Working Life Podcast

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Subscribe to the show today! Support Working Life @​ or @ I have discussed a number of times the union organizing campaign at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. So, as the ballot counting is now underway, I thought today we could add two aspects to the conversation, while we await the final results which could take a number of days. First, people don’t really know how the hell the ballot count happens, what’s the process, what does it look like so I thought it would be worth checking that out a bit. And, then, second what happens if the union wins? That second one is a doozy—because the fight just begins even after a union victory: the road to getting a first contract is torturous because a company like Amazon will fight tooth and nail to obstruct, delay and undercut the union at every turn, all in an effort to frustrate workers who want to see tangible results from their vote. We all need to know that, if the union wins, everyone supporting this campaign needs to keep the mobilization going after the final ballot is counted. So, to wrestle with these thoughts, our friend Dave Mertz is back. Dave is a vice president at the Retail, Wholesale and Department Stores Union and he joined me for a chat from Bessemer, Alabama which took place late at night after he finished meeting with the core organizing committee members. So, why is Yemen a place that even a top United Nations official calls “hell on earth.” Consider: Yemen is a country of 30 million people, 81 percent of whom make less than $5.50 a day and are facing a historic deadly famine; a place where, in 2021, 2.3 million children will face malnutrition, and 40 percent of households have poor to borderline access to food; a nation in which 20.5 million people, two thirds of the entire country, are without safe water and almost as many are without adequate health care, leaving millions at the mercy of cholera and, of course, COVID-19. Add to that a vicious war—fueled by U.S. arms and aid to Saudi Arabia—that has displaced millions of people from their homes, making every aspect of what I just recounted even worse. Scott Paul, who is a lead humanitarian policy expert with Oxfam America, lays out the crisis in Yemen, and whether a small ray of hope beckons. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Subscribe to the show today! Support Working Life @​ or @ I’ve spent a lot of time on the crisis facing workers around the world who before the pandemic even hit us faced some pretty dire economic realities. Tomorrow, a high-level group will convene, virtually naturally, to talk about creating an international social fund to assist lower income countries to come out of the year-long pandemic economic shutdown. Cathy Feingold, director of the AFL-CIO’s international affairs department and deputy president of the International Trade Union Confederation, which represents 200 million unionized workers worldwide, gives us the scoop. Rick Larsen has been a useless member of Congress. You can’t find a single initiative that he championed in the 20 years he’s represented the 2nd Congressional District in Washington. His best claim to fame might be that there isn’t a corporate dollar he hasn’t been willing to pocket, from defense contractors to health care companies to big tech companies like Amazon and Google to planet polluters like big oil companies. Jason Call, a longtime progressive activist, is taking on Larsen in the Democratic primary for the seat in 2022. He joins me to talk about the campaign to, as he says, “rein in the undue influence of giant corporations and directly challenge their power.” -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Subscribe to the show today! Support Working Life @ or @ It’s those zombie voices again. The ones who rise up from the dead, or from a hidden policy corner, to start the drumbeat of fear about “debt” and “deficits”, all in order to block progress for the people. There is no debt or deficit crisis. We have plenty of money in the richest nation in human history—and we should be spending big right now, especially with interest rates at rock-bottom lows. So, today is your antidote of information to combat the claim of a debt crisis (by the way, I wrote a book about this topic a decade ago—you can download it for free). Shervin Aazami, a progressive activist, is running for the Democratic nomination for the 30th Congressional District in California. He’s challenging a long-time corporate Democrat, Brad Sherman, who, among other horrendous positions, voted for both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and opposed the Obama Administration’s nuclear deal with Iran. Shervin joins me for a chat about his campaign. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Subscribe to Working Life today! Support us @ or @ Episode 217: It’s all about North Carolina today—the fight for better wages and the campaign to get a progressive person in the U.S. Senate, all of which is connected to my two guests today who represent the theme of the just-marked International Womens Day. The sad outcome of the push to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour tells us two things. First, there is a big house cleaning needed to make way for politicians who actually care about workers. Second, no matter what happens in elections, we need to keep up the street heat to mobilize millions of people to stop the immorality of people working full-time but getting paid poverty wages while billionaires get even richer. First up, then, is Precious Cole. Precious lives in Durham, North Carolina and works at Wendy’s. She has been working minimum wage jobs for half her life and, like millions of other workers, has, year after year, not been able to