The Labor Movement Goes PRO | Crooked Media
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July 22, 2021
What A Day
The Labor Movement Goes PRO

In This Episode

  • Hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers went on strike yesterday across nearly a dozen cities in the U.S. to call for the passage of the PRO Act, which would allow employees to unionize and gain greater wage transparency and better benefits. In other labor news, workers at the Frito-Lay plant in Kansas have entered their third week in a strike against poor working conditions.
  • The #FreeBritney Movement hits Congress as members of the House of Representatives this week proposed the FREE Act, a bipartisan bill that would grant individuals like Britney Spears the right to request for their private guardian or conservator to be replaced.
  • And in headlines: drug manufacturers reach a $26 billion opioid settlement with state AGs, central China faces extreme flooding, and scientists in the United Arab Emirates electrocute clouds to produce rainstorms.

 

 

Transcript

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Thursday, July 22nd,

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.

 

Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And this is What A Day, where we’re treating ourselves to a bunch of new masks in the world’s most tragic shopping spree.

 

Gideon Resnick: I’ve resorted instead to going into the trash can to find the old ones. I’m at a low point.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I do not believe that is the CDC suggestion. So maybe not do that going forward?

 

Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, how Giannis celebrated scoring 50 points in the Milwaukee Bucks first NBA championship in 50 years, with—natch—50 chicken nuggets. Plus the United Arab Emirates is trying to fight water scarcity by launching drones that cause rain.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, hundreds of Uber and Lyft drivers in dozens of cities across the country went on a 24-hour strike yesterday

 

[clip of Daniel Russell] When I say ‘driver,’ you say ‘power.’ Driver!

 

[crowd] Power!

 

[clip of Daniel Russell] Driver!

 

[crowd] Power!

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That’s a former driver, Daniel Russell, leading a protest in Los Angeles. Gideon, what are they pushing for?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so this was all organized by Rideshare Drivers United, and one big thing that they were talking about wanting outside of California is for the federal government to pass legislation that would allow these workers to unionize, a.k.a. the Pro Act. So Labor is an issue that we’ve covered frequently on the show, but as a quick refresher here, the Pro Act would do things like allow the National Labor Relations Board to fine companies for violating employees’ rights to unionize and a whole lot more. Plus, it would make it harder for companies like Uber to just classify their workers as independent contractors.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And for protesters in California, that was a particular sticking point.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes, it was. And that goes back to Prop 22, the ballot measure that voters in the state passed last year. That was financed by companies like Uber and Lyft, and it basically invalidated a state law that would have made rideshare drivers specifically, employees entitled to benefits. The companies claimed that it would be better for drivers, but former drivers like Daniel Russel said yesterday that this was all a bait and switch.

 

[clip of Daniel Russell] Prop 22 was a law written to defeat us. We won all rights in the state of California court system, and these companies decided not to follow that law. They decided not to pay their drivers fairly. Instead, they decided to write their own law and then sell it to the public with $200 million of false advertising.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and here’s one example of how drivers have been really hurting in California: so Uber made changes in April where they basically stopped linking what drivers would earn from the fare that passengers actually paid. So if a customer paid surge pricing, for instance, the drivers would get a flat bonus from that ride, as little as three bucks, instead of a percentage of that higher fare. And then on top of that, when demand tanked for rideshare your options last year, many drivers declined to return to these jobs, citing the pandemic, lack of transparency in pay, and the inability to organize and unionize for better benefits. We’ll have a link in our show notes so you can get even more details behind how drivers say they’re getting shortchanged here.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: As somebody who has used these services in L.A., New York, and Chicago over the last few weeks, I’m kind of upset that I’ve been paying more and the drivers haven’t been getting and seeing any of the benefits.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, seriously.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But Gideon, there was a lot of other labor news going on yesterday, too.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s right. So we’ve talked about Amazon, we’ve talked about Alabama coal miners and more on the show, but there is yet another story that we want to highlight here as well. There is an ongoing three-week long strike of workers at a Frito-Lay factory in Topeka, Kansas.

