Tag Archive for: labor union



Striking Alabama coal miners come together to face tough holidays. Buffalo, NY, sues gun makers after race massacre. Afghan women protest Taliban barring them from universities.




Striking Alabama coal miners share true meaning of Christmas- solidarity

Hundreds of coal miners in Brookwood, Alabama, have now been on strike for nearly 20 months. Despite the hardships they’ve faced, workers are committed to holding their employer, Warrior Met Coal, to a promise they made seven years ago. In 2015, Warrior Met Coal bought out the defunct Walter Energy. Warrior Met convinced employees to accept pay and benefit cuts to help the company get back on its feet. In exchange for this sacrifice, Warrior Met promised a better contract by 2020.

Coal producers are being hit hard by new climate legislation and efforts to retire coal as an energy source. However, Warrior Met produces coal for steel-making, so environmental legislation hasn’t impacted their business. Five years after workers agreed to the massive cuts, Warrior Met was making billions in profit. But Warrior Met reneged on their promise of a more generous contract. Months of negotiations with between management and the workers’ union, United Mine Workers of America, went nowhere, so the workers called a strike in April 2021. Over 1000 workers have been picketing from morning till night ever since.

Christmas solidarity

During the strike, UMWA has kept their members afloat financially with monthly strike insurance checks. These checks don’t nearly match the workers’ salary. Some workers have taken other jobs, and other unions have sent cash donations in solidarity. But, Haeden Wright, the wife of a striking coalminer and auxiliary president of the UMWA locals 2245 and 2368, says the holidays are particularly hard.

“We couldn’t have ever imagined that we would now be on strike for the second Christmas, or the second time during the holidays,” said Wright. “It is hard when you have to learn to tell your kids now that we can’t afford things, you have to go without that. You don’t have satellite TV any more, you don’t go on vacation, you don’t really go anywhere to eat”.

Wright helps organize a year-round food pantry for strikers and holiday events to boost morale. However, Wright admits there are some needs that go unmet. “For a lot of us it meant that when heaters went out, when air conditioning went out, we can’t afford to replace those.” Wright helped set up a gift registry where other unions and members of the public could contribute. Thanks to an encouraging show of support, the registry requests were all fulfilled by early November.

“Your union is your family, it’s your community,” Wright said. “If you ask for help, people are going to help. You’re there for each other”.

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Buffalo, NY, sues gun manufacturers after race massacre

The city of Buffalo, NY, is suing several major gun manufacturers, including Smith & Wesson, Beretta, Bushmaster, Colt and Glock. The suit alleges that the firms have created an epidemic of gun violence through their irresponsible advertising and marketing practices. In May this year, a gunman killed 10 people at a Topps Supermarket in Buffalo. All of the victims were Black and the gunman has admitted that the rampage was motivated by race.

Gun manufacturers have broad immunity from lawsuits related to gun deaths, granted to them by US lawmakers. Buffalo’s suit accuses the gun manufacturers of appealing to people with criminal intent with marketing campaigns that emphasize the high capacity of a weapon and the ease of concealing it. The suit also claims the industry has created a dangerous nuisance by deliberately supplying more guns than needed in the legitimate market and by failing to take steps to stop illegal sales.

Buffalo is believed to be the first city to sue gun manufacturers. However, it is only the most recent of a number of efforts by victims and even governments to try to hold gun makers accountable for their role in glorifying violence.

Sandy Hook

A similar suit that yielded some success was brought by the families of nine Sandy Hook victims, who are about to mark their 10th Christmas without their children. The families sued Remington, makers of the Bushmaster XM15-E2S, an AR-15 style rifle used by Adam Lanza in the massacre. The suit alleged Remington’s marketing for the rifle targeted insecure young men like Lanza, using slogans like, “Consider Your Man Card Reissued“. The families settled with Remington for $73 million, which was paid by the manufacturer’s insurance company.


