Archives for category: Economy

Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Krysten Sinema held the power to block the Democrats’s ambitious bill to reduce carbon emissions and improve healthcare. Each of them extracted a hefty price in exchange for their vote, one that benefited either their state, their campaign donors, or themselves personally.

This analysis by the New York Times shows that Manchin got a trifecta: a win for the coal industry (big in his state), a win for his campaign donors, and a win for himself. Sinema demanded the removal of taxes on private equity firms..

Plenty of West Virginians are angry at Manchin. They are environmentalists. Senator Manchin takes care of the fossil fuel industry, not them.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — After years of spirited opposition from environmental activists, the Mountain Valley Pipeline — a 304-mile gas pipeline cutting through the Appalachian Mountains — was behind schedule, over budget and beset with lawsuits. As recently as February, one of its developers, NextEra Energy, warned that the many legal and regulatory obstacles meant there was “a very low probability of pipeline completion.”

Then came Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and his hold on the Democrats’ climate agenda.

Mr. Manchin’s recent surprise agreement to back the Biden administration’s historic climate legislation came about in part because the senator was promised something in return: not only support for the pipeline in his home state, but also expedited approval for pipelines and other infrastructure nationwide, as part of a wider set of concessions to fossil fuels.

It was a big win for a pipeline industry that, in recent years, has quietly become one of Mr. Manchin’s biggest financial supporters.

Natural gas pipeline companies have dramatically increased their contributions to Mr. Manchin, from just $20,000 in 2020 to more than $331,000 so far this election cycle, according to campaign finance disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission and tallied by the Center for Responsive Politics. Mr. Manchin has been by far Congress’s largest recipient of money from natural gas pipeline companies this cycle, raising three times as much from the industry than any other lawmaker.

NextEra Energy, a utility giant and stakeholder in the Mountain Valley Pipeline, is a top donor to both Mr. Manchinand Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, who negotiated the pipeline side deal with Mr. Manchin. Mr. Schumer has received more than $281,000 from NextEra this election cycle, the data shows. Equitrans Midstream, which owns the largest stake in the pipeline, has given more than $10,000 to Mr. Manchin. The pipeline and its owners have also spent heavily to lobby Congress.

The disclosures point to the extraordinary behind-the-scenes spending and deal-making by the fossil fuel industry that have shaped a climate bill that nevertheless stands to be transformational. The final reconciliation package, which cleared the Senate on Sunday, would allocate almost $400 billion to climate and energy policies, including support for cleaner technologies like wind turbines, solar panels and electric vehicles, and put the United States on track to reduce its emissions of planet-warming gases by roughly 40 percent below 2005 levels by the decade’s end.

Read the rest of the story in the New York Times.

The Economic Policy Institute is one of the very few think tanks in Washington, D.C. that cares about the status of working people. When one of its reports gets attention, critics are fast to point out that it is funded by unions. The same critics are silent when a think tank is funded by one or more billionaires, who like low taxes.

The value of the federal minimum wage has reached its lowest point in 66 years, according to an EPI analysis of recently released Consumer Price Index (CPI) data. Accounting for price increases in June, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is now worth less than at any point since February 1956. At that time, the federal minimum wage was 75 cents per hour, or $7.19 in June 2022 dollars.

We are currently in the longest period without a minimum wage increase since Congress established the federal minimum wage in 1938.

As shown in the chart below, a worker paid the current $7.25 federal minimum wage earns 27.4% less in inflation-adjusted terms than what their counterpart was paid in July 2009 when the minimum wage was last increased. They earn 40.2% less than a minimum wage worker in February 1968, the historical high point of the minimum wage’s value.

After the longest period in history without an increase, the federal minimum wage today is worth 27% less than 13 years ago—and 40% less than in 1968

Real value of the minimum wage (adjusted for inflation)

Note: All values in June 2022 dollars, adjusted using the CPI-U in 2022 chained to the CPI-U-RS (1978–2021) and CPI-U-X1 (1967–1977) and CPI-U (1966 and before).

Source: Fair Labor Standards Act and amendments.

Economic Policy Institute

For several years, I have sponsored an annual lecture series about education policy at Wellesley College, my alma mater. We have had a number of distinguished speakers, including Pasi Sahlberg, Yong Zhao, Andy Hargreaves, and Eve Ewing.

