The big idea
Biden gets his ‘Striketober moment’
A month ago, President Biden celebrated organized labor leaders at the White House, credited them with his victory — “it’s not hyperbole, it’s a fact!” — and promised he will be the best ally they’d ever had in the Oval Office. He now has a “Striketober” chance to prove it.
Unions like their odds
“We have everything lined up. A pro-worker administration and Congress,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a speech at the National Press Club Wednesday. “And workers all across the country standing up, speaking out and taking risks. They see unions as the answer.”
Overnight, United Auto Workers began striking at John Deere plants across Iowa, where the farm-equipment giant is the largest industrial employer, as well as Illinois and Kansas, the first such stoppage in 35 years.
Labor actions are perhaps the most dramatic way American workers in the pandemic economy are signaling they’re done with the pre-coronavirus status quo. They’re also a test for a White House that is trying to drive its ambitious domestic agenda through Congress. And they offer a president who publicly identifies as unions’ biggest ally the opportunity to prove his bona fides.
The White House declined to comment on looming or existing labor disputes.
‘You’ll always be welcome'
But Biden himself waxed effusive about his relationship to organized labor in the East Room on Sept. 8.
“In my White House, you’ll always be welcome,” the president said. “You know, you’ve heard me say many times: I intend to be the most pro-union President leading the most pro-union administration in American history.”
Biden has taken some pro-union steps since taking office. He picked former Boston mayor Marty Walsh, who had held several union leadership posts, to be secretary of labor. He recorded a video in February in support of Amazon workers trying to form a union in Alabama — a highly unusual step for a sitting president. He never misses a chance to say the federal minimum wage should be $15 an hour.
He likes to evoke his working-class background. And Democratic officials hope his outreach and outspoken support can win back some White union voters captured by former president Donald Trump’s promises to restore factory jobs, take on China and fight for workers in trade deals.
“Someone pointed out to me that I allegedly have used the word ‘union’ as president more than the last seven presidents combined,” Biden quipped at a union training facility in Michigan last week. “You built the country. No, not a joke. You built the country.”
Biden’s approach hasn’t always gone smoothly. Former AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who passed away in early August, bluntly warned in February that Biden’s decision to shut down the Keystone XL pipeline will cost thousands of union jobs. More recently, some unions have bridled at his planned coronavirus vaccine mandate.
Still, on balance, Biden has been welcome news to organized labor, which has seen membership levels and clout diminish for decades, though a September 2020 Gallup poll found 65 percent of Americans approve of unions. That was the highest since 2003, and included 45 percent of Republicans.
Unions are tangling with employers in disputes around the country at a time when job openings vastly outnumber job applicants, giving workers more leverage to demand better pay and benefits, and more flexible hours and location of work.
“Some are calling this ‘Striketober,’” Shuler said in her speech. “I call it Exhibit A for why we need to rebalance the playing field and put workers back in the center of our economy.”
How Biden’s vocal support could turn into concrete action isn’t clear yet. But labor activists are watching a task force he established in April, grouping 20 Cabinet members and heads of agencies, to figure how best to harness “the federal government’s policies, programs, and practices to empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers.”
Vice President Harris, joined by Walsh, led the task force’s second meeting in her ceremonial office last week, ahead of the Oct. 23 publication of the group’s report to the president.
“We launched this task force to empower workers and to increase union density in our nation by leveraging the executive authority that we already have,” Harris said. “When we release this report, I think it will be evident the commitment that we are making.”
Oct. 23 would still be in Striketober.
What's happening now
Weekly jobless claims fell below 300,000 for first time since pandemic
The number of newly jobless is nearing pre-pandemic level of 256,000, Aaron Gregg reports. “In March and April of 2020, more than 20 million workers lost their jobs ― at one point totaling more than a million a day ― as pandemic-inflicted closures took their toll on the country’s service-centric economy.”
Big Tech braces for another bipartisan antitrust bill
“A bipartisan group of senators plans to introduce a bill that they say would prevent tech platforms from using their power to disadvantage smaller rivals, signaling growing momentum in Congress to rein in Silicon Valley giants,” Cat Zakrzewski reports.
- “The bill would effectively outlaw an array of behaviors that lawmakers describe as anticompetitive, like Amazon sucking up data from sellers on its platform to copy the products in-house or Google prioritizing its own services over rivals’ in search results.”
Senate candidate cancels fundraiser after uproar over donor’s use of vaccine-needle swastika
Republican Herschel Walker, a U.S. Senate candidate in Georgia, canceled a fundraiser Wednesday after the event’s host faced backlash for using a swastika made of syringes on her Twitter profile, Mariana Alfaro reports.
- “A spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign defended the image as being ‘clearly an anti-mandatory vaccination graphic.’”
Conspiracy-theory-embracing county clerk barred from overseeing elections
“A Colorado judge on Wednesday prohibited a local official who has embraced conspiracy theories from overseeing November’s election, finding she breached and neglected her duties and was ‘untruthful’ when she brought in someone who was not a county employee to copy the hard drives of Dominion Voting Systems machines,” Emma Brown reports.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
The ‘Great Resignation' is here
Why is everyone quitting, and how do I know whether it’s time to leave my job? The “Great Resignation” is here, and it isn't showing signs of slowing, Taylor Telford and Aaron Gregg report. “Whatever the cause, the rush of resignations is accelerating: A record 4.3 million people — about 2.9 percent of the nation’s workforce — quit in August, according to Labor Department data released Tuesday.”
