly anticipated. It’s being called the last best chance for countries to pledge dramatic action. And many of the G-20 leaders went straight to these meetings after the summit in Rome wrapped up. Biden himself will arrive today and we will continue to keep you updated. And next week Crooked’s own Ben Rhodes will join us from there for a dispatch, which will be very exciting.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, hopefully there are tangible quality things that are emerging from this.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes! Fingers crossed we have some good news to share soon.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, last best chance is right. Shifting gears to another developing story: as we exit a month that became known as Striketober, there is still a lot to keep an eye on in terms of labor and organizing in the US. As we mentioned on the show before, employees at several Starbucks stores in the Buffalo area of New York have been looking to unionize. And if they did, it would be a first for the company and could potentially lead to a broader push around the country. And last Thursday, something important happened in this effort that we wanted to update you on.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, and it has to do with the National Labor Relations Board. So walk us through what happened there.
Gideon Resnick: We have to take a step back for a second. Workers at three different stores filed for union elections back in August, and this past week, this NLRB official said they can hold three separate elections. Now Starbucks, on the other hand, wanted all 20 or so stores that they have in the Buffalo area to vote on one single ballot. But organizers saw that as a delay tactic. And what’s better for workers here with these three separate elections is that there only needs to be a majority at one store to form the union. Starbucks can apparently still appeal this NLRB ruling, but beginning next week, mail ballot voting can actually begin.
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, so it sounds like things are moving. What is the feeling among workers here?
Gideon Resnick: They’re feeling like things are moving and that they are going to unionize. For more on all of this, I spoke with Casey Moore, a barista at a Buffalo area location. Here is some of what she had to say about why she wanted to get involved in the unionizing efforts:
Casey Moore: You know, working through the pandemic and hearing service workers be called essential, but like, this is the hardest job I’ve ever had. Like, It’s exhausting. People are horrible, like people treat you like you’re not even human. After the pandemic and things like, there’s you know, you read all these things about there being a labor shortage, like, we need to raise the living standards for all service employees like it’s not sustainable. And I think, like unionizing is really, like going through this process I’m learning like, that’s the best way to do it.
Gideon Resnick: And to that point, one of the issues that is important to her is better pay for everyone basically across the board.
Casey Moore: I’m relatively a new barista at Starbucks. I’ve been there for five months, but I have friends who have been working at Starbucks for 11 years and make less than 30 cents more than what I make.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. OK. So we’ve also reported about various Starbucks officials converging on stores in the area. Workers saw that as an effort to stop the union from forming. What did she have to say about that?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So Moore said that it creates these logjams, like physical logjams in terms of actually doing your work.
Casey Moore: We call it bar when you’re like making drinks and stuff, and I have been on bar where it’s been, we’ve had a line almost leading it to the highway and people are trying to talk to me and ask, like, how can I make this experience better, like, what would I change about Starbucks to make it better? And I’m like, I’m just trying to do my job. So it’s distracting.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, like people hovering over and presenting themselves as people that are trying to help but in essence, if you’re there, it feels very much like these people are looking at you and trying to figure out what it is that you’re doing.
Priyanka Aribindi: Also, just like incredibly unhelpful and totally in the way.
Gideon Resnick: Right, exactly. And then Moore also said that these often so-called quote unquote “support managers” got in the way of organizing, which could be the intent here.
Casey Moore: Before corporate showed up, I was able to talk to my coworkers on the floor and like, have like honest conversations and like, be able to provide information since I’m on the organizing committee and stuff. Since corporate has come in, it’s almost been impossible to talk about the union on the floor because people are terrified. So it’s not only like disruptive to our workday, but it’s also prohibiting us from actually being able to organize.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, seems like that’s probably the point of them doing that, but which is horrible. But you’re mentioning that voting can start next week. What happens after that? How long does this go on? What are the next steps?