This year, the invited speaker was Dr. Helen Ladd, one of the nation’s most eminent economists of education. Dr. Ladd is the Susan B. King Professor Emerita of Public Policy and Economics at Duke University. She graduated from Wellesley in 1967, earned her M.A. at the London School of Economics and her Ph.D. from Harvard University. She has written extensively about school finance, equity, choice, and accountability.

Dr. Ladd discussed how charter schools disrupt good education policy.

The Washington Post reports that Putin feels increasingly confident that he can win a long war of attrition in Ukraine because public opinion in the West will turn against support for Ukraine due to inflation and the high cost of gasoline. By contrast, he controls public opinion in Russia and continues to enjoy the economic security provided by oil and gas exports.

We can expect that Russian propaganda will exacerbate divisions in the U.S. and Europe.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is digging in for a long war of attrition over Ukraine and will be relentless in trying to use economic weapons, such as a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports, to whittle away Western support for Kyiv, according to members of Russia’s economic elite.

The Kremlin has seized on recent signs of hesitancy by some European governments as an indication the West could lose focus in seeking to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially as global energy costs surge following the imposition of sanctions on Moscow.

Putin “believes the West will become exhausted,” said one well-connected Russian billionaire, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. Putin had not expected the West’s initially strong and united response, “but now he is trying to reshape the situation and he believes that in the longer term he will win,” the billionaire said. Western leaders are vulnerable to election cycles, and “he believes public opinion can flip in one day.”

The embargo on Russia’s seaborne oil exports announced by the European Union this week — hailed by Charles Michel, president of the European Council, as putting maximum “pressure on Russia to end the war” — would “have little influence over the short term,” said one Russian official close to Moscow diplomatic circles, also speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution. “The Kremlin mood is that we can’t lose — no matter what the price…”

The populations of E.U. countries “are feeling the impact of these sanctions more than we are,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The West has made mistake after mistake, which has led to growing crises, and to say that this is all because of what is going on in Ukraine and what Putin is doing is incorrect.”

This posture suggests that the Kremlin believes it can outlast the West in weathering the impact of economic sanctions. Putin has little choice but to continue the war in hopes the Ukraine grain blockade will “lead to instability in the Middle East and provoke a new flood of refugees,” said Sergei Guriev, former chief economist at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The Kremlin’s aggressive stance seems to reflect the thinking of Nikolai Patrushev, the hawkish head of Russia’s Security Council, who served with Putin in the Leningrad KGB and is increasingly seen as a hard-line ideologue driving Russia’s war in Ukraine. He is one of a handful of close security advisers believed by Moscow insiders to have access to Putin. In three vehemently anti-Western interviews given to Russian newspapers since the invasion, the previously publicity-shy Patrushev has declared Europe is on the brink of “a deep economic and political crisis” in which rising inflation and falling living standards were already impacting the mood of Europeans, while a fresh migrant crisis would create new security threats.
“The world is gradually falling into an unprecedented food crisis. Tens of millions of people in Africa or in the Middle East will turn out to be on the brink of starvation — because of the West. In order to survive, they will flee to Europe. I’m not sure Europe will survive the crisis,” Patrushev told Russian state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta in one of the interviews…

With risks growing for all sides, “it is going to be a war of attrition from the economic, political and moral point of view,” the Russian official said. “Everyone is waiting for autumn,” when the impact of sanctions will hit the hardest, he said.

So far, however, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky estimating Kyiv needs $7 billion in aid a month just to keep the country running, Putin appears to be betting on the West blinking first, the former U.S. government official said. Putin’s “goal of subjugating Ukraine and eventually placing a Russian flag in Kyiv has not changed.”

A regular reader who identifies himself as Joel wrote the following critique of the media’s negative narrative about the economy and crime. He was responding to the Robert Hubbell post about “the Media Doomsday Machine.”

