In This Episode
- Politico has obtained what it says are leaked documents showing the Supreme Court is poised to strike down the constitutional right to abortion. In a draft majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito writes that two landmark rulings – 1973’s Roe v Wade as well as 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey – “must be overruled.”
- Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York City voted against joining the Amazon Labor Union on Monday. Kim Kelly, author of, “Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor,” joins us to discuss unionization efforts at massive companies like Amazon and Starbucks, how that fits into the context of labor history, and what this moment means.
- And in headlines: COVID cases tripled in South Africa in the past week, the International Skating Union may raise the minimum age for international competitions, and Pete Davidson got a new tattoo that seems to feature the initials of Kim Kardashian and her children.
- Politico: “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows” – https://politi.co/3KKb4vK
- Kim Kelly: “Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor” – https://bit.ly/3kzqc4c
- Jacobin: ”Amazon Workers Just Suffered a Defeat. But the Fight Is Far From Over” – https://bit.ly/3LL3JgM
Follow us on Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/whataday/
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, May 3rd. I’m Gideon Resnick:
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What A Day, where we’re glaring at anyone who recommended Hillbilly Elegy, as JD Vance competes in today’s Ohio primary for U.S. Senate.
Gideon Resnick: Would you rather never see a movie again, or the only movie you can see is Hillbilly Elegy?
Josie Duffy Rice: 100% never see the movie again. No question.
Gideon Resnick: Okay. All right. On today’s show, COVID cases in South Africa point to perhaps a fifth surge in the country. Plus, international figure skating officials proposed upping the minimum age for competitors from 15 to 17.
Josie Duffy Rice: But first, we want to update you on a developing story as we go to record on Monday night at 930 Eastern. Politico has obtained what it says are leaked documents showing the Supreme Court is poised to strike down the constitutional right to abortion. The court was expected to issue its judgment next month, but Politico got its hand on a draft majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito. In it, he writes that two landmark rulings, 1973’s Roe v Wade, as well as 1992’s Planned Parenthood v Casey, quote, “must be overruled.” I should caution that this is not an official confirmed decision yet, and this has yet to be reported elsewhere. But we’ll link to the story in our show notes so you can read it as well. If any part of this decision is accurate, it is a devastating moment for bodily autonomy. It’s a devastating moment for pregnant people, people who might want to be pregnant in the future. It’s a generational change in how we think about freedom to make our own choices.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s impossible to wrap my head around. Yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: Very soon we’ll bring you more with the host of Crooked’s strict scrutiny to get answers to all of our questions on this development. And they’ll also be coming out with an emergency episode later today, so subscribe now to get it as soon as it’s online. But that’s what we know right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. For now, we’re going to move to a big headline from yesterday. Workers at an Amazon warehouse in New York City voted against joining the Amazon labor union or ALU. As a reminder, on Staten Island, there is basically this set of warehouses. One of them, JFK8, voted to unionize just a month ago in what was a really historic victory for the upstart union, the first Amazon facility to be unionized. The facility that just voted last week is called LDJ5, and the results of that vote were announced yesterday. So according to the National Labor Relations Board, there were around 1,600 workers at LDJ5 who were eligible to vote. Out of those who did, it was 618 against joining the union and 384. So on its face, quite a lopsided result there. The president of ALU, Chris Smalls, who has been a guest on our show a number of times before, tweeted shortly after the vote was announced, quote, “Nothing changes. We organize. Do not be discouraged or sad. Be upset and talk to your coworkers.”
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, that’s a positive message. And we know that this is a process and it’s still early, but can you talk about what some of the differences are between these two facilities and how, if at all, those differences contributed to the results that we got?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, there’s been some really good writing, I think, on this. So when it comes to LDJ5, Alex Press at the news website Jacobin reported that for one thing, there are an overwhelming number of part time workers there. I think the ratio at times is something like 4 to 1. The union also spent a lot of time trying to get that first warehouse, JFK8 unionized, which by nature ceded some ground for Amazon to start pushing anti-union agendas to LDJ5 and to get union busting tactics going. It was difficult for ALU to have the time, opportunity, resources to do all that at once. And lastly, JFK8 is a fulfillment center, which means status, a place where workers are packing items into boxes for each order. LDJ5, on the other hand, is a sorting center where those boxes are sorted based on where they’re getting inevitably shipped out to. Manual labor is often physically taxing, of course, but Press’s reporting suggests that work at the fulfillment center is uniquely overwhelming and grueling. And that’s what you hear from so many people who are in that fulfillment center.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. How is the company responding to this? How is Amazon responding to this and how is the union responding to this?