Following this settlement, Mexico also attempted to sue major manufacturers in US federal courts in April this year. Mexico cited US gun manufacturers’ marketing of guns designed to appeal to the tastes of cartel members. The suit cited several makes of gun with special embellishments like gold plating and even engravings of “Narco Saints”. Ultimately, Boston federal judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston dismissed Mexico’s suit, albeit with some apparent regret. Saylor observed that federal law “unequivocally” shields gun manufacturers from civil and criminal accountability when their products are used to kill. “While the court has considerable sympathy for the people of Mexico, and none whatsoever for those who traffic guns to Mexican criminal organizations, it is duty-bound to follow the law,” Saylor wrote.


In September, families of children who survived the May school shooting in Uvalde, TX, sued Daniel Defense, makers of the AR-15 style weapon used by the killer. More recently, a mother whose child died in the shooting also sued. Both suits point to Daniel Defense’s marketing towards young people. For example, just days before the shooting, Daniel Defense tweeted a photo of a toddler with an assault rifle.

In a separate action, advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, accusing Daniel Defense of targeting at-risk young men. According to the complaint, Daniel Defense’s marketing frequently uses “references and images associated
with killing and hunting people”.



Afghan women protest Taliban barring them from universities

On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership announced an edict banning women from universities. Since the Taliban took over the country last year, they’ve steadily chiseled away at the rights of women and girls. Immediately upon taking power, the Taliban banned women from working in certain sectors. Then girls’ access to middle- and high-school level education was severely curtailed. However, until this week, women already in university were allowed to continue, and girls in some areas could receive an informal high school education in private “tuition” centers. 

Educators and students report that the day after the edict was issued, armed Taliban enforcers entered universities and tuition centers and ordered girls to go home at gunpoint. As of now, Afghan girls cannot receive any education beyond the 6th grade. Yesterday, women took to the streets to express their anger at the decision in Kabul. Police quickly disbanded the protests.

The development is especially frustrating after the Taliban allowed girls to take the college entrance exam three months ago. Thousands of young women studied for the exams in secret for months. Moreover, college students across the country were set to start taking final exams this week. Now many women fear their years of study will be wasted after being denied paths to qualifications and greater economic security. With recent bans on women entering public parks and gyms, it appears that the trend is toward confining women largely to their homes.

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Buffalo supermarket shooter pleads guilty to terrorism, murder charges. White House working to avert railroad strike. China: Rare antigovernment protests over lockdown policies





Buffalo supermarket shooter pleads guilty to terrorism, murder charges

Payton Gendron, the 19-year-old gunmen who carried out a mass shooting in May at a Topps supermarket in Buffalo, NY, has pleaded guilty to all state charges against him. There 15 total charges, including murder, attempted murder, and domestic terrorism motivated by hate. The last charge comes with a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Gendron still faces dozens of federal charges, some of which carry the possibility of a death sentence.

Gendron killed 10 Black people at the supermarket and has admitted that he was motivated by racism. In fact, several days before the incident, Gendron drove 200 miles from his home in Conklin, NY, to a majority-Black neighborhood in Buffalo to identify a location where he would be likely to kill as many Black people as possible. During the pandemic, Gendron became indoctrinated online into a white supremacist ideology known as “white replacement”.

In light of many deadly mass shootings this year, including several just in the past two weeks, President Biden is once again calling on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban during the December lame-duck session. However, to pass such a measure, Senate Democrats would need to find 10 Republicans to vote with them, which is unlikely. 

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White House working to avert railroad strike ahead of holidays

President Biden said last week that his administration is working with railroad companies and unions to avoid a possible railroad strike. Federal officials helped to broker an agreement in September which at least delayed strike talks until after the midterms. Since then, three of the 12 major railroad workers unions have voted to reject terms of that deal.

The unions could call a strike as soon as Dec. 9. If they do, the US freight rail system will grind to a halt, stopping deliveries of food, gas and other vital goods. Congress has the power to force an end to the strike by imposing the terms of the contract proposed in September. Biden is hoping to broker a more favorable deal that the unions will accept to avoid a strike.

