Posts tagged with "New York"

Amazon workers win battle to form first U.S. union

April 6, 2022

A team of Amazon workers has forced the tech giant to recognize a trade union in the United States for the first time, reports the BBC.

Workers at a Staten Island, New York, warehouse voted 55% on Friday, April 1, in favor of joining the Amazon Labor Union. The group was led by former Amazon worker Chris Smalls, who made his name protesting against safety conditions at the retail giant during the pandemic.

Smalls’ victory marks a major defeat for Amazon, which had fiercely fought against unionization. However, in Alabama, where Amazon faced a separate union drive, the company fended off activists in a tight contest in which challenged ballots could yet overturn that result. Together, the two elections mark a milestone for activists, who have long decried labor practices at Amazon, the country’s second largest employer.

Smalls emerged from the vote count looking tired, but jubilant, and popped open a bottle of champagne he was handed by supporters.

“We did whatever it took to connect with these workers,” he told the crowd, recounting an against-the-odds campaign that started with “two tables, two chairs, and a tent” and relied on an online fundraiser for money. He added, “I hope that everybody’s paying attention now because a lot of people doubted us.”

In a statement, Amazon said it was disappointed by the loss in New York and that it was evaluating how to proceed. It also accused regulators of improperly influencing the vote.

“We believe having a direct relationship with the company is best for our employees,” the company said. “We’re evaluating our options, including filing objections based on the inappropriate and undue influence by the [National Labor Relations Board]”.

Amazon fired Christian Smalls in 2020 after his protest, citing quarantine violations.

Rebecca Givan, professor of Labor Studies at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said Amazon’s defeat by Smalls and his team of worker-organizers was a “really big deal”, calling it a “David and Goliath story” that upset the odds.

But, she warned, he will be facing another tough fight when it comes to contract negotiations. “Amazon will do everything it can do undo this success, to break up these workers and to try to stop the momentum that will inevitably come from this victory,” she said.

Amazon employs more than one million people in the United States and it has extraordinary influence on work practices—even outside its doors. The company has put up a wall of resistance to unions since its inception. With this win, activists are hoping that wall is about to crumble.

Research contact: @BBC

AOC not ruling out Senate challenge against Chuck Schumer in 2022

August 18, 2021

Representative. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th District, New York) is not ruling out challenging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York)— a 22-year Senate vet and stalwart member of the “moderate” wing of the Democratic Party — in a primary next year, reports the New York Post.

When the progressive “Democratic socialist,” who represents the Bronx and Queens, was asked by CNN’s Dana Bash if she is considering a campaign against her fellow New Yorker, AOC said she had not seriously considered it but also left the door open for a challenge.

“I know it drives everybody nuts. But the way that I really feel about this; and the way that I really approach my politics and my political career is that I do not look at things, and I do not set my course positionally,” she said in the late June interview that is set to air in full Monday night as part of CNN’s new series “Being …”

“And I know there’s a lot of people who do not believe that. But I really — I can’t operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things,” the 31-year-old progressive added.

Schumer, 70, who has represented New York state in the Senate since 1999, is up for re-election in 2022.

AOC defeated 10-term Democratic incumbent Representative Joe Crowley in a primary race in 2018 and went on to win the general election to represent the Empire State’s 14th Congressional District.

“For what it’s worth, Senator Schumer and I have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important,” she told Bash. “And so, we shall see.”

In addition, the Post said, AOC has been asked before about a potential challenge to Schumer.

In January, she told Punchbowl News that she was “very much in a place where I’m trying to decide what is the most effective thing I can do to help our Congress, our [political] process, and our country actually address the issues of climate change, health care, wage inequality, etc.”

“I’m not playing coy or anything like that,” she added.

In her CNN interview, AOC also was asked about ambitions that go beyond the Senate, including a run for the White House. She said that looking that far into the future, at least for now, would compromise her ability to do her current job.

“I struggle with this because I don’t want little girls watching or anything like that to lower their sights or anything in that direction. But for me, I feel that if that was in the scope of my ambition, it would chip away at my courage today,” she said.

Research contact: @nypost

The Secret Service is spending over $34,000 on fancy porta potty rentals in Bedminster this summer

June 3, 2021

The U.S. Secret Service is spending nearly $35,000 to rent portable outdoor toilets for the next four months in Bedminster, New Jersey—so that the security detail can be “privy” to former president #45, who reportedly is summering at the Trump Natonal Golf Club.

The cost of the lavish lavatories has been confirmed by federal procurement data reviewed by The Daily Beast.

“BATHROOM TRAILERS BEDMINSTER,” the expenditure states. “A NOTICE TO PROCEED WAS GIVEN ON MAY 24, 2021.” The contract will run through September 30, which works out to rental costs of about $8,500 per month. Imperial Restrooms of Saugerties, New York, is supplying the rolling commodes.

