Lever Time - Chris Smalls Is Having A #HotLaborSummer
6:40PM Jul 12, 2022
Hey everyone, welcome to another episode of lever time, the show where we regularly tell Jeff Bezos to go fuck himself. Hey, Jeff, go fuck yourself. I'm your host David Sirota today we have a huge show for you. First, we're going to be talking about Joe Biden and Franklin Delano Roosevelt specifically, we're going to be discussing how in order to salvage his presidency and stave off rising fascism in the United States, Biden may need to go big with his policy proposals in the same way. FDR did FDR, of course, the Democrats most popular president in their history. Will he take that advice? Only time will tell. Then I'll be speaking with Lucas Coons, who's running in a democratic primary for a Senate seat in Missouri. Lucas's working class politics are the driving force behind his campaign. We talk about why Democrats have lost that swing state and what it would take to win swing states like that back to their party. Finally, the levers interview with the President of the Amazon labor union, Chris smalls, we spoke to Chris about his experience testifying before Congress, his hot labor Summer Tour, his meeting with President Joe Biden, and the future of the Amazon labor union. We spoke with Chris for over a half hour and we'll be sharing the entirety of our conversation. This week, our paid subscribers will also get to hear our bonus segment, an NCAA bracket style matchup of the worst liberal heartaches in the media of all time. Trust me, they're even worse than you can possibly imagine. A reminder for our free listeners to head over to lever news.com To become a supporting subscriber giving you access to our premium podcast feed where you can get that bonus content plus a whole lot more. As always, I am joined by producer Frank, what's up Frank?
How's it going, David, I'm actually feeling great. today. We've got a great show. really pumped to share our interview with Chris Smalls. With everybody also you and I get to go on vacation next week, which is really, really exciting for both of us.
It is and that's a programming note next week, we are not going to have a podcast we'll be back the following week. Frank and I are actually taking a break the lever staff by the way, is has been off the July 4 week, Frank and I kind of switched it up we were on last week. We're gonna be off next week. I'm psyched about it. I've already started my summer reading. I'm reading a book right now called supreme power, which is about FDR is fight with the Supreme Court back in the 1930s. It's both inspiring, and it's making me really angry actually, I'm, I'm usually full of bile and rage. And it's weirdly this book's experience is making me feel both happy and mad at the same time.
I love how this is your like vacation pick like this is your life. This is your like, my casual relaxation read like God versus the Supreme Court. Just like get a copy of Eat Pray Love David, my God, come on.
I know. I know. But but you know, the Supreme Court's been on my mind a lot. And I, I needed some reminder that playing dead in the face of extremists and being pathetic. And getting rolled over is not the way it has to go. So there's that inspiring story about FDR taking on the court and actually winning. And then of course, when you think about that, it just makes you extremely angry that the Democrats seem to be doing the opposite of what their most popular president in history did. Now, the Democrats today are facing the same kind of extremism from six Supreme Court justices. It really is incredible that this party never looks back to its most popular president and says, Hey, wait a minute. Maybe we should do stuff like that. It really does boggle the mind that there never is a look back to that history.
I'll never forget one of the few things I remember from like middle school history about the Great Depression and FDR was that, like, I remember my teacher saying something like, like this dude came into office and did whatever the fuck he wanted. Obviously, she didn't say that. I was in middle school. But specifically, she was like, he closed the banks. No, no, like, think about this. Like he literally closed he declared a bank holiday. So people couldn't go into the banks and take out their money and do these runs on the bank, like something that wasn't even within his power, technically, but he was just like, fuck it. I'm just going to do it because this is going to help.
Well, the problem is is that Normie Dems like norms and they tend tend to like norms more than they like outcomes. And so I submit to you this, that if FDR was around today, he He would be vilified by MSNBC pod save America, The Atlantic, the New York Times the entire democratic media establishment that absolutely worships norms that absolutely worships the television show West Wing would be offended and appalled by Franklin Roosevelt and his tactics. Franklin Roosevelt, of course, using all of the power that he could use for his new deal. And I want to be clear, I don't think FDR was perfect. He wasn't me, there were a lot of things to criticize him about. I mean, the Japanese internment camps and the like, all of that was bad. But clearly, he was a person who was willing to actually use power, clearly not a person who was willing to worship norms and institutions, like, for instance, the Supreme Court, when the Supreme Court was laying waste to the country. That is very different from today's Democrats who worship a religion that I call normal lism. They just worship this idea of everything being quote, normal, everyone being nice to each other manners, etiquette, rules, institutions, they worship all of that, even if those institutions and rules are laying waste to the entire society. This is a good segue to our first segment today, our first segment about Joe Biden, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, though and to be honest, those two names really shouldn't ever be mentioned in the same sentence. It's kind of embarrassing that you remember like back when Biden first got elected, there was all that punditry, like Joe Biden's gonna be the next FDR? I mean, do you remember that? Like, remember how insane that was?
I did. And I thought someone was trying to claw my brains out through my eyeballs every time I saw that fucking scroll somewhere. I was like, this is
like the dry heaving reaction, like I was like, like, like, I felt like physically nauseous, but it kept coming up. And look, Joe Biden continues to claim that he is the most pro union president in American history. And I think that's
not just compared in American history.
He doesn't even say modern history. He says, All of
that has ever existed. That's unbelievable.
It really is. I mean, it's truly the nice way of putting it. It's FDR erasure. It's and it's anyone with two brain cells, who hasn't been lobotomized by cable TV news, should hear that and immediately recognize that it's complete bullshit. I mean, Biden talks a big game. But as we all know, his actions speak louder than words, he's refused to reinstate rules requiring companies to disclose spending to crush union drives. He really didn't make much of a push to pass the ProAct, which was the modern day equivalent of the Wagner Act that FDR did pass. He also gave a $10 billion federal contract to Amazon while Amazon was crushing the union drive there, and we'll talk about that union drive later on in this broadcast with Chris smalls, who helped organize that union drive. Now, to help me break down what Joe Biden could do, based on what FDR did do. We're going to talk to Harvey Kay and Bob Kutner. Harvey is a historian, a professor and has written books about the history of FDR is legacy. Bob Kutner is the journalist and co founder of The American Prospect I've been reading Bob Kutner for really for decades. His new book is called going big FDR is legacy Biden's New Deal and the struggle to save democracy. And I just want to preface this conversation by saying there are a lot of lessons to learn from FDR. I'm not saying FDR is perfect. But I think it is fair to ask a very simple question. And this is the question I constantly ask because FDR was a successful president at a moment of crisis. And that question is this. What would FDR do? That's the question of this discussion. Bob Harvey, thanks for joining us. Really appreciate it.
My pleasure. My pleasure.
So I want to start with Bob Kutner, your book about Joe Biden, and FDR. And I want to ask the question to frame this conversation, which is a seemingly simple question with probably a complicated answer, facing what we're facing now and what we know about what FDR did back then. What would FDR do right now, if he were president and Joe Biden wasn't president?