So back in September the BLS [the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics] released the monthly Jobs number. A terribly disappointing 234,000 Jobs +- . It was disappointing because the same economic analysts who could not see a Housing Bubble bigger than the Stay Puff Marshmallow man had predicted 300,000 + . The fact that it was as high or higher than all but a handful of the previous 120 months never seemed to dawn on the talking heads. In October there were 677,000 Jobs added. And at the same time the number for October was adjusted 200,000 higher. It took the media all of 10 seconds to shift the narrative to “oh but inflation”
As stated by some CNBC talking head that day, inflation is an expectations game. If workers expect inflation they will ask for higher wages. If employers expect inflation they will charge more for goods and services. Inflation in September was all of 4.4 ,% high but not earth shaking. Then the (respectable) media ran stories of almost $6 dollar a gallon gas as if that was the norm. Of a Tex-ass couple who goes through 9 gallons of milk a week and was bankrupted by the cost (don’t ask about birth control). Of a Station owner in NJ who spends $1000s a week on gas for his 1970 muscle car and his 2000 Escalade.

Well the message was received, the expectation of inflation was created. Wages now contribute 8.5% of the inflationary spike. Raw materials and supply chain issues 27% of the inflation we see. And excess profits contribute 53% of the price hikes we are seeing. (EPI). It would seem the right people got the right message but it was not the American worker who in spite of all the hype does not have the power to demand wage increases on a broad based scale as they did in the past. In previous inflationary spikes inflation was driven 70% by wage increases . The media hype on inflation prior to the Ukraine war enabled corporations to profit vastly. The expectation was there. Corporate America hopped right on the band wagon. Don’t expect the corporate media to hop on board calling for an excess profits tax, or even to harp on those excess profits. Instead we will hear nonsense about low wage workers holding out for a living wage.

Was it a conscious conspiracy ? Probably not . Is it a combination of of group think and inferior reporting (IMHO) absolutely.

Moving on to Crime in NYC . In a nut shell if NYC was the safest big city in America in 2010 (according to Bloomberg) than how did it get unsafe in 2021 when every Crime Stat released by the NYPD is lower than 2010, when people felt the City was safe.

My favorite NYC crime category is rape. In 2021 there were 1491 reported rapes in NYC up from 1427 in 2020. Women be afraid be very afraid!!!. But wait there were 1755 in 2019 and 1791 rapes in 2018, when everyone thought the City was very safe.

The Right wing media generates a narrative and instead of countering it, the supposedly Liberal MSM run with the story. . Cowardly Democratic politicians who call themselves moderates hop right on board not wanting to seem like they are ignoring an issue.

If Trump was President every Republican would be calling inflation fake news and their Ivermectin downing base would be swallowing it hook line and sinker.

The stores in small towns and rural areas across America have been devastated by the arrival of Walmarts, whose low prices and foreign imports drive the small stores out of business. Main streets across the nation are marked by empty stores.

This is a story of a near century-old store in Moundsville, West Virginia, that managed to survive. The story explains how Ruttenberg’s has withstood the competition.

It is a reminder that competition can make you stronger, or, if the competition is a mega-giant, it can kill you and wipe out your town’s Main Street.

Virginia’s new education leader avoids the press and the public, but she is accessible to rightwing think tanks. She recently spoke at the American Engerprise Institute, where she outlined her goal for the state’s students: job readiness. Aimee Guidera comes from the Gates-funded Data Quality Campaign. She did not speak about preparing students for citizenship in a democracy. She did not speak about imbuing students with a love of learning. She focused only on meeting the needs of employers.

Virginia NPR reported on her appearance:

Virginia’s top education official says the state is “resting on our laurels” when it comes to educating public school students.

In a forum hosted by a conservative think tank last month, Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera said her top goal is preparing students for the job market.

“We are reorienting everything to how is education geared towards preparing people for the jobs of today and of tomorrow,” she said.

Guidera has kept a low profile since Gov. Glenn Youngkin named her to be Virginia’s education secretary in December. But in a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, Guidera laid out her plans in more detail.

The former CEO of the Data Quality Campaign, an education reform group, pushed back on claims the administration was attempting to censor history. She said her team would push past “culture wars,” which Youngkin’s critics say were fermented by the governor.

Instead, she said she plans on focusing on meeting three “benchmarks”: creating students that are ready for “family-supporting jobs” and who are civically engaged, recruiting and retaining employers attracted by the commonwealth’s talent pool and growing the state economy.

Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times writes here about the defeat of one of President Biden’s most important nominees for the U.S. Labor Department and why it is very bad news indeed for American workers.

David Weil withdrew his name as head of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division on April 7 when it became clear that he would never be confirmed. He was nominated almost a year earlier. Every Republican and three Democratic Senators opposed him: Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and Mark Kelly, perhaps hoping to placate conservative voters in Arizona before the November election.

Hiltzik writes:

Having earlier served in the job during the Obama administration, Weil came under ferocious attack by business interests and Republicans from the start, because they knew of his commitment to enforcing the labor laws on the books and the court rulings that have upheld them... 

Moreover, Weil’s loss was a blow for Biden, who is certainly the most pro-labor president in decades, perhaps ever. 

Weil was superbly qualified to resume leadership of the Wage and Hour Division. He’s an expert in labor law who has served as a professor and dean of the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, with a sharp eye for the multitude of ways that employers can cheat and abuse their employees, especially lower-income workers… 

Weil’s 2014 book The Fissured Workplace examined the many ways that employers had been abandoning their responsibilities for workers.

As Weil explained to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) during his July 15 confirmation hearing, his aim as administrator, as it was in 2014-2017, would be “strategic enforcement” of labor standards “to make sure we are targeting industries and employers who are really violating the law and who erode those kinds of standards,” while reaching out to employers to make sure they understand their responsibilities.

To Republicans and their patrons in the business community, however, any enforcement of labor law is too much.

They accused him of an “open bias against small business.”

Their evidence was his advocacy of such initiatives as the expansion of overtime rights to more than 4.2 million workers who had been treated as exempt from overtime pay and tightening the classification of employees as independent contractors — the key to the business model of gig firms such as Uber and Lyft.

Weil also expanded the definition of joint employers to impose responsibilities for workplace standards on big companies that sought to shed them through subcontracting and franchise arrangements. 

It should be clear that these regulations would all improve pay and working conditions for workers. But they would cost employers, so business painted Weil as the enemy. The posturing by Republican committee members sometimes sounded as though they had received their talking points intravenously from the International Franchise Assn., one of Weil’s principal critics….

As Weil observes, the labor market is one of unequal power in which employers dominate. This observation is not new, leftist or extremist. In the landmark 1937 Supreme Court case known as Parrish, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes (reaching back to an 1898 decision upholding safety rules for mine workers) noted that fear of being fired often forces workers to bow to working conditions they know to be unfair or detrimental to their health.

“The proprietors lay down the rules,” the earlier decision stated, “and the laborers are practically constrained to obey them.” Parrish, which upheld a Washington state minimum wage law, marked a sea change in the court’s approach to labor law. Hughes, by the way, had been placed on the Court by Herbert Hoover.

Weil traces an arc in government-protected worker rights beginning with enactment of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935 and especially the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938. The latter installed an expansive definition of “employment,” and therefore of worker rights and employer responsibilities, at the heart of federal labor law. 

The FLSA made clear, he says, that “government plays a critical role saying, these are baseline rules of the game that can be built upon, whether through unionization or more progressive employers who understand the benefits of treating their workers well” — a foundation created by standards such as the minimum wage and an understanding on when the paid workday starts and stops.

Courts began to narrow the FLSA’s reach within a few years, followed by the Republican Congress, which enacted the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 over a veto by Democratic President Harry Truman. 

The 1970s brought about more erosion in the basic understanding of worker rights and employer responsibilities.

“More and more workers were in situations where they were seeing daily violations of these basic rules, from being told you punch in for your time only after you’ve prepared your work station or you punch out before you do clean-up, and you get paid at straight time, not overtime, even after 40 hours” a week, Weil observes.

“If someone had the guts to stand up and say, ‘That’s not right,’ they were fired, in direct violation of the law,” Weil says. “The persistence of those practices create an environment where no one wants to raise their head up and talk about other problems that occur because they see these violations of the most basic rights that workers are supposed to have. Forget about the risk of saying you see a health and safety problem or discrimination, for decades the riskiest thing you could do in an American workplace is to say, ‘I want to have a union here.’

“To me,” he says, “those rights are not exercised if the basic rights are being systematically violated.”

