In This Episode
- A five month investigation into the conduct of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo found evidence of sexual harassment towards 11 current and former employees, and a sexist and hostile workplace. Nancy Pelosi, President Biden, and many more Democrats have called for Cuomo to resign, but so far he has refused.
- A National Labor Relations Board officer found that Amazon broke federal labor laws, in part by installing an unmarked USPS mailbox in front of its Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse that created the impression Amazon was conducting the election. If an NLRB official agrees with the findings, that could mean there would be a redo in the vote. We spoke to Stuart Appelbaum, president of the union that’s trying to organize the facility, about what comes next.
- And in headlines: Capitol police officers receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the CDC announce a new eviction moratorium, and a cat takes the field at Yankee Stadium.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, August 4th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, and this is What A Day, asking where we can sign up to pledge our support for the Brendan Fraser-ssance.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, to be clear, I never gave up on this guy, even during the Monkeybone era. And I like to think that’s partly why they’re casting him in these new movies.
Erin Ryan: He is, without a doubt, our generation’s finest Brendan.
Gideon Resnick: There are no other Brenden’s that come to either of our minds.
Erin Ryan: On today’s show, a union head explains what’s next in the effort to unionize Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. Plus, the solution to plane passengers behaving badly. Can’t wait for that one.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, yeah. But quickly, one important update on a story that we told you about in recent days, the federal eviction moratorium that lapsed this past weekend. So the CDC announced yesterday that there is a new moratorium that is going to last until October 3rd, now estimated to cover 90% of renters. We’ll bring you more details later in the show. But still want to hear from you if you are worried about eviction or late rent. You can DM us on Twitter or Instagram with your story.
Erin Ryan: Now, onto a major story out of New York. Yesterday, New York State Attorney General Leticia James announced that a five-month investigation into the conduct of Gov. Andrew Cuomo found evidence that he made inappropriate sexual comments or advancements toward 11 different employees.
Gideon Resnick: Yuck.
Erin Ryan: Ugh. The investigation also found that he retaliated against one for going public with her accusations. The report, which relied on interviews with 179 witnesses, also found that Governor Cuomo cultivated an office culture that was, and I’m paraphrasing here: teeming with bad vibes. Here’s New York A.G. James explaining that
[clip of AG Leticia James] Governor Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees in violation of both federal and state laws. The independent investigation found that Governor Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women, many of whom were young women, by engaging in unwanted groping, kisses, hugging, and by making inappropriate comments.
Erin Ryan: Yikes. Sounds like a bad boss. In addition, the investigation found that Cuomo enlisted the help of his brother, Chris, an anchor at CNN, to help him strategize about how to manage the bad publicity around the flurry of accusations that surfaced, or in some cases resurfaced, starting at the end of last year. As of right now, CNN is standing with their Cuomo brother.
Gideon Resnick: I am not shocked about that. OK, so we heard all of that. There is no way Cuomo can weasel out of this one, right?
Erin Ryan: Well, that remains to be seen. But for now, Cuomo is attempting an Olympic-level weaseling.
Gideon Resnick: Of course.
Erin Ryan: After the report was issued, he released a statement defending himself that boiled down to: I’m not resigning, these bitches are lying, I hug everybody.
Gideon Resnick: oof.
Erin Ryan: And that is barely an exaggeration. Over a supercut of photos of him hugging more people than I invited to my wedding, Cuomo said, “I do kiss people on the forehead. I do kiss people on the cheek. I do kiss people on the hand. I do embrace people. I do hug people—
Gideon Resnick: What?
Erin Ryan: —Men and women. I now understand that there are generational or cultural perspectives that, frankly, I hadn’t fully appreciated.” It’s like a fucked up Dr. Seuss book called Green Eggs and Harassment.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I am questioning what the generational or cultural perspective that is not understood, which is: don’t touch me?
Erin Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know. What culture are you from that you just kiss people?
Gideon Resnick: I do not understand. Yeah. That is hauntingly like Dr. Seuss in its rhythm and meter. It doesn’t seem like Governor Cuomo has many allies left at this point. Nancy Pelosi has joined this growing chorus calling on him to resign. Then both New York Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, have said that he should resign as well.
Erin Ryan: That’s right. And yesterday, President Biden joined them
[clip of President Biden] if the investigation of the attorney general concluded that the allegations are correct that back in March, that I would recommend he resign. That’s what I’m doing today.