It's a good question. And of course, you have to add the caveat that that Franklin Roosevelt had a massive working majority in Congress, leaving aside race. So he had enough of a majority, that when he does decided to be more of a radical, he could get fairly radical stuff through Congress. Biden can't do that. So with that caveat, there is a lot Biden can do. There's a lot that he's done, there's a lot more than he should be doing. And of course, what Roosevelt did was to make it clear that you could not trust capitalism, unregulated capitalism, not to screw ordinary people. And so what he did was he regulated the financial system up, down and sideways, he used a huge amount of public investment, to start the process of getting the economy out of the depression. And he empowered labor, a lot of the empowerment of labor was the result of labor organizing by radicals in the trenches. But by sponsoring the Wagner Act, Roosevelt made it possible for the state for the first time ever, before or since, to be on the side of organized labor. Now, Biden has done more modest versions of all three things. And most of the book, you know, is faulting the Democratic Party after Truman, for moving away from the New Deal model, getting into bed with big business, trying to use cultural liberalism, if you will, to substitute for progressive economics and paving the road for Trump. Because if you're Hillary Clinton, and you're in bed with Wall Street, and you're also trying to be a feminist, and a champion of transgender bathrooms, and all the other good stuff that you only get to do, if you are only delivering the goods economically, it's like an open invitation to Donald Trump. And that's what happened. Harvey,
I want to turn to you and ask you the sort of opposite question, which is, it's about why it seems that a lot of today's Democrats not all but a lot in Congress seem to have an aversion if not to FDR, specifically than to the idea of returning to a kind of New Deal agenda. There was that quote, I think was about a year ago, where a conservative Democrat Abby spanberger, from Virginia, said something to the effect of, you know, people didn't elect Joe Biden to be FDR, they elected him to essentially return us to normalcy, and it, it kind of exuded a hostility to the idea of, of reconnecting with the New Deal tradition. And I just want to know why you think there is that hostility, especially when FDR is in the popular imagination, the most popular or at least one of the most popular presidents and successful presidents ever?
Well, I think Bob was onto something. But the thing he was onto, we should push a little further. And that is, the Democratic Party made a dramatic shift in the course of the 1970s. And in fact, one of the principal movers of the Democratic Party in the 70s, Gary Hart ran, well, he ran campaigns out of Colorado, your state, which came to be titled the end of the New Deal. He basically, essentially within the party declared war on the New Deal tradition, as well as on on the labor movement himself. But I want to add to that, I want to just add something that, that Robert was referring to, when FDR was running for president and 32, he really seriously impressed both John Lewis, the head of the mind workers who was a Republican, and Sidney Hillman the head of the American Amalgamated Clothing workers who was a socialist, that he would be the best president for labor. And it literally in the first 100 days, the later they had to go back and create the National Labor Relations Act in the National Industrial Recovery Act. They signed into law, what they believed was the empowerment of labor. That was in 1933, in the first 100 days, and millions of workers sought to organize companies found a way around it by creating company unions. But the fact is that FDR very quickly, immediately garnered the support of working people, and uncertain now to go back to your to your question. It is astounding to me, that is as remarkable as the American rescue plan is now in light of the next year and a half that that Biden, everyone started calling Biden the, you know, the best, the best for labor since FDR. And, look, he made a few nice remarks. He stated matters of fact, workers do have the right to organize. He pointed that out. But he didn't take the unnecessary steps that FDR did. In the course of the first few years. FDR literally mobilized his cabinet to go out and rally working class women, and eventually it became a housewives moving. It's a really radical difference between the two. Well, let
me try it, Bob. That's a good segue to the next question I have for you, which is about norms. I feel like Joe Biden above all, oh, honors, respects reveres norms. And that FDR in his time, did not at least revere norms in the same way. I mean, FDR gave a speech saying I literally welcome the hatred of rich people. He, he had all sorts of fights with the Supreme Court. So essentially with the institution's, he did things like Harvey just described, having his cabinet try to mobilize people. I feel like that Joe Biden is is if not afraid of those things, is averse to those kinds of FDR like tactics. I wonder if you agree, and I wonder if you have any explanation for why why is
that? So Joe Biden, you know, we all know who Joe Biden is right? He's a fairly traditional liberal democrat, I certainly wouldn't call him a progressive Democrat. And as you know, better than anybody, David, the wrong guy got nominated. And what you have is the is the soul of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, in the persona of Joe Biden. And it's if the two of them hadn't been in the race, one of them would have been nominated, and probably would have won. And so you've got this kind of tug of war between the undertow of the Clinton Carter Obama Democrats, and the more progressive Democrats, some of whom actually are playing an influential role in government. And Larry Summers, thank God is on the outside looking in, or as Lyndon Johnson would have, would have said kissing in, and this is good. But it doesn't mean that that the Joe Biden is the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt, it does mean that we have an opening to the left. And what I do and I know what you do, and what the American Prospect does, is we complement Biden when he or his people does something good. And we push on him when he does something bad. So I mean, my last two columns have been trashing Pete Buda judge for not getting out in front of the airline mess, when he has the power to investigate the airlines for violating the spirit of the bailout that they got $60 billion and not staffing up so that they don't have enough staff to service the flights they've scheduled and they have to have last minute cancellations, they're going to be 1000s of them on the Fourth of July weekend. So you know, he's certainly better than Obama or Clinton, or God forbid, Carter, but he doesn't have a working majority. And then there's the question you posed, why is it that many Democrats in Congress are trashing the New Deal? I think the answer is they make a fatal mistake. They, they conflate different kinds of centrism. And what what working people are looking for is a more radical message, not a more centrist message, we can argue about some of the cultural issues. That's a separate conversation. But I've always felt that if you want to go left on cultural issues, you have to start out by going way left on economic issues, so that working people feel that they have your back. And Biden has sort of taken some baby steps in that direction. He could be doing a lot more. And
I think it actually speaks to what the Democratic party thinks is the target swing voter. I mean, it's a subject maybe for another discussion, but I think that the Democratic leaders, the political apparatus thinks that the target swing voter is kind of an affluent suburbanite, and not necessarily a working class person. But I also want to talk about the anger that you mentioned the frustration that people feel, Harvey, I want to ask you this question about people's feeling of discontent right now with the Democratic Party, and the arguably somewhat apocryphal story, but at least a story in spirit about FDR and the make me do it spirit, that it's my view that anger at the Democratic Party, not right wing anger, but kind of progressive frustration, anger at the Democratic Party has helped produce what we think of when we think of the great things the Democratic Party produced, for instance, Social Security, union rights, and during the New Deal, Medicare, Medicaid and the like. I just if you can tell us a little bit about the kind of pressure that FDR faced that he wasn't just a guy who woke up in the morning and decided to do the New Deal, that he was under a lot of pressure, and maybe relate it to what that lesson is for the Democratic Party right now and for rank and file Democratic voters who want more from their party. Well,
let's start out with the story out late 1932. So it's the great the Great Depression is well underway. No banks are collapsing. And there was serious talk ranging from the American head of the American Political Science Association all the way over to Vanity Fair, projecting the possibility of Mussolini like figure who might take charge in America. The American Political Science Association professor actually said Who knows? As I think we could soon end up maybe with fascism or communism, and he was convinced there was going to be one way or the other, because of the kinds of insurgencies that he was witnessing the veterans March, the bonus marchers, that is the veterans of World War One who had, who knew they were going to get a bonus if they could hold on from 1945. Who knew there would be another set of veterans to worry about, but you know, so, and they were impoverished. And from all over the country in their 10s of 1000s, they came to Washington, and they occupied Washington, they did not try to invade the Capitol. Okay, but they occupied the Capitol, the DC, and And Hoover, and MacArthur, General MacArthur who was in charge of surrounding the cap and containing it, and as Lieutenant so I believe we're patent and Eisenhower, they let loose on those marchers. Now FDR knew he knew the kinds of mistakes that were taking place, it was very well aware of it. And let's not forget, he was already governor of New York, he was already experimenting with the kinds of initiatives that he would pursue in the New Deal. So he knew, but he also knew quite well that there was this kind of pressure. But I want to make something clear, I think he indeed, welcomed the pressure, not necessarily violent upheavals, but he definitely welcomed the pressure. And that story that everyone knows, you know, make me do it is is indicative, and it was and people could misinterpret, it wasn't make me do it. Make me capable of doing it, because he knew the kinds of changes that he might pursue would not necessarily fly in Congress. Despite the hole that the Democrats have on Congress. Let's not forget, the chairs of the committees were southern white supremacist Democrats. And anytime they smelled the possibility of some kind of move towards segregation, they pounced on the law, and literally transformed it. Thus, the Social Security Act and the National Labor Relations Act both excluded agricultural workers and household workers. But it's also the case, look, I said the 1970s. The anger that people feel today is decades upon decades of anger. Now understand, with all due respect to people who live on the eastern west coast where I grew up. It is the case that out here in the Midwest, people have been angry for years. And it goes back to NAFTA and related kinds of things. Now, the Republicans didn't go after NAFTA, but they went they created the culture wars, that would literally challenge the anger that prevailed. I mean, colloquia, this is a you know, this is not coke. This is a local experience I had students of mine would tell me, this is back in 2016, that if that their parents were eager to vote for Bernie, but in the absence of Bernie, they were going to vote for Trump. And why? Because as the poll, there was a poll that was conducted in the course of 2015, asking Americans, what kind of change do you wish to see? This is out of the New York Times story? And the answer in the majority was radical change. So the anger was built up over a great deal of time. And I can tell you right now, the anger is building once again, David.
