Joe Maniscalco

New York throws a parade -- and essential workers say ‘Fuhgettaboutit!’

New York City threw essential workers a ticker tape parade along the canyon of heroes last week. And somehow, Gotham's gilded oligarchs were spared the unsavory sight of marchers in matching "I Saved Your Asses From COVID-19 And All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" gear.

Exhausted healthcare workers along with their counterparts in children's services, transportation, retail and other frontline sectors appeared too giddy about surviving the one-time epicenter of Covid and putting the worst of the ongoing pandemic behind them to pass up a well-deserved shot at the biggest block party NYC has to offer. Marching together, workers knew they deserved all the accolades the tired town could muster.

Yet even this most forgiving atmosphere where heaps of blue and orange confetti were periodically blasted from the backs of municipal pickup trucks couldn't obscure the level of worker resentment and anger roiling just beneath the highly produced pomp and pageantry.

Parade placards declaring, "Not All Heroes Wear Capes" and "Our Labor Saved Lives" carried an edge. Hearst drivers, embalmers and cemetery staffers made room on their proud banner for an impromptu "FDNY EMS Fair Pay Now!" sign.

As much as he would've liked, hapless outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio still couldn't get everybody on a float.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees' District Council 37 [DC 37, AFSME] — the largest public employees union in New York City with some 150,000 members — told Hizzoner just what they thought of his self-serving party by simply not showing up.

Other unions joining DC 37 in its parade boycott, including those representing the Fire Department's Bureau of Emergency Medical Services [EMS] as well as the United Probation Officers Association [UPOA], also had no stomach for the naked hypocrisy of patting bone-weary workers on the back while at the same time continuing to deny them fundamentals including pay parity, early retirement and a fair contract.

Fair Labor Contracts

"If the mayor wants to celebrate the frontline city workers who put their health and safety on the line to keep New York running at the height of the pandemic, he can start by ensuring every city worker has a fair contract that pays a living wage," the UPOA said in a statement.

Just a week before the "Hometown Heroes" parade, some 200 retired city workers took to the streets of lower Manhattan to protest a secretive backroom deal swapping out their Medicare healthcare plans with private Medicare Advantage ones costing them thousands of dollars a year.

"I worked 34 years," retired special education teacher and United Federation of Teachers [UFT] member Gloria Brandman said at the scene. "I was promised Medicare and supplements paid for by the city."

Still Waiting

Nationwide, frontline workers who risked all throughout the pandemic are still waiting for fundamental job protections, vital healthcare coverage, a $15 an hour minimum wage, the right to organize and enforceable workplace safety standards to protect them against the further spread of Covid and its emerging variants.

What they are getting instead is an economic ass-whooping consisting of stagnant wages, vanishing unemployment benefits and rising consumer prices.

The sweet confections baked into ticker tape parades and the like are meant to distract from all that pain and suffering while the country's elite continue to gorge themselves on the $1.6 trillion they've amassed during the pandemic.

In Detroit, for instance, the city's essential workers are being feted to "Thank You Tuesdays" at Comerica [Bank] Park, where home game festivities include special scoreboard shoutouts and base pads reading, "Thank You Frontline Heroes."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, meanwhile, declared June 17, "Essential Worker Appreciation Day" and called on the feds to issue a one-shot bonus for frontline workers.

Liz Hanbidge, a state representative from Harrisburg, Pa., went even further this past spring, introducing a resolution in her state's General Assembly designating 2020 as "Frontline Workers Appreciation Year."

At least Hanbindge backed up the empty accolades with a proposal requiring large businesses to extend hazard pay to essential workers, along with a few other limited pro-worker measures including one offering supplemental payments to frontline workers still earning less than $15 an hour.

But elected officials aren't exactly shutting down traffic or breaking out the yellow vests in order to get working men and women in this country what they need for themselves and their families.

Embattled Governor

Back in New York, where embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing his best to create his own blue collar bone fides with a problematic new monument at Manhattan's Battery Park dedicated to essential workers, it's much the same thing.

