Author Archives: Sonali Kolhatkar

New York Times strike: From reporters to rabble-rousers

Workers at the “newspaper of record” stopped working to demand better pay and labor rights—but only for a day. What would happen if they actually flexed their power.

Strike activity in the United States appears to have reached an all-time high as the unionized staff of the New York Times recently joined the ranks of iconic brands like Starbucks and Amazon in agitating for their rights. More than 1,100 staffers, represented by the NewsGuild of New York, staged a one-day walkout on December 8, saying their hand was forced “due to the company’s failure to bargain in good faith, reach a fair contract agreement with the workers, and meet their demands.” It was the first time in 40 years that the paper boasting of publishing “All the News That’s Fit to Print” experienced such a labor action. Continue reading

Why workers are up in arms over the rail strike intervention

The rail industry can thank Congress and the president for helping it secure $321 million in annual profits at the expense of workers.

The United States Senate acted in a show of rare unity recently in voting 80 to 15 to pass a bill forcing rail workers to accept their employers’ contract offer without a strike. There was no such unity to pass an amendment introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have given rail workers seven paid sick leave days. That bill did not pass even though 52 senators voted for it, as it failed the requisite 60-vote threshold. Continue reading

University of California comes to a standstill as academic workers strike

A militant labor strike by workers at 10 UC campuses comes after the state university system failed to offer compensation commensurate to the cost of living in California.

Nearly 50,000 academic workers at the University of California launched a historic strike on November 14 after contract negotiations with their employer failed. Postdoctoral scholars, researchers, trainees, fellows, graduate student instructors, readers, and tutors, who are from 10 UC campuses across the state and are unionized with United Auto Workers, walked out of their jobs. Continue reading

Democrats didn’t win the midterms—they simply held the line

Americans invested in the idea of living in a democracy heaved a collective sigh of relief the day after the 2022 midterm elections when it became clear that the dire predictions of a Republican sweep were overblown. Democrats made greater gains than expected, winning races in both the Senate and the House that they didn’t expect to. Continue reading

Elon Musk plans to profit from Twitter, not create a town square for global democracy

The world’s richest man has bought one of the world’s most popular social media platforms. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, is currently worth about $210 billion, and in November 2021 he was worth nearly $300 billion—an unheard-of figure for any individual in human history. Not only does his wealth bode ill for democracy, considering the financial influence that he has over politics, but his acquisition of Twitter, a powerful opinion platform, as a private company also further cements his power. Continue reading

Tech billionaires are actually dumber than you think

It turns out that many of today’s billionaires are selfish, lonely men fantasizing about how they will survive the end times they have played a part in creating.

In mid-September, for just a few days, Indian industrialist Gautam Adani entered the ranks of the top three richest people on earth as per Bloomberg’s Billionaires Index. It was the first time an Indian, or, for that matter, an Asian, had enjoyed such a distinction. South Asians in my circle of family and friends felt excited at the prospect that a man who looked like us had entered such rarefied ranks. Continue reading

Brazil’s Lula remerges—in a very different political world

If Lula wins reelection, he must not only rebuild the social investments that Bolsonaro destroyed, but also restore trust in a nation damaged by fascism’s sophisticated propaganda machine.

Brazil’s first round of elections, held on October 2, yielded a major victory for the man who held the presidency from 2003 to 2010, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Winning 48 percent of the vote in a multicandidate race, Lula now heads to a runoff against incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro, who won 43 percent. It’s the first chapter of a dramatic comeback for a leader who was once hailed as the epitome of Latin America’s resurgent left, who was then imprisoned on corruption charges by a politicized judiciary, eventually was released, and has now emerged onto the political scene in a very different nation than the one he once led. Continue reading

What Social Security should really be paying to survive in this economy

Social Security is one of the most popular and progressive government programs in the United States. But Republicans, who try to obscure their real agenda, are bent on cutting it.