Go ahead. Right. The huge mistake that Biden makes, it seems to me, and this is an area where, you know, you don't need 50 votes in the Senate. Yes, the anger is not about $5. Gasoline, the anger is about 40 years of declining living standards. Yeah. Right. And, and Biden could be tapping that deeper anger by naming who is responsible for it, namely, big multilateral court, national corporations, Wall Street banks, oil companies. And he could be adopting a much more progressive populist stance against all of this stuff, all of these enemies, siding with ordinary working people, and saying, give us the votes to transform the situation so that we can pass legislation, constraining the power of the banks and the multinational corporations, and the oil companies. And Stan Greenberg actually did some really interesting focus group research making the following point, that it's it's natural for Biden, to want to claim credit for some of the things that he did. So Biden will say things like, well, unemployment is down. And people don't want to hear how good things are. Because they know that in their life experience, things are terrible. And so if Biden is telling them how good things are, that only His credits widen,
what well, and here's and I think you've touched on a really important point that FDR seemed to me did not have any trouble or hesitation in saying who the villains and the enemies and the bad guys were, and that Joe Biden, at least personally, but I also think it's the Democratic Party culture doesn't necessarily today's Democratic Party culture doesn't necessarily like calling out the villains. But I think that clearly this aversion to calling out the bad guys is part of the problem here for Biden and distinguishes him in a bad way from FDR. I want to ask one last question here about a cautionary tale that comes out of FDR, because if we're talking about what would FDR do, Bob, why don't you tell us what happened in 1938, with the so called Roosevelt recession? And if you can, I think the context for it is, is the fear that if Joe Biden loses the midterms, he will pivot to the Old Joe Biden, the Joe Biden, who has fetishized working with Republicans on a kind of austerity policies to cut things like Social Security and Medicare.
Well, what happened 1938 Was that Roosevelt paying attention to his fiscally conservative advisors, who started saying, oops, these deficits are getting out of hand. And you know, the deficits in those years were four or 5% of GDP that were not huge. It wasn't until World War Two that we got deficits that were 25% of GDP. And unemployment is still 1617 18%, depending on whether you count people who are employed in public works projects. So we are only about halfway out of the Great Depression if that. And he listens to his fiscally conservative advisors. And we get the Roosevelt recession. And the industries where the radical trade unions had made some real headway, start losing jobs and losing members, which is a setback for the labor movement. And so in the midterm of 38, the Democrats lose a whole bunch of seats. Now, if you if you fast forward to the current midterm. I'm guessing that the Democrats lose the house but they hold the Senate, if you do the Senate race by race, the Senate is actually looking pretty good. And that means Biden can still get confirmations, you know, nominees confirmed by the Senate. And I, you know, whether they're Biden would try to triangulate with the Republicans. I don't think he would, because there are damn few issues on which the Republicans even want to work with Biden. I think the the system is so polarized and most Republicans are so crazy, that it's it's hard to imagine a kind of 1995 1996 scenario, where Biden triangulates, Allah Clinton?
Well, I worry, I worry about the 2010 2011 scenario, the the Bowles Simpson situation that Biden was involved in. I mean, I, I mean, I hope that's not the case. But I sort of know too much about Joe Biden, right. I know too much about the Old Joe Biden. I don't know if the Old Joe Biden is the new Joe Biden. I think
he'd get a tremendous amount of pushback. You were talking about the Democrats? I mean, don't forget you got you got the house Progressive Caucus, which is about 100 people. You've got Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Sherrod Brown. So, Ocasio Cortez, I mean, you've got some interesting divisions within the Democrats. And I, I don't think it's analogous to 90s I certainly hope it isn't.
Harvey, I'll leave you with the with the last word. What do you think? I mean, do you do you
think I'm worried about the 2010 scenario? Yeah, I really am. Because keep in mind that it is quite possible. I got a call yesterday from my state assembly person who's very progressive, and one in tooth just won back in 2020. And she was saying that the Supreme Court decision on roe and on guns is giving the Republicans real energy here in Wisconsin. And that might well be the case across the central part of the country. And as a consequence, we could lose even more seats in state legislatures. And then on top of that, I mean, I'm haunted by, I could tell a story which I won't bother. I'm haunted by 94. I'm haunted by 2010. And then it was in 2011. That Fortunately, the Republicans so despised Obama, that they didn't take up his offer when he said he's willing to put everything on the table. You gotta imagine how much they hated him that he wouldn't they wouldn't get take their own deal. Well, I worry about that. Harvey Kay
Bob Kutner. Thank you so much for taking the time with us today. We really appreciate it. And we really wish that Joe Biden would be FDR but I think he's a little bit less than
that. You would buy the book while you're good people.
I bought it. It's a great.
It's a great book. Thanks to both of you. Thank you. Thank you. Up next, we're going to my interview with Lucas Koontz. Lucas is running in a Democrat Primary for a US Senate seat in Missouri the Democrats wildly fucked up that state used to be a swing state. Now it is a very deep red state Lucas is trying to turn that around. Lucas is positioning himself as the progressive against his primary opponent, Trudy Bush Valentine, who is quite literally the heiress oligarchy to the Anheuser Busch fortune now running in the Democratic primary. If Lucas wins the primary, he'll likely face Republican Eric Greitens, who recently made national headlines by releasing one of the most unhinged and insanely extremist campaign ads in all of American political history. I spoke with Lucas about his working class roots, his plan for Missouri, how he's running as a very different kind of Democrat, and how he thinks that will help him win in a state that the Republicans took over. Hey, Lucas, how you doing?
Good, Dave. Thanks for having me, man, for sure.
So before we get into the specific Senate race that you're running in a little bit, just tell us a little bit about yourself, you're a different kind of candidate, you have a little bit of a different kind of background. Who are you? Why did you decide to run for the US Senate to be in an institution where very good politicians often go to die?