Trump moved in late May from his winter digs at The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, to his Bedminster golf club, sources told CNN. He will reside there until early fall, the outlet reported, citing a senior member of Trump’s team.

On May 22, Trump appeared at a fundraiser at the Bedminster club for Make America Great Again Action, a pro-Trump super PAC run by former campaign manager and longtime adviser Corey Lewandowski. Tickets for the dinner and reception reportedly started at $250,000.

“Even now, taxpayers continue to spend many thousands of dollars to facilitate Donald Trump’s businesses,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington and a former federal prosecutor, told The Daily Beast. “He is, of course, entitled to protection—but from the beginning, it has been about his advancement and convenience, rather than what is good for the country. Forcing taxpayers to spend all of this money for porta potties at a business that surely has sufficient bathrooms is confounding.”

The Secret Service did not respond to a request for comment by The Daily Beast.

During his time in office, Trump’s large family and their frequent travel put an unprecedented financial burden on the Secret Service, which in 2017 ran out of money to pay its agents.

Ordinarily, The Daily Beast notes, a former president’s adult children are no longer entitled to Secret Service protection. But before leaving office, Trump quietly ordered an additional six months of security beyond his term for 13 members of his family and at least three Trump appointees: ex-Chief of Staff Mark Meadows; ex-National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien; and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has come under fire in the past for lavish travel spending on the taxpayer dime.

In the first month after leaving the White House, Trump’s adult children cost taxpayers more than $140,000 in travel costs linked to their Secret Service details.

In 2017, Imperial Restrooms, which says it offers clients “an upscale, portable restroom experience,” was tapped for a three-week bathroom rental at Bedminster, costing taxpayers $7,100. The company has been awarded about $1.2 million in U.S. government contracts over the past four years.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Move to tax ultra-rich Americans gathers steam, as states and Biden Administration float plans

Narch 17, 2021

Several states are unveiling new tax proposals—adding to a wave of interest in taxing ultra-rich Americans and corporations being led by the Biden Administration and Senate Democrats, reports YahooFinance.

Lawmakers in California are considering a tax on extreme wealth that would impose an annual excise tax of 1% on those who have wealth exceeding $50 million per taxpayer and a 1.5% tax on those with wealth above $1 billion. The tax would raise an estimated $22.3 billion starting in 2023.

New York and Washington State also are looking at new taxation targeting ultra-wealthy individuals, notes Yahoo.

“This is the way that we get back to a California where everybody has an opportunity, and I don’t know a single business leader or moderate who doesn’t believe in that,” Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said during a press conference on Tuesday, March 16. “It’s time to do something about it and quit bitching, quite honestly.”

On a national level, the Biden Administration and Democratic lawmakers are floating several different tax measures related to higher taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) recently reintroduced her proposal on taxing the ultra-rich.

“I know Senator Warren has put forward a wealth tax, and the president shares her view that middle-class families are paying more than their fair share and those at the top are not doing their part,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a press conference on Monday, March 15. “Certainly he has that shared objective.”

The proposed wealth taxes in California and Washington State are similar to Warren’s plan and would impose an annual tax rate on income above certain thresholds.

“Since the start of the pandemic, billionaires have accumulated an additional $1.1 trillion in wealth,” Assembly Member Alex Lee (D-San Jose) said. “In order for California to really come back roaring, we need sizable investments in our communities… we’re proposing a modest 1% tax on households with net worths of over $15 million, and 1.5% on wealth over $1 billion.”

Critics of the wealth tax say it may be difficult to calculate and be enforced. The revenue generated might not be as much as expected while the costs of administering the tax could be higher than calculated.

“Taxing wealth is something we’ve never done in the United States and that most countries have not done,” Jared Walczak, the Tax Foundation’s vice president of state projects, told Yahoo Money. “They’re complex and they create a lot of economic harm because they’re paid on your assets — which often have to be liquidated to pay them.”

While wealth taxes reached their peak in OECD countries in the 1990s, the number of OECD countries that currently have a wealth tax dropped to five from 12 by 2019 because of the challenges those taxes create.

The proposed plan in New York—which includes raising income taxes, imposing new capital gains taxes, and increasing the estate tax among other measures — is similar to President Joe Biden’s campaign plan to raise the corporate tax rate to 28%, require a true minimum tax of 21% on all foreign earnings on U.S. companies, raise the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% (the current maximum is 37%), and require those who make more than $1 million annually pay the same rate on investment income as they do on their wages.