Although the proposal came with a hefty wage hike over the next 5 years, workers have pointed out the raises barely keep up with inflation. Also, the deal included no paid sick days and did not address workers’ grievances over unpredictable work schedules. Click here for a 3-minute video where railroad workers explain their reasons for rejecting the deal.

Record profits despite supply chain problems

Workers are especially angry with the stinginess of the proposed contracts since the industry has reported record profits during the pandemic. The companies have increased their profits in part by laying off workers, increasing the burden on those that remain. Instead of reinvesting in the company or hiring more workers, the companies have used those profits for stock buybacks to increase pay packages of their executives.

In February, billionaire Warren Buffett, owner of Berkshire Hathaway (parent company of major railroad company BNSF), told shareholders that BNSF had earned record profits in 2021. Buffett, noted for his philanthropy, also recently donated $750 million dollars to charities run by his family. 

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China: Rare antigovernment protests over lockdown policies

Cities all over China erupted in massive antigovernment protests over the weekend due to China’s Zero COVID policy. Premier Xi Jinping’s pandemic policy has caused huge cities of millions of people to go into strict lockdowns when even a few COVID cases are detected. People are forbidden from leaving their homes for days or even weeks. The lockdowns can come with no warning, leaving residents no time to gather adequate food and medicine. Lockdowns in major cities have also had a major economic impact.

Despite the draconian lockdowns, COVID numbers are still rising. Today, China broke its record for daily cases with 40,347 new cases. Rather than rethinking the policy, the government has responded with lockdowns in more cities with even more restrictive measures.

The protests were sparked by an incident in the western province of Xinjiang last week. Ten people died in an apartment fire because the entrances were locked to keep residents from going outside. The demonstrations have been growing and spreading across the country. Police have been out in force engaging in violent clashes with peaceful protesters. Demonstrators are now openly calling for Xi to resign. 

Chinese media has not acknowledged the protests and censors have been eliminating any mention of them on Chinese social media sites like WeChat and Weibo. Nevertheless, the ranks of the protesters are growing with each passing day.

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Amazon warehouse workers strike on Black Friday. Trump rape accuser files upgraded lawsuit under new law. Australia: Much-maligned bird may be key to controlling even more hated invasive toad.


Amazon warehouse workers in US, 40 other countries strike on Black Friday

Workers at Amazon fulfilment facilities in the US, UK and 40 other countries planned walkouts, strikes protests and other actions today on Black Friday. Social media groups helping to organize the strikes have dubbed it #MakeAmazonPay day. Activists are also staging protests outside the New York home of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Bezos is no longer Amazon’s CEO but retains significant financial interest in the company. 

The strikers are demanding that the company address unsafe working conditions at many of its warehouses and fulfilment centers across the globe. Workers are also concerned about Amazon’s use of computers to monitor and enforce brutal productivity quotas. These automated enforcement mechanisms dock workers’ pay or even fire them for failing to meet the quotas, regardless of workers’ ages or mobility problems.

The pressure to fulfill these quotas contributes to an unsafe working environment in the warehouses. In 2021, Amazon warehouse workers made up only 1/3 of all US warehouse workers but accounted for nearly half of all recorded injuries recorded in US warehouses, according to the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC). 

Today’s demonstrators are also demanding that Amazon negotiate with unionized workers. An Amazon warehouse in Staten Island became the first in the US to join a union, but the company has yet to acknowledge the union or meet them at the negotiating table. Other Amazon warehouses have tried and failed to unionize, but more votes are coming next year.

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Trump rape accuser files upgraded lawsuit under new law

Columnist E. Jean Carroll has filed a new lawsuit accusing Donald Trump of sexual battery after New York passed a law allowing victims to sue their perpetrators for crimes decades in the past. Carroll has accused Trump of raping her in the changing room of a Manhattan department store in the mid-90s.