In “The Fissured Workplace,” Weil tracked how employers had been offloading their employees to labor subcontractors, temp agencies and franchisees and redesignating one-time members of their payrolls as independent contractors. 

“In 1960,” he wrote, “most hotel employees worked for the brand that appeared over the hotel entrance. Today, more than 80% of staff are employed by hotel franchisees and supervised by separate management companies.”

Not long after his book appeared, the gig platforms such as Uber and Lyft emerged. Weil recognized them as new iterations of an old story.

“When the platform model came out with this whole false narrative that they were providing ‘flexibility’ without all that messy employment stuff, to me the platforms were just another form of fissuring,” Weil says. “Their idea was to control the brand, and completely divorce themselves from those responsibilities.” 

In a Los Angeles Times op-ed in 2019, when Uber and Lyft were fighting a California law that would designate their drivers as employees, Weil acknowledged that some companies operated in a gray area where their workers sometimes acted like employees and sometimes like independent contractors. 

“Uber and Lyft are not among those close, gray-area cases,” he wrote. “Their status as employers is really quite clear.” (Uber, Lyft and other gig companies spent immense sums to pass Proposition 22, which exempted them from the California law — though the law has been put on hold by a state judge.)

Weil’s position earned him the enmity of the gig companies. They opposed his confirmation through their now-defunct app-based Work Alliance, which tweeted during his Senate hearing that he supported “an outdated workforce model” that was shunned by gig workers who “love their flexibility and independence,” which the companies asserted Weil’s policies would “take away.”

In contrast to the gig firms’ efforts to create a hybrid employment standard that would only make permanent their abusive business models while denying workers basic employment protection, Weil has advocated extending workplace standards to beyond those who are classified as employees. 

In a 2020 paper, Weil and labor law expert Tanya Goldman proposed a framework of concentric circles in which basic protections such as freedom from discrimination and retaliation, and the guarantee of safe and healthful working conditions and a minimum wage would be linked to all work, rather than to legal definitions of employment.

Further protections, including the right to overtime pay, unionization and workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, would belong to a second circle of workers who would be presumed to hold employment status unless their employers could make a hard-and-fast case that they were independent contractors. 

A third circle would encompass indisputably independent workers. They still would be entitled to unemployment and workers’ compensation, and could arrange on their own for other benefits such as retirement funding. 

The virtue of this concept is that it divorces essential protections from pettifogging debates over the definition of “employee.” Weil acknowledges that some of these changes would require congressional action. 

There lies the rub. Weil’s nomination foundered in large part on Senate procedure. The narrowness of the Democratic majority forced delays in a floor vote on his appointment that lasted into this year, when Biden was required to renominate him. By then, the business community had built up a head of steam against his confirmation. 

When it became clear that no Republican would vote for him, nor would three Democrats, Weil withdrew his nomination.

“The principal reason they didn’t want me in this role,” Weil says, “is that I had a record of enforcing the law.”

Michael Hiltzik, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times, reviews the context of the drive for unions at Starbucks. it’s CEO, billionaire Howard Schultz, wants to portray the far-flung coffee shop empire as worker-friendly, and he is flatly opposed to unions. He insists that the unions bring an adversarial edge and downplays the likelihood that unions would mean higher wages and benefits at the cost of profit margins.

Hiltzik writes:

Many American consumer companies, including Amazon and McDonalds, have been dealing with a surging interest in unionization by their employees, spurred in part by the pandemic-driven recognition that their employers have consistently undervalued their contributions to business success.

But few such union drives are as high-profile as the one at Starbucks. One reason may be the company’s warm and comforting image and its efforts to project a friendly relationship between customers and workers, who are designated in company parlance as “partners.” That’s very much at odds with the image of an employer so cold to the welfare of its workers that they’re spurred to organize.

Another may be the rapidity of the unionization drive’s expansion, which began with pro-union votes at three Buffalo-area stores. Workers United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union that is organizing union votes, says 223 Starbucks locations in 31 states have filed for votes with the NLRB.

That’s a fraction of the roughly 9,000 company-operated stores in the U.S., but reports of new successful votes are streaming in on virtually a daily basis. Five stores in the Richmond, Va., area voted for unions by overwhelming margins on April 19 alone, and workers at the company’s Seattle Reserve Roastery, a flagship tourist draw in Starbucks’ home city, announced a successful vote on April 21.