Ahead of the July 7, "Hometown Heroes" parade, City Council Member Margaret Chin expressed her "hope" that "many eyes" have been opened during the pandemic about the "value of these [essential] jobs."

"As the city reopens we must continue to respect and advocate for these workers," the lawmaker, who represents many parts of lower Manhattan including Battery Park City, declared.

As we say in NYC — "That, and $2.75 will get me on the subway."

Hopes and prayers are nothing in the face of an oligarchic onslaught machine that exists to keep exploited farmworkers hidden and out of sight; hard-pressed Amazon employees too exhausted and afraid to raise their heads; and pretty much everyone else in the good 'ol USA in a permanent somnambulistic stupor.

Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and other vaunted captains of industry are among the few who always have their eyes wide open.

When the monied interests oppose unionization, livable wages and universal healthcare — they know it's not about the Benjamins. These economic royalists know it's all about preserving their lofty perches by continuing to deprive working men and women of economic autonomy, strength and power.

Of course, Bezos and the rest of the oligarchic elite have more than enough money to pay workers better wages and benefits [for crying out loud, they're shooting themselves into outer space]. What they absolutely can't afford, however, is to lift their boots off our necks. Not even a little bit.

Public exhibitions and monuments like the ones popping up during the vaccination rollout have always been very powerful tools — whether created to instill particular narratives in the minds of the masses favorable to the ruling elite or making the masses believe the ruling elite actually cares about the concerns of workers.

That statue of Robert E. Lee that recently came down in Charlottesville, Va., was erected a-hundred-some-odd-years-ago with a clear-eyed purpose. In this case, to obscure the ugly fact that the Civil War was fought to perpetuate slavery and not at all about protecting "states rights," "honoring southern heritage," or any other such nonsense.

And despite the genuine earnestness of the participants, Mayor Muriel Bowser's decision to allow "BLACK LIVES MATTER" to be painted on 16th Street in Washington, DC also sought to accomplish the ruling elite's aim of placating the masses without, you know, actually doing anything to stop fascist police from murdering unarmed Black and Brown people.

Either way, it seems like you still can't go wrong with a statue or parade if you want to try and keep the working class in check.

How the US Postal Service helped deliver a win to Amazon in defeat of union

After the failed union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, the critical postmortems ignored a reality that may result in another election: Amazon cheated.

And Louis DeJoy, the Trump-era holdover dismantling the U.S. Postal Service, helped.

A National Labor Relations Board hearing on Friday will consider a request for a new vote sought by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The union complaint alleges a campaign of intimidation to pressure employees to reject the union.

The labor board has a long history of looking the other way when given evidence of cheating by employers in union elections. But this time may be different because of who helped cheat — from local on up to national officials.

The Jeff Bezos company installed a drop box to collect votes on company property despite being told by the labor board staff not to do so.

Drop boxes were placed with the connivance of the service led by DeJoy. Former President Donald Trump installed this high-rolling donor to worsen mail delivery during the fall presidential election Trump was hellbent to win. Less mail, less votes; less votes, less competition, perhaps.

Here, we use the pejorative connivance because the drop box installed inside Amazon's Bessemer parking lot did not carry any postal insignia.

Amazon can leverage the Postal Service because Amazon has fattened it.

The Postal Service generated nearly $4 billion in revenue from Amazon in 2019 and counted an eye-popping $1.6 billion of that in profit. The volume of business Amazon delivered grew bigly last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This reliance on Amazon for high profits likely explains why, beyond his well-documented anti-union animus, DeJoy would help Amazon fight the union.

A pro-union worker, Jennifer Bates, told reporters last month that colleagues at the Bessemer Fulfillment Center were reluctant to deposit ballots in the mysterious drop box that suddenly appeared in the parking lot.

Workers Feared Amazon

"Some of the people are afraid to put them in there," Bates said. "The 'yes' voters feel that Amazon will probably try to steal their ballots."