When the accusation first came to light during Trump’s presidency, Trump called her a liar and said she’s “not my type”. Carroll then filed a defamation suit against Trump. Then-Attorney General Bill Barr sought to make the federal government the defendant in the case, claiming that Trump’s denial was an official act in his capacity as a federal employee. This would have killed the lawsuit, as the federal government cannot be sued for defamation. A judge recently rejected this ploy and allowed Carroll’s initial suit to go ahead with Trump as the defendant.

As part of the initial lawsuit, Carroll has been trying to obtain a DNA sample from Trump to compare with evidence from her assault.

New York’s new Adult Survivors law allows victims of sexual abuse to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators and those who facilitated the abuse. Facilitators can include institutions like churches, banks and other organizations. For example, victims of deceased billionaire child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein filed a suit today against banking institutions. The victims say JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and others ignored Epstein’s “red flags” to continue benefitting from his sex-trafficking operations.

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Australia: Much-maligned bird may be key to controlling even more hated invasive toad

Foreigners love to marvel from afar at Australia’s weird and wonderful wildlife. But for many Aussies, these animals are little more than an everyday nuisance. From unwanted scraps with marauding kangaroos to close encounters with enormous spiders at inopportune moments, these critters are a, sometimes unwelcome, fact of life.

A white ibis with a cane toad in its beak.

One such example is the majestic-looking white ibis. Aussies have bestowed the inglorious title of “bin chicken” upon the stork-like bird, thanks to its habit of rooting through urban and rural garbage bins in search of food. However, scientists have just uncovered the bin chicken’s saving grace- its valiant efforts to bring down the numbers of the invasive cane toad.

Cane toads were introduced to Australia in the 1930s and have become a very difficult to control pest. The toad emits a powerful and deadly toxin when stressed. As a result, Australia’s typical predators like crocodiles and dingoes have learned to avoid it. Decades of unchecked breeding have brought the Australian cane toad population to around 2 billion. The toad’s habit of eating small native animals means it’s had a devastating effect on native wildlife.

But the ibis has found an ingenious way to ingest the cane toad while avoiding the effects of its toxins. Scientists have recently observed ibises “playing” with the toads, picking them up, tossing them in the air and even playing “catch” with them. The ibis then either scrubs the toad on the grass or rinses it off in a pond, cleaning off the toxic secretions. The bird then swallows the toad whole.

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Costly train strike looming ahead of holidays. Shooter at CO gay club charged with hate crime, dodged red flag law. Turkey, Iran carry out airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan.


National train strike looms again ahead of holidays

Back in September, marathon negotiations between industry groups, labor unions and members of the Biden administration narrowly averted a major nationwide railroad strike. The parties hammered out a deal that would give train workers a 24% raise. However, the deal did nothing to address issues with working conditions and sick days, which were a major sticking point for the unions.

Leaders and members of the 12 major unions expressed dissatisfaction with the deal at the time, but agreed to put the contracts to a vote. As of now, seven unions have ratified the agreement; three have rejected it and are back at the bargaining table; and two unions have yet to vote. 

Now fears are rising that we could see a strike as soon as Dec. 4. If even one of the 12 unions decides to strike, all the others will join them. Back in September when a strike was first on the horizon, industry groups estimated a strike would cost the US economy about $2 billion per day. With the holidays approaching, the loss could be even better. Not to mention the fact that about 30% of freight in the US travels by rail. A rail strike could mean even greater supply chain problems and even empty shelves. Amtrak and some commuter rail lines would also grind to a halt.

In the event of a strike, Congress has the power to force the unions back to work. Workers know this would mean accepting a less favorable deal than the one that’s on the table now. But after over 5 years of negotiation and two years of crews working short-staffed with punishing schedules while companies made record profits, there is a lot of built up anger and frustration on the part of the workers

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Shooter at CO gay club charged with hate crime, dodged red flag law

Saturday night, a 22-year-old gunman entered Club Q, a LGBT club in Colorado Springs, CO., and started shooting. Anderson Lee Aldrich killed 5 people and injured 25 before two civilians heroically tackled and disarmed him. Police and first responders were on the scene within about 5 minutes of the first 911 call.