Inflation continues to rise in the United States. Although gas prices have recently fallen since their record high over the summer, the cost of groceries rose by 11.4 percent over the last year, and there is no expectation that they will fall back to reasonable levels. Prices overall have risen by 8.2 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index report covering September 2022 as compared to the same month last year. While most working Americans are not getting hefty wage raises to compensate for inflation, seniors will see their Social Security benefits—which are pegged to inflation—rise next year. Starting in January 2023, beneficiaries will see an 8.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) bump in their Social Security checks. Continue reading

Evil empire: Let the monarchy die along with Elizabeth

The death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving monarch of British royalty, has sparked global fascination and spawned thousands of clickbait reports of the details of her funeral. Americans, who centuries ago rejected monarchy, are seemingly obsessed with the ritualism, bizarrely mourning the demise of an elderly and fabulously wealthy woman who was born into privilege and who died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 96 across the ocean. Continue reading

In refusing to prioritize drivers’ safety, UPS risks major strike

As UPS drivers around the country struggle to do their jobs in triple-digit temperatures—literally baking inside non-air-conditioned trucks—their wealthy employer refuses to take action.

In late August, as temperatures soared around the United States, a driver for United Parcel Service (UPS) took before-and-after photos of chocolate chip cookies on a baking sheet. The delicious-looking confections were baked on the dashboard of a UPS truck whose internal temperatures shot to dangerous levels—not in an oven. It was an ingenious way to showcase the modern-day horror of the climate crisis intersecting with corporate greed. Continue reading

Joe Biden could have gone a lot further on student loans

The president’s loan forgiveness plan is narrow and paltry—and his administration’s preparation to fend off outraged criticism from both sides of the aisle speaks volumes.

President Joe Biden has just launched a plan to forgive a portion of federal college loan debt for millions of Americans. In a speech from the White House, he explained that the Department of Education would “forgive $10,000 in outstanding federal student loans” and that Pell Grant recipients would “have their debt reduced [by] $20,000.” Only those making less than $125,000 a year would qualify for the relief. Given that the average student debt is nearly $30,000, this certainly does not erase the burden that millions of Americans carry with them—some doing so for life, from graduation to past retirement. Continue reading

How the Kansas abortion vote offers lessons for economic justice

Using ballot measures and careful, nonpartisan messaging that appeals to fairness, progressives can achieve victories on economic justice and expanded health care access.

Progressive activists and organizers are eyeing lessons from the resounding victory for abortion access in Kansas where nearly 60 percent of voters recently defeated a ban on the politicized medical procedure. Now, the Fairness Project hopes that state-by-state ballot measures can restore the reproductive right to an abortion that the Supreme Court stripped away earlier this year. Such measures can also achieve economic justice victories like increasing the minimum wage and expanding access to paid sick and family leave. Continue reading

How Alex Jones helped enrich the global elites he railed against

The bombastic conspiracy theorist paved the road of misinformation for decades, creating a perfect setting for Trump’s presidency, and ultimately benefiting the very elites he claimed were out to exterminate humanity.

Alex Jones’ decades-long career of serving up conspiracy theories cloaked in lies and violent rhetoric may be coming to an end as a jury has just awarded $4 million in damages, plus $45.2 million in punitive damages, to the parents of a 6-year-old killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Continue reading

To reduce inflation, control corporate profits

Everyone’s concerned about inflation these days. But politicians are blaming government benefits instead of rising inequality and corporate profits.

“Inflation” is the new buzzword of the year. It is the reason for the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes designed to increase the costs of some loans. It is the excuse given against renewing the expanded child tax credit program that briefly lifted millions of American families out of poverty. It forms the name of one of the key pieces of legislation that may salvage President Joe Biden’s first term: the Inflation Reduction Act. And, it is the basis of Republican complaints against Democrats heading toward the midterm elections this fall. Continue reading

Why Trader Joe’s workers are joining the fight to unionize

Workers at two stores among the hundreds of Trader Joe’s locations nationwide are hoping to join a newly formed independent union.

There was a big lie that modern corporations sold to American workers in the late 20th century and into the first decade of the 21st century: It was that profit-driven entities could make both employees and customers happy enough that no interventions like worker unions or strong federal regulations were needed. Continue reading

The selfish politics of anti-abortionists

Those claiming to be against abortion often rely on being able to access the procedure when they need it—a common conservative approach to social needs.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was predictable even as it was shocking. Right-wing forces have spent years working painstakingly on multiple fronts in plain sight to ensure that the right to an abortion would no longer be guaranteed, and they have won. Two of the three Supreme Court Justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, who were appointed by former President Donald Trump, stand accused of lying about their positions on abortion. A third, Justice Clarence Thomas, invited challenges to same-sex marriage and the right to contraception as part of his undoing of Roe, hinting at the right-wing’s future targets. Continue reading

Colombia, once a pro-U.S. conservative bastion, turns left

Voters in Colombia have picked a powerful new duo, Gustavo Petro as president and Francia Márquez as vice president, to take the nation in a new direction, tackling economic and environmental injustice.