Labor lawyer Brandon Magner tweeted: "If Amazon did install these mailboxes, or if they exercise control over the mailboxes, such as having a key to the ballot box, that would clearly merit setting aside the election if the union were to lose."

During the voting, from Feb. 8 to March 29, Amazon demonstrated just how crucial controlling the Bessemer warehouse parking lot — and what went on inside it — was to the company.

'Coercion and Intimidation'

The union made the following claims:

  • Amazon hired police officers to patrol the parking lot and surveil interactions between employees and union organizers. The constant presence "created an atmosphere of coercion and intimidation thereby interfering with the right of employees to a free and fair election."
  • The company used local government officials to change policies governing employees exiting the workplace. Amazon got the timing on a traffic light located outside the facility changed so union organizers wouldn't have much time to approach departing workers.
  • Workers were forced to sit through hours of mandatory indoctrination meetings. These sessions, often are used by companies to scare workers into believing their jobs will disappear if they vote for a union. The tactic is often effective with workers who have not yet experienced the benefits of collective bargaining.

Without a union, individual workers have no power. And while some who voted against the union told journalists after the vote that Amazon paid them well, the issue is whether it should pay them even better along with improving their benefits and work rules.

Record Profits

Last year, Amazon reported a profit of $24.2 billion before taxes, up from $13.9 billion in 2019 and almost 10 times its 2016 pretax profit.

Amazon pays little in federal income tax. In 2020 its "effective federal income tax rate of just 9.4%, less than half the statutory corporate tax of 21%." So said Mathew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy earlier this year when Amazon announced its latest financial success.

Amazon has been so successful that a dollar invested when it first sold stock in 1997 has now grown to $2,300, making it one of the most fantastically profitable investments even in this era of high profits in high tech.

While the company doesn't want to share more of its gains with the blue-collar Americans whose labor makes its profits possible by quickly fulfilling orders, it does lavish money on its executives. One reason to favor the top is that the way Amazon pays executives provides a stealth financial and tax subsidy.

Costly Stock Options

The company showered so many valuable stock options on its highest-paid people that the tax savings alone came to more than $600 million last year, Gardner calculated.

Stock options save companies on corporate income tax. The companies get to deduct their value even though the cost is borne by existing stockholders. The stockholders' share of the company is diluted by the new shares given to executives. In other words, it's a tax deduction that costs the company nothing.

Options are also a form of compensation that cost the company nothing, unlike the hard cash it must pay out to rank-and-file workers like those at the Bessemer warehouse.

What's most troubling about this union election is that a federal government corporation worked with management against the workers. That's a troubling sign of authoritarianism.

Remember Amazon worked in concert with the Postal Service to install the drop box to collect ballots on company property. The service acted after staff at the labor board, the federal agency tasked with protecting the rights of American workers in the private sector, told them they couldn't do it. But just as it pressured workers, Amazon pressured the service into pleasing Bezos, the richest person in America.

No Answers

Dave Partenheimer, a postal public relations manager, would not talk about who ultimately gave the go-ahead to install the drop box in the Amazon warehouse parking lot.

Partenheimer declined to say whether the service knew that the labor board already denied Amazon's request for such a drop box. He also declined to identify who ultimately approved installation.

Instead, Partenheimer reiterated an earlier statement about a "Centralized Box Unit [CBU] with a collection compartment" being "suggested by the postal service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point."

The labor board isn't talking about the drop box either, at least not while it considers the 23 separate objections filed by the Retail Store, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

Labor board spokeswoman Kayla Blado declined to comment on whether the Postal Service has the authority to supersede her agency's decisions. She would not even confirm that the agency did, in fact, deny Amazon's request to have a ballot drop box installed on its property.

DeJoy Strikes Again

The persistent controversy about the drop box and the Bessemer vote overall, however, parallels the madness that surrounded mail-in ballots during the last presidential election. DeJoy ordered the removal of mail sorting machines in the run-up to the vote, while the rest of the Trump administration whined about the supposed inability of the Postal Service to properly deliver ballots.