Oh, well, that's quite a way to play it. Hmm. So so I'm a you know, I guess I'm just a normal dude, right? Like I grew up in Jeff City working class neighborhood, it's a middle sized town in the center of the state of Missouri. Jeff City is and you know, my parents are like a lot of Missourians. They got married at 19 and 22, they had four kids real quick, you know, I remember going to the grocery store for a very long time, and watching my mom or dad write the check, and just begged the cashier not to cash it till the end of month into the month so we can make it. And you know, the beautiful thing, though, is like, there's a local grocery store, it was the corner grocery store. And they would do that for us. They did it for everybody in the neighborhood. And for me, you know, just it's part of that magical life that we used to have here. And so, you know, I don't think at the time I realized how great things were. But when my little sister was born, she had to have an open heart surgery. And and I'm telling you right now, like, when you're paycheck to paycheck in America, and any sort of disaster strikes, right, like car accidents, or even just a car breakdown, health emergency, which is what we had, or anything else, you know, a little flood in your basement, who knows what, like, that's it, right? You can't recover from it. And so when we went bankrupt from the medical bills associated with that, and, and frankly, like, this is why I'm running the people in that neighborhood who had no more money than we had the you know, they came together for us, they pass the plate down at my mom's prayer group, so that she could like literally go to the store and buy the things that we needed to make it. And they brought more tuna casserole in our house than we could ever eat. And I mean, I remember sitting in my living room being like, Oh, God, please let it be lasagna tonight. But like, this is a great way that people take care of each other. And, and the reason I'm running is because that is not how the political class in this country has been taken care of people. They take money from the wrong folks. They take money from people whose literally strip our communities for parts. They strip communities like the one I grew up in Jeff City for parts, and I've seen that like, like the first house I lived in now is an empty lot. It fell apart, it's been bulldozed down, don't want to join the Marine Corps out, which I'll get to in a second is boarded up. It's got graffiti on it, the corner store is gone. And so for me, like I joined the Marine Corps as an adult, because of what that community did for me the way everybody took care of me. So I joined the Marine Corps. I watched I went to Iraq, I went to Afghanistan twice, you know, I led a police training team in Iraq, dodging IEDs trying to train the Iraqi police bring everybody home safe. I learned Pashto went to Afghanistan twice. You know, doing doing that country to and frankly, watching watching us spend $6.4 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan and my old neighborhood fall apart, and every chance that there's an opportunity to invest here in our own communities, in our own neighborhoods, and the people that I signed up to serve. The political class has no interest in doing it, because there's not a good counterbalance against them. So I decided to run a race without taking money from corporate PACs, no federal lobbyists, no fossil fuel executives, no big farm executives, and do things totally different try to win here.
Well, let me let me ask you about about Missouri, because because that was my next question, which is that Missouri used to be a considered a very swing state, arguably the swingingest of swing states. And now it is considered a Republican leaning or maybe simply just a Republican state. What do you think went wrong? Because I can remember back what was it must be now 20 years ago, but you had Mel Carnahan, you have Ed. And frankly, they've Missouri produced a lot of more conservative Democrats, and we can get into that. But what do you think happened to a Democratic Party, a democratic brand in a state that was once considered a swing state, and now is considered a pretty serious red state.
Democrats took money from the wrong people, and they made decisions for them. And they told everybody, it was good for them, when it wasn't good for them. And now Biden, nobody trusts him anymore. I get that over and over and over again. And, you know, I can give you two, I gave you two pretty good examples. You know, and it wasn't even that long, like Obama only lost Missouri in 2008, by a couple 1000 votes. And that was without significant investment here. I mean, people were, were very much open to that sort of message and ideas. We had all statewide Democrats pretty much through 2016, which was, you know, six years ago. And then we lost that, because, you know, I'm gonna give you the story of my dad. And I give you this story, because this is very similar what happened to people all across Missouri. And so, you know, my dad did everything. He was told that his entire life he did what the what he believed in the institutions, and he did what he was supposed to do, right. He had four kids for the Catholic Church, he got married when he was young, he stayed at the same job his entire life. And then when he when he retired, my little sister who had the heart surgery, she's still disabled, she lives with him, he takes care of her. And so he had to get another job, right, because this working class America and like in everyday America, you can't just like take care of a family member and survive without being employed. And so he, you know, he starts looking for a job. And this is right after Democrats bailed out Wall Street, and in were telling everybody in their mother that they saved the economy, right? We saved the economy, numbers are up, things are booming, everything's great. And that was true in some parts of the country. It was not true in Missouri, though. And so if you look at the chart for that time, like Missouri's recovery is flat, well, everyone else goes up. And so my dad's looking for a job, tries to find a job in that area so hard, can't ever get one. expanses search to the whole state can't get one finally gets ahead, Hunter, he keeps looking around, and they send them across the entire country right over Missouri, to Maryland. And he finally gets a permanent job there, he has to move my sister, again disabled from the only town she has ever known. And the one thing he needs to do in order to survive is to sell his house. And this is when Democrats nationwide were talking about how they'd save the housing market, right? Like all these all these bailouts, we did you know, the first they save the economy now the housing markets booming, everything is recovered. Our house and Jeff City, Missouri, sat on the market for two years. And he got $43,000 That he owed 70, something on. And so when you get told over and over again, this is good for you. This is good for our economy, this is good for everybody. And the people here are suffering like they run out of steam eventually. Right.
here's the here's the question to push back on that. And I obviously agree with that analysis that the Democratic Party has made big promises. And in a material sense, people don't feel that those promises have come true. And in a lot of ways they have not even the Democratic Party's not even tried to, to deliver on those promises. But here's the question that I always come back to, which is why do you think then that lots of voters who experienced that then reward the Republicans who are not proposing to make anything better at all, they're actually arguably making the situation far worse? Why? Why does it revert to, you know, okay, we're justifiably sick of the Democrats not delivering, so we're gonna go go vote for like, the biggest monsters on the planet?
Well, first of all, Democrats did deliver, they delivered for Wall Street banks, they did. So and people saw that success. So it's not just that they saw an absence of delivering, they saw real delivering, and they saw it for other people. And, and so that's one part of that. Again, like my dad got moved to the coast, he saw the jobs there, like, like, it's not like he didn't see an economic recovery. It just wasn't in his home. And and the other thing on that is, when you have distrust for the institutions, the party that believes in the institutions is at a serious disadvantage. And I believe it's a good point, right? It's a good point, I want to build them up. But that puts you at a huge loss. And so when people don't trust the institutions, and you got, you know, people like Donald Trump, and and Josh Hawley talking about how corrupt the situate this institutions are, how they don't work for you. Like that resonates with folks, while Democrats are still trying to sell well, no, like, really, this institution will work. In other
words, the Democratic Party is is is sort of doing both things. They have two problems. They're showing the institutions not working. And then also they are seen as the party defending the institutions that don't work. And so the votes revert to the Republicans because at least the Republicans are promising rhetorically to burn everything. down. And that's where we are. So then the question becomes, how were you running a different kind of race, knowing that the National Democratic Party brand is almost certainly going to be an anchor? In a lot of ways in a general election? What do you think you have to do differently to kind of, I guess, unshackle yourself from a national Democratic Party brand that is branded as a protector of failed institutions.
So we got to bring the party back to its roots, which is workers, it's about being a warrior for workers. It's about it's about delivering for workers, it is about fundamentally changing who has power in this country. Because right now, like, whether you're talking to a Democrat, Republican, Independent across Missouri, and which is the only state I can speak for, it's the only one I know. But like, everyone feels like no matter who they vote for, they don't have any power. And so you know, blowing things up is a great solution, or voting on a single issue, that's the only thing left to them, they feel like is the solution. And so I can give you another good example on this. That's very, very Missouri. And so, in Missouri. Now, most people don't know this. But we used to have the single highest number of independent hog farmers of any state in the entire country. So it's right here in Missouri, it was a stalwart of the economy, these guys, you know, they bought all their feed locally, they bought their equipment locally, all this wealth from the land stayed local, because the supply chain was local, and all these small towns, you know, they actually thrived like they did really well. And they were solid. And in just one generation, monopoly companies have come in and just big ag absolutely annihilated them. And they did it by violating the Sherman Antitrust Act, they did it by violating the Packers and stockyards act, they did it by taking advantage of the institutions that we defend, right, and corporate judges just protecting them left and right. And I'm telling you, these farmers know this, they know antitrust, like most people don't know, they know what monopoly power is. But this is the type of lack of trust in the institution that turns people into single issue voters that turns people into Oh, okay, you, you want me to have faith and believe in this, like, Give me a break?