For the first time ever, Colombia has chosen new leadership that is not conservative. Voters in the third-most populous nation in Latin America narrowly elected the former mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, in a runoff election against his conservative opponent Rodolfo Hernández, with 50.47 percent of the votes. Continue reading

How corporate food monopolies caused the baby formula scandal

The fact that a handful of companies produce the majority of our food means that small disruptions will have big impacts. This time the impacts are borne by American babies.

It’s a tough time to be the parent of a newborn in the United States today. Not only is child care prohibitively expensive, but the cost of all things including baby products is rising, COVID-19 poses a threat to children too young to be vaccinated—and there has been a months-long shortage of baby formula. Continue reading

If poverty is a moral issue, then the U.S. is bankrupt

The Poor People’s Campaign, ahead of its June 18 gathering, is calling out the false pro-corporate rhetoric on poverty, wages, and inflation.

Newspaper headlines are warning of rising inflation and the possibility that voters will respond to it by punishing Democrats in the midterm elections this fall. But there are few, if any, headlines about the enormous numbers of Americans who are low-income and poor—a travesty in one of the world’s wealthiest nations. Continue reading

Our country is trading children’s lives for guns

Guns have become an intimate part of American culture, one that is fed by gun-makers and the gun lobby, the right-wing media and Hollywood, and of course the Republican Party. Our children are paying the price.

Mass shootings are good for gun sales. In the days following the horrific massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, firearm manufacturers’ stock prices predictably rose. Gun owners, who have been conditioned to purchase weapons out of fear of not being able to buy more guns, tend to run out and buy more weapons in anticipation of coming restrictions. That in turn boosts gun profits and stock prices. It is a macabre cycle that appears to be fueled by Republican-led fear-based culture wars. Continue reading

How young workers are unionizing Starbucks

Starbucks Workers United is racking up victorious union votes in one branch after another of the iconic American coffee chain. A young California-based worker-organizer explains why this organizing campaign is different.

At only 19 years old, Joe Thompson is one of the youngest lead organizers with Starbucks Workers United (SWU), the umbrella organization at the forefront of one of the most exciting labor successes of the last few years. Thompson, who started working at the coffee chain at age 16, told me in a recent interview, “Starbucks likes to claim it’s super-progressive, and a lot of workers there are, but we’re the ones actually holding Starbucks accountable to that standard.” Continue reading

Policing causes violence, not the other way around

What liberal politicians and the media refuse to acknowledge is that crime is linked to the failures of capitalism, not to the lack of police. Indeed, police are part of the problem, not the solution.

The New York City subway shooting in Brooklyn on April 12 miraculously resulted in no deaths, although about 30 people suffered injuries, including 10 from gunshot wounds. Within hours, a massive manhunt for the shooter was underway, but in the end it was the suspect who tipped police off and turned himself in. Still, that has not stopped politicians and corporate media outlets like the Washington Post and others from using the shooting to shore up police talking points and implicitly make the case for more police funding. Continue reading

Anti-abortionists played the long game, and they are winning

The U.S. is sliding toward a grim future where abortion is criminalized with little support for families. This “new normal” is disproportionately impacting low-income people of color.

Republican state legislatures are creating abortion refugees across America. Continue reading

Housing is a human right—here’s how to make it a reality

The federal government has for years enabled the private market to make money off our housing needs. Now, as home prices and rents skyrocket, there is a simple solution: offer people a public option for housing.

Is housing a human right? Or is it a privilege affordable only to those who have made it under our unfair system of market capitalism? Continue reading

Corporations are suppressing wages—there’s an easy fix for that

Don’t believe the optimistic hype about wages “naturally” rising. About one-third of American workers are shockingly underpaid as a result of the federal government’s continued refusal to raise the minimum wage.