Erin Ryan: Well, you know, he’s a man of his word. And the Albany County district attorney said that Cuomo is now facing a criminal probe because his alleged actions violate state and federal law. Cuomo could also face civil action.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and this isn’t even the only hot water that Cuomo is in at the moment. He’s still being investigated for undercounting nursing home residents who died from COVID during the early days of the pandemic. And he’s also facing scrutiny for the $5.1 million book deal that he got to write about how great of a job he did at handling said pandemic
Erin Ryan: Book deals are single handedly keeping some of the worst people in America afloat.
Gideon Resnick: Seriously.
Erin Ryan: It’s crazy. Cuomo is a regular Mayor Quimby—you know Mayor Quimby from The Simpsons?
Gideon Resnick: Oh yeah.
Erin Ryan: But one thing that I want to point out is that while Cuomo’s misdeeds are getting a lot of attention, there’s actually quite a bit of state-level fuckery that doesn’t get the national attention Cuomo gets because they’re operating far from coastal media centers. For example, the Republican governor of Missouri, Eric Greitens, resigned in 2018 after facing horrifying sexual abuse allegations that his own state legislature, controlled by members of his own party, found to be credible. And guess what he is doing now Gideon?
Gideon Resnick: I don’t want to know.
Erin Ryan: He is, he’s running, he’s running for Senate. He’s running, yeah, that’s, that’s some confidence. And the current attorney general of South Dakota, Jason Ravnsborg is about to go on trial for hitting and killing a man with his car and fleeing the scene last fall. He’s only been charged with misdemeanors, by the way, each of which carries a maximum 30-day jail sentence. So things continue to be extremely chill and normal in South Dakota.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, they seem to be extremely chill and normal and far too many places at the moment. But back to Cuomo for a second here. So what happens if he does not actually step down?
Erin Ryan: So the state legislature can take action. They can start impeachment proceedings as early as next month. But in the meantime, if Cuomo won’t step down voluntarily, the only thing we’ve got is sternly-worded public statements from other elected officials.
Gideon Resnick: Oh great.
Erin Ryan: Yeah. And I should note that this is all accurate as we record on Tuesday night. It’s been a fast-moving story and we’ll keep you up to date since more could and almost certainly will develop. But Gideon, let’s turn to Amazon now. Yesterday, we mentioned that the results of a recent unionization vote at the company’s facility in Bessemer, Alabama, might be thrown out. You got a chance to talk with one of the organizers, but first, give us a quick refresher.
Gideon Resnick: OK. Quick refresher time. So on Monday, a hearing officer with the National Labor Relations Board found that Amazon had broken federal labor laws in its campaign against that unionization effort last spring at the Bessemer warehouse. Now, specifically, the officer validated one of the major concerns by workers and the union, which we’ve mentioned in some of our coverage, that Amazon had pushed for and gotten this unmarked USPS mailbox installed right in front of the warehouse before voting began. Now, the hearing officer said the box could have created the impression that it was Amazon conducting the actual election and could therefore be viewed as a way to dissuade people from voting for the union. And in fact, the officer noted, over 2,000 employees did not vote at all. The officer also said the company violated labor laws when it gave workers anti-union pins and tags in the presence of managers, since that could be seen as pressuring employees to take them while their bosses watched.
Gideon Resnick: It could be seen that way. Could be seen like some pressure.
Gideon Resnick: Yep.
Erin Ryan: Oh, my gosh. So what happens next here?
Gideon Resnick: Well, a lot. So the acting regional director of the NLRB is going to issue this ruling on the case in the coming weeks. Amazon said that it is going to file an appeal to the report that we already heard from the hearing officer. But if that regional director agrees with that initial report, that could mean that there would be a new union election.
Erin Ryan: This is really exciting and huge news.
Gideon Resnick: It is.
Erin Ryan: Since that news broke, you got a chance to speak with the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. That’s the union those Amazon workers are trying to join. What did he have to say?
Erin Ryan: Yes. Stuart Appelbaum is the president and he said he actually was not surprised by the NLRB response because Amazon had been just so flagrant through all of this. He also said that the incident with the mailbox represented something bigger within the company.
[clip of Stuart Appelbaum] Also, it reflected the concerns that people had about the surveillance that goes on constantly at Amazon and how people felt, how they voted was going to be known by Amazon. I think that the hearing officer was quite clear in saying that the laboratory conditions that are necessary for workers to decide whether or not they want a union were corrupted by Amazon’s actions.