No, I think you've really put your finger on it, which is that the Democrats, it's not a viable political strategy. It's also immoral, but it's certainly not a viable political strategy to manipulate or let institutions be manipulated by your big donors, and then also politically brand yourself as the defender of those same institutions. That is a politically unsustainable, that's how you get it, take a purple state of Missouri and turn it into a at least up until now a red state. So let's talk about your election. First year in a Democratic primary, it's on August 2, your main opponent in that race is Trudi Busch, Valentine, who is the literal heiress to the Anheuser Busch empire. And I'm sure it wouldn't surprise any of our listeners to find out that she has the support of a lot of the establishment Democrats in Missouri, such as the Democratic establishment is in Missouri, a place where the Democrats have been largely wiped out. What's the biggest contrast between you and your primary opponent? And do you sense that people, Democratic primary voters are keying into those differences?
Absolutely. So So are the biggest difference is who I am, how I grew up, and my lifetime of service, my ability to draw in Republicans my ability to draw on independence, my ability to actually be heard when I go to into a room as a 13 year Marine veteran who wants to fundamentally change who has power in this country. And and so I come from a place of like, trust, because this is me, like, I live, like Missourians live. And, and I always have, and I still like, like, when my mom got cancer a few years ago, and we don't have any family money, and she was working an hourly job, she couldn't sustain that she couldn't sustain a place to live. So she had to move in with me for a little while, like, like, these are the types of things that everyday people understand. And that's who they want representing them. And so we've run a very, very grassroots campaign. You know, I mentioned earlier, all the people who I thought were stripping our communities for parts, so I don't take money from, you know, big pharma executives, big fossil fuel executives, federal lobbyists, corporate PACs, none of that. And yet, you know, the Democratic establishment told me, you'll never raise any money. We love your bio, but you're not a valid candidate, if you if you if you want to run a campaign that way. And my response is, I want us to win here again, I want to and the only way we do that is by standing for something real. And so we ran our campaign our way anyway, we've actually raised as of last quarter, three and a half million dollars, which was more than anybody in this race more than any of the Republicans even and we did that by having a real message. You know, we got support from every county in the state in the city of St. Louis. We are really building a true grassroots campaign where I can go to the inner city, and I'll get a huge crowd or I can go to like say St. Joe, Missouri and get more than 100 debt like 100 people out to come to a rally and like a nobody done that and St. Joe, Missouri on the Democratic side since Jerry Linton in the 1970s. Like, it's a very big deal to actually stand for something to live like normal people live and to come from that world with a with a lifetime of service. So I, you know, I'm really proud of that other things we run on is, you know, what I mentioned this earlier, bringing the party back to its roots. So working people being a warrior for working people, you know, nuking the filibuster to codify Roe versus, you know, codify roe pass the pro act, actually invest in Missouri. We've talked a lot about offshoring, and how many invest in in reshoring, and building out jobs here again,
Lucas, on the question of abortion. In the past, you had been anti choice. And you are now pro choice. I think you've said you would vote to codify Roe v. Wade. Tell us a little bit about how you evolved on that issue and where you are now?
Absolutely. So I'm 100% pro choice. I think all women should have access to abortion and the full spectrum reproductive rights. I actually think we should get rid of the filibuster to codify Roe versus Wade. And so you know, in the past, I was I grew up in a pro life home, right? I grew up in a pro life neighborhood. It's the way we all were. And then, you know, I joined the Marine Corps. I went overseas to Iraq and Afghanistan, I saw what it was like to live under a big brother government where people don't have rights. Women, especially are second class citizens. I saw people who were close to me go through very, very difficult pregnancies. And just the idea that people should have to go through a pregnancy that they don't want to have anymore is just, it's abhorrent to Me. And so I absolutely am pro choice now. And I think that like said, We need to get rid of the filibuster in order to codify Roe vs. Wade.
So essentially, your life experience is what accounts for a shift on the issue?
Absolutely. Yes. I mean, I was a kid, then I didn't know anything other than what I was taught growing up in the house. And now I've been out I've seen I've seen the real world. And I realized that we truly need this. Right.
Yeah. And I listen, I to be clear, I appreciate them. People just acknowledge, you know, I mean, nobody has everything right in their entire lives, right. I mean, there is a space for people to learn more about the world and change their positions, especially from being a young a young person. So let me ask you one final question. And and I want to play a clip from an ad that Eric Greitens, the former Missouri Republican governor who is now running in this race to try to win the Republican nomination, this ad that he aired about, I guess, moderate Republicans,
I'm Eric Greitens, navy seal, and today, we're going Rhino hunting, the rhino, feeds on corruption and is marked by the stripes of cowardice. Join the maggot crew get a rhino hunting permit. There's no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn't expire until we save our country.
Lucas, I want to ask you about the general election. If you win the nomination, you will there's a good chance you will face Eric Greitens in in the general election. That is one of the most extremist ads that I've ever seen. And I've been working in and around politics for 25 years at this point, a guy who's literally promising to hunt down people he disagrees with. And there's you know, for folks who can't see it, there's imagery of weaponry in the like, and in the ad. What do you think that ad says about the state of guess Republican politics in Missouri? Republican politics nationally? What do you think the deeper meaning of that ad really is? What do you think voters should take from it?
Yeah, I don't mean, I don't think there is deep meaning. Like the what we have on the other side, in many cases, is criminals. You know, in the in the rest are charlatans and so like Eric Greitens, I mean, this guy doing that at he's just showing his true colors. I mean, he is a criminal. He assaulted someone in his basement he stole from his veterans charity. And the only reason he's not convicted is because he was a politician in power and was able to make a deal where he could resign instead of being prosecuted like that. What a double standard is that? Right? But that's the double standard we have in America right now. I mean, if I go to the US Senate, I'm in that double standard right away. I think that that's a tragedy. And in the thing is, and this is the twisted part about it, and this is what it says about American politics, is that guys funded by two billionaires, the Home Depot CEO in this Richard Orland guy who's like a packing magnate magnate or something like like, that's it. He's got a super PAC. He's funded by by 2 million billionaires, and they see his criminality as a feature. Like they see that as a positive thing because they know that this guy will do absolutely anything for the power or the prestige or the glory or whatever the hell it is that he thinks he can get out of running for office and winning. And they know he will do literally everything to include stripping our communities for parts if it means that Eric Greitens get what Eric Greitens wants. And so I mean, that's what we're up against. We are up against billionaires who fund criminals to strip our communities for parts period.
I certainly agree. And I think it exudes a kind of open fascism. I mean, I those are my words, not yours. But I think it is a kind of open form, normalization of fascism. And I think you put it exactly right, that capital, big key c capital money is with that side. And that's, I think, what the stakes are in a lot of these elections. Lucas, thank you so much for taking the time today. And thank you for running the race that you're running. Good luck with it. Thanks, David. We're gonna take a quick break, but we'll be right back with our interview with the President of the Amazon labor union Chris Smalls. Alright, look, if you're listening to this show, you know soft when you see it. Soft is a Democratic House member pledging to vie for a $15 minimum wage and then immediately backing down soft is a Democratic senator pledging to tax billionaires and then betraying the promised soft is Joe Biden, saying he supports unions and then backing down to lobbyists. But even the Democrats in Washington aren't as soft as sheets and giggles eucalyptus sheets, sheets and giggles should be the place you get your sheets, because they're awesome. They're unlike anything you've ever tried. They're naturally softer than even the best cotton and they're temperature regulated. They keep hot sleepers, cool and cold sleepers warm even in the same bed. This is particularly important in places like where I live Colorado, and where the temperature fluctuates all over the place. The cool thing is that Colin, the founder of sheets and giggles is mission driven. He's a guy right here in my hometown of Denver, who's been a longtime reader the levers journalism, he's been pushing Colorado to enact the public health insurance option. And he's making sure sheets and giggles products are made sustainably and ship and zero plastic packaging. Let me give you an example. Their sheets use 96% less water than cotton 30% less energy than cotton to make. For comparison, a single set of polyester sheets can leach 10 million micro plastic fibers into the waterways every year just through the laundry. So look, if you want to support a business that supports our journalism, and its values driven sheets and giggles is for you go to sheet giggles.com/lever. That's sheets giggles.com/lever for a 15% discount and get yourself set up today. Their sheets are softer than the Biden administration. And you're helping support a great company that's making our journalism possible.