Gideon Resnick: Kind of how we think. When it comes to the warehouse, JFK8, where the unionization vote was successful, Amazon has actually objected to the results with the National Labor Relations Board. Last Friday, the board granted a hearing on May 23rd for all of the company’s objections to it. I think they’re something like 25. The expectation really is that Amazon, like any other company, would likely keep at this tactic to delay bargaining for a contract, which is what the union ALU has been asking for. So we may very likely see additional unionizing efforts in other facilities, though, given that ALU said they have heard from tons and tons of places around the country about organizing since they were successful at their first facility.
Josie Duffy Rice: So Gideon, you’ve been following labor news for months and years at this point. And so yesterday’s update, I think it’s a good moment for us to take a step back and take stock of where we are. It might not have been great for union organizers, but overall we’ve seen so many workers in all kind of industries come together and try to unionize. This was your 2022 prediction you may remember at the beginning of this year, and it is coming true. I think you were the only one with a positive prediction. Mine has also come true but mine was depressing, so . . .
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I guess I’ll take that as something to hold on to. But yeah, I mean, you know, given all of that and given everything else that we’ve all noticed about this, last Friday I caught up with Labor journalist Kim Kelly, who is the author of the newly released book “Fight Like Hell: The Untold History of American Labor” which I do highly recommend picking up. It is great. We talked about what is happening at these massive companies like Amazon and Starbucks, how that fits into the context of labor history overall, and what this moment actually could mean.
Kim Kelly: One thing that stands out to me is that this is all really exciting and incredible and wonderful and I’m so excited people are talking about it. And these workers are also building on such a long history of organizing and a lot of the tactics that they’ve used to organize these successful efforts, those are really old. You know, what are the the most successful things that the organizers of the Amazon Labor Union, like Chris Smalls, Derek Palmer, they organized kind of in the break room and in the parking lot. Very worker to worker, very intimate, really. They shared food, and food from different cultures. There’s a very concerted effort to show like, we’re in this together. This is a community. This is us against the bosses, us against Amazon. And it reminded me of the strike in 1946 in Hawaii, The Great Sugar Strike, the way that the workers won that strike was by organizing in that same way. At that point, most of the sugar cane plantations on the islands were owned by these white guys in the mainland, and they were worked by native Hawaiians and Chinese and Japanese and Korean and Filipino, Puerto Rican in the plantation themselves. They were separated into different camps and they were treated differently. They were paid differently. And during the strike, the way that they ultimately won was by bridging those divides, by making sure there’s a translator so everyone knew what was happening. They just fostered that very real, genuine connection that then led them to victory.
Gideon Resnick: I’m really curious, you were covering a lot of what was happening in Bessemer. A lot of the conversation about this has sort of been like, are the tactics of the Amazon labor union in New York kind of the way to go in Bessemer? What is the answer there? Do we have an answer?
Kim Kelly: I think we’re probably still gonna be asking that question for a little while, right? We had the, you know, JFK8, they won. But it’s still kind of early in this longer trench war against Amazon. Well, I was in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, and I had lunch with Isaiah Thomas, one of the worker organizers at Amazon there, who had been helping lead the second effort, and the thing that really struck me was even if they get knocked down again, it still doesn’t erase the work they put in and it doesn’t erase the impact that it has had on people like Isaiah. He’s just such a wonderful and like inspiring young man. He’s like 20-years old. He’s in college. He took a couple of semesters off from college to get involved in the union effort, and he’s changed his whole focus, like, he’s going to be a labor lawyer now. He’s going to go on to help so many people because of this effort. And just seeing what happened in Staten Island, like I think there’s a lot that those two groups can learn from one another. And I think that whoever else in whatever other Amazon warehouse that’ll be next who is watching, like there’s no one way to form a union. There’s no one way to win a strike. It’s all building on top of other people’s work and their efforts and their sweat and blood.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And in the meantime, there’s also what’s going on at Starbucks that you talked about, too. So it’s been like really interesting to me is trying to ascertain like the impact of these efforts happening at like some of the most well-known companies, the Starbucks and the Amazons of the world, and what that means for how, like the general public is like digesting this and like responding to it. What do you think about that? That’s a huge open ended question.