meet her monthly bills earning what is a poverty wage. Which is one reason Precious has become a key activist and leader in North Carolina Raise Up, the state branch of the national Fight for 15 and a Union network. She chats with me about her life and her activism. Then, you may remember state Senator Erica Smith—she was a progressive who jumped into the 2020 North Carolina race for the U.S. Senate to challenge incumbent Republican Thom Tillis. But, the D.C. insiders shoved her aside, handpicking the most uninspired, dumb-as-a-brick candidate Cal Cunningham who, with piles of corporate and party-directed money, won the primary—and, then, proceeded to crash and burn, handing Tillis his re-election. The 2022 election is a barometer for whether lessons have been learned. As the results of the Florida minimum wage ballot initiative showed—it passed overwhelmingly even as Joe Biden was losing the state—people are saying pretty clearly: give me a policy that puts money in my pocket and isn’t about supporting the rich over regular people, and I’ll vote for it whether you call it “progressive” or “a loaf of bread.” Erica is back for another Senate race, competing for the party primary nod for the seat that is opening up in 2022 with the retirement of Richard Burr. I talk with her about her campaign and the mood in North Carolina. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 216: Subscribe to Working Life today! Support us @ or @ The number that sticks in my mind today, and has since I heard it, is 40 percent. While over half a million people in the U.S. have died of COVID in one year, while millions of people have become sick, while millions of people have lost their jobs, savings and homes, and many people have been forced to wait in long food lines to get enough to feed their families—while all that was happening, the billionaires—the top 0.05 percent in the country, the Waltons, the Jeff Bezos’ of the world—saw their collective wealth go up 40 percent. Which is one good reason to have a wealth tax. This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Pramila Jayapal rolled out an “Ultra Millionaire’s Tax”. The tax would only be on the wealthiest 100,000 households in America, or the top 0.05%, who have a net worth of $50 million, and it would raise $3 trillion over a decade. Since, and I’m just spit balling here, I don’t think my audience falls into the over $50 million-net-worth category, I figured it would be safe to engage the always-brilliant Amy Hanauer, executive director of the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, in a conversation about the great benefits of a wealth tax. Subscribe to Working Life today! Support us @ or @ Some good news! Last May, I talked about an effort to raise two trillion dollars for poorer countries to battle the pandemic and the economic collapse. The money, so-called Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), can be created by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) but the Trump Administration blocked the move—even though it comes at no cost to taxpayers here. But, now, there’s movement: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen appears to be in favor of some level of the SDRs, if not the full two trillion now in the newly resurrected bills in the Senate and House. Mark Weisbrot, co-director of CEPR and an expert in international affairs who has been leading the campaign since last year, joins us for an update. I also have a few thoughts about the video Joe Biden made about the rights of workers to have a union. It’s a good thing—but it also shows how narrow the debate is about true union organizing rights. Check it out—and let me know your thoughts! -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 215: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: You aren’t going to be surprised by this news: Big Pharma is killing people. All over the world. And the real kicker here is: after you, the taxpayer, gave billions of dollars to Big Pharma companies to come up with a vaccine for COVID-19, Big Pharma is keeping that vaccine from getting into the hands of millions of people in poorer countries—which will come back to hurt every American as well. Under the World Trade Organization rules, Big PHARMA gets *lengthy* monopoly protections for medicines, tests and the technologies used to produce them. Trump wouldn’t join virtually every other country to grant a waiver for poorer countries to get access to the vaccines so lives could be saved. Next week, Joe Biden has a chance to do the right thing. I discuss this urgent effort with two warriors for progressives: Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who has represented the 9th Congressional district in Illinois for two decades, and Lori Wallach, the director of Global Trade Watch. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: A couple of weeks ago, I did a segment on the military coup in Myanmar and the specific threat faced by union leaders. Opposition to the coup is being led by union leaders who are facing arrest and violence, forcing many to go into hiding. I have new insights on what is happening in Myanmar from Khaing Zar, Treasurer of the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar (CTUM) and the President of the Industrial Workers Federation of Myanmar, the manufacturing and garment worker affiliate of the CTUM and the largest garment worker union in Myanmar. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Right before our eyes, in these very days and at this time of crisis, you can see so clearly this bankrupt system, defended and promoted by greedy CEOs and spineless politicians, but a system people are trying to rebel against and take down. And that’s the picture of two really important fights—the fight to get millions of workers a $15-an-hour minimum wage and the organizing campaign at Amazon. It’s infuriating to keep reading about these so-called Democrats, and, of course, every single Republican, who oppose raising the federal minimum wage to $15-an-hour? How deeply out of touch are these people who oppose giving people a semi-livable wage to try to survive on? So, in service to my listeners, I’ve given you four—just four!—easy talking points to argue for hiking the immorally low minimum wage. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Then, I return to the organizing campaign underway at Amazon’s huge warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. There is never enough conversation about organizing Amazon because of its power and how a victory in this campaign will inspire workers at other Amazon warehouses, not to mention labor as a whole. I am joined by Joshua Brewer, a main organizer of the campaign for the Retail Wholesale & Department Store Workers, for the latest on-the-ground intel. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 213: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: “Bi-partisanship” is an idea that should make everyone sick to their stomach. When someone is out to kill you, or your nation and community, making a deal for the sake of “bi-partisanship” or, its related political spineless copout “compromise”, makes no sense when the end result is injustice and a worsening of our lives. That’s what I start out with today—a topic I also wrote about in my new newsletter, which you can subscribe to here. Quick, who said just a couple of days ago: “We believe that $15-an-hour is the minimum that anyone in the U.S. should earn for an hour of labor” and, then, demanded that Congress raise the minimum wage to $15-an-hour. If you said Bernie Sanders, wrong! Though of course he does believe this. It was…wait for this…Amazon. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: That’s a direct result of union and community pressure on Amazon. Thousands of workers are trying to get a union at Amazon’s huge warehouse in Bessemer Alabama. The ballots have just been mailed and we get an update on the organizing campaign from a good friend of the show Dave Mertz, vice president at the Retail, Wholesale & Department Store Union, which is seeking to represent the workers. Since the coup in Myanmar on February 1st, the Myanmar trade union movement is taking a leading role in protest and strike actions against the military and is calling for international solidarity actions. There is a global solidarity day coming up Thursday, February 11th. So, to give everyone an update and what to do to support our sisters and brothers in Myanmar, I’m joined by Brian Finnegan, the Global Worker Rights Coordinator at the International Department of the AFL-CIO. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: How many of you dealt with that chaos when it came to wrestling with the unemployment insurance system last year? Some of the rhetoric we heard was, “well that chaos was just the pandemic crush overwhelming the system”. Yes, that’s true in a very narrow sense—the system collapsed in many places, meaning people who were desperate to get a check to pay rent or for food had to wait months and months for a first check…and lots of people just gave up. But, here’s the truth, folks—that’s a feature not a bug. So, as enhanced unemployment benefits are about to expire at the end of March but seem likely to be extended in a new stimulus bill, is this chaos going to continue to be as bad as it was a year ago? Michele Evermore, a senior policy analyst at the National Employment Law Project and a leading national expert on the unemployment insurance system, tells us the status and how we fix the broken system. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Remember during the presidential campaign when Joe Biden promised not to raise taxes for anyone making less than $400,000? I thought, “well, that’s dumb”. Why should someone making say $250,000—which puts them in the one percent—not pay higher taxes? I figured right then that that line-in-the-sand $400K number was a purely stupid political calculation—let’s not piss off the people in the suburbs who voted for Trump who we want to get. Really? Why not try a direct populist argument to reach a whole lot of people who are making under $100,000 and get angry about taxes because they have to pay a heavy load but see people making $250,000 paying a relatively small sum? I talk with Matt Gardner, senior fellow at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, about taxing people above $400,000, why other well-off people shouldn’t pay higher taxes as well and, bonus, how Netflix is paying less than one percent taxes on a massive revenue boost (hint: legalized corruption!) Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue:
Episode 211: “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.” The discerning quick minds among you will know that that’s a snippet of the speech by Michael Douglas’ character, the corporate raider Gordon Gekko, in the 1987 film Wall Street. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Truth is, Jeff Bezos makes Gekko look like a penny ante small-time crook. And the crooks who control government on behalf of big corporations are in the same Bezos league when it comes to the massive shift in wealth that they engineer—and that’s the theme of this week’s show. The one enduring fact of any government is the way in which the real powers—corporate and private wealth—push the levers behind the scenes. It’s the Revolving Door between government and Big Money, a door through which all sorts of manipulators and greedy people pass through from government to corporations to pro-corporate lobbying companies. And the story is mixed, as you will hear from Jeff Hauser, executive director of the Revolving Door Project, who is back on the show to update the picture of whether, and how deeply, corporate interests are dominating and controlling the Biden Administration. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: During this entire pandemic, which is now approaching a full year of horror and destitution for so many, I’ve pointed out in many of the segments we’ve done on frontline workers that the virus has just exposed the sickness we’ve lived with for decades—a sickness which lets a handful of people become filthy rich at the expense of everyone else. You can see that in the poverty-level minimum wage—which means people labor like slaves to make the likes of the Waltons of Walmart billions of dollars in profits. Or the lack of paid sick leave which is a main reason so many people have gotten sick on the job and, then, died because they could not afford to stay home from work when they got sick. Paul O’Brien, Vice President for Policy and Advocacy at Oxfam America, is back for our annual discussion about global inequality, tied to Oxfam’s new report, “The Inequality Virus”. And the picture is devasting: driven by the economic pandemic-driven collapse, we are witnessing a historic level of inequality across the globe. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 210: I am guessing everyone who listens to this show considers himself or herself an environmentalist and cares about the planet. You believe in science—a shocking notion—so you get the climate change emergency. We know we have to do some pretty radical stuff to keep this spaceship habitable for generations to come. Here’s the problem: there isn’t enough real thought by environmentalists and politicians, with numbers to go along with the thinking, how to take care of workers who will be hurt by the closing down of the fossil fuel industry. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Grasping climate change is serious is not contrary to also being worried to death you won’t be able to pay the bills if your coal mine shuts down, or a refinery stops production or the truck you drive to deliver food to people has to be all electric. Joe Biden has plenty of language in his campaign positions calling for high-paid union jobs in the post-carbon world, and he promises “We’re not going to leave any workers or communities behind”. Yet, too much of his proposals, and most other proposals, are way too vague and missing real numbers. The Just Transition debate in Europe is both similar to ours and not the same. It’s not the same for some key reasons: unions are stronger but perhaps not as strong as say 20 years ago. Health care is not tied to what job you happen to have—it’s a right not a privilege. And in most nations in Europe there is a component of a national pension plan so you don’t have to pray, like you do here, that the stock market is doing well enough when you retire that your IRA will give you enough money to live on. But, there is still enough vagueness in Europe to cause friction. To dig into this a bit more, I chat with Adrien Thomas, a research scientist at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER), who is focused on employment relations and the social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. Adrien recently co-authored an article entitled, “Trade unions and climate change: the jobs-versus-environment dilemma”. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 209: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Soccer, football, whatever you call it—it’s not my thing at all. Give me baseball every day, 365 days a week. But, what is my thing is making sure workers in every sport aren’t exploited—and that has been a reality for years when it came to the rights of workers who worked on the staging of soccer’s quadrennial World Cup, including the upcoming one in 2022 in Qatar. A worldwide outcry put a brake on some of the worst abuses in Qatar and set the stage for even more workers’ protections for the 2026 World Cup, which will be staged in North America and Mexico. Cathy Feingold, the international affairs director of the AFL-CIO and the deputy president of the International Trade Union Confederation, joins me to outline the campaign already underway to keep the heat on the host countries and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: High on the list of really bad outcomes in the recent election was the passage of California’s Proposition 22, which tore away rights from millions of so-called “gig” or “digital platform” workers, exempting companies like Uber And Lyft from a whole range of worker protections. This signals a new corporate assault on workers’ rights all across the nation. Progressives in Europe took notice of what happened in California . And are moving as quickly as possible to make sure the Americanization of poverty of “gig” and digital platform workers is stopped at the shores of the continent. Leïla Chaibi, a French politician who was elected as a Member of the European Parliament in 2019, chats with me about her proposal to the European Parliament to pass legislation to inscribe in law, for every country in the European Union, employment and working conditions for “gig” and “digital platform” workers equal to that of more traditional workers. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 208: Back in the spring, I had a good chuckle when I found a topic of agreement between the AFL-CIO and Goldman Sachs, as well as agreement from lots of heads of states, many labor folks and business titans—creating trillions of dollars in grants, not debt, to give to poorer countries needing immediate financial aid right away to contend with the pandemic. I’m circling back to this idea I first explored on the podcast in May, this time in a chat with Isaac Evans-Frantz, director at Action Corps, and Don Wiviott, a farmer advocate based in Iowa. Fasten your seat belts! The fight to raise taxes on the very wealthy and corporations is heating up, and, perhaps, the best options for victory will come at the state level. To look at the state of play, I chat with one of my favorite very smart people who knows everything about taxes, Amy Hanauer, executive director of the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. In case my email slipped by yesterday—there is still time to pitch in to our Giving Tuesday fundraiser and become a sponsor of Working Life. I pay for most of this out of my own pocket. That’s tough these days because I don’t come from a big money background—but I still want to keep giving voice to workers, union organizers, progressive policy wonks, progressive candidates, and grassroots organizations—with intelligent conversation, not rants. Long before they were household names, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman and Beto O’Rourke were on my show talking about their vision for the people. Thanks! -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 207: Ideology is in the way of a simple plan to end the pandemic in 30 days. Yes, 30 days: Lock down the country and pay everyone up to an annual wage of $90,000 to stay home. I’m resurrecting the argument I made months ago because the debate about a stimulus is on the agenda again—after Republicans have basically said fuck you to the entire country for months when it comes to aiding the people. My explanation of the plan leads off the episode. Then, high up on the list of pandemic utter chaos has been the way in which political leaders at the local and state level have mishandled how to safely reopen schools so teachers and kids don’t get sick. To get a sense of the current state of play for teachers, I zero in on Arizona where voters just approved a new tax hike to fund education and, at the same time, the infections are on a steep rise. Joe Thomas, the president of the Arizona Education Association, joins me to talk about the union’s renewed public push to put in place life-saving measures to make sure schools reopen safely. Lastly, I hope I never get to a day when, rather than be outraged, I just shrug at some mind-boggling, crazy proposal that endangers thousands of workers. Today, I’m incensed. On their way out the door, the grifters in the Trump Administration, having already killed tens of thousands of people by intentionally downplaying the pandemic and botching the response at all levels, now want to sicken even more workers: They are proposing a last-minute rule change to increase line speeds in poultry plants to 175 birds per minute. Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the co-executive director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH.), chats with me about this insane idea to make an already dangerous industry, in which thousands of workers have gotten COVID-19 and scores have died, even more perilous. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 206: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Three questions post-election are on the menu this week. First, how does Tom Perez, the chair of the DNC, still have a job? Perez has been incompetent for a very long time. He was the choice of the Democratic Party elites back in 2016—a guy who knows zippo about the mechanics of an election. And, voila—the party loses seats in the House, fumbles the chance to take the U.S. Senate, and even worse, fails to take back legislative chambers at the state level. Perez’s failures will echo for years to come. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Second, Georgia, Georgia, Georgia…these two run-off races will mean the difference between millions of people being able to pay for food or keep their homes, not to mention whether people like Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Jeff Merkley and Elizabeth Warren will have real power at the head of important committees or be stuck in the minority for at least two more years and have no chance to fight the Biden Administration over a progressive agenda. So, those two races have to be won by any means necessary. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Third, I speak with David Lujan, the executive director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, about the passage of Proposition 208, which puts in place a 3.5 percent tax on the wealthiest people to fund higher salaries for teachers, school aides, bus drivers and other folks, not to mention higher spending per student which will mean smaller class sizes. The proposition passed by a margin of more than 116,000 votes, a far bigger margin than Biden’s slim margin of victory in the state. The obvious point: people will get behind ideas that confront class warfare, including support higher taxes for things that improve communities. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Subscribe to the YouTube show, Working Life at: Facebook:
