NLRB rules against Amazon retaliation

Nearly a year ago, Amazon fired two employees who had criticized the company. The employees had publicly called on the company to do more to reduce its carbon footprint and had circulated a petition among Amazon employees supporting better compensation and support for warehouse workers. Now, the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, has found that Amazon acted illegally and in retaliation when it fired them … (according to a report from The New York Times).

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were both designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, and their tussles with management began in 2018 when they joined a group of employees who vocally backed shareholder petitions urging the company to do more to combat climate change…

Cunningham and Costa joined with other Amazon tech employees to circulate petitions internally that sought expanded hazard pay, sick leave, and childcare for warehouse employees. The group also planned a virtual event for warehouse and tech workers, allowing the latter to hear firsthand about the former’s working conditions.

Shortly thereafter, Amazon fired both Cunningham and Costa, claiming that they had been “repeatedly violating internal policies.” The two women filed complaints with the NLRB.

Been there … done that! I honestly don’t know if political and public pressure has pushed the NLRB into faster action in all-too-common situations like this. BITD, it could take years to get a response on retaliation cases.

What’s one thing you would change about the global economy?

❝ How can we create, as Oxfam’s Winnie Byanyima puts it in this article, “an economy that works for the 99% “ and not just the fortunate few?

We asked 10 Davos participants for their thoughts; here’s what they had to say.

Diane Coyle, Professor of Economics, University of Manchester

❝ I would pay teachers at schools in poor communities such high wages that the very best people would want to take the job. That’s not the only change needed in education. We must also think more seriously about the skills our children will need for the world they’ll graduate into, and how to equip them with those skills. And the needs will differ from place to place, so more local control over education policy would make sense, too. But the top priority should be getting society’s most talented people on the task of preventing whole communities from falling further and further behind.

Kenneth Rogoff, Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and Professor of Economics, Harvard University

❝ …Trade protectionism will not bring back disappearing manufacturing jobs to the United States or Europe. Instead it will only raise prices of many goods that low-income consumers depend on, and accelerate the pace of mechanization. The best solution to inequality in advanced economies lies in greater redistribution through taxes and transfers, and in improved – and more equal – education at all levels…

Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation

❝ …Wage share continues to fall further behind both productivity and profits. People are fighting back at the ballot box but tragically the alternatives offered by populist political leaders, with people excluded by race, religion, gender or sexual preference, will not offer inclusive solutions. Governments are caught in the web of corporate capture and fail to regulate or to defend their own people by prosecuting corporations for human and labour rights abuse. Tax fraud and unjust corporate tax concessions threaten essential public services…

RTFA. This is just a taste from a single article. Like the best forums, particularly internationally chartered, a pretty wide range of viewpoints is on display in Davos, this year.

If, like Donald Trump, you think you’re better off ignoring the discussion, then, I’d suggest President Xi’s response to that concept: “Pursuing protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room, which would seem to escape the wind and rain, but also block out the sunshine and air…”

Dissidents who burgled FBI, turned up crimes against activists, step out into daylight decades later


FBI field office in Media, PAPhoto Betty Medsger

…On a night nearly 43 years ago…burglars took a lock pick and a crowbar and broke into a Federal Bureau of Investigation office in a suburb of Philadelphia, making off with nearly every document inside.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

Mr. Forsyth, now 63, and other members of the group can no longer be prosecuted for what happened that night, and they agreed to be interviewed before the release this week of a book written by one of the first journalists to receive the stolen documents. The author, Betty Medsger, a former reporter for The Washington Post, spent years sifting through the F.B.I.’s voluminous case file on the episode and persuaded five of the eight men and women who participated in the break-in to end their silence…

“It looks like we’re terribly reckless people,” John Raines said. “But there was absolutely no one in Washington — senators, congressmen, even the president — who dared hold J. Edgar Hoover to accountability.”

“It became pretty obvious to us,” he said, “that if we don’t do it, nobody will.”

The tradition that proceeds from Upton Sinclair to Ellsworth to Snowden now has another fine chapter. I saw the [ineffectual] FBI agent assigned to track these folks down 42 years ago – on TV, today. He was whining about their criminal guilt.

He was one of the criminals. They are the heroes.

NY State’s Republican-controlled Senate passes the final hurdle — votes 33 to 29 — OK’s same sex marriage


Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

A number of old-fashioned Republican conservatives decided Friday night they would be contradicting their own beliefs in the American Constitution if they voted to deny fellow citizens the same rights of marriage they enjoy themselves – for any reason. The issue turned on gender identity. The decision was made as it should be – on the virtues and value of our Constitution.

The right-wing Conservative Party of New York State, activists from many religions who felt their beliefs take precedence over civil law, Tea Party activists of one or another stripe all tried to turn those Republicans away from acting in concert with Democrats who supported this bill. They failed.

Progressives, Democrats, LGBT activists and civil libertarians, who have toiled for years to bring this measure to pass in a state that has a long history of democracy and struggles for equal rights – won their case. They have prevailed.

Good for you, New York. And special kudos to those Republicans who turned away from the mean-spirited reactionaries and bigots who have captured so much of that Party throughout the United States. I write often about traditional American conservatives. Their history has affected the ethics of my family – and my extended family – throughout my life. Honesty, rejection of hypocrisy, care for the natural wonders of this planet, a willingness to understand and seek understanding in the joys of education, a fair chance at a good life for all – are what I was raised with.