Welcome back to LeBreton. For our final segment today, we're going to be sharing our interview with the man who gave the biggest of big middle fingers to the person who deserved it. Jeff Bezos, we're talking to Chris smalls, the president of the newly formed Amazon labor union, which was the first in the country to successfully win a union drive at an Amazon warehouse. Chris has found himself at the center of the new American labor movement, largely in part to his 21st century style, attitude and tactics, as well as his deep roots in the working class, myself delivers Matthew Cunningham, cook and producer Frank sat down with Chris to talk about his trip to DC, his meeting with President Biden his so called Hot labor summer tour, and the future of the Amazon labor union, just a heads up. We recorded this a few weeks ago, before the Amazon labor unions organizing efforts in Albany and Kentucky. It was a great conversation with a lot of insight about what the next steps are for the labor movement. Here it is a Matthew. Hey, Chris, thanks for being here.
Thank you. Thanks for having.
So Chris, I want to start out with what's been going on in the last month, last couple of weeks, you've been on a national organizing tour, visiting Amazon workers across the country talking about your experience with the ACLU in New York, whose idea was the tour? And what kind of feedback are you getting? What What are workers telling you across the country?
Oh, actually wasn't nobody's idea. You know, I kind of like this came up with it. As I was being booked to travel with different cities and states, I figured, you know, why not make it a tour? You know, I'm being booked a month in advance to you know, go to different locations and different union conventions and speak to different workers in different industries. So I just came up with this whole, you know, hot labor Summer Tour, hashtag and it kind of like, it just took off, you know, people started to gravitate towards it, and I just kind of ran with it. And, you know, I talked to my union about it and And we pretty much say, You know what, you know, if I'm going to be traveling and, you know, connecting with workers, I might as well, you know, make something out of it that's going to help spread the awareness to our calls.
What what are the what? What are you hearing from workers? Oh, well,
it's definitely an inspirational for them, you know, um, you know, the way we organize the way the uniqueness of our campaign, the uniqueness of our union, the fact that, you know, we're so just non non traditional compared to other established unions. I think the younger generation, and I guess you want to call them the Gen z's, they love us, you know, and they love our style, they love, you know, what they what they call our, you know, union drip, whatever they like about us and our characters. It seems to resonate, and I'm just trying to one, you know, do the best I can to keep that conversation, you know, and different spaces and get it to different platforms that, you know, usually we don't talk about labor on.
Yeah. And along those lines, you know, so you were just at this labor notes conference in Chicago, and you're there with, you know, you're the star along with Sean O'Brien, from the Teamsters, and Sarah Nelson from the flight attendants much more established. Unions, what what is it like kind of being in the room with the other two of them of you kind of this up and coming guide these other two much more established? People? Yeah. How did the three of you kind of interact?
Well, yeah, I talked to Sarah all the time, more so than Shawn, but everybody I met so far, it's been pretty receptive and pretty cool. And, you know, we, we definitely support one another. You know, me and Sean, we want you to send it together. You know, I've been to the teamsters marble palace had a tour. So we have a really good relationship. You know, I have relatives that are still Teamsters. And with Sarah, Sarah, just, she's been a comrade for a few years, always been supportive, from the beginning, even before we even won. So to have to actually meet her in person, and now to see her in different, you know, events, we just, once again, supporting each other through and through, we know that, collectively, we have to all take on Amazon
that makes me so happy to hear that you have like this, already built in solidarity and camaraderie with the other unions. That's like really, that makes me very hopeful. Chris, I'm curious, I'm sure you've been getting this a lot. But you showing up to the White House and eat the rich bomber jacket that was like, that was legitimately like one of the most transgressive political statements that I have seen in a long time I think any of us have seen in a long time. So first of all, thank you for for doing that. Yeah, I'm curious what your experience was like there at the White House and in Congress that day, because like you said, a lot of really powerful things. Like, do you feel like people were hearing you? Or do you feel like the people in DC were just like, giving you lip service?
At the moment, you know, um, I did not know that day, what happened the way they at all? You know, this is who I am as a person, every single day, the way I dress the way I talk. So like, for me, it was just normal. And then it wasn't until the aftermath when I realized, like, wow, how viral is one day just all of all of a sudden, when, and I'm like, wow, um, I think the difference is that number one, I'm not a politician. You know, number two, I shouldn't have been there. You know, just the fact that I'm, you know, me, you know, speaking up for workers the way I do, the demonstrations I've been involved with, you know, I was just outside I think I told them I was like, I was outside this White House protested last year. So for them to let me in and, you know, allow me to meet the president and all of that. It definitely was quite an experience and you know, eat the rich the jacket, you know, everybody thinks it's like custom made. I'm like, No, if you stop shopping online and stop shopping at Amazon, and go right to your local mall, you find the jacket just right there on the racks. It's $50 Anybody can be anybody can wear that jacket. You know, that's why I found it at the mall. So it's just amazing house. There's certain things that say and do aware just take off. Definitely wasn't expected at all. But I think the moment It is necessary. You know, we want to shake things up. We want to, we want to make politicians feel uncomfortable. And, you know, I had to remind Lindsey Graham that day that, you know, once again, I'm not no politician not going to talk to us like we don't exist. I'm in the room with my my union workers behind me. And I'm representing them. And I just had to speak, you know, truth to power. And that came straight from the heart.
I mean, you really, you really spoke truth to an asshole. And I really appreciate like you keeping calm because Lindsey Graham is truly one of the great assholes not a narcissist of our day, one of the great assholes of American history, I think I think that's a fair and honest statement. I want to go back to the to the experience you had at the White House. You met with President Biden and and his rhetoric has been about Amazon of late has been very good. You know, you said he's sort of rhetorically stands in solidarity. But his administration, for instance, gave Amazon a $10 billion contract to the company. Right. It it was as it was trying to bust the union. You know, Biden had promised to prevent such contracts from going to Union busters. I guess my question is, how helpful has the Biden administration been? How helpful have allies in Congress been? Had they been mostly rhetorically helpful? Have they done more than just say good things? And what are your expectations?
Well, no, I've never relied on them anyway, you know, of course, they haven't done much of anything. You know, the NLRB is still underfunded, still way understaffed. The process is way too lopsided for workers. As you know, we're in court right now, with Amazon has been dragged out for weeks. You know, these are the issues that we're facing as workers trying to organize and it hasn't changed, you know, the administration has appointed Jennifer Abruzzo who is trying to implement these remedies. But once again, these remedies take, you know, take time, and we don't have that time, because Amazon and other corporations like Starbucks, they're using that time against us every single day, they're firing us, they're targeting us, they're, you know, ignoring and breaking the law, you know, that's what they do. Um, so I don't expect much from any administration, I know that the work that we do, we have to do it ourselves, you know, as organizers as the working class, the only thing, the only way we get things done in this country is, is we have to force it upon the elected officials, you know, it's not the other way around, we can't expect them to just wake up one day and be like, Hey, let's pass the ProAct. So, um, you know, the conversation went as I expected, you know, when I met with them, and I just realized that, um, you know, this, this, nothing going to come from his White House, but let me holding them accountable. And, and I hope they know that, that I'm, I'm the wrong person, because I do have a big mouthpiece right now. And, you know, you've been promised me something and don't fall, follow through, I'm definitely going to call you out, as I've done in the past, you know, so I'm hoping that that's not going to be the case and hoping something happens over the next quarter of the year, leading up into 24. And, you know, we we know, we want to do on our end, you know, that's all I can do is control, we can control. And we're going to continue to organize.
Now. That's great. We need more people calling out other people. That's why That's extremely important right now.
