Saturday Snippets: Google violated labor law by punishing unionizing workers; courthouse firearms
Saturday Snippets is a regular weekend Daily Kos feature.
• Feds say Google violated labor law in attacks on workplace organizing efforts: The National Labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint against Google this week, accusing the company of “interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees” to interfere with their protected workplace activity. Google fired several workers last year while they were trying to unionize the company. Four of those fired filed complaints with the NLRB, saying that Google’s “draconian, pernicious, and unlawful conduct” was a prohibited attempt to prevent workplace organizing. Another employee who filed a complaint with the board was fired after she invented an in-house tool that notified company workers of their legal rights to organize. Google claimed that some of these employees had been fired for “intentional and often repeated violations of our longstanding data security policies.” But the NLRB found that some of those “longstanding” rules had been imposed after the employees had begun organizing effort. Rules designed, the board said, to “discourage employees from forming, joining, [or] assisting a union.” Google and the NLRB will now come to a settlement in the case or, if they can’t, contest it before one of the NLRB’s administrative law judges. A hearing has been set for April 12, 2021, in case no settlement has been reached by then.
• Media Matters found 1,001 instances when Fox News undermined public health measures: Media Matters reviewed all coronavirus-related segments that aired on the network from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. Rob Savillo writes that they “found 1,001 segments that included at least one instance of a Fox News personality or guest undermining any health measure.” Fox labeled some health measures taken during the coronavirus pandemic as unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful; gave positive attention to people, groups, or organizations fighting health measures; and accused progressive politicians or activists of hypocrisy regarding health measures and their enforcement. Not a day passed in those three months when Fox didn’t undermine a public health measure at least once.
• More than half of Black, Latino, and Indigenous people work in jobs that can’t be done remotely: That compares with 41% of white workers and 42% of Asian workers in the same circumstances, according to a new Urban Institute study. That difference puts them at greater risk of becoming infecting by the coronavirus. Among the institute’s other findings:
—In-person work and commuting on public transportation puts workers of color and their families at a higher risk than whites of getting coronavirus.
—Latinos, Blacks and American Indians in such jobs are more likely not to have health insurance, with 28%, 16% and 28% uninsured, respectively, as compared with 10% of white workers.
—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that, compared with white people, the rate of coronavirus cases is 1.8 times higher for American Indians, 1.4 times higher for African Americans, and 1.7 times higher for Latinos. Hospitalizations and deaths are correspondingly higher as well. The report also noted that people in these more at-risk demographics are less likely to have access to high-quality medical care.
• How retailers track your every move in exchange for coupons and convenience: Attention shoppers: Your data has never been more valuable.
• Judge won’t try cases in South Dakota court where firearms are allowed: The Custer County Commission voted 3-1 on an ordinance this week to allow civilians to carry firearms into the courthouse (though not the courtroom). This has prompted some judges to plan a boycott. But they won’t have to. The presiding judge of the state’s 7th Judicial Circuit has drafted an order saying the courthouse “is currently unsuitable and insufficient due to safety concerns.” If approved by the state supreme court, trials would be conducted in a different county where firearms are not allowed in the courthouse and judges can preside remotely by video feed. It’s not clear whether lawyers and witnesses would also be allowed to participate remotely. No cases will be held until 2021 because virus-related closure affects those that court and other in the district until Dec. 31. The county commissioner who introduced the resolution said he did it because officials, including judges, could be targets for violence in the building. Armed civilians could stop an attack, he said during a hearing on the ordinance. Tracy Kelley, state’s attorney for Custer County, hates the idea. “In a courthouse obviously you have situations where people can become emotionally triggered” whether it’s about a criminal case or a financial issue, she said. “If you’re truly talking about the safety of the public and employees in the building that would make more sense” to move security to the front of the building instead of just having a deputy and metal detector at the door of the single courtroom. Letting everybody carry “firearms does not accomplish that goal,” she said.
• Kentucky governor Andy Beshear asks for help in messaging on coronavirus: At his weekly briefing on Wednesday, Melissa Patrick, a reporter from Kentucky Health News, asked about a Washington Post story that said “whole swaths of the country are simply tuning out the warnings from officials and experts.” Parker noted that some of those officials say a new approach is essential to persuade people to change their behavior. “Some,” she said, “prefer a blunt approach. Basically: ‘If you go see Grandma, you might be burying her at Christmas.’ Others think there’s a better way, by pulling in local people to tell these stories, and their experiences with COVID-19. So, what sort of approach are you planning on as we head into the holidays, to convince people to increase their compliance?” Replied Beshear, “All of the above. I will try any approach if it’ll help people do the right thing and help protect one another.” Further into the briefing Beshear said, “I will take any advice and any suggestion if it can help us convince folks that have been unwilling to wear a mask and who are still getting together in large groups. I’ll consider any advice and any suggestion to try to get them to do the right thing.”
• The Abortion Care Network has an excellent new report out: The Essential Role of Independent Abortion Clinics in the United States: Even though such clinics represent only 25% of all facilities that offer abortion care, they provide 58% percent of U.S. abortion procedures. Along with all their efforts to impose ever-more draconian measures to curtail abortions, killing clinics is still a key objective of the forced-birthers. In this regard, they have been extremely successful over the past few years. When the ACN first tallied independent clinics in 2012, there were 510 of them. As of last month, the network had identified 337 independent clinics still operating, down 34% over 2012. Since 2015, there have been 127 independent abortion clinic closures, 14 of them so far this year. Of the total 41 clinics closed in the past two years, 76% provided care after the first trimester. The relentless effort to close them narrows access to abortion care beyond the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
• Bill Gates calls for a new federal energy agency: On his personal blog Wednesday, the Microsoft billionaire says the federal approach to green energy that is scattered in numerous agencies needs to be centralized in a new agency instead. He calls it the “National Institutes of Energy Innovation.” This would combine the energy research and development now being done at NASA and the departments of Energy, Transportation, and Defense. NIEI, he wrote, comparing it to the way the National Institutes of Health operates, “should be made up of separate institutes that focus on specific areas. An Institute of Transportation Decarbonization, for example, would have a mandate and budget to invent low-carbon fuels for hard-to-decarbonize activities such as aviation and maritime shipping.” The effect, Gates said, would be to reduce duplication and create a central office for “evaluating and nurturing great ideas.” He also recommended increasing federal clean energy research by 500%, which would make it a match for the $35 billion now going into medical research.