Many in that extended family have walked away from what the Republican Party has become in these last ten years. I’d be the last to suggest there’s a qualitative change among today’s Republicans – outside of the states that never left those values in the first place.

Good for you, New York.

Jewish activists sail for Gaza – ready to confront Israeli military

A group of Jewish activists set sail for the Gaza Strip on Sunday, intent on defying an Israeli blockade and highlighting the suffering of Palestinians who live in the territory. Nine activists from Israel, Britain, Germany and the United States left Famagusta port in northern Cyprus with a small quantity of aid aboard their British-flagged catamaran, “Irene…”

“I want to raise my voice against evil and draw attention to 1.5 million people under siege. This is inhuman,” said Rami Elhanan, an Israeli peace activist who lost his 14-year-old daughter Smadar to a Palestinian suicide bomber in 1997.

Israel, whose Gaza policies have been under international scrutiny since its marines killed nine Turkish activists in brawls aboard an aid ship on May 31, dismissed the Irene mission as a “provocation…”

Israel doesn’t have moral borders,” said Reuven Moskovitz, who at 82, is the oldest member of the group and a Holocaust survivor.

“I’m going because I am a survivor. When I was in a ghetto and almost died I hoped there would be human beings who would show compassion and help.”

Moral borders don’t mean a hell of a lot to Israel – or that nation’s patron saints in the White House and Congress. Not in a long, long time.

Would the Israelis attacks Jews on a mission of mercy? They already have done so plenty of times inside that nation’s borders, inside the borders of the lands they occupy. There have always been Jewish activists opposing Israeli imperial dreams. You just don’t get to see them in our obedient media sources.

On Earth Day, the environmental movement needs repairs

Bill McKibben says – “Forty years in, we’re losing”.

This weekend, when speakers at Earth Day gatherings across the country hearken back to the first celebration in 1970, they’ll recall great victories: above all, cleaner air and cleaner water for Americans.

But for 20 years now, global warming has been the most important environmental issue — arguably the most important issue the planet has ever faced. And there we can boast an unblemished bipartisan record of accomplishing absolutely nothing.

To mark Earth Day this year, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) were supposed to introduce their long-awaited rewrite of the House’s climate legislation. Now that’s been delayed for at least a few days, which is probably just as well, since, as Graham points out, it’s no longer really an environmental bill…

Worse, the bill might specifically remove the strongest tool the environmentalists won in the wake of Earth Day 1: the Environmental Protection Agency’s right to use the Clean Air Act to bring the fossil fuel industries to heel. Enforcement may be preempted under the new law. Even the right of states to pioneer new legislation, such as California’s landmark global warming bill, apparently could disappear with the new legislation…

That weakness has many sources, including the corrosive power of money in politics (and human beings have never found a greater source of money than fossil fuels). But at least part of the problem lies within environmentalism, which no longer does enough real organizing to build the pressure that could result in real change…

I remember interviewing Pete McCloskey, the California House member recruited by Gaylord Nelson to be the Republican sponsor of the original Earth Day…But just as important was what happened next: “About two weeks after Earth Day,” McCloskey said, “there was an article on the sixth or seventh page of the Washington Star — some of the Earth Day kids had labeled 12 members of Congress the Dirty Dozen and vowed to defeat them. Nobody paid much attention.

On the first Wednesday in June, though, everyone in Washington opened the paper to find that the two Democrats on that list — one a powerful committee chairman, the other a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee — had lost primary fights by fewer than a thousand votes. Within 24 hours, seven of the 10 Republicans on the list had come to me, even though I was despised, being against the war and all. ‘What’s this about water pollution, about air pollution? What can you tell us?’ ” For the next few sessions, anything tinged green passed Congress with ease: the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act.

The Golden Rule for American politicians is – “Get re-elected!” Nothing else really matters.

Get up on your hind legs and register folks to vote. Do it as a Green activist. Scare some Democrat or Republican into pretending they have a conscience and an understanding of science beyond Howdy Doody.

Animal rights campaigners jailed

Seven animal rights activists who blackmailed companies linked to an animal testing laboratory have been jailed for between four and 11 years.

They used paedophile smears, criminal damage and bomb hoaxes to intimidate companies associated with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) in Cambridgeshire.

Heather Nicholson, Gerrah Selby, Daniel Wadham and Gavin Medd-Hall were found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail. Gregg and Natasha Avery, of Hampshire, and Daniel Amos admitted the charge.

Sentencing the activists, Mr Justice Butterfield called the campaign “urban terrorism” and a “relentless, sustained and merciless persecution” which had made the victims lives “a living hell”.

He said he accepted that the seven had genuine deeply-held beliefs that animal testing was wrong, and had the right to protest against it. But he told them that companies had the right to conduct vital biomedical research and the right to conduct lawful trading…

“You are not going to prison for expressing your beliefs, you are going to prison because you have committed a serious criminal offence.”

Another defendant, Trevor Holmes, 51, from Newcastle, was cleared.

Political amateurs with no ability to define or implement, comprehend political strategy and tactics. Their approach to the task they defined had little to differentiate it from religious fanatics willing to kill or maim civilians to make their point.

Sad, but true.