So So along those same lines, so you guys just had this huge victory with the warehouse worker protection act, passing the New York legislature, but Governor Hogle hasn't signed it yet. As my understanding, has her office reached out to you guys about because we I mean, we contacted her office, and she said, you know, we'll let you know, make a decision about whether or not to sign this this bill. And so have has had she reached out to you. Where do things stand currently with this bill?
Yeah, no, I haven't heard from her yet. And honestly, I don't, you know, this is another thing. It's like, No, we do things. We bring bills to the table to their front doors to their desk. And you know, they sit on it, they sit on their hands. We did all the work for them. You know, we put the bill together. We sat with the union. We sat with Jessica Ramos several times. I went to Albany a few times. And here we are. So once again, the same thing, you know, no matter if it's a local, federal, national. We don't get the justice that we Eat just immediately, we had to like continue to just organize to a point where they don't have nowhere to turn. And yeah, I don't know what's going to happen with that, you know, I'm waiting on Jessica to give me a command. If she wants me to demonstrate all for that, on her not signing that bill, I'm more than happy to do. So. We already lost two of the other things that we actually was fighting for with the bill, we had three options that were actually three things that demands that we wanted to have. And they only allowed us to include one of them. So there's not much that we're actually asking for. So it doesn't even make sense why she wouldn't sign it. You know, it's not like we're asking for a month, we're only asking for transparency when it comes to productivity rates, which is something that's already being implemented in other states like California. So you know, for her, they sit on it, it just doesn't make any sense. And I will absolutely call her out and do whatever is necessary to amplify that.
Well, she just wanted her primary yesterday. Right. So the now's the time to apply that pressure. Chris, I want to ask about a few weeks ago, Amazon fired one of your fellow union leaders, Pat Cioffi for allegedly arguing with a manager over the working conditions. But you and other organizers are calling this a retaliatory firing. Can you talk a little bit about what happened? What where you guys are at if there, it seems like like Pat's gonna be able to find any recourse from this?
Yeah. So we had a press conference, what was it late April, we had a press conference regarding our victory. And Pat went public and said that he, you know, he flipped, he was a supervisor like myself, and he flipped up, you know, 500 people. So I guess Amazon, it taught me him from that moment forward. And when he went public on that press conference, you know, they were pretty much just targeting him doing little games, bring them into the office, they suspended him before, suspending him with pay suspending him without pay, they were just pretty much just dragging him along until they tried to find something to fly him for. And that's exactly what this came down to a manager, he had a conversation with a man, a manager, who, you know, he has several interactions with every day. And he put his hand on her shoulder as a friendly gesture, while they were talking somehow, someway that got twisted into some type of threat. And there we go, you know, Amazon ran with that. So as far as we know, we're waiting on his appeals process with Amazon. And if that falls through, we already filed our ULP to get him that and reinstated, obviously, for retaliation. And, you know, this is another process that we have to wait on, unfortunately. But, you know, we're going to do everything in our power to make sure that he gets his job back, or at least tried to do so. And he's still with us, you know, he's going to organize, just like no other and we were going to fight for him.
Chris, I want to ask you a question. I'm sure some listeners are wondering about how to deal with Amazon in their own lives. And I know a lot of listeners want to stand with you and with the union and what it's doing. And so I want to ask a larger question here to help folks think through how to stand in solidarity. And the question really is, should people shop at Amazon? Should they use Amazon? And more broadly? Is there a business model in the future, where the Amazon labor union has organized workers where Amazon is treating its workers with respect and dignity? And shopping at Amazon, using Amazon isn't just helping or siding with Jeff Bezos and the people who are treating its workers like shit? In other words, is there a model in the future? Do you envision a model where there is an Amazon that is not so terrible for the world and that using Amazon isn't a way to harm workers?
Absolutely. There is a way in though we prove that with our campaign, we changed the culture in that building. Hands down. I know if you watch certain videos and clips and on our social media, our tick tock the way we organize the way we fed the workers every day, every week, barbecues, the events that we did the demonstrations, we changed the culture of the building. so that workers were looking forward to coming to work and seeing us and interacting with us. And imagine that we did that at every warehouse, where you change the culture to make it you know, less strenuous, less stressful, you know, just a little bit of joy by going to work as a worker, as a warehouse worker. If the cultural change in the warehouses, the working conditions change, you know, people will take care of one another, the injury rates go down, because there's less productivity being pushed on to the workers. And we can change this little things like that longer break times better medical leave options, the things that were demanding with our union 30,000 an hour, I know, if you pay me well, I'm going to work well. You know, these, these are something that Amazon these demands are something that Amazon can absolutely afford to do. Not as a consumer, you know, we can't call the boycott or strike or anything like that, but what we can do is ask for consumers to stand in solidarity with the workers that come from their community. You know, I'm your neighbor, you know, I live next door to you, not Jeff Bezos, not the VP. So these companies, not the people that's in Seattle, not the techs that are making money. It's the warehouse workers we come we commute two and a half, three hours each way, from every borough in New York, were the ones that are in your community. So stand in solidarity with us, that means just spread our message, uplift our voices, cancel your prime, if that makes you feel better. You know, just do little things like that show up to our demonstrations, donate to our know, GoFundMe, whatever it takes to stand in solidarity and your, you know, whatever you feel comfortable with, as a consumer, you know, that's what we asked, you know, other than that, um, you know, it takes once again, it's going to take the organizers and the workers to organize themselves, to change the culture of Amazon entirely. And then we get the ALU nationwide, which we're ultimately trying to do, we will change the culture of Amazon as a whole. And, you know, it's gonna take time, but uh, you know, we already been contacted by every building in the country. And, you know, we're going to try our best to provide resources, help advice, even get involved, get other buildings under our umbrella. And collectively, you know, change the culture of Amazon.
One thing I did want to just say that, you know, from before about the whole discussion is we had an article came out a couple of weeks ago, make sure to send it your way, Chris, that shows that she could actually, you know, without even without the legislature, she could raise wages for warehouse workers in New York State to $30 an hour, your demand with the stroke of a pen, basically, you know, right now, and to me, that underscores just your point about how, you know, these Democrats need to be need to be pressured by workers. But I also wanted to ask you about just kind of what, what are the next steps for Hulu? You know, what, what are what, what's, what plan? Are you guys thinking right now for getting this contract done? And then also, finally, if you have any additional thoughts about kind of what happened with with the second warehouse where you guys, were you guys lost? Oh, yeah.
