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Trump introducing his Never Surrender sneakers at Sneaker Con in Philadelphia on February 17.,

Never Surrender the Gold Lamé

Fresh off his latest legal triumph - payment due of $355 million - and his yuge win in historians' annual presidential ranking - dead last as Worst. President. Ever. - the "greatest con artist in world history" has unveiled his latest trashy, loutish grift: $400, ugly-ass, gold-spray-painted "Never Surrender" high-top sneakers, "Bold, gold and tough, just like President (sic) Trump." And just like his steak, water, vodka, airline, deodorant, board game, casinos and mugshot mugs, he says, "I think it’s gonna be a big success."

Lately, it's true, success has been scant for the one-time master of The Art of the (crooked) Deal. President's Day brought the glum news that, while political scholarsranked AbeLincoln America's best leader - Obama was #7, Biden #14 - they again deemed the orange former president and current 91-count perp the worst president in America's history, by the biggest margin on the list: "It’s bad. Like, way behind James Buchanan bad." Days before, there was the stunning $355 million fine imposed by Judge Arthur Engeron in Trump's civil fraud trial - plus court-imposed interest of $100 million that will increase daily - bringing the total he owes to $542 million and counting. And Engeron didn't hold back: On chicanery and fraud "that shock the conscience," he offered a blistering "road map to Trump's thievery" as a "remorseless con artist" whose every act is "based on consistent and shameless cheating, deceiving, falsifying documents and lying" in order to "rip off everyone he can."

Trump responded to yet another loss in court with his usual contrition and grace. Just kidding. Obviously, he raved. Engeron is a "CORRUPT AND MANY TIMES OVERTURNED ‘JUDGE.’" James is a "RADICAL LEFT SOROS BACKED SLOB OF AN ATTORNEY GENERAL." Once again, "NOTHING LIKE THIS HAS EVER HAPPENED IN OUR COUNTRY BEFORE," also, "THIS IS COMMUNISM." Because he's 12, it is "ALL POLITICAL PROSECUTIONS OF YOUR FAVORITE PRESIDENT, ME." In an especially depraved touch, he even managed to make Putin's political assassination of Navalny not about a murderous thug eradicating a man of courage and conscience, but about himself and being held to account for his petty crimes. "The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country," he jabbered. "It is a slow, steady progression... leading us down a path to destruction." At a Tuesday Fox town hall, he went full, oblivious slime: "It's a form of Navalny." Fucking cretin.

In response, he's turned to what he's always turned to in a self-serving, small-minded life: grifting. And hawking his endless crap with pitches as tawdry as the soulless