Research contact: @YahooFinance

Supreme Court rejects Trump effort to shield tax records from NY prosecutors

February 23, 2021

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-ditch bid by former President Donald Trump to keep his financial records—including years of his tax returns—out of the hands of the Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., CNBC reports.

The decision—the second time the nation’s highest court has refused to block a grand jury subpoena for those confidential records—was announced in an order with no noted dissents. The news further imperils the ex-president, who is facing investigations in New York and elsewhere.

The legal battle over Trump’s financial records, including personal and business documents dating back to 2011, comes in connection with an investigation by Vance’s office into potential tax violations involving the Trump Organization.

Vance’s probe originally appeared to have been focused on hush money payments made on Trump’s behalf to two women who have said they had affairs with him. Trump has denied their claims. But, CNBC reports, court records and news reports suggest prosecutors are now examining more serious allegations.

A court filing last summer by Vance indicated that the probe could be eyeing possible “insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers.” In another filing, a month later, prosecutor suggested they might be investigating Trump for potential tax crimes.

Indeed, Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress in 2019 that Trump improperly inflated and deflated the value of his real estate assets for tax and insurance purposes.

Vance’s filings appeared to reference Cohen’s testimony. One filing by prosecutors cited a  New York Times report Trump engaged in “dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including instances of outright fraud.”

In a statement, Cohen said: “The Supreme Court has now proclaimed that no one is above the law. Trump will, for the first time, have to take responsibility for his

In a statement posted to Twitter, Vance wrote: “The work continues.”

Research contact: @CNBC

In nine states nationwide, the wealthy are looking at a tax increase

September 28, 2020

Legislators in nine states—among them, New York, California, Massachusetts, and Maryland—have renewed their efforts to hike taxes on high earners. The states are facing multibillion-dollar revenue shortfalls, due to the costs of the coronavirus pandemic; as well as lost revenue from shuttered businesses.

Indeed, Democratic lawmakers are arguing that the wealthy—who have largely have escaped the economic hardships of the pandemic—should pay more of the costs and help those who have suffered most, reports CNBC.

However, Republicans and some Democratic governors say tax hikes at the state level will only cause the wealthy to move to lower-tax states, such as Florida and Texas.

After New Jersey passed its “millionaire’s tax” last September— under which state residents who earn more than $1million per year will face higher income taxes, while 800,000 lower-income families will get a tax rebate—legislators in other states renewed similar efforts with greater vigor.

Along with New York, lawmakers in California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Wisconsin, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Vermont have proposed various forms of tax increases on high earners, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Those states account for more than one-third of the U.S. population, and nearly half of the nation’s millionaires, according to population data and wealth surveys.

Research contact: @CNBC

Starbucks does ‘plastic surgery’ to create environmentally friendly coffee cups

March 10, 2020

Starbucks has created a “greener” coffee cup by inserting a liner made out of biodegradable materials, rather than continuing to rely on the thin plastic liners added to most paper cups to keep liquids from seeping through.

Starting on Monday, March 9,, a new BioPBS-lined cup will be tested in select stores in Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, New York, and London.

The company said in a press release that it is evaluating the new liners because the plastic in its cups has been difficult to separate from other components during the  recycling process.

Starbucks executives said they would ask baristas and customers whether the new cup keeps drinks hot and avoids leaks. They hope customers won’t notice any difference from the current cups.

While the company characterizes the new design as an “exciting step forward,” Starbucks will continue to evaluate additional NextGen Cup Challenge-winning concepts and cup technologies, as well as learn from other reusable and recyclable innovations to find the most sustainable solutions for its business, partners (employees) and customers.

Starbucks is one of many consumer companies working to address customer concerns that they generate too much waste. Public awareness over the environmental risks posed by plastic waste is at the highest level ever, according to a McKinsey & Co. report released last year.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s has pledged to procure much of its nonplastic packaging from recycled or sustainable sources by this year. What’s more, Yum Brands. last month said it would make all packaging at its Taco Bell division sustainable by 2025.

Starbucks and McDonald’s in 2018 committed $10 million to a partnership among consumer companies working to develop more sustainable cups. Starbucks also started its own internal research and set 2022 as a goal for a new cup for hot drinks

Starbucks

VaResearch contact: @Starbucks

Grim climate report galvanizes incoming Democrats

November 27, 2018

Federal scientists warned in a new report released on November 23 that “more frequent and intense extreme weather- and climate-related events, as well as changes in average climate conditions, are expected to continue to damage infrastructure, ecosystems, and social systems that provide essential benefits to communities nationwide” in the coming years—with costs threatening to reach hundreds of billions of dollars annually by the middle of this century.

The message, echoing decades of sobering conclusions from the world’s leading climate scientists, is at odds with President Donald Trump’s repeated denial of global warming, Politico reported; noting that the administration chose to release it on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day and one of the slowest news days of the year.