- “Women have borne the brunt of the job losses since the pandemic began, research from the Brookings Institution shows. Overrepresented in low-wage service jobs, they have been hit hard by increased child-care demands brought on by the delta variant’s disruption of school reopenings and the lack of vaccines for children.”
- “The pains are most acute among low-wage workers, who economists say are revolting against years of poor pay and stressful conditions.”
Lawyers representing Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen are targeting attorneys general in states like California and Massachusetts, hoping they can help limit the social network's power, Zakrzewski reports.
- “State attorneys general could be a particularly formidable challenger to Facebook because they have broad authorities to enforce state laws. Though laws vary state to state, attorneys general can generally target companies for lying to consumers or putting their health at risk.”
- “Over the past two years, there’s been growing momentum among state attorneys general harness the powers of their office in probes of large tech companies. But the path to enforcing existing consumer protection laws against tech giants is challenging.”
… and beyond
“Justice Sonia Sotomayor told an audience Wednesday that recent changes in the format of oral arguments were instituted in part after studies emerged showing that female justices on the court were interrupted more by male justices and advocates,” CNN's Ariane de Vogue reports.
- “Most of the time women say things and they are not heard in the same way as men who might say the identical thing,” she said.
“For 48 hours, abortion after 6 weeks was legal in Texas. Getting care still wasn’t easy,” the 19th's Jennifer Gerson and Shefali Luthra report.
- “The injunction, which was issued the night of October 6, meant clinics could provide abortions after six weeks. But the state government almost immediately appealed to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which has a history of supporting abortion restrictions. And if the 5th Circuit blocked the district court’s ruling — as it did two days later, late on a Friday night — anyone who had performed an abortion after six weeks could still be sued under the law.”
- “Even after the injunction came down, patients who were beyond six weeks couldn’t simply run in the next morning for an abortion.”
The Biden agenda
Don't expect supply chain issues to be fixed by the holidays
Despite Biden's push, experts say supply chain issues are too big to fix by Christmas
Biden announced Wednesday that a key U.S. port would begin working 24/7 to address supply chain issues, but experts told Reuters's Nandita Bose and Lisa Baertlein the fix won't be quick enough to affect the holiday season. “What the president's doing isn't going to really hurt. But at the end of the day, it doesn't solve the problem,” said Steven Ricchiuto, U.S. chief economist at Mizuho Securities.
- “Americans, already by far the world's biggest consumers, have simply been buying a lot more stuff during the pandemic, much of it imported. Couple that with labor shortages, equipment shortages and a lack of space to store that stuff, nationwide.”
The White House is asking for help getting gas prices under control
“The latest outreach to the oil industry is an awkward shift for the Biden administration, which has pledged to move the country away from fossil fuels and has drawn criticism from the industry and Republicans for pausing lease sales of federal land for oil and gas development,” Politico's Ben Lefebvre reports.
- The average gallon price of gasoline is up more than $1 from a year ago, Lefebvre reported, though “Much of the rise in energy costs is beyond the White House’s control and has been attributed to rebounding demand as the economy snaps back from the pandemic as well as an uptick in China's energy consumption, market analysts said.”
Wind farms would span U.S. coastline under new Biden plan
“Seven major offshore wind farms would be developed on the East and West coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico under a plan announced Wednesday by the Biden administration,' the Associated Press's Matthew Daly reports. "The projects are part of Biden’s plan to address global warming and could avoid about 78 million metric tons of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions, while creating up to 77,000 jobs, officials said."
Biden will meet with the Pope at the end of the month
Biden will meet with Pope Francis on Oct. 29 to discuss the how to help the poor, and address the covid-19 pandemic and climate change, Amy B Wang reports.
He will then travel to Rome for the G20 Leaders’ Summit on Oct. 30-31 and then to Glasgow, United Kingdom from Nov. 1-2 to participate in the World Leader Summit at the start of the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26).
New York’s electrical power, visualized
"By 2035, the chief automakers will have turned away from the internal combustion engine. It’ll be up to the grid to fuel all those new cars, trucks and buses," but the grid isn’t ready. “Three places, hundreds of miles apart, tell the story of the grid in New York, and by extension in the country as a whole,” our colleague Will Englund reports.
Hot on the left
Nicholas Kristof has resigned from New York Times as he weighs a bid for Oregon governor. “If he pursues a bid, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, author and former foreign correspondent would become one of the most well-known media figures in recent memory to make a run for political office,” Amy B Wang and Felicia Sonmez report. Kristof has been on leave from the Times since June.
Hot on the right
A federal judge has called on the Justice Department to investigate whether the D.C. jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants, Spencer S. Hsu reports. “U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of Washington acted after finding that jail officials failed to turn over information needed to approve surgery recommended four months ago for a Jan. 6 Capitol riot defendant’s broken wrist.”
“A handful of Capitol breach defendants have aggressively raised concerns, but the same problems face hundreds of D.C. jail inmates awaiting trial, most of them on local charges.”
Today in Washington
Biden will provide an update on the vaccination program and covid-19 response at 12:30 p.m.
The president will meet with Uhuru Kenyatta, president of the Republic of Kenya, at 2:45 p.m.
Someone should give this child an Oscar for his alien abduction performance, which has been viewed more than 3 million times on Twitter. Happy spooky season, all!
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.