It's been another rough week in these United States and, in turn, on The BradCast. The War in Ukraine, the corrupted Supreme Court stealing freedoms from Americans, the stock market roller coaster, COVID deaths topping 1 million and beginning to rise again, along with the nation's expanding far-right authoritarian movement. But there has been at least one bright spot of late, which we're happy to spend some time covering today. [Audio link to full show is posted at the end of this summary.]
First, however, following Justice Samuel Alito's leaked draft majority opinion [PDF] that would end the Constitutional freedom for a woman's right to an abortion, subsequently mandating forced pregnancies, even due to rape and incest, in many states, the Obamas, Barack and Michelle, released an eloquent and important statement this week.
They focus on Roe v. Wade's recognition "that the freedom enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution requires all of us to enjoy a sphere of our lives that isn't subject to meddling from the state --- a sphere that includes personal decisions involving who we sleep with, who we marry, whether or not to use contraception, and whether or not to bear children." If Roe is overturned, they explain, all of those so-called "unenumerated" Constitutional rights, established by the courts through decades of precedent, will all now be vulnerable to dismantling by the GOP's packed and stolen SCOTUS. They would soon be left to Big Government whims of the far Right.
Their statement also urges that it is important not to "feel helpless" in light of all of this or feel "there's nothing any of us can do." They note, as we often do, that "elections have consequence" and, "in the end, if we want judges who will protect all, not just some, of our rights, then we've got to elect officials committed to doing the same."
NEXT, we turn to a bit of brighter news amid so much darkness, about American working men and women finally standing up for themselves to organize at companies both big and small. There has been awe inspiring activity across the country in recent weeks and months to establish labor unions for collective bargaining by workers at huge, anti-union companies like Amazon and Starbucks and others.
We're joined to discuss this hopeful surge in working class Americans --- from the Right and the Left --- standing up for their labor rights by JORDAN ZAKARIN, publisher of the Progress Report newsletter and contributor to More Perfect Union. His great newsletter (worth subscribing to!) focuses on all things progressive, including "fact-based advocacy, and the voices of people organizing on the ground." This week, as we discuss today, he rounded up many of the encouraging union activities happening around the country in a piece headlined "A May Day of Momentum."
Among the points discussed, how Amazon, "known as an unbelievably abusive employer" has spent millions to defeat union drives, deploying their "union-busting handbook". Nonetheless, there was a recent historic victory by the underdog crowd-funded Amazon Labor Union last month that established the company's first union facility in the U.S. in Staten Island, New York.
Then there's Starbucks, where more than 50 shops have become unionized in recent weeks. There are several thousand more to go. But, Zakarin reports today, "it's much easier for them to do small, tight knit units of people that stick together" with unionization elections at each shop, rather than entire regions at once, as Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz would prefer.
We discuss recent successes at Kellogg's in Michigan, where their VP of Labor Relations was caught on tape describing union negotiators as "terrorists", and at Delta, the only major non-unionized airline, where, until workers there began to organize for a union vote, flight attendants were only paid for time in the air, not for the hours spent boarding and deplaning passengers!
"We're constantly finding that conditions are even worse than we expect," at such companies, says Zakarin. But "people are starting to stand up and walk out" in protest of lousy wages and horrible working conditions at many of these companies. "The more that people start to organize, the more it galvanizes others," he explains. "It really is a spark that catches. It's been really inspiring to see."
Zakarin also offers his insight on hearings held today in the U.S. Senate's Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), focused on withholding federal contracts from non-union companies; why this surge in union activity is now occurring; and whether or not he agrees with some who say that Joe Biden is the most pro-union President since FDR.
FINALLY today, news that oil giant Shell enjoyed their most profitable quarter in history, bringing in more than $9 billion dollars in pure profit while their post-pandemic and war-time profiteering pays off for them at the pump. Shell --- like ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron (which is also fighting its union workers) and all of the other oil majors --- continues to raise prices on consumers while pretending that it's Russia's war in Ukraine that is forcing them to bilk customers with higher and higher prices.
And, oh yeah, we finish up today with a bit of listener mail...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)