You know, so we're in court every day, daily 10am to 6pm. It's not being talked about a lot. You know, that's the problem. You know, this is a should be one of the most talked about campaigns in the country right now. court hearing, at least, you know, it should be everybody, every union, everybody that's a part of the labor movement, watching and tuning in every single day, or at least as much as possible. This shouldn't be less than 100 people on the call for one of the most historical victories in the country. You know, that's number one, you know, we all got to, you know, show solidarity and not just tweet about it. And as far as what we have planned, we want to, of course, win this court hearing so that we can be certified. Have the company recognize us, which we know they're probably not going to do. So for us, we have to organize even 10 times harder right now. So right now, what we're doing is we're just building up our infrastructure, especially inside JFK right now. Getting workers involved, keeping them engaged and formed. Amazon is hiring that third location. So we want to make sure we're getting to the new hires. This time, keep the union alive in the building. Also, you know, branching out a little bit you know, we got up interest and other warehouses. I'm not going to mention them so that they don't union bus. But we already have quite a few campaigns that are ready to go are just about ready to go. So over the next course of this month or a couple of weeks, you'll start to see more traction publicly about warehouses that are about to launch campaigns to unionize. And um, you know, as far as the reason why, you know, we lost the second building. Number one, the organizers there were we're not did JFK organizes the j&k organizers that I organize with. They've been Amazon workers for four years 345 Derek Palmer's on his sixth year. Myself, if I was still there, this would be six years for me going on seven years, I were influencing that building, which is way greater ldj Five, just like Bessemer, Alabama has been there only a year. So the influence in there is way different. It's a part time building. So 80% of the workers there are part time, not their main source of income. So there's a lot of intangibles people don't really know about also organises not only being new to the company, they only been there for less than less than a year, some of them only six to eight months, there were new to the company and new to organizing completely. So like to try to get them to organize within a month timeframe was way too soon, we just took a shot anyway, we thought that we had enough resources, obviously, after we won the first campaign, he came here, come Bernie here, come ALC here come, you know, the whole state of New York. And everybody else, here come all the money. So we had all the unlimited resources, but none of that mattered. It was just about the timing. And the fact that we didn't have enough time in the building to really reach all the workers, you know, Amazon was union busting, they spend millions of dollars, they were doing that in the same building that a smaller and smaller locations, which means that it was a higher density of union busting. The workers were isolated. We're talking about 1000 workers, you know, compared to 8000. They had a, they had plenty of time to really, you know, drill propaganda into the workers. But we still learn from that, even though we lost, we learned that 460 workers voted yes. So they have a really strong union there either. Even so, yeah,
I mean, you know, with you, between you guys and Starbucks, you know, some of the biggest victories that I've went, I mean, I worked in labor for a long time prior to coming back to journalism with David. But, you know, both both, you guys and Starbucks have had a lot of, you know, you know, losses too. And what it makes me think of is that union shouldn't be afraid, so much of losing, you know, if kind of, if you're running more and more elections, you're going to win some and you're going to lose some and that that, to me is kind of the you know, all the unions that I've worked with, you know, we're totally, we're way too afraid to lose an NLRB election, in my opinion, and you guys and Starbucks have shown look, if you're running elections, you're gonna win some and you're gonna lose some and on the on, in the grand scheme of things, you're gonna be doing better at the end of the day?
Absolutely. Yeah, you know, once again, we took a shot. You know, I didn't expect us to win, I didn't. But you know, what, once again, deposit positive thing that we took away is that we now know that this over 400 people in that building that that want a union, it's not that far off, and we're still organizing, you know, we have a year to get back to it. And, um, you know, that gives us opportunity. So, you know, taking a shot is something that you have to do,
Chris, my my last question, I'm, I'm very, very curious about like, your, your politics, because you've you found yourself sort of at the center of this new American labor movement, and, and the way you speak is very labor focused. It's almost like anti capitalist politics. And I'm, I'm really curious how you arrived here, like, Is this is this just stuff that you are figuring out on your own? Are you reading Karl Marx? Like, like, like, what how did you get to this place in your, in your your thought process?
Not definitely. I learned every day, you know, I've been only been doing this work for two years. That was not that long, two and a half years, and I'm a fast learner. But I also always been a natural born leader my whole life. You know, even working at Amazon. I was the leader there. I opened up three buildings for them. They didn't know who they fired, you know, I was so invested into the company that I could run a warehouse anywhere. So from me being on this on this side playing for this team. You know, being a leader in this movement, I learned from just just talking to different people learn from, of course, I have a whole bunch of books being sent to me every week, I try to read as much as possible. Of course, I keep up on what's going on in the media and the news, especially with the left, you know, things like that I've been on picket lines and a part of different demonstrations across this country, whether it's environmental, social, social injustice, women's rights, you know, I'm always at, you know, trying to learn and be a part of all of these different movements, not just one and combine them. You know, I think that's important as well, you know, we're so divided by all these different issues. If we can bring them all together, we can really have no real true people's power. And I've seen that I've seen the power when people come together, especially with our campaign, you know, we're on Trump Island, you know, when it's Staten Island, you know, there's Trump flags everywhere, but to be Amazon, to not fall into that political argument. And, you know, always let the right we don't, we don't do that we stick to the issues, we build up a commonality. And I think most people, you know, most people want to have better working conditions. Most people want to have higher wages. Most people want Medicare for all. Most people want their student debt cancer, that's just a no brainer for me. Because I'm a part of that, you know, I'm, I'm living the same thing. I'm sitting here right now, even though I'm the president of the Amazon labor union. I'm still unemployed. You know, I don't get paid until we get a contract. So for me, this is all I have? No, I have to put my all into it. Uh, Chris,
I want to ask you one last question about the larger labor movement. What do you think the larger labor movement can take away from Al use initial success here? And how does the National Union strategy whether at Amazon or anywhere else need to evolve? What hasn't it been doing that you have done? Or that there are lessons to be gleaned from what you did? What hasn't been done in the past that needs to happen now for the larger labor movement?
Well, for 20 years, Amazon was beating these, you know, traditional campaigns, you know, that was the mistake that most established unions was making was that they tried to do it in secrecy. They tried to, you know, organize with salts that didn't last, they spent millions of dollars thinking that if you match up money, money matching money will will ultimately convince workers to, to organize, they tried all these different things that just wasn't working. Well we did was we we earned the trust, we use the principles that Amazon teaches and we flipped it on them. We earned the trust of the workers, we, we built our own relationships, we we didn't make it about money. We obviously didn't have any we made it about real connections, and the labor movement and establishing unions can take away from us is that you have to be real grassroots. You can't just, you know, advocate for it, or say you support it, you have to really get involved getting get inside the warehouse, can't just hire a third party union and stand outside the building. We saw that with the campaign in Alabama, that that didn't work the first time around, you know, when I went down there, and I noticed that, you know, the organizers were outside at the traffic lights. And I'm like, okay, cool. That's great. But where are the workers inside the building? Where's your workers committee, and it didn't seem to happen, they didn't have any the first time around. So we took that and we said, we're not going to make that same mistake. We're going to make sure that the first thing we do is build the workers committee inside the building. And that's exactly what we did until we got to the point where once again, the workers start to organize themselves. And I was at the bus stop on the outside so it wasn't an army of us on outside it was me and a few people and that's all we really needed was an inside outside game. The labor the labor movement, as an as an entirety they gotta make sure that we adapt into the 21st century you know, that's what why you're seeing the Starbucks campaigns take off because he's a young kid. He's a young adults doing this and and leading the charge and what the, the older generation you know, I kind of had this old school, new School methods, you know, old school, the old school labor movement. And I'm not trying to say that, you know that they don't count or they don't exist anymore. But they need to support the younger generation, they need to step back, they got to know when to play the position, they got to know when to take charge, no one to step back. And there's certain campaigns like, for example, our campaign that people should get behind, because this is the way of organizing from here on out, you know, there's no way going back. You know, we can't, obviously, we can't take what we did in Staten Island and go to Alabama with it. But you can take certain things from our campaign and go to anywhere house with it, you know, the things that we did in our campaign, you can use in any bid in any building in the country. So there's certain things that the older established unions need to learn. They got to make tic tock they got to get on social media. They got to get involved with the younger adults, they can't just rely on politics, they can't get in bed with these Democrats who are claiming that they stand in solidarity, the labor movement, they got to get away from all of that traditional stuff that they're used to doing, and focus on the issues in the warehouse and the commonality that the work has had.
Chris in an ocean of like bad news every single day, every single week, I swear, more than more than one person many people have have said something to the effect of what you're doing, what the labor movements doing is the one shining light of hope in in in this dark moment, right now. So thank you so much for your work. Truly, please let us know how we can help support it, amplify it and the like. And thanks for taking time with us today.
Yeah, absolutely. I really appreciate it. You know, this is going to help a lot. No, you guys supporting us and amplifying this. So yeah, we got a lot of work to do together.
Good luck with it, man. We'll be in touch. Absolutely. Okay, that's it for today's show. As a reminder, our paid subscribers who get lever time premium, you get to hear our bonus segment of the worst liberal takes of all time.
I think the the RBG take was was more dangerous, because it ended up being what happened. And you know, Kavanaugh was probably going to be confirmed with or without the support of liberals. But I do feel a bit more annoyed by the Kavanaugh take because I just don't get why liberals keep feeling the need to to provide cover for their enemies like like who does that
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