Kim Kelly: Right. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot because like you said, it’s, because, I mean, a company is massive, like oligarchical corporations, rather like Amazon and Starbucks, they’ve kind of become part of the fabric of a lot of people’s daily lives like, most people know about them. You know, all the things that happen within the labor movement, they’re maybe not as visible to just a random person on the street who has their own stuff going on. Right?
Gideon Resnick: Totally.
Josie Duffy Rice: Like the Teamsters are always striking. I mean, right now they’re members of Strippers United on strike in North Hollywood right now. And I think it’s going to show people that like, look, if these folks can take on Amazon, if these folks can take on Starbucks, you can talk to your coworkers about wages, like you could call a union rep, like you can take on your boss. If they can do it, so can you.
Gideon Resnick: You may have been like alluding to this, but this is a story in The New York Times somewhat recently that was about like the current labor push, having some element of the fact that college educated workers are in.
Kim Kelly: Oh, yeah, I just read that.
Gideon Resnick: You know, maybe finding class solidarity in the workplace that could not have existed for a prior generation because that generation wasn’t as saddled with student debt, or they couldn’t ascend socioeconomically in the same way as their parents. I wonder what you make of that as an idea, and what that could possibly mean for labor in the country?
Kim Kelly: I think that there’s not even just in the past year, I think in the past few years, if not past few decades, there’s been a re-imagining of what a worker is, who a worker is, who a union worker is, because work for a lot of people does not look the same way it looked in 1934 or 1973. And even people who are still doing the same jobs that we had in those years, like, things have changed for them, too. And it’s like, just seeing all this discourse around like, quote unquote, “white collar work” or college educated workers, like, I think it’s good to talk about it because I think there is still this enduring idea of who a union worker is. And for a lot of folks, they think of white guys in a hardhat that looks like my dad. But there’s a lot of other people there, too. The fact that I’m in a union is kind of part of this shift, right? Like, when we organized a Vice back when I was the heavy metal editor there, the only resistance we really encountered was not that people were anti-union, it was that they didn’t know what a union was or how it could apply to them. And there are unions were a lot of different things, like video game workers. Work is changing and workers are changing. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that workers need unions.
Gideon Resnick: So Josie, that was my conversation with labor journalist Kim Kelley.
Josie Duffy Rice: We’ll have some links to some good reporting about the Amazon vote in our show notes, as well as where you can find Kim’s book. It’s really good. I highly recommend it. More on the American labor movement soon, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s get to some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: There might be another COVID surge in South Africa as a number of cases there have tripled in the past week. And if you have lost count at this point, this could be the beginning of the country’s fifth wave. Wow. The spike is linked to two sub variants of the Omicron variant, BA4 and BA5. Scientists are looking at how the new sub-variants are evolving and how immunity from vaccines and previous infections hold up. We don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but early data suggests that at least in people who are not vaccinated, these sub variants may be able to evade immunity resulting from infections by earlier Omicron sub-variants, which is not a good sign to say the least. What scientists are most interested in finding out right now, though, is if this new wave creates more mild or more severe illness for people. It is still too soon to tell, but we should be on the lookout because BA4 and BA 5 have already made their way to the US. As of Friday, only a small number of cases had been reported here, but we will be sure to update you when we know more.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, yesterday we had some good COVID news and here it comes Gideon, in breaking our hearts again.
Gideon Resnick: Sorry.
Josie Duffy Rice: We blame you for all of it.
Gideon Resnick: I’m really sorry.