Trump also complained throughout his four years in office that the Postal Service was subsidizing Amazon. This was to advance his attacks on the aggressive reporting by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, but whose newsroom he has never influenced according to the top editor and reporters working there.

We now know that the prices Amazon paid generated outsized profits for the Postal Service, exposing yet another Trump lie only a few Americans, like DCReport readers, know.

Fought Mail-in Votes, Then Didn't

At first, Amazon fought hard to block mail-in voting in the General Election. It dismissed the potential dangers of in-person voting during the pandemic. Then it reversed course and challenged the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots in a timely fashion. Taken together it was a classic case of Amazon talking out of both sides of the company's mouth.

Lisa Y. Henderson, the labor board's acting Region 10 director, dismissed the company's contradictory arguments in January and ordered that balloting be conducted by mail.

How the labor board rules, and whether the long list of federal rules that hobble union organizing, will be addressed by President Joe Biden's administration. Decisions will be crucial to whether Americans as a whole prosper, or we continue to create inequality through policies that tilt heavily to the side of business owners and investors.

The struggle between American workers and the bosses has been, and continues to be, fantastically lopsided.

The Economic Policy Institute's Unequal Power Project, for instance, notes an "inherent imbalance in bargaining power between employers and employees" that creates "a lack of freedom in the workplace."

Pro-union workers at Amazon's Bessemer warehouse remained undaunted after losing the initial vote, declaring, "This battle has just begun."

"I'm not discouraged," Linda Burns told reporters after losing the vote by a more than 2-to-1 margin. "This is the beginning. [Jeff] Bezos, you misled a lot of our people. We're going to fight for our rights."

Co-worker Emitt Ashford said if the labor board does order a new election, "We would see a change in the tide now that people have the information."

"We would win," he said.

Louis DeJoy strikes again: How our postal service helped Amazon win controversial Alabama union battle

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After the failed union vote at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama, the critical postmortems ignored a reality that may result in another election: Amazon cheated.

And Louis DeJoy, the Trump-era holdover dismantling the U.S. Postal Service, helped.

A May 7 labor board hearing will consider a request for a new vote sought by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Its complaint details a campaign of intimidation to pressure employees to reject the union.

The Labor Board has a long history of looking the other way when given evidence of cheating by employers in union elections. But this time may be different because of who helped cheat --- from local on up to national officials.

The Jeff Bezos company installed drop boxes to collect votes on company property. Amazon placed these boxes despite being told by the National Labor Relations Board staff not to do so.

The drop boxes were placed with the connivance of the service led by DeJoy. Former President Donald Trump installed this high-rolling donor to worsen mail delivery during the fall presidential election Trump was hellbent to win. Less mail, less votes; less votes, less competition.

Here, we use the pejorative verb connivance because the drop box installed inside Amazon's Bessemer parking lot did not carry any postal insignia.

Amazon can leverage the Postal Service because Amazon has made itself crucial to USPS finances.

The Postal Service generated nearly $4 billion in revenue from Amazon in 2019 and counted an eye-popping $1.6 billion of that in profit. The volume of business Amazon delivered grew bigly last year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This reliance on Amazon for highly profitable business likely explains why, beyond his well-documented anti-union animus, DeJoy would help Amazon fight the union.

The struggle between American workers and the bosses has been, and continues to be, fantastically lopsided.

A pro-union worker, Jennifer Bates, told reporters last month that colleagues at the Bessemer Fulfillment Center were reluctant to deposit ballots in the mysterious drop box that suddenly appeared in the parking lot.

Workers Feared Amazon

"Some of the people are afraid to put them in there," Bates said. "The 'yes' voters feel that Amazon will probably try to steal their ballots."

Labor lawyer Brandon Magner tweeted: "If Amazon did install these mailboxes, or if they exercise control over the mailboxes, such as having a key to the ballot box, that would clearly merit setting aside the election if the union were to lose."