Aldrich was not known to the patrons or owners at Club Q. His attack coincided with Trans Memorial Day, when the LGBT community memorializes trans people who have died by violence in the last year. It seems Aldrich picked a day when he knew there would be a good crowd in attendance. He carried both and AR-style long gun and a handgun and brought several extra magazines. It’s not clear how many people were in the club that night, but Aldrich obviously hoped for a high body count.

Today Aldrich was charged with a hate crime. FBI agents have been working alongside local law enforcement processing the scene.

Back in June 2021, Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb. Police responded and evacuated nearby neighbors while the bomb squad searched his home for explosives. None were found. Local media reports that prosecutors did not pursue formal charges and the records were sealed. Nevertheless, Aldrich’s guns could have been confiscated under Colorado’s red flag laws. Red flag laws allow family members or law enforcement to obtain a warrant to remove weapons from the home of a subject who is considered a threat to himself or others. It’s not clear at present why this didn’t happen. Even if a judge had ordered Aldrich’s weapons confiscated, subjects often get them back within a couple of weeks.

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Turkey, Iran carry out airstrikes in Iraqi Kurdistan

Turkey is hitting neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan (in the north of the country) with air strikes in retaliation for a recent bombing in Istanbul. The Turkish government blames militant Kurdish liberation forces, known as the PKK, for the bombing. Air strikes have also taken place in Kurdish areas of Syria in what the Turks are calling Operation Claw-Sword. Turkey has been waging war on its own Kurdish population for decades and has committed numerous war crimes against them over the years. Militants have now largely retreated to areas of Syria and Iraq. Turkey has taken advantage of political turmoil in its neighboring countries, believing they can carry out attacks on foreign soil with impunity.

Iraqi Kurdistan has also been hit multiple times by Iranian missiles in recent weeks. Iran’s government blames the Kurdish minority for stirring and perpetuating widespread antigovernment protests across the country. Mahsa Amini (also known as Zhina Amini), the 22-year-old student whose death in police custody sparked the protests, was Kurdish.

The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group with their own language. They’ve been fighting to create their own state as they frequently face brutal oppression in the countries they inhabit. The diaspora spreads across areas of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran and the Caucasus region. During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Iraqi Kurdish force called the Peshmerga fought alongside US troops. The Kurds then established a semi-autonomous region in the north of the country and enjoyed a period of relative peace. Now that the political situation in Iraq has become increasingly unstable, Iraqi Kurdistan has been vulnerable to attacks from all sides. 

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Strippers campaign for nation’s first unionized strip club. Jan. 6: 2 more hearings this week; Bannon agrees to testify. Sri Lankans occupy president’s palace demanding his resignation.



LA strippers campaign for nation’s first unionized strip club

Strippers who formerly worked at LA’s Star Garden strip club have been picketing their former workplace since March. When many strip clubs shut down during the pandemic, many exotic entertainers opened their own online subscription businesses and enjoyed a high degree of autonomy and control. Once clubs reopened, dancers had to once again contend with lax security, stolen wages, and exploitative labor contracts. Two of the dancers at Star Garden were immediately fired when they called for establishing a union. Since then, other Star Garden dancers have walked out and joined in demonstrations outside the club. 

Click here to listen to the full story (opens in new tab).

Click here for a video about the strippers’ union effort (about 7 minutes).


Jan. 6: 2 more hearings this week; Bannon agrees to testify

Over the weekend, the news broke that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, conservative firebrand Steve Bannon, had agreed to testify before the Jan. 6 committee. The committee had previously subpoenaed Bannon, who refused to testify claiming executive privilege. The Justice Department subsequently charged Bannon with contempt. However, according to former Trump attorney Jason Clark, expectations should not be high for Bannon’s intent to cooperate. In an interview with the DOJ, Clark testified that Trump had never invoked executive privilege in Bannon’s case. The DOJ believes that Bannon’s change of heart with regard to testifying may be a ploy to gain sympathy he will soon face in connection with his criminal contempt charges.

