Tag Archive for: railroad strike



House votes to block rail strike, give workers 7 extra paid sick days. Survivor of Virginia Walmart shooting sues company for $50 million. Oath Keepers guilty of sedition. US OKs Chevron to pump Venezuelan oil.





House votes to block railroad strike, give workers 7 extra paid sick days

After urging from President Biden, the House of Representatives voted today to impose a previously negotiated contract on railroad workers’ unions to head off a possible strike on Dec. 9. Such a strike would cost the economy about $2 billion per day and halt the transport of food and vital materials like gas and fertilizer. 

In a separate vote, the House also approved a bill giving railroad workers an extra 7 paid sick days a year. The current contract proposal only calls for one. While the vote to impose the contract received significant bipartisan support, only three Republicans voted in favor of the extra sick leave.

The Senate will now have to vote on both bills. The vote to block the strike is likely to pass as is, but the fate of the bill adding sick leave is less certain.

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Survivor of Virginia Walmart shooting sues company for $50 million

Donya Prioleau, an employee at the Walmart in Chesapeake, VA, where a deadly mass shooting took place last week, is suing Walmart for $50 million. Prioleau was present in the breakroom when the nighttime shift leader Andre Bing opened fire, killing several employees. According to the suit, Prioleau narrowly escaped being killed herself.

The filing indicates that Prioleau believes Walmart bears some responsibility for the shooting. The suit alleges that the company continued to employ Bing despite being aware of numerous troubling complaints from Prioleau and other employees against him. Other employees have spoken publicly about Bing’s bizarre, inappropriate and threatening behavior prior to the shooting. For example, Bing had a reputation for writing people up just because he could and making inappropriate or “creepy” comments. Generally, they’ve said Bing was a manager “to watch out for”.

The lawsuit also notes that Bing “had a personal vendetta against several Walmart employees and kept a ‘kill list’ of potential targets prior to the shooting”.

“Prior to the shooting,” the suit states, “Mr. Bing repeatedly asked coworkers if they had received their active shooter training. When coworkers responded that they had, Mr. Bing just smiled and walked away without saying anything”.

Bing also “made comments to other Walmart employees and managers suggesting that he would be violent if fired or disciplined”. Apparently, Bing “was disciplined leading up to the shooting, making his violent outburst predictable”.

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Jury finds Oath Keepers’ leaders guilty of sedition over Jan. 6 

Yesterday, a federal jury found two leading figures of the Oath Keepers militia guilty of sedition for their roles in the Jan. 6 uprising.  Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and the leader of the group’s Florida chapter Kelly Meggs were each found guilty of sedition. Three other members on trial were found not guilty of sedition. All five of the members on trial were found guilty of obstructing an official proceeding and various other charges. 

Attorneys for Rhodes argued during the trial that Rhodes could not be guilty of sedition as the Justice Department hadn’t proven that Rhodes intended to lead the mob into the Capitol building. Rhodes himself apparently never entered the building that day, and claimed only to have learned his members had stormed the building after the fact.

But recordings of Rhodes speaking and texts sent both before and after Jan. 6 convinced the jury of Rhodes’ seditious intent and of his role in inciting the violence. In one clip, Rhodes said his members should be prepared for a violent civil war. In another statement from Jan. 10, Rhodes said his only regret about Jan. 6 was that his group hadn’t brought rifles they had waiting in a hotel in Virginia.

Rhodes’ attorneys say they intend to appeal the verdict.

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US, Venezuela move toward normalized relations with oil deal

Venezuela’s government and opposition parties have come together to strike a deal to ease some US sanctions. Under the agreement, the US would allow Chevron to resume pumping oil in Venezuela for the first time in years. Supposedly, Chevron will not be paying any oil royalties to the government of Nicolas Maduro, whom the US still officially regards as hostile. However, it seems unlikely Maduro is getting nothing in return.

During the Trump administration and even now, the US government has perpetuated a diplomatic fiction that Maduro is not the democratically elected leader of Venezuela. Instead, the US and its allies has welcomed opposition leader Juan Guaido to international functions, declaring him the true leader of Venezuela. Neither Guaido nor his party even attempted to participate in the last round of elections in Venezuela. Instead, they denounced the elections as “rigged” with no evidence.