Josie Duffy Rice: The International Skating Union, or ISU, proposed a new rule yesterday to raise the age minimum for competing in the Olympics and other international competitions. Skaters can currently compete at 15-years old, but the proposal calls for a gradual change to 17-over the next two years. The IOC proposal cites medical concerns for young skaters like eating disorders and long-term injuries. A similar proposal was brought forth in 2018 but failed to pass. However, the council re-upped this just months after Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva competed in the 2022 Beijing Olympics. She was favored to win big, big, big, but then a drug test found a banned substance in her system after the games began. Valieva, who is 15 at the time, was still allowed to compete, but during her individual skating competition, she seemed to crumble under pressure and got fourth place. After a harrowing performance, she left the ice rink in tears. Several skaters, including American champion Mariah Bell, have already supported this new proposal. Members of the ISU will vote on this measure when they meet next month, and if passed, this rule could be in place for the 2026 Olympics in Italy.
Gideon Resnick: Trump may have built his house in Florida, but his spiritual home is located elsewhere in the many courtrooms of this great nation. Yesterday, yet another state opened its legal arms to the former president when a special grand jury was selected in Georgia to investigate him for criminal meddling in the state during the 2020 election. Of Trump’s many ongoing legal battles, some experts think this is the one where he is in the most danger. You may remember Trump’s January 2021 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, where he told Raffensperger, quote, “I just want to find 11,780 votes” which is what he would have needed to overturn the election. Trump later described that call as, quote, “perfect, perhaps even more so than my call with the Ukrainian president” – using the word perfect here to mean very stupid. Trump allegedly made similar attempts to influence Georgia’s then-acting attorney general. The newly assembled special grand jury in Georgia will have one year to issue a report on whether they believe criminal charges against Trump are warranted. And during that year, they will have the power to subpoena witnesses and documents. Also in coup attempt-related news, a 20-year veteran of the NYPD was convicted yesterday of assaulting a Capitol police officer during the January 6th Capitol insurrection. Like a Revolutionary War hero, but in wraparound Oakleys, he used a flagpole as a weapon. Lord.
Josie Duffy Rice: Pete Davidson is doing what any man in his 20s would do if given the opportunity to date Kim Kardashian: taking it very, very, very seriously. And his latest romantic gesture is playing out in the medium of body art with a new tattoo that seems to feature the initials of Kim and her four children on Pete’s collarbone. The tattoo reads K N S C P, presumably Kim, North, Saint, Chicago, and Psalm. Fans spotted it in images taken over the weekend. It’s not Pete’s first tattoo honoring Kim, he has a couple of others, including one that says, My girl is a lawyer – she is not. But it is Pete’s first tattoo dedicated to the children Kim shares with Kanye West, who is not known for responding with patience and empathy when he feels he’s being insulted, and particular when he feels like he’s being insulted by Pete Davidson.
Gideon Resnick: Correct.
Josie Duffy Rice: In other news, out of the Kardashia-v-erse, a Los Angeles jury ruled against the model Blac Chyna in her defamation case against several members of the Kardashian family yesterday. Chyna had sued for $140 million, alleging that Kim, her mom, and her sisters pressured the network E to cancel her show, “Rob and Chyna.” the jury found that whatever pressure the Kardashian-Jenners exerted on E, it had no impact on the show’s cancelation. And they also found that none of the Kardashian-Jenners had defamed Blac Chyna. The Kardashian-Jenners weren’t present for the reading of the verdict because they were at the Met Gala. It’s important to know your priorities.
Gideon Resnick: It is. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. Check out the latest episode of Stuck with Damon Young. This week, Damon discusses mental health and the benefits of. therapy with Kiese Laymon and Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford. Listen to all episodes of Stuck with Damon for free only on Spotify. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe,. leave a review, support your girl who is a lawyer, and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: If you don’t have a girl who’s a lawyer, I will be your girl who is a lawyer, and also not really a real lawyer. And if you’re into reading, and not just cryptic letters on Pete Davidson skin like me, 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 bad luck out there JD Vance.
Josie Duffy Rice: But also bad luck, Josh Mandel. Not everybody. Bad luck to all of you.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, not too many winners in the group per say.
Josie Duffy Rice: But someone has to be a winner. That’s the bummer about this.
Gideon Resnick: Someone does have to be a winner. That’s how it works. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzy Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.