During the voting, which lasted from Feb. 8 to March 29, Amazon demonstrated just how crucial controlling the Bessemer warehouse parking lot — and what went on inside it — was to the company.

'Coercion and Intimidation'

The union made the following claims:

  • Amazon hired police officers to patrol the parking lot and surveil interactions between employees and union organizers. The constant presence, according to the union's protest filing, "created an atmosphere of coercion and intimidation thereby interfering with the right of employees to a free and fair election."
  • The company used local government officials to change policies governing employees exiting the workplace. Amazon got the timing on a traffic light located outside the facility changed so union organizers wouldn't have much time to approach departing workers.
  • Workers were forced to sit through hours of mandatory indoctrination meetings. These sessions, often used by companies to scare workers into believing their jobs will disappear if they vote for a union, are often effective with workers who have not yet experienced the benefits of collective bargaining.

Without a union, individual workers have no power. And while some who voted against the union told journalists after the vote that Amazon paid them well, the issue is whether it should pay them even better along with improving their benefits and work rules.

Record Profits

Last year, Amazon reported a profit of $24.2 billion before taxes, up from $13.9 billion in 2019 and almost 10 times its 2016 pretax profit.

Amazon pays little in federal income tax. In 2020 its "effective federal income tax rate of just 9.4%, less than half the statutory corporate tax of 21%." So said Mathew Gardner of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy earlier this year when Amazon announced its latest financial success.

Amazon has been so successful that a dollar invested when it first sold stock in 1997 has now grown to $2,300, making it one of the most fantastically profitable investments even in this era of high profits in high tech.

While the company doesn't want to share more of its gains with the blue-collar Americans whose labor makes its profits possible by quickly fulfilling orders, it does lavish money on its executives. One reason to favor the top is that the way Amazon pays executives provides a stealth financial and tax subsidy.

Costly Stock Options

The company showered so many valuable stock options on its highest-paid people that the tax savings alone came to more than $600 million last year, Gardner calculated.

Stock options save companies on corporate income tax. The companies get to deduct their value even though the cost is borne by existing stockholders. The stockholders' share of the company is diluted by the new shares given to executives. In other words, it's a tax deduction that costs the company nothing.

Options are also a form of compensation that cost the company nothing, unlike the hard cash it must pay out to rank-and-file workers like those at the Bessemer warehouse.

What's most troubling about this union election is that a federal government corporation worked with management against the workers. That's a troubling sign of authoritarianism.

Remember Amazon worked in concert with the service to install the dropbox to collect ballots on company property. The service acted after staff at the Labor Board, the federal agency tasked with protecting the rights of American workers in the private sector, told them they couldn't do it. But just as it pressured workers, Amazon pressured the service into pleasing Bezos, the richest person in America.

No Answers

Dave Partenheimer, a postal public relations manager, would not talk about who ultimately gave the go-ahead to install the dropbox in the Amazon warehouse parking lot.

Partenheimer declined to say whether the service knew that the Labor board already denied Amazon's request for such a dropbox. He also declined to identify who ultimately approved installation.

Instead, Partenheimer reiterated an earlier statement about a "Centralized Box Unit [CBU] with a collection compartment" being "suggested by the postal service as a solution to provide an efficient and secure delivery and collection point."

The Labor board isn't talking about the dropbox either, at least not while it considers the 23 separate objections filed by the Retail Store, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The Labor board spokeswoman, Kayla Blado, declined to comment on whether the Postal Service has the authority to supersede her agency's decisions. She would not even confirm that the agency did, in fact, deny Amazon's request to have a ballot drop box installed on its property.

DeJoy Strikes Again

The persistent controversy about the dropbox and the Bessemer vote overall, however, parallels the madness that surrounded mail-in ballots during the last presidential election. DeJoy ordered the removal of mail sorting machines in the run-up to the vote, while the rest of the Trump administration whined about the supposed inability of the Postal Service to properly deliver ballots.