Erin Ryan: Man, it sounds like they really need a union if they’re being surveilled to that degree at all times. And what are the union’s plans in the next few days and weeks before the NLRB regional director makes a decision?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, a lot of the same, really, Appelbaum said continuing with the organizing work that they’ve been doing,
[clip of Stuart Appelbaum] Engaging with workers, staying on the ground, staying involved no matter what, we’re not going away. It’s too important. And Amazon is a dominating employer in our society, and we don’t believe that the way they treat their employees can become the model for how workers are treated in the future.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and another example of how they treat some employees at least, another NLRB report found that Amazon unlawfully took pro-union literature at a facility on Staten Island. That’s according to a Vice report. And that conclusion from the NLRB came out the same day as the one about Bessemer.
Erin Ryan: Amazon just thinks they’re going to get away with it, don’t they?
Gideon Resnick: They clearly do.
Erin Ryan: It’s kind of cool to see them not doing that. If a new election happens, how is Appelbaum thinking this will go differently? They’re going to organize and Amazon is going to do Lord knows what.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. I mean, for one thing, he said that Amazon’s tactics have been exposed at this point and that there had been, quote unquote, “general disgust” with the way that the company conducted itself. And although organizers could face some similar challenges with the massive turnover in employees that is all too common at Amazon, Appelbaum said it’s huge that they are not just starting from scratch here.
[clip of Stuart Appelbaum] A lot of people in the area knows the story of the Amazon election and a lot of that continues to resonate with people. I think that what is different now is that we are not going to have to introduce ourselves to people in the way we did before. They’re going to begin with some knowledge of the issues that are at stake. And I think that’s going to be helpful.
Gideon Resnick: We’re going to check back in on the story soon and update you on the prospects of a new election. But that is the latest for now.
Erin Ryan: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and today we are doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. A belligerent air traveler had to be duct taped to his seat last week on a Frontier Airlines flight from Philadelphia to Miami— two very rowdy towns. Twenty two-year old Maxwell Barry reportedly groped the chests of two female flight attendants—gross—then tried to punch a male flight attendant in the face. In a defense of his behavior that makes my throat hurt to listen to, he said this:
Maxwell Berry: [unclear]
Erin Ryan: If you didn’t hear, he said his parents are worth more than two million dollars, which is great, but it’s definitely not “I could have you arrested” money. For its part, Frontier Airlines has put the employees involved in duct taping Mr. Barry on paid leave, saying they didn’t follow protocol. Unruly passenger behavior has skyrocketed during the pandemic, often in connection with airline mask mandates. So for guys like 22-year old Maxwell Berry, here’s the solution.
Gideon Resnick: Airlines need to find out the net worth of every passenger’s parents and if it’s more than two million dollars duct tape them to their seats just to be careful. Now, this rule is not going to be popular at first, especially among people whose parents just so happened to have two million dollars. But it will cause bad behavior to decline. And soon it will probably become a kind of status symbol where everyone on the plane tries to impress and befriend the people who are fully duct taped, who will only be able to signal their approval by tapping their feet or lightly wiggling their unrestrained fingers, of which there will be two at maximum. That is just protocol. Children of non-millionaires might start sneaking duct tape on board so they can, you know, self-restrain and experience the intoxicating power of looking like someone who has enough money to flip out at any second and not feel bad about it at all. And to save money on tape and to cut down on flight attendant rotator cuff injuries from taping hundreds of people every day, airlines can just dump glue on every seat in first class. You know, a few people whose parents aren’t millionaires might get glued by accident but no groundbreaking and innovative program is perfect, folks. Not even this one. Now, of course, the next question is what will happen in the new world of commercial space travel where everybody’s parents have $200 million at bare minimum? The answer is we should duct tape all those rockets to the ground, then use all the money we save on rocket fuel, on extra duct tape for people who are on airplanes.
Erin Ryan: Hmm. You know what I think could make this extra appealing for people whose parents are worth two million dollars or more? If you just write the word supreme on the duct tape. Everybody will want it. People will line up around the airport days in advance to get a little bit of supreme duct tape. Unruly passenger problem totally solved.
Gideon Resnick: Rare duct tape drop indeed.
Erin Ryan: That was the solution. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Erin Ryan: Two more D.C. police officers who responded to the January 6th Capitol Hill riots committed suicide earlier this week, bringing the total up to four officers who ended their lives after the trauma. To commemorate the officers, the Senate awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the branch’s highest honors to the U.S. Capitol Police. Two gold medals will be awarded to the Capitol Police and D.C. police, and two will be displayed at the Smithsonian Institution and Capitol Building. So far, the Justice Department has charged over 550 accomplices to the insurrection, and that number is likely to increase as the House Select Committee investigation commences.