2 more Jan. 6 hearings this week

The Jan. 6 select committee plans to hold two more public televised hearings this week. The first will be tomorrow, Tuesday 1 p.m. ET/ noon CT, and will focus on the role of extremist groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys in the violence at the Capitol. The hearing will also address inflammatory Trump tweets that the committee maintains were directed at the rioters.

The second hearing will take place Thursday, possible during primetime, though these schedules are subject to change. The committee has not yet announced the subject of Thursday’s hearing.



Sri Lankans occupy president’s palace to demand his resignation

Sri Lanka’s tumultuous recent history includes a bloody 26-year civil war (1983-2009), followed by an authoritarian military dictatorship that has held power up to this day. In 2019, the country began experiencing a sharp economic downturn which has only deepened in the time since. Recently, Sri Lanka has been unable to purchase imported food and fuel, leading to critical shortages. 

Months of protests recently culminated on attacks at the homes of the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Saturday. The protesters have since occupied Rajapaksa’s palatial home and say they won’t leave until he formally resigns. 

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Amazon warehouse first in US to form union. House passes bill to cap insulin prices; most Republicans voted against it. Zelensky fires two generals, brands them “traitors”.




Amazon warehouse becomes first in US to form union

Workers at Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse in Staten Island, NY, have voted to form a labor union, the first in the US to do so. Voting began last week and concluded yesterday. By a vote of 2,654 to 2,131, the warehouse workers voted to join the Amazon Labor Union, founded by Christian Smalls, a former worker at that warehouse. Smalls began this union fight in 2020 after Amazon fired him for leading a walkout over poor COVID safety. A mile away from JFK8, a second Amazon warehouse, LDJ5, will also hold a vote on whether to join the Amazon Labor Union later this month

Another Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., also held a vote this week. Workers there voted 875 to 993 against joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. However, about 400 of the votes cast have been challenged and remain unopened, so the pro-union side may yet prevail.

In both Staten Island and Alabama, union organizers met stiff resistance from Amazon’s management. Workers were bombarded with anti-union messaging and were forced to attend frequent mandatory ’employee information sessions’. The company spent $4.3 million on consultants to fight unionizing efforts last year.

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Related: Striking Alabama coal miners still picketing after more than a year


House passes bill to cap insulin prices; nearly all Republicans voted against it

The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would cap the monthly price of insulin to $35 a month for insured patients. If it were to become law, the bill could save some patients hundreds of dollars a year on a live-saving medicine. However, the savings would not extend to patients who do not have insurance.

Only 12 of 209 House Republicans voted in favor. None of Mississippi’s Republican Representatives voted in favor of the measure. In 2016, Mississippi ranked first in the nation for prevalence of diabetes. 

Democrats admit the bill has only a slim chance of passing the Senate, where it would need 10 Republican votes. But it did give Democrats a chance to force Republicans to reveal where they stand on an issue that affects millions of Americans.

“If 10 Republicans stand between the American people being able to get access to affordable insulin, that’s a good question for 10 Republicans to answer,” said Democratic Rep. Dan Kildee, a cosponsor of the House bill. “Republicans get diabetes, too. Republicans die from diabetes”.

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Ukraine bombs Russian fuel depot; Zelensky fires two generals

Russia has accused Ukraine of bombing a fuel depot on the Russian side of the border in Belgorod. Belgorod is near the Ukrainian border and has been a gathering point for Russian tanks and heavy artillery since the start of the conflict. Apparently, two Ukrainian Mi-24 helicopters flew at low altitude under cover of night and bombed the facility. According to Russian sources, there were no fatalities resulting from the attack. However, a Russian spokesman did say the fire would force them to reorganize the fuel supply chain.