Episode 205: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: It’s the permanent government—the corporate lobbyists who have friends in both parties. It is at the heart of why we don’t have Medicare for All, why the Pentagon is rolling in dough and why banks and Wall Street rip us off. Jeff Hauser, the executive director of the Revolving Door Project, talks about what the strategy looks like to limit the influence of the corporate elites in a possible Biden Administration. The pandemic has ripped through the world, killing and sickening millions. But, if you look at the economic hits people have taken, the pandemic has exposed the complete and utter failure of the system in the U.S. to make sure people can hang on. Both Europe and the U.S. had to shut down their economies and both took hits in output—but why has the unemployment rate been so much lower in Europe in the first half of the year than the U.S.? Maria Figueroa, the Director of Labor and Policy Research at the Industrial and Labor Relations School at Cornell University, explains how “short time work” made the difference. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: It’s fairly obvious that Trump has the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands for his absolute narcissistic bungling and incompetent handling of the pandemic. Tens of thousands of people, especially front-line workers like nurses, got sick at work because this administration let corporate shills, who don’t care about workers, run the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Which brings me to the Oregon Health and Science University, a massive sprawling operation which in 2019 had $3.2 billion in revenues. OHSU is taking a page from Jeff Bezos when it comes to stiffing nurses who are seeking a fair wage and leaving nurses at great risk by refusing to commit to fully providing for a safe workplace during the pandemic. We get the lowdown from Terri Niles, an ICU Nurse at OHSU and a vice president at the 2,900-member Local 52 of the Oregon Nurses Association. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 204: The catastrophic failure to shrink global inequality has given COVID-19 the perfect breeding ground: tens of millions of people are at risk of hunger, extreme poverty, sickness and death because, overwhelmingly, most countries do not spend enough on public healthcare, and they have weak social safety nets and poor labor rights. Now, this is a feature, not a bug, of the supply chain of global capitalism—keep people poor, enslaved and desperate as a way of making huge profits. To be sure, as I discussed in a recent episode, workers in Haiti, one of the poorest countries on the planet, were barely hanging on before the pandemic—now, they’ve been shoved deeper into the hole of economic deprivation. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: But, the U.S. ranks last out of the wealthy G7 countries and trails 17 low-income countries like Liberia when it comes to laws that stop anti-unionism or where there is a livable minimum wage. Paul O’Brien, Oxfam’s Vice President and the author of a forthcoming book, “Power Switch: How We Can Reverse Extreme Inequality”, joins the show to discuss the organization’s new data. Even though I’m a political junkie, I’ve usually stayed away from too much in-depth electoral politics on the show, mainly to try to use this time to talk about stuff most of my audience is not going to find elsewhere. But since we are just two weeks away from the election, I picked a few thoughts from the vast amount of posts and analysis I’ve been doing in other places for the last year with the bottom line: a landslide is coming (if you want a truly long in-depth analysis you can over to the Working Life website and read it all there). -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 203: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: When Donald Trump and his minions are eviscerated in less than three weeks so the country can survive, I can’t think of a better illustration of the fight still to come for progressives than taxes. Joe Biden’s tax proposals are, well, meek. Every time Joe Biden made a big deal during the TV mud wrestling verbal sparring with Trump that he wouldn’t raise taxes for anyone making under $400,000, I yelled back, “why the hell not?”. Really, you won’t ask people earning, say, $250,000 a year—a quarter of a million dollars—to pay higher taxes? I dig deep into Biden’s tax ideas with one of my favorite guests, Matt Gardner, senior fellow at the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. While millions of people wait, in desperation, for Congress to pass a new stimulus package, a whole lot of other important stuff is also tossed by the wayside including the $25 billion to shore up the United states Postal Service. Way before the pandemic erupted, I’ve talked on this show about saving the post office, giving it not only a financial boost but expanding what it can do. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: Post offices are everywhere, often literally on Main Streets in towns all across the country. Everyone knows where the post office is. So, why not turn post offices into hubs of financial transactions for people, from pay check cashing, to spots for Postal Service ATMs and, in today’s world, spots to launch mass COVID vaccination efforts? I take up some of these ideas with Max Sawicky, an economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research who recently wrote “The U.S. Postal Service Is A National Asset: Don’t Trash It” -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 202: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: For a sliver of time, the political world was talking about how Donald Trump cheats on his taxes. Virtually every rich person does what Trump does: they use the tax code to dodge paying their fair share, which costs the country tens of billions of dollars every year. Rich people move their money around, hide cash in trusts, foundations, hard-to-understand complex partnerships, a web of limited liability companies, and, especially for those who run companies, in overseas operations. And they have an army of accountants and lawyers whose sole job is to hide as much income, use the tax laws as aggressively as possible to confuse the under-resourced IRS staff, and, then, to fight in court to keep every nickel the IRS somehow manages to find. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: All of this is not a huge surprise to David Cay Johnston. David is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who wrote the 2003 book, “Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich—and Cheat Everybody Else”. Alas, it’s all still true and getting worse—as he tells us today in my in-depth conversation with him. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 201: Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: I’ve been thinking a lot about firefighters these days, what with the jaw-dropping video we see virtually every day of these monstrous wild fires scorching millions of acres of forests in California and Oregon. For the record, these fires are absolutely driven by climate change—so what we see today will be a feature every single year, with all the widespread devastation of communities and the loss of human lives and wildlife. Recently, I was sheltering in my home like tens of thousands of other people because the fires in Oregon created air that was off the charts hazardous. I mean that not as hyperbole—the measurements were too high for your average air quality reading to capture. Support the Working Life Network here: ActBlue: But, damn, if we, regular people just going about our business, can’t venture outside because the air is too dangerous, what do firefighters face? I don’t mean the obvious—the raging fires and flames. I’m talking about the long-term health effects of breathing in smoke and chemicals pouring out from fires that firefighters confront for hours on end with little shelter. Joining me to think about this is Darrell Roberts, a firefighter for 20 years in southern California where he serves as a battalion chief in Chula Vista as well as president of Local 2180 of the International Association of Fire Fighters -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: Episode 200: CEOs like to play a three-card monte shell game. They want everyone to focus on their rhetoric about all the supposed wonderful things they do—say, creating a “green” friendly product—and, at the same time, when people aren’t paying attention, they run their company using fear, sexism and racism. That sums up the world of Elon Musk—which we talk about today. Musk is anti-union and runs an operation that makes workers sick at sky-high rates, as I documented almost more than two years ago on this podcast in Episode 80. And it appears pretty evident he’s a sexist and a racist. He’s facing one federal lawsuit claiming that in 2015 and 2016, at Tesla’s factory in suburban Fremont, CA, black workers were subjected to repeated racial epithets, racist cartoons, and supervisors engaged in, or did little to stop, the racism. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: The same horrific environment is pretty apparent at the company’s plant in Buffalo, NY, a factory that got almost a billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies to open up shop. To understand the ugly nature of what it’s like to work at the Tesla factory in Buffalo, I’m joined by two people. Sonny worked for Tesla until recently but “Sonny” is a pseudonym and we’ve obscured his face in this discussion because he fears retribution from other potential future employers. Linnea Brett is a community organizer with the Clean Air Coalition, which develops grassroots leaders who organize their communities to run and win environmental justice and public health campaigns in Western New York. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: I kick off with a short observation about American Exceptionalism: when it comes to moving away from fossil fuels, we are pretty puny compared to the far-reaching industrial policy pursued by China. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 199: Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: What’s a worker’s life worth? To you and me, it’s priceless. Capitalism, though, doesn’t see it that way—a worker’s life is a cost of doing business, a life easily disposable when it comes to making profits. And the corporate world has an accomplice in this immoral scam where workers are disposable: the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Smithfield Foods, a massive pork processor making billions of dollars every year, did almost nothing to stop workers from getting the virus at its Sioux Falls, South Dakota plant. In just under three months, more than 1,300 were infected, 43 ended up in the hospital and four workers died. OSHA’s response? A fine of $13,494 as part of a single violation OSHA cited the company for—that’s $3,373.50 for each worker killed or a little over $10 bucks for those infected. Jessica Martinez, executive director of National COSH, joins me to talk about this immoral slap on the wrist that is a “green light” to every company to act cavalierly when it comes to workers’ lives. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: Over the past six months, I’ve brought you the stories of frontline workers and the dangers they face in the pandemic. You’ve heard the stories of poultry workers, teachers, retail workers, subway conductors, and health care workers. Today, I speak with Hipolito Andon, a cleaner and maintenance worker in New York City, who tells us about the risks he faces on the job at one of the premier real estate sites in Manhattan, Rockefeller Plaza. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: Episode 198: The most important political figure in your economic life—to be sure, the boss of a company has got a lot of power—is not the president of the United States, no matter who that is. It’s probably the head of the Federal Reserve Board. We know interest rates are at historic lows and mortgage rates are crazy low because the Fed has intervened to keep the country from collapsing even further into the abyss we are in, an abyss Republicans in Congress don’t seem to care about. Which is why what the Fed Chairman Jerome Powell announced recently is pretty important—the Fed will keep its main attention on employment. Is this just a pandemic-linked shift that will eventually go away and send the Fed back to doing the bidding of the banks and the bond markets? I poke at this topic with my favorite Fed watcher, Dean Baker, senior economist with the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: It’s hard to think of a sector in the economy that has been hit harder than hospitality and tourism, and specifically, hotels. I mean, ask yourself: unless it was a matter of high urgency would you travel right now and book a hotel and stay somewhere just for fun? Ok, if you say you would, you are more brave and adventurous than I am. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: For most hotel workers, however, the future looks bleak today—paychecks are gone, enhanced unemployment has run out and, soon, health insurance coverage costs will be almost entirely on the workers once union financial support expires. To hear more about the economic struggle of hotel workers, I’m joined by Lourdes Maquera, a housekeeper for the past ten years at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Waikiki, Hawaii, and Bryant de Venecia, the communications organizer for UNITE HERE’s Local 5. -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 197: The last name “Hoover” is, if I can use this term, a brand name in conservative circles. Herbert Hoover was the 31st president of the U.S. who served during the Great Depression, taking office in 1929 the year the stock market crashed—an apt historical reference for today perhaps since the economic implosion we are living through is the worst in a century dating back at least to the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: His great-granddaughter Margaret Hoover has kept the Hoover flame alive—both in her attention to Herbert’s legacy and her own work as a conservative commentator. Margaret and I have known each other since the 2016 election cycle. We have vigorous, but respectful, disagreements about actual policy. In the wake of the two parties’ political conventions, Margaret joins me to talk about politics—and she reveals for the first time publicly that she’s voting for Joe Biden (which says as much about Biden’s politics as it does about Margaret, and the battle progressives will face should there be a Biden Administration). Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: As I’ve reported numerous times from the COVID-19 frontlines, workers are getting sick and dying from COVID-19. The added twist: they are afraid to speak up, largely because, no surprise, corporations are putting enormous pressure on workers to suck it up, whatever the cost. Jessica Martinez, the co-director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH), joins the show to give the lowdown on the dangers facing workers and the failure of government safety inspectors to make sure hundreds of thousands of stay safe during the pandemic. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
Episode 196: It’s never enough to remind people every single day how many workers are out there on the frontlines risking their lives in the pandemic. I’ve talked about those folks regularly on the show: the transit workers, retail workers, and teachers. And, surely, the workers who put food on our plates are right up there on the list—like the folks that are crammed together in poultry processing plants who are getting sick by the thousands and dying by the hundreds. Alexandre Galimberti, Senior Advocacy and Collaborations Advisor for the US Domestic Program at Oxfam America, talks with me about how the corrupt, greedy poultry industry is exposing workers to horrendous conditions. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: Last week I was driving about town, doing a few errands (while always wearing my mask) when I passed by a bank. There were hundreds of people lined up at the bank, pieces of paper in their hands, with a ton of them crowded together pressed against each other at the door of the bank. I drove down another block and circled back to the spot. I knew what this scene was instantly: people trying to file paperwork to get a one-time $500 state grant to make up for the enhanced federal unemployment benefits that Republican cut off at the end of July. I talk about this as an example of an immoral society—a place where millions of people can’t pay their bills because of a public health crisis created by leaders who don’t give a damn and exacerbated by leaders who don’t care whether people are going hungry. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: The Florida 3rd Congressional district might have been a relatively obscure seat in the mix of 435 congressional districts—except it’s held by Ted Yoho, the yahoo who called Alexandria Ocasio Cortex a “fucking bitch”, leading to a spectacular takedown of Yoho and misogyny by Ocasio Cortez on the House floor. Thankfully for the country, Yoho is not running for re-election. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: Still, the district is considered a pretty safe Republican district, with an R+9 lean. Trump beat Clinton in the district 56-40 in 2016. But, Adam Christensen, the candidate who just captured the Democratic nomination, joins the show to explain why the district is a good place to test a populist message. Support the Working Life Network here: and at ActBlue: -- Jonathan Tasini Follow me on Twitter @jonathantasini Sign up for The Working Life Podcast at: Facebook:
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Podcast Details

Created by
Working Life Podcast
Podcast Status
Oct 25th, 2016
Latest Episode
Mar 31st, 2021
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
About 1 hour

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