Trump also complained throughout his four years in office that the Postal Service was subsidizing Amazon. This was to advance his attacks on the aggressive reporting by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, but whose newsroom he has never influenced according to the top editor and reporters working there.

We now know that the prices Amazon paid generated outsize profits for the Postal Service, exposing yet another Trump lie though only a few Americans, like DCReport readers, know this.

Fought Mail-in Votes, Then Didn't

At first, Amazon fought hard to block mail-in voting. It dismissed the potential dangers of in-person voting during the pandemic. Then it reversed course and challenging the ability of the Postal Service to deliver mail-in ballots in a timely fashion. Taken together it was a classic case of Amazon talking out of both sides of the company's mouth.

Lisa Y. Henderson, the Labor board's acting Region 10 director, dismissed the company's contradictory arguments in January and ordered that balloting be conducted by mail.

How the Labor board rules, and whether the long list of federal rules that hobble union organizing, will be addressed by President Joe Biden's administration. Decisions will be crucial to whether Americans as a whole prosper, or we continue to create inequality through policies that tilt heavily to the side of business owners and investors.

The struggle between American workers and the bosses has been, and continues to be, fantastically lopsided.

The Economic Policy Institute's Unequal Power Project, for instance, notes an "inherent imbalance in bargaining power between employers and employees" that creates "a lack of freedom in the workplace."

Pro-union workers at Amazon's Bessemer Fulfillment Center remained undaunted after losing the initial vote, declaring, "This battle has just begun."

"I'm not discouraged, Linda Burns told reporters after losing the vote by a more than 2-to-1 margin. "This is the beginning. [Jeff] Bezos, you misled a lot of our people. We're going to fight for our rights."

Co-worker Emitt Ashford said if the Labor board does order a new election, "We would see a change in the tide now that people have the information."

"We would win," he said.

Labor unions take credit for Biden vote counts in key states

Calling them the "saviors of democracy," labor groups representing essential frontline workers in key battleground states say their members have put Joe Biden on track to win the White House—and that they're now prepared to beat back Trump administration efforts to steal the 2020 presidential election from the Democratic Party nominee.

On Wednesday, the day after the election, leaders from SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania—part of the nationwide Service Employees International Union, the state group represents 45,000 caregivers—joined with Black Voters Matter, Our Future PA and other pro-labor, progressive organizations on the Harrisburg Capitol steps for a "Count Every Vote" rally. They plan to reassemble as outstanding ballots in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Georgia and North Carolina continue to be tabulated.

As of early Friday morning, Biden had taken a narrow lead in Georgia and was on the path to pass Trump in Pennsylvania.

'We know that we made a significant difference in Pennsylvania in this election.'

Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale and Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder were there, too. (The AFL-CIO—the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations—is the largest federation of unions in the U.S.)

"The president decided he was winning in the fifth inning and called it a game—but we know we won yesterday," Bloomingdale told attendees.

Snyder invoked a football analogy, saying that Trump is defeated and that whatever "safety, fumble or interception" that may yet occur—the "game is over."

Representing Essential Workers

"Ignore the noise that's coming from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and keep your poise," Snyder said.

SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania President Matthew Yarnell later told DCReport that Trump's efforts to stop the count in his state and the "dangerous rhetoric spewing from the White House podium" is a direct effort to disenfranchise essential workers—many of them people of color.

"These are folks who have been on the frontlines of this pandemic and many of them have voted by mail because they have to," Yarnell said. "They're working 12-hour shifts, they can't get to the polls on election day."

These workers, Yarnell says, have been out there "through thick and thin, day and night supporting our country as we've gone through this pandemic."

"Pre-pandemic and post-pandemic, folks who really make our country work—they deserve to have their voices heard and their ballots counted," he said.

