Tag Archives: Amazon

President Biden Says, “Join the Union!”

biden union president workers rights america

March 2, 2021

New Orleans      John Lewis of the United Mineworkers Union and one of the founders of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO behind the hyphen in the AFL-CIO, famously had scores of organizers signing up tens of thousands after the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt claiming that “The President says join the union!”.

It’s taken almost eighty years but this time it was Joe, not John, and President Biden came close in a video message — ironically on Twitter — to inferring the same thing, since neither really said those words. As importantly, he pointed out that this is not just his administration’s policy and program, but is a fundamental part of the National Labor Relations Act, and therefore the policy of the entire federal government. That’s not just his opinion, that’s a fact.

The occasion may have been triggered by the mail balloting beginning for Amazon workers at the almost 6000-strong Bessemer, Alabama plant, but his clarifying call for workers to join and support unions speaks directly to the entire working class.  He doesn’t mention Amazon, and that’s a good thing, because this applies to everyone whose shoulder is on the wheel, when he says,

Unions put power in the hands of workers. They level the playing field. They give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protections from racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Unions lift up workers, both union and nonunion, but especially Black and Brown workers.

That was the heart of his message to workers, but he also has a message for employers as well, saying…

There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences. Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. The law guarantees that choice. And it’s your right, not that of an employer, it’s your right.

His message here is interesting, and just might speak to a new set of understandings for union organizing. No intimidation, coercion, or threats are all subjects for a charge before the NLRB. Anti-union propaganda is a fair game now, and should be outlawed or at least restrained, because such boss-messages do intimidate, coerce, and threaten. Pointing out that joining a union is a workers’ right and choice, and not that of the employer, is also an important twist. Too often current interpretations of US labor law, pretend that this is an even fight, when the employer controls the workplace, most communications, and the resources in a campaign that dwarf what the union can assemble in an election.

Biden’s emphasis on the union’s ability to protect against racial discrimination on the job and sexual harassment is also very significant, even though all unions may not be quite as ready to embrace this responsibility as he claims. He’s not hiding behind the long delays and toothlessness of the EEOC. He’s speaking to his base and the critical base his party wants to build and maintain. He’s also sending a message to construction and building trades that they better step up their game. He’s close to them, but he recognizes in this statement that many of them were way too transactional and cozy when playing footsie with former president Trump.

The media is talking about the fact that this is the most pro-union statement by a president since Harry Truman was in the office. One columnist quotes a Harvard professor claiming that presidents Carter and Clinton were anti-union. That’s not true at all, but to the degree they embraced neoliberalism, it too often ended up much the same and created a false sense of countervailing power that doesn’t exist in the workplace. Biden seems to be issuing a clarion call that curtseying before the altar of neoliberalism is also dead, and that’s also calling up the tune for a happy dance for all of us as well.


Foundations as “Extensions” of Corporate Reach

New Orleans   Foundations created by corporations and the superrich are multi-headed monster of tax havens and public relations that combine to whitewash a story for the people down below that makes us swallow rather than spit.  The latest examples have Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder and world’s richest man, claiming to make climate change his thing and BlackRock, the supersized private equity firm with $7.4 trillion under thumb, trying to carve a place for itself in philanthropy.  Yes, it’s hard not to spit, isn’t it?

But, wait, there’s a kernel of truth that has escaped from this mass of puffery.  The new head of the new BlackRock foundation without thinking became totally transparent in describing the planned pursuits of their new foundation as “an extension of what the firm does.”  What BlackRock does too often is rip-and-run or perhaps more accurate wreck-and-ruin.  The CEO Lawrence Fink has been collecting newspaper clips of his statements that maybe BlackRock will stop investing in companies that don’t at least genuflect in the direction of climate change and is tilting towards gulping down companies with better social and enviro records.  Thus far, it’s mostly talk, while we look for action.

BlackRock has another foundation that claims to “build savings tools for lower-income individuals,” and like a lot of money machines pretends to care about financial literacy.  The irony is painful.  This is the same company hoarding formerly foreclosed properties for rent and resale and helping change the entire real estate market in cities like Memphis.  In fact, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, most of their new foundation is being funded by its half of its $600 million stake in PennyMac Financial Services.  PennyMac is a straight-line successor to predatory lender, Countrywide Mortgage.

Public Integrity was clear in a 2013 analysis of all of the subprime execs who have made comebacks and reruns once people could pretend to have forgotten the great recession.

PennyMac, a fast-growing company founded by former Countrywide Home Loans CEO and IndyMac director Stanford Kurland, is a sprawling concern that earns fees by originating loans in call centers and online. It consists of two intertwined companies: a tax-free investment trust that holds mortgage investments and an investment advisor that manages the trust and other investment pools, among other activities. PennyMac buys loans from pre-approved outside sales offices, bundles them and sells off the slices. The company manages other peoples’ mortgage investments, collects borrowers’ payments and forwards them to investors. It forecloses on properties and amasses portfolios of loans and mortgage-backed securities as investments.

Tell me this doesn’t sound like a late-night horror movie coming back at us again.  BlackRock is probably exiting this investment and hiding it in a tax haven foundation to prevent reputational and financial damage when the whole thing explodes again.

As for Bezos, Amazon is now ranked in the top 200 companies emitting the most to impact climate change.   Groups of his workers have been organizing and demanding he and Amazon address climate issues and their impact on the destruction within the company.  His ex-wife just pledged to offload most of her share in the great giveaway with Gates, Buffet and the gang.  The article in the Times about the Bezos Earth Fund said it was unclear what they wanted to do.

Not really, all of these projects start as clear expressions and extensions of their corporate interests, just as the new exec said.  We again will take the hindmost.