Amid all the good news about successful labor organizing and job growth in the United States is the stark reality that wages continue to remain inexcusably low even as inflation rises. A new government report by numerous agencies, including the U.S. Treasury Department, came to the stark conclusion that corporate power is suppressing wages. Continue reading

Why the U.S. Postal Service offers a great model for other government services

Progressives, take note: a newly passed bipartisan reform bill strengthens the U.S. Postal Service—a federal agency that serves as a hopeful model for government-run services in other arenas.

In case you missed it—because it got so little news attention—there’s a bit of good news regarding the United States Postal Service (USPS). In what was a very rare moment of bipartisan unity on a domestic issue, the U.S. Senate on March 8 passed the Postal Service Reform Act with a robust vote of 79 to 19. The House of Representatives passed the same bill in February with similarly high levels of support from both parties in a 342-92 vote. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the bill into law. Continue reading

If high gas prices are so painful, shouldn’t we move away from fossil fuels?

Not only is it possible to switch to renewables, but it’s also cheaper and would make economies less vulnerable. Yet, bizarrely, politicians and the fossil fuel industry, who are using the war on Ukraine to justify high gas prices, are now calling for more oil to be produced.

Long used to cheap gas at the pump, Americans are experiencing serious sticker shock these days as gas prices rise to $6 or even $7 a gallon. News headlines are linking this sharp increase to Russia’s war on Ukraine. Guilt-inducing memes are cropping up on social media shaming people for complaining about the high gas prices in the face of Ukrainian suffering. Continue reading

Why don’t we treat all refugees as though they were Ukrainian?

Masses of refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere have faced racially motivated hostility in Europe. Now, Ukraine’s refugee crisis is revealing Western double standards.

It was inevitable that when brown-skinned Afghan refugees fleeing war were turned away from European borders over the past few years, the callous actions of these governments would come back to haunt them. A whopping 1 million people have fled Ukraine from Russia’s violent invasion in the span of only a week. They are being welcomed—as refugees should be—into neighboring nations, inviting accusations of racist double standards. Continue reading

There’s no sugarcoating Hershey’s abuse of workers and union-busting tactics

Hershey factory workers in Virginia are sick of company abuses and are voting to join a union. But their union-busting employer has other plans.

There is a bittersweet battle taking place in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Workers at the Hershey Company’s second-largest factory, located in the small town of about 12,000, are seeking to unionize. In response, the nation’s largest candy manufacturer is throwing the full force of the standard corporate union-busting playbook at them. The Virginia Hershey manufacturing plant employs about 1,300 people, none of whom are sharing in the bounty of the company’s record profits reaped during a pandemic where Americans ate their weight in candy through numerous lockdowns. Continue reading

Why the Freedom Convoy is more American than Canadian

Conservatives in the United States have fallen in love with the fringe protests led by Canadian truckers. It is a cause that unites the libertarian and extremist wings of the GOP and offers a new front in the culture wars to mobilize right-wing forces.

Canadians have a reputation for being polite, nice people. But the high-profile weeks-long civil disobedience actions by some Canadian truckers that began in late January in the capital city of Ottawa has undermined this reputation. Truckers and their allies caused traffic snarls within the city and wreaked havoc along the international supply chains crossing the United States-Canada border. Continue reading

Fossil fuel companies and their mouthpieces offer net-zero logic on climate change

Oil and gas CEOs were too chicken to show up to a recent congressional hearing—perhaps fearing that their climate pledges will be revealed as nothing more than slick PR.

Everywhere around us there is evidence of climate change, from the increase in winter storms such as New England’s late January blizzard, to California’s recent record-breaking winter heat wave. Meanwhile, the world’s biggest oil and gas companies such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, and BP, whose products directly fuel global warming, have done little to counter the disastrous trend. While they have made promises that sound constructive on the surface, a cursory examination reveals them to be hollow. Perhaps worried about their deception being exposed, the executives and board members of these fossil fuel companies snubbed members of Congress at a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on February 8, 2022. Continue reading

Spotify’s business model is screwing over musicians and ruining music

The recent spat between Neil Young and Spotify reminds us that the world’s largest streaming company only cares about profits—which is what independent musicians have been complaining about for years.

Neil Young’s recent decision to pull his music from Spotify, the world’s largest streaming service, has shaken up the music industry and sparked broader questions about how streaming services operate. Young demanded that the company choose between his music or Joe Rogan’s misinformation-laden podcast. Spotify chose Rogan. Continue reading