Beating Clinton's Performance

Four years ago, Democrat Hillary Clinton lost Pennsylvania by just over 44,000 votes. This time around, Unite Here—the national hospitality workers' union—believes it has done the "critical work" needed in Black and Brown communities throughout the state to best Donald Trump.

"We knocked on the doors of 575,000 voters across Philadelphia's Black and Brown neighborhoods that had low turnout in 2016," Unite Here Local 274 President Rosslyn Wuchinich told reporters during a Thursday press conference. "In those neighborhoods, we identified 60,000 Philadelphia voters who pledged to us to in person in contactless conversations to vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris."

According to Wuchinich, half of those voters had not voted in 2016.

"We know that we made a significant difference in Pennsylvania in this election," she said.

Black and Latino workers laid-off from jobs with the Philadelphia Public School System constitute the majority of Unite Here Local 634's membership.

Black and Brown Voters

"The members I work with are primarily Black leaders in the Philadelphia school district who need to see a change in this country," Local 634 President Nicole Hunt told reporters. "They've been dealing with racial injustice, joblessness and folks who have just lost hope in this system. In 2016, these people did not vote that we targeted—and we were able to give them their voice back and let them know that they matter."

Unite Here succeeded in knocking on nearly 3 million doors on behalf of the Biden/Harris ticket in the months leading up to the Nov, election.

Unite Here Local 11 represents more than 30,000 hospitality workers in Southern California and Arizona. Union canvassers ranging in age from 15 to 72, started knocking on doors for the Biden/Harris on blistering hot days back in July. When it was over, the union had reportedly put as many as 500 people in the field and interacted with more than 250,000 voters.

"We formed our team from some of the most devastated people, Local 11 Co-President Susan Minato told reporters during the virtual press conference. "These were laid-off hospitality workers who really did not know—and still do not know—if they will go back to a job."

Unite Here Secretary-Treasurer Gwen Mills told reporters:"We believe the saviors of democracy are working people."

Numerous labor leaders around the country have already stated that Trump would spark a general strike if he tries to subvert the will of the electorate. According to Yarnell "everything is on the table."

Fighting Trump's Efforts

"As I watch the results roll in, it's looking more like we're going to have a pretty decisive win for Vice-President Biden," he said. "If Trump continues to try to use tactics to try and intimidate… or use the legal system to try and take away the election from people that were duly won it—we're gonna fight tooth and nail to prevent that."

Unite Here President Donald "D." Taylor calls trade unionists the "difference makers" in the 2020 Presidential Election—and with that much political capital, organized labor should finally have enough political leverage to extract concrete demands from a Democratic Party that has long taken them for granted and failed to deliver for the working people they represent.

"We have to hold [Biden] accountable," Philadelphia's Nicole Hunt told me. "We want to see action taken."

For Unite Here, at least, that kind of immediate action would include relief for hard-pressed working people in crisis; raising the minimum wage, enacting rules that make it easier for working men and women to join a union; comprehensive immigration reform and a green economy.

Taylor expects Joe Biden will be the most "pro-union president" in his lifetime—but still says Labor must still continue to organize and push him to deliver for the workers.

It's unknown, however, how much of the union's agenda can be implemented as Sen. Mitch McConnell and Republicans look likely to retain control of the Senate.

"What we've done is assemble the car," Taylor said. "We're not just going to hand over the keys and say, OK, you drive it."

New York City firebrand Mike Hellstrom, secretary-treasurer of Laborers Local 108, says that the American labor movement knows very well what the integrity of the vote is all about.

"It's how our unions are formed," he told me. "Voting and having your ballot counted is the chief hallmark of our democracy. Organized labor has an obligation in ensuring that this integrity is held up in any election—especially that of the president of our country—including making our voices heard by demanding that all legal votes be counted, and holding those in power accountable to what our democracy stands for."