Workers United says 28 Starbucks stores have now voted to unionize, up from nine that had done so as of April 1.

“Because Starbucks is a front-facing company considered ‘essential,’” Workers United organizing chief Richard Minter says, “the pandemic exacerbated the employer-employee relationship. The partners were left in the crosshairs without the resources necessary to handle what was happening, without the right precautions and protocols that allowed them to feel safe.”

The company has mounted a fierce counterattack against the organizing drive. In videotaped town hall presentations, written communications to workers and managers, and in meetings with workers around the country, Schultz has repeatedly characterized unions as a menace to the company’s economics and future.

“Outside labor unions are attempting to sell a very different view of what Starbucks should be,” he wrote in an open letter posted on the company’s website April 10.

Employees “supporting unionization are colluding with outside union forces,” he wrote. “The critical point is that I do not believe conflict, division and dissension — which has been a focus of union organizing — benefits Starbucks or our partners…”

The union threat, Shultz said in a town hall meeting shortly after his reappointment as CEO, extends beyond Starbucks: “Companies throughout the country [are] being assaulted in many ways by the threat of unionization.”

Starbucks, in an anti-union FAQ posted on its website, warns that “unions get their revenue from dues, which could come out of your pay each week or month.” It says, “unions use dues to pay for their office overhead, staff salaries and other expenses,” though it doesn’t mention the expense of negotiating contracts and enforcing their provisions, which are of course the chief duties of unions.

The company also has hired the law firm of Littler Mendelson, which boasts of its skill at guiding companies “in developing and initiating strategies that lawfully avoid unions.” These include advising management on “precise and compliant messaging to employees … that may include informational signs and posters, home letters, meeting materials, testimonial videos, social media postings, handouts and campaign websites.”

Followers of labor-management relations will recognize that Schultz’s words come directly out of the canonical corporate anti-union playbook:

Paint the unions as “outsiders.” Imply that their only goal is to add members. Say they’ll disrupt the smooth working of the company or even drive it out of business. Say they’ll make it impossible for workers to deal directly with management. Talk about how much money workers will lose to dues…

Starbucks is plainly aware of the complaints about pay and working conditions that are fueling the organizing drive. The company has displayed on its website a poster it says reflects “issues we have been hearing from partners…”

Starbucks is not new to the arena of fraught labor relations. Its animosity toward unions dates back to Schultz’s 1987 acquisition of the company, then a local chain of coffee spots in Seattle. At that time, Starbucks employees were represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Former workers say Schultz promised to honor the UFCW contract but almost immediately tried to renegotiate it.

It’s conceivable that Schultz honestly sees himself as the hand that can improve Starbucks’ relationship with its workers, and that unions will only get in the way. He’s adept at projecting sincerity, as when he says in an employee video of the worker meetings that “it was difficult and emotional at times to hear the challenges and the issues that partners are facing.”

Unlike some other companies, Starbucks has not turned a cold shoulder to unions that have been voted in at its stores; Workers United says the company has begun to meet with union representatives at two of the Buffalo stores that touched off the organizing trend, though they have not reached contracts.

The real question is whether the company will draw the right lessons from the union organizing drive: that unions and management can be partners, not invariably adversaries, that demonizing unions won’t improve labor relations, and that workers’ interest in unionization doesn’t mean they hate the company.

Matthew Cunningham-Cook of The Lever reports that workers at Starbucks are voting to join unions. The Lever is a blog launched by David Sirota, co-author of “Don’t Look Up” and former speechwriter for Senator Bernie Sanders.

Big events continue to happen on the Starbucks Workers United front. On Tuesday, five Starbucks stores in greater Richmond, Virginia, voted to unionize. On Thursday, they won an election at the 100-employee-plus Starbucks Reserve Roastery flagship store in Seattle — one of the largest Starbucks stores to organize so far. Then, on Friday, the shamefully underfunded National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint over Starbucks’ February mass firing of union leaders in Memphis. Then again on Friday, the first Starbucks store in Colorado unionized. Struggling to keep track of it all? Reporters at Law360 developed this tool to track the growth of Starbucks workers’ efforts.