Gideon Resnick: The Belarussian government under President Alexander Lukashenko has been facing backlash for its treatment of an Olympic athlete. Sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya criticized her team’s management on social media over the weekend after they registered her for an event that she did not train for.
Erin Ryan: Oh my gosh, Gideon, I think, have you ever had that dream where you’re in college and you didn’t go to class all semester and you have to take the final?
Gideon Resnick: I have not, thankfully.
Erin Ryan: OK, well, I have that dream all the time. And this is the Olympian version of that dream: being registered for an event that you didn’t train for. What a nightmare.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, seriously. And shortly after the post, Belarussian officials told her to pack her bags and board a plane back home. Then fearing the consequences that she could face under Lukashenko’s administration, she refused and pleaded with the IOC for help. Now, Poland has offered her a humanitarian visa and she plans to fly there later this week. That in other news, Vitaly Shishoa, the head of an organization that helps exiled Russians in Ukraine was found dead yesterday. His death is currently being investigated as a targeted murder.
Erin Ryan: After scrambling and finger pointing over the last few days, the Biden administration is putting in place a new eviction moratorium to help millions of people who have fallen behind on their rent due to the pandemic. Biden described this new limited moratorium as a safety valve that could help up to 90% of renters. The plan would be a partial ban on evictions in counties that have high COVID infection rates, allowing time for money from the American Rescue Plan to get out to renters and get people caught up, with the hope that they’ll be able to pay their rent as the economy continues to recover. The CDC formalized it after his remarks, saying the temporary order will expire on October 3rd. Meanwhile, the Treasury Department has online tools to help people find rental assistance that we will link in our show notes. Biden also announced the White House has shipped out 110 million doses of the vaccine to 60 countries as part of a broader effort to fight the pandemic abroad. But this good news was overshadowed by national COVID news. He detailed efforts to boost vaccination rates in the US, backed city and private institutional mandates, and expressed frustration at governors in states like Florida and Texas, where infection rates are rising rapidly, for not doing enough.
[clip of President Biden] Some governors aren’t willing to do the right thing to beat this pandemic, then they should allow businesses, universities who want to do the right thing to be able to do it. I say to these governors, please help, but if you aren’t going to help, at least get out of the way when people are trying to do the right thing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, somebody is going to have to institute something at some point. That’s just the way it works. Cats are so mysterious some of them have second lives as professional baseball players. A cat made its way onto the field at Yankee Stadium on Monday night, evading hordes of hunched over members of the grounds crew and interrupting a game between the Yankees and Orioles in its eighth inning. Here’s how the action sounded on TV. So for context here, this clip starts just as the cat clears a three foot vertical leap from the field to a fence.
[baseball announcer 1] Nice, good hops.
[baseball announcer 2] Very athletic, huh?
[baseball announcer 1] Yeah. Aww, must be so frightened right now.
[baseball announcer 2] Scared.
[baseball announcer 1] He would feel more comfortable if the Tigers were in town.
[baseball announcer 2] Nice. He’s figuring out, why do I live in the Bronx again?
Gideon Resnick: Oh my God. That is nice. Add to the man who made the joke about Tigers, you just got hired to do my job. Congratulations sir. At one point also the cat ran straight through the legs of a stadium staffer, drawing huge reactions and exuberant chants of MVP and Let’s Go Cat. Eventually it escaped through an open door, using a move pioneered by every cat I’ve tried to pet in my whole life.
Erin Ryan: You know what the problem was with this entire scene? None of these people know proper cat etiquette, which is as soon as you encounter a cat, you are supposed to say you’re a kitty! And then the cat once acknowledged, will maybe let you walk up to it and pet it if you have food. But none of these people said you’re kitty first. And so the cat rightfully ran away and caused like a slapstick type scene. Just no cat etiquette. That’s my only suggestion.
Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines.
Erin Ryan: One more thing before we go: catch me on Hysteria tomorrow. We’ve got a great group of people, a really cool interview planned, and best of all, Gideon won’t be there.
Gideon Resnick: Yay.
Erin Ryan: Gideon wrote that line, by the way. New episodes of Hysteria drop every Thursday, so catch the show tomorrow. Listen and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, duct tape us for your own safety, and tell your friends to listen.
Erin Ryan: And if you are into reading, and not just cat baseball stats like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Erin Ryan.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And don’t abandon us again, Brendan Frasier!
Gideon Resnick: The Mummy was too good.
Erin Ryan: George of the Jungle. Team George of the Jungle.
Gideon Resnick: Oh, another banger.
Gideon Resnick: What a day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lance. Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are associate producers and Kelly Sadikun is our intern. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.