EPA chief issues 'straight up racist' order for workers to return to offices

Hundreds of telecommuting employees at the Environmental Protection Agency are in open revolt. Agency head Andrew R. Wheeler this week drew their ire for what they say is a deadly and racist order to return to federal buildings despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

They refused Monday to be bullied back into a much higher risk of contracting COVID-19 just to buttress the president's foolish behavior. And they noted that such dangerous directives appear aimed only at the EPA, an agency whose mission Trump loathes.

On Monday, as Trump made a dramatic show of returning to the White House and posing for propaganda films, the union representing many EPA employees declared its support for science and listening to doctors.

We have a president who doesn't care if you live or die. Even our mid-level management is with us on this.

American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Council 238 held a no-confidence vote on EPA Administrator Wheeler, an action one step short of a strike, which federal law prohibits.

The Council 238 members voted 695 to 56 against Wheeler. That's an overwhelming 93% expressing no confidence.

Inhuman, Lethal Order

Those voting included scientists, public health professionals and other people with enough education and sound judgment to recognize that Wheeler's order to work in an unsafe environment is worse than foolhardy, it's inhumane and potentially lethal.

Union leaders said that midlevel managers who by law cannot be in a union share their views that the Wheeler directive is not just unwise, it's likely to result in the deaths of some EPA employees or their loved ones.

Trump originally tapped Wheeler — a former coal industry lobbyist and climate change denier — for EPA leadership back in 2017, before ultimately succeeding in installing him as permanent administrator in February 2019.

During an online union hall meeting Monday night to announce the no-confidence vote resultsunion leaders reminded members of their lack of protections from deadly workplace conditions.

Loreen Targos of Local 704 noted that federal employees cannot legally strike, then added that federal employees "have a right to fight for our lives."

Union Says Don't Return

Gary Morton, president of AFGE Council 238, emphasized telecommuting's effectiveness against COVID-19's spread. He told the council's 9,000 members that they should not return to their EPA offices until a safe and effective vaccine against the virus is developed, they get it and it is widely available.

The unionists have been working remotely since March 15 without issue, the union says.

But forcing them back into office spaces where mask-wearing would not be enforced and measures to ensure social distancing in hallways and elevators have not been taken is a threat to workers' lives.

Just one infected worker who models Trump's mask-less behavior could make a whole building sick. COVID-19 is expected to cause lifelong health problems in some of those affected. Infected workers can spread the disease to their family members, some of whom may be vulnerable due to age, pre-existing conditions and other factors not yet fully understood

Administration Hypocrisy

Joyce Howell, a Local 3631 leader who has negotiated with management, called hypocrisy on the Trump administration.

"They [administrators] always say your health and safety is our priority — [but] if you spend 15 minutes at the bargaining table, you know that that's not true," Howell said. "I have no confidence employee health and safety are being considered during the reopening."

Wheeler's drive to pack bodies into traditional, and confined, office spaces where tiny droplets of moisture laced with the virus can spread disease is especially suspect to other union leaders. No other federal agency is being subjected to similar "phase three" return to federal buildings, they said.

"Seems like they are lining us up to push us over the cliff into phase three," President Bethany Dreyfus of Local 1236 said. "This whole time they were using us to make a political point."

AFGE Local 704's Felicia Chase further insists that Wheeler's plan to force employees back into traditional office spaces fails to consider COVID-19's disproportionate impact on black and brown people. Chase called Wheeler's directive "straight-up racist."

Compliance Next Week

The requirement for workers to return to their offices could come as early as Thursday evening with compliance expected Tuesday, Oct. 13, according to AFGE Council 238 members.

Eddie Guster, the council's sergeant-at-arms, said Trump's continuing dismissal of the deadly effects of COVID-19 and his returning to the White House while infectious is both "infuriating" and reckless.

Because of the disease, "some of my friends lost parents," Guster said. "We have a president who doesn't care if you live or die. Even our mid-level management is with us on this."

Targos remains defiant while reminding rank and file EPA employees that solidarity has enabled them to confound Wheeler and Trump for this long.

"They have no idea what we're capable of," in resisting the dangerous order Targos said. "They haven't seen nothing, so far."

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