Zelensky fires two generals, calls them “traitors”

Ukraine’s President Zelensky has fired two high-ranking generals, branding them as “traitors”. Zelensky said he had stripped the military ranks of Naumov Andriy Olehovych, chief of the Security Service of Ukraine (equivalent to their national guard), and Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych, the head of the SSU in Kherson. Kherson was the first major Ukrainian city to fall to the Russians.

Zelensky provided few details about the reasons for their firing. Nor did he explain what “treasonous” acts they had committed. He merely said that, “Something prevented them from determining where their homeland was” and that they had “violated their military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people”. Zelensky went on to say, “I do not have time to deal with all the traitors, but they will gradually all be punished”. He also issued a general warning to members of Ukraine’s armed forces, saying that those “who break the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people… will inevitably be deprived of high military ranks”.


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South braces for more severe weather. Labor activists hope to unionize first Amazon facility in US. Israel: Five shot dead in latest outbreak of violence.




South braces for more severe weather

Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas and Alabama will receive the brunt of a severe weather system moving across the Southeast today. A tornado in Arkansas has already injured multiple people. All of North Mississippi is under a tornado watch until 8pm tonight.

The entire state of Mississippi is also under a high wind warning until 7pm local time tonight. This could bring winds in excess of 50mph and there’s a possibility of severe weather overnight as well. There is also a danger of tornados, flash flooding, hail and other destructive phenomena as the system moves through North Mississippi. Heavy rain is also expected in the evening. 

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Will activists succeed in unionizing first ever Amazon facility in US?

Today is the last day for workers at an Amazon facility in Staten Island, NY, to vote on whether to form a union. A former worker at the facility, Christian Smalls, has been spearheading the effort. Smalls was fired from the facility in 2020 after leading a walkout protesting poor health and safety conditions at the warehouse.

Smalls later began the Amazon Labor Union campaign to unionize his former workplace, Amazon’s JFK8 warehouse. Voting for the measure to establish an independent union, with no national affiliation, began last week and ends today.

Just as in the case of a previous unsuccessful union vote at one of its facilities in Bessemer, AL, last year, Amazon’s brass came out in force to crush the movement. Amazon management has held mandatory “information sessions” to dissuade employees from voting for the union, and sent out text messages to current and former employees. In the Bessemer case, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Amazon had gone to far in its intimidation campaign and will allow employees at that warehouse to hold another vote.

In addition to growing disgruntlement among its warehouse employees, Amazon is facing a new labor challenge from the new head of the Teamsters Union, Sean O’Brien. The Teamsters, founded by controversial labor activist Jimmy Hoffa, have accused Amazon of exploitative labor practices imposed on drivers and truckers represented by the union. 

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Israel: Five fatally shot in latest outbreak of violence

Israel has suffered an uptick in violent incidents in recent days. The most recent attack took place last night. A young Arab man from the West Bank fatally shot three Israelis and two Ukrainian workmen in Bnei Brak, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Police killed the gunman at the scene. This is the third deadly attack in just over two weeks. The first took place on Mar. 22 in the city of Beersheba. A lone attacker rammed his car into a cyclist before fatally stabbing three bystanders. Then on the 27th, two Arab-Israeli gunmen opened fire on a bus stop in Hadera, killing two and injuring 12.

Authorities believe that the assailants in all three of these attacks had connections with ISIS or at least were sympathetic to ISIS. ISIS attacks within Israel itself are rare. Radicalization among Israeli Arabs (who, unlike Palestinians, are Israeli citizens) is also a relatively new and growing phenomenon. This seems to have arisen from hardening ethnic and religious tensions on all sides.

Recently, the Israeli Parliament voted to deny Israeli citizenship to Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs. That means that these couples will either have to move to the West Bank or Gaza, or live separately. Israel’s government is also accelerating its displacement of Palestinians and Arabs by building illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian land, and even seizing the property of Israeli Arabs to house Jewish immigrants.

Next month, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Jewish Passover, and Christian Easter will coincide, a very rare occurrence. Authorities fear this will bring more violence in the weeks to come.

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