 

[clip of Mark McCarter] Forced overtime causes divorces. It caused people to kill themselves that used to work here. OK, there have been several employees that have killed themselves, that have worked here over the years. OK, this is a continual thing.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s the voice of worker Mark McCarter, courtesy of the outlet More Perfect Union. So hundreds of workers there are in their third week of a strike. And among their many complaints, they say that they work up to 84 hours a week with no days off. And inside the warehouse, reportedly, temperatures can reach over 100 degrees. There are some really grim images out there of what this all looks like. And due to staffing shortages, many workers have been forced to add four more hours before or after eight-hour shifts. They call them suicide shifts. McCarter also talked to Vice News and said, quote “One guy died a few years ago and the company had people pick him up, move him over to the side, and put another person in his spot without shutting the business down for two seconds.” Truly horrifying. Workers recently went back to the bargaining table with management, and they’ve called for a boycott of Frito-Lay and PepsiCo products, which owns Frito-Lay while the strike is ongoing. We’re going to return to this soon and hopefully have some more workers on the show to talk about all of this and more. But Tre’vell, let’s turn to another story here, you’ve been following Britney Spears as she fights out of her conservatorship. So where does that all stand?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, so a number of our elected Congressmembers are apparently joining the #freeBritney movement. A couple of days ago, two members of the House of Representatives, that is Florida Democrat Charlie Crist and South Carolina Republican Nancy Mace, proposed the Freedom and Right to Emancipate from Exploitation Act, aka the Free Act. This bill, if passed, would grant individuals like Britney the right to ask that their private guardian or conservator, who is appointed by a judge, be replaced. Currently, the only way to have a conservator or guardian replaced is by proving in court that some actual abuse or fraud has occurred. The hope is that this bill would provide greater accountability and potentially remedy the dearth of data on guardianships and conservatorships in the United States. It was estimated by the National Center for State Courts in 2011—so a decade ago, which is the most up to date information I could find—

 

Gideon Resnick: Wow.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: —that there were 1.5 million active guardianships, but apparently there aren’t any mechanisms in place to track their efficacy and therefore we don’t really know how abusive these arrangements can sometimes be. A note, you’ll hear me use both conservatorship and guardianship. So that you know the difference, a conservator controls just the financial affairs of an individual, whereas a guardian controls all aspects of a person’s life. So they’re different, but in practice, perhaps not so much.

 

Gideon Resnick: Thank you for saying that before I stupidly asked. So all of this attention around Britney’s case might actually help others around the country, which could be great as well. But what’s the latest in her case specifically?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So Ms. Spears is beyond fed up with her family, is the best way I can put it. About a month ago, she appeared in court and gave an impassioned speech about all the foolishness she’s experienced since the conservatorship began in 2008 and gave her father, Jamie, broad control over her life and finances. Jamie started off as a co-conservator, then in 2019, he was temporarily made the sole executor of the pop star’s estate. Last year, Britney tried to get Jamie removed and lost. Now she’s in the process of trying to get the entire conservatorship terminated. Over the weekend, she took to social media and had very clear words about how she feels. Quote, “My so-called support system hurt me deeply!!! This conservatorship killed my dreams . . .  so all I have is hope and hope is the only thing in this world that is very hard to kill.” As of this week, Britney has a new court-appointed lawyer, and there’s a slight difference in how he’s talking about this case and the words we’ve heard from Britney herself. She stated that she wants the conservatorship terminated and to charge her father with conservatorship abuse. Meanwhile, her new lawyer said Monday that his focus is on removing her father, Jamie, as the conservator, which many have interpreted to mean that there may be a desire to maintain the oversight that comes with conservatorship, but just under another person.

 

Gideon Resnick: Hmm. Potentially shady.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Very much so, regardless of the specifics. We’ll get more details come the next court date, which is on Monday.