The agreement will unlock billions of dollars belonging to Venezuela in overseas banks to fund humanitarian needs in the country. The timeline of the agreement isn’t certain, nor is it clear exactly what concessions were made by Maduro’s government. The US has long been pushing for regime change in Venezuela. Unfortunately for the US, the Venezuelans have voted for Maduro, twice. Despite the economic hardships and failings of Maduro’s government, the indigenous majority of Venezuela still prefer him to his largely white, elite opponents.

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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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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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Amid fears of losing Congress, Dems look for lame-duck wins on child tax credits, same-sex marriage. US quietly pushes for Ukraine-Russia talks.



Fearing losing Congress, Dems look for lame-duck wins on child tax credits, same-sex marriage

Most projections for tomorrow’s elections aren’t very sunny from the Democrats’ point of view. Republicans are widely expected to win the House, and control of the Senate is a toss-up. In some of the tighter races, final results may not be available for days. However, even if the Democrats have to hand over the reins in January, they still have a few weeks of legislating to do before year’s end. Here are some things to watch for.

Must-pass funding bill

Back in September, Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep the government fully-funded until mid-December. When Congress comes back into session, they’ll only have a few weeks to hammer out an agreement to head off a federal government shutdown just before Christmas. The last time around, there was a considerable amount of drama over a proposal from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) to streamline energy production permits, including oil drilling and coal mining. Manchin himself is a coal baron and would have profited handsomely. However, Republicans blocked his proposal in retaliation for Manchin’s support of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act. It’s possible this provision will come up again, either as part of new budget negotiations, or as a standalone bill.

Possible train strike

In mid-September, marathon talks with the White House, the Secretary of Labor and the Department of Transportation narrowly averted a major railroad strike. Numerous unions had been in contract negotiations for years with the major rail companies. The companies were offering workers a hefty raise, but refused to budge on workers’ concerns about working conditions and paid time off. The White House finally brokered a deal to head off a major supply chain disruption (which would cost the US economy about $2 billion a day).

However, all this did was keep a lid on things until after the midterms. The individual unions still needed ratify the terms of the deal. Two unions have already rejected the deal and others are likely to do the same. This is setting the scene for another showdown, this time right before the holidays. If the unions call another strike, Congress has the power to put an end to the strike by forcing workers to accept the terms of the deal. Sharp political divisions arose among Democrats and Republicans on the issue back in September before a deal was announced. It’ll be worth watching what happens if the issue re-emerges after elections are over. 

Child tax credits

For just a few months in 2021, an expanded child tax credit lifted millions of American children out of poverty. The program expanded eligibility to families who normally didn’t earn enough income to qualify, and also doled out half the yearly tax credit in monthly payments rather than a single lump sum. When the program ended in January 2022, millions of children slipped right back under the poverty line, just as inflation was heating up and grocery and gas prices skyrocketed.

Now, Democrats are looking to revive a permanent expanded child tax credit in the lame-duck session. If they can get the votes, it’s possible this could be part of that must-pass government spending bill.

Same-sex marriage

Although LGBT rights have been a cultural flashpoint between Democrats and Republicans this year, same-sex marriage surprisingly has at least some bipartisan support, even in the contentious Senate. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, the court’s opinions seemed to leave the door open for walking back other rights whose basis is the 14th Amendment. One of these is the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision which required all states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. 

Over the summer, the Democrats crafted legislation to codify a right to same-sex marriage to allay fears the Supreme Court could repeal it in a future decision. They chose not to move ahead before the August recess because they didn’t want the legislation to be front and center before the midterms. After the election, they’ll be looking to bring it up again



US quietly pushes for Ukraine-Russia talks

Confidential sources have told the Washington Post that the Biden White House has been pushing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to soften his public stance on refusing peace negotiations with Putin. However, the sources say it isn’t Biden intention to actually push Zelensky and Putin to resolve the conflict. It’s more of a public relations move to combat Ukraine fatigue among Ukraine’s Western allies in Europe, Africa and South America which have suffered the worst economic damage due to sanctions on Russia and blockades of food commodities.

In response to these reports, one of Zelensky’s aides stated that Ukraine had never refused to talk with Moscow, but that they would not speak with Putin. Instead, the aide said “We will talk with the next leader of Russia“.

Biden may also be hoping to temper opposition within the US to continual aide and weapons packages to Ukraine. Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said that he would not “write a blank check to Ukraine” if becomes Speaker of the House in January, as seems likely.



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