But despite the timing, the report—Fourth National Climate Assessment—is bound to energize the new class of progressive Democrats set to take control of the House in January, the political news outlet predicted—saying that “Many of them, led by incoming Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-14th District, New York) already are pushing for an expansive “Green New Deal” as one of the rallying cries the party would take into the 2020 campaign.

The 1,600-plus-page document is the just the most recent to warn that the planet will see devastating changes. Indeed, the researchers warned, “Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems—including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.”

The effects of global warming are expected to alter the coastlines, worsen droughts and storms, and foster the outbreaks of dangerous diseases as temperatures climb.

And while the report said that quick action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution could dramatically affect the state of the planet by the end of the century, many of the impacts the U.S. will see in the next two decades appear irreversible—both on the environment and on the economy. “With continued growth in emissions at historic rates, annual losses in some economic sectors are projected to reach hundreds of billions of dollars by the end of the century—more than the current gross domestic product (GDP) of many U.S. states.”

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-30th District, Texas) who is set to take the gavel at the House Science Committee, said it’s time to start addressing the causes of the wildfires, devastating storms, coastal flooding and toxic algae blooms that plagued much of the U.S. this year, Politico reported. “That is why I have made climate change one of my top priorities for the Committee going in to the next Congress,” she said in a statement.

The government officials who oversaw the report said there had been no political influence over its findings, but they sidestepped questions about whether the White House sought to bury the report by releasing it in the middle of a long holiday weekend, Politico said.

“We hope you will focus on the content of the report,” David Reidmiller, the director of the National Climate Assessment, told reporters. “We think the report speaks for itself.”

Ocasio-Cortez pressed the case in a tweet, taking her Democratic colleagues to task: “People are going to die if we don’t start addressing climate change ASAP. It’s not enough to think it’s ‘important.’ We must make it urgent,” she wrote. “That’s why we need a Select Committee on a Green New Deal, & why fossil fuel-funded officials shouldn’t be writing climate change policy.

The White House tried to downplay the new report’s conclusions Friday, claiming that they are “largely based on most extreme scenarios.” The White House also noted that U.S. greenhouse gas pollution has declined 14% since 2005—although the causes of that drop include trends that Trump opposes, such as a shift away from coal-fired power plants.

The new report, which Congress requires to be issued every four years, was released by U.S. Global Change Research Program. It is the product of 300 scientific experts under the guidance of a 60-member federal advisory committee, and it was open to review by the public, 13 federal agencies, and a panel at the National Academy of Sciences.

Research contact: @dailym1

Amazon plans to split HQ2 in two East Coast locations

November 7, 2018

After conducting a yearlong search for a site for its second headquarters, Amazon has switched gears and is now finalizing plans to manage a total of 50,000 employees in two East Coast locations, The New York Times reported on November 5.

The e-commerce company is nearing a deal to move to the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens—a location just across the East River from Manhattan— according to two sources briefed on the discussions, the Times said.

In addition, Amazon is also close to sealing a deal to move to Crystal City, an urban neighborhood in the southeastern corner of Arlington County, Virginia, south of downtown Washington, D.C; one of the sources said.

Amazon already has more employees in those two areas than anywhere else outside of Seattle, its home base, and the Bay Area.

Amazon executives met two weeks ago with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo (D), said one of the people briefed on the process, adding that the state had offered potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies. Executives met separately with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), a person briefed on that discussion said.

“I am doing everything I can,” Cuomo told the press corps, including the Times, when asked on November 5 about the state’s efforts to lure the company. “We have a great incentive package,” he said.

“I’ll change my name to Amazon Cuomo if that’s what it takes,” Cuomo said. “Because it would be a great economic boost.”

According to the Times, the need to hire tens of thousands of high-tech workers has been the driving force behind the search, leading many to expect it to land in a major East Coast metropolitan area. Many experts have pointed to Crystal City as a front-runner, because of its strong public transit, educated work force and proximity to Washington.

JBG Smith, a developer who owns much of the land in Crystal City, declined to comment, as did Arlington County officials.

Amazon declined to comment on whether it had made any final decisions. The Wall Street Journal earlier reported Amazon’s decision to pick two new locations instead of one.

Amazon announced plans for a second headquarters in September 2017, saying that the company was growing faster than it could hire in its hometown Seattle. The company said it would invest more than $5 billion over almost two decades in a second headquarters, hiring as many as 50,000 full-time employees that would earn more than $100,000 a year on average.

HQ2 would be “full equal to our current campus in Seattle,” the company said. If Amazon goes ahead with two new sites, it is unclear whether the company would refer to both of the locations as headquarters or if they would amount to large satellite offices.

Research contact: @KYWeise