 

Gideon Resnick: OK, so very soon. And conservatorships, though, are getting put under this microscope lately. It’s an industry that doesn’t really have a lot of transparency into how it works and the regulations actually in place.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Right. So prior to this iteration of the #freeBritney movement, there was a Netflix film from earlier this year called “I Care A Lot” that touched on some of these issues. Here’s a clip of that movie with Marla, a conservator, played by the star of our podcast, “Edith!” Rosamund Pike:

 

[clip from I Care A Lot] Jennifer, listen to me carefully. I don’t lose. I won’t lose. I’m never letting you go. I own you. And I will drain you of your money, your comfort, and your self-respect.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yikes.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: There’s also a number of investigative stories across the country that we can link to in our show notes about this industry. And there was a previous measure aimed at reforming guardianships and conservatorships introduced in 2019 but it failed to move beyond the House Judiciary Committee. Which brings us back to the current bipartisan bill seeking support. Though advocates are in favor of it, seeing it as a stepping stone to reform, they also note that it does fall short of addressing more systemic issues. For example, the bill does not make it easier to end a guardianship or conservatorship, it also does not encourage state courts, which largely oversee such arrangements, to use alternatives to conservatorship first and foremost. Rick Black, who is Executive Director of the Center for Estate Administration Reform, who helped shape the bill, told the New York Times, quote, “The FREE act is just a start, but it will drive discussions to hopefully give us statistics to help quantify the issues to help introduce real reforms and prosecute those who execute these crimes.” Florida Democrat Charlie Crist, who co-sponsored the bill, said it’s designed to be narrow in order to actually attract bipartisan support. So we’ll see soon if that actually happens. But that’s the latest for now.

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we are discussing appropriate postgame meals. So after hearing the Milwaukee Bucks to victory in the NBA finals on Tuesday night, MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo live-streamed his trip to Chick-Fil-A in Wisconsin, where he ordered 50 chicken nuggets to celebrate the 50 points he scored to beat the Phoenix Suns. Here’s a clip of Giannis talking to Chick-Fil-A employee:

 

[clip of Giannis Antetokounmpo] Can I have a 50 piece—sorry, I will put you, can I put you on camera? Do you mind or no? <sure>  There’s 150,000 people watching you right now. <Really?> Yes, can I have please a 50 piece mac minis? 50, exactly. <OK> Not 51, not 49, Chick-n-Minis, yes? 50. And let me have a large drink, no ice, half sprite, half lemonade.

 

Gideon Resnick: OK. I personally think that the drink order has not gotten enough attention in all of this. But anyway, Giannis apparently had both the NBA championship trophy and his MVP trophy with him in the back seat and he referred to them as his babies. He also asked the manager of the restaurant to give him free Chick-Fil-A for life, but wasn’t able to score a commitment. So Tre’vell, your thoughts on this post-game celebration and what would be your version of Giannis’s 50 Nuggets?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: So I admit I know very little about sports ball, but shout out to him. I think my post-game celebration, I mean, I’m a fan of fried chicken in any shape or form. So nuggets, you can give me some wings, you can give me a thigh, and I’ll take it from literally any of the fast food joints. What about you?

 

Gideon Resnick: OK. I think that everybody is underselling what they could get in a circumstance like this. Like, why not, why not say like, take the 50, you know, comparison to the extreme here and say, like, everything comped for 50 days. Right? Like wherever I walk in, be it a restaurant that has fried chicken, be it a place that I’m going for a new shirt—it’s free. Because, you know, look what I’ve done. Just see how far you can extend the grace that people will have to you after you’ve made them very happy for a little while.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It feels like a stretch, I’m not going to lie. But, you know, try it out. Why not?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes. Thank you for your support. I assume if you’re an NBA player of this caliber, everything is basically comped anyway. But God bless Giannis and Milwaukee. We’ll be back after some ads.

 

[ad break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.