Gideon Resnick: It’s going to take some time. So workers can cast ballots until December 8th. We’re expecting them to be counted as soon as the next day. We’re probably also expecting a lot in terms of response from Starbucks here over the next couple of weeks. So we’re going to check back in on this story as the ballots go out and link to some more good reporting on what the efforts to actually defeat this look like from Starbucks. More on all of that soon, but that is the latest for now. We’re going to be back right after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Young kids got a treat last Friday when the FDA authorized Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11. I hope that they got some tastier treats last night, but you know this is still a good one. A kid-sized dose would be one third of what people 12 and older get. And tomorrow, the CDC’s advisory committee will meet on this, too. If they also sign off, about 28 million children will be eligible to receive shots as early as Wednesday. Young kids account for about 9% of reported cases in the U.S., although vaccines may be a tough sell for some parents. According to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, over two thirds of parents said they were very or somewhat concerned about long-term side effects. But the FDA says that the vaccine is safe for children in this age range and that studies showed no serious side effects. Meanwhile, Moderna faces hurdles for getting its own vaccine approved for kids. The FDA is investigating if the shot may be connected to rare heart problems found in kids ages 12 to 17. The agency said it would need more time to look into the issue and might postpone its decision until January.
Gideon Resnick: I’m just imagining people on stoops now, just like passing out needles to children and saying like, here’s your Pfizer, go for it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Take one only leave. Leave some for your other fellow trick or treaters.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly, exactly. Be kind. We don’t recommend that to be clear, as you know. For years, one of the largest privately-run prison companies in the US, the Geo Group, relied on immigration detainees for labor. On Friday, a federal jury in Tacoma, Washington, said GEO owes former detainees of the detention center in that city $17.3 million in back pay. So the company paid them $1 a day for cooking, cleaning and other tasks. Geo could have paid them more. In just 2018, the company made $18.6 million from the Tacoma facility. This court judgment came from a class action suit by Washington state, which accused GEO of violating state labor law. And the jury said that the pay was a violation of the state’s minimum wage law. The company tried to argue that the detainees were not employees under state law and that the state itself pays less than minimum wage to prisoners in its own publicly-run facilities. But that argument did not hold up. About 10,000 former detainees will be eligible to split that back pay.
Priyanka Aribindi: Great news for anyone whose favorite part of travel is the awesome vibes in the terminal. Over the weekend, American Airlines canceled over 1,800 flights after strong winds led to delays at their Dallas Fort Worth hub, leading to snowballing cancelations across the country. On Sunday alone, the major airline ended up canceling 18% of its overall operations. American Airlines is far from the only airline to encounter mass cancelations in recent memory. In August, Spirit Airlines canceled 2,800 flights over a 10 day period, while in October, Southwest canceled 2,000, resulting in a $75 million loss for the company. Airline companies are blaming the mass cancelations on staffing shortages following the pandemic, a problem that’s only compounded by seemingly minor weather events. As a jet setter myself, let me impart some wisdom: every time you go to the airport, pack a few granola bars, bring something to read, and be prepared to have the worst day of your entire life.
Gideon Resnick: You’re going to pay $35 for a bottle of water and then your bag is actually going to have to be checked, unfortunately. That’s just the rules.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Nothing to do, nothing we can do about it.
Gideon Resnick: No, nothing we could do. It is that one time of year that Cleveland, Ohio, is in the news. Hey. And no, there was not a freak roller coaster accident at Cedar Point—Sandusky As Ohio listeners know. The 2021 One Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction took place Saturday at Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, inducting Tina Turner, Carole King, the Go-Go’s, Todd Rundgren, the Foo Fighters, and Jay-Z into their hallowed halls of shreddery. Also, daily mix number two for me on Spotify. This year’s inductees join the esteemed company of music megastars like Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The ceremony was filled with performances and speeches from some of music’s biggest names, as well as others, with Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, Paul McCartney and Christina Aguilera all taking the stage. And yes, that is a lot of names, but this ceremony was five hours long. That is both Hobbits back-to-back. For any music heads listening, first of all: rock on. And secondly, HBO will be streaming the ceremony starting November 20th. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see if the cameras could properly capture the raw, uncut rock and roll energy of Cleveland, Ohio.
Priyanka Aribindi: This doesn’t really make that much sense to me because like why, unlike any other award show, is this being aired like a month later? Like what is the hold up? Why?
Gideon Resnick: If you’re into this thing, you’ve seen this thing, right? Like what, wh—I don’t know.
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, you sold it to HBO, like, why don’t you have them like, play it live? I don’t know. Makes no sense to me.
Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, hold hands with Pete Davidson on a roller coaster, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just the American Airlines refund policy like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And rock on, Cleveland, Ohio.
Gideon Resnick: We don’t need to tell you rock—
Priyanka Aribindi: We don’t. You already know.
Gideon Resnick: —all the time. You invented it, basically.
Priyanka Aribindi: I think. Who knows?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: I don’t. I don’t.
Gideon Resnick: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Jazzi Marine is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and myself. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.