On today's BradCast, we continue to catch up with a few of our favorite progressive journalists as the year grinds down. And, yes, there are still a few things to celebrate before Christmas. [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
This week, unionized Kellogg's workers in four states --- Michigan, Nebraska, Pennsylvania and Tennessee --- approved a new five-year contract after a long, 11-week strike. The corporate cereal behemoth had recently threatened to replace the strikers with new, permanent (scab) workers. But, according to members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) International Union, the loud support of lawmakers, including the President of the United States and members of his Administration, Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as state and local officials in Michigan and elsewhere, buoyed their resolve to keep going. And it worked! The BCTGM President noted this week that the new contract includes wage increases, cost-of-living adjustments, expanded health and retirement benefits and "does not include any concessions."
The victory for 1,400 workers, at a company which touted its workers just last year, during the darkest days of the pandemic, as "essential workers helping to feed the nation," was one of several for unionized labor this year. Our guest today, author and longtime progressive journalist JOHN NICHOLS of The Nation and Madison, Wisconsin's Capitol Times, joins us to help explain why.
"What's happened again and again" this year at companies like Kellogg's, John Deere and elsewhere, Nichols explains, "is that initially, the company bargains in the old-fashioned way. 'We're going to be tough with you...We'll permanently replace you.' All the old tricks." But, in a labor market with very low unemployment, where it is now difficult to find skilled workers or those willing to work in difficult, often dangerous conditions for low pay and benefits, "it's not going to work in this situation. The end result is the companies blinked."
But we've got much more than just the rise of labor in 2021 to catch up on with Nichols today in a lively, wide-ranging conversation on that...
- on how the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would help a broad swath of workers across the country;
- on Joe Manchin and the (theoretical) death of Biden's Build Back Better Act and what the West Virginia Democratic Senator's betrayal to his own party and his own constituents may mean for the future of the filibuster and federal voting rights legislation;
- on Nichols' fascinating new article for The Nation on the FBI's weird scrutiny of It's a Wonderful Life as a Communist tool back in the 1950s (they thought it made Mr. Potter --- and capitalism --- look bad);
- and on his upcoming new book calling for accountability --- akin to that which came out of FDR's Pecora Commission following the Great Depression --- for Coronavirus Criminals and Pandemic Profiteers. "In every chapter in the book," Nichols explains, "I find individuals who died, and I track through the cabinet members, the judges, the CEOs, whoever, who could have taken actions that would have let that person live."
That's just a taste. Tune in for much more today with the great Mr. Nichols!
Then, yes, in the spirit of the holidays (and, perhaps, in hopes that it may save even one life), we laud two Republicans today for (barely) doing the right thing this week. One is Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina, who now says he regrets voting against Joe Biden's certification in two states following the Trump-incited attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. ("There was a coward in that equation," Rice told Politico. "But it wasn’t Mike Pence.") And, perhaps most begrudgingly of all, we laud Trump himself for saying out loud during a wingnut interview this week: "The vaccine worked. But some people aren't taking it. The ones that get very sick and go to the hospital are the ones that don't take the vaccine. ... If you take the vaccine, you're protected. Look, the results of the vaccine are very good...People aren't dying when they take the vaccine."
Yes, the bar is admittedly very low at this point, but we've gotta start somewhere if we want to figure out how to repair this broken nation (and planet.)
Speaking of...the fine folks at ExxonMobil were apparently able to fit in one last disaster before year's end, with an explosion in the middle of the night at one of their refineries near Houston that injured four workers, three of whom were airlifted from the scene. The company downplayed the incident, as usual, describing it as "a fire occurred at our facility". The Houston County Sheriff's office described a "major industrial accident". We hope to learn more soon.
No room for that story today, however, in our final Green News Report of the year (we're standing down next week, Nicole Sandler will be filling in for us for most of it), as Desi Doyen joins us for a round-up of the disasters and successes in the environmental world in 2021, and much more...including one more victory for labor and union workers, as the Biden Administration mobilizes to rid the nation of millions of lead pipes...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)