 

[sung] Headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: On Wednesday afternoon, a group of bipartisan state attorneys general announced a landmark $26 billion national settlement with drug maker Johnson & Johnson and three major drug distributing companies for their role in helping fuel a deadly nationwide opioid epidemic. The national deal lays the framework for money to begin flowing into communities for addiction treatment and prevention services. It also bans J&J from making or marketing opioids for the next decade. Now, states and local governments can decide whether to accept the deal and suspend their lawsuits. And doing so would relieve some of the biggest pharmaceutical companies from legal liability in the opioid epidemic, which has been a decades-long public health crisis in America, killing hundreds of thousands of people.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Extreme flooding in central China from the heaviest rainfall on record trapped commuters inside a flooded subway cars, underground malls and hospitals this week. People formed a human chains to avoid being swept away by the raging waters, while others called for help on social media as they waited for rescue rafts to arrive. Across the province, over a million people were affected by the floods, be it through displacement, property loss, or blackouts. And at least 25 people have been killed with seven missing. The rain has now eased up, but there have been conflicting reports about the collapse of dozens of dams and reservoirs. Ultimately, reports on the extent of the damage must be taken with a grain of salt, since the Chinese government has historically downplayed natural disasters and censored media coverage to silence public dissatisfaction with prevention and rescue efforts.

 

Gideon Resnick: Horrifying stuff. Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took the unprecedented action of barring two Republican lawmakers nominated by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy from joining a committee to investigate the January 6th Capitol insurrection. Pelosi blocked Representatives Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, saying she was concerned about statements they had made and actions they had taken. Both lawmakers voted against certifying the 2012 election results hours after mobs stormed the Capitol and helped spread Trump’s lies about a stolen election. In retaliation, McCarthy pulled all five Republicans he had picked to sit on the committee and said the GOP would launch its own investigation. Excellent. Which will presumably discover the Rudy Giuliani, Newsmax, and Trump only stoked violence because they were under Antifa mind control operated by Dominion voting systems, I’m sure. As of now, the bipartisan January 6th committee seems to be unraveling, with Representative Liz Cheney set to serve as the group’s lone Republican.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It should not take this much to hold people accountable, but that’s democracy, right?

 

Gideon Resnick: I guess so.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: We’re entering the mad scientist phase of fighting climate change, with meteorologists in the United Arab Emirates using airborne electrical shocks to produce rainfall as the country battles a brutal heat wave. Temperatures in the UAE have recently topped 125 degrees, which is disgusting. And there’s typically no rainfall there in the summer. But rather than sitting idly by and letting the atmosphere decide how it wants to conduct itself, researchers and officials in the UAE have taken matters into their own hands. They’ve launched a program that sends drones into the sky to electrocute clouds, thereby causing, thereby causing small droplets to pull together into larger drop, and creating rain storms.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, sure.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Water is a water is a major concern in the UAE, where the population is rising rapidly and access to natural water resources is scarce. Desalination has been used successfully in the country, but becoming the gods and kings of the clouds could be a useful technique to supplement it.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, just be Zeus and solve climate change. Why have we not thought of this before?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Where is Hercules when you need them? And those are the headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: One more thing before we go, it’s that time of year. We want to know more about you and what you think of the show and what we can do to make Crooked content even better for you. If you love it, we want to know, and if you hate it, we still want to know—just don’t name me, that’s all I ask. There’s a quick survey at Crooked.com/survey, and it would help us a lot if you were able to fill it out. To say thank you, we’re offering a 20% discount on any order from the Crooked store for everyone who takes the time to do it.

 

Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, give Giannis some fast food, and tell your friends to listen.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and lots of instructions on how to be the God of weather 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 release Rudy Giuliani’s mind, Antifa!

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, release a lot of minds. OK, not just that one.

 

Gideon Resnick: Please. Please. And take the weird drippy stuff on his forehead as well. That’s be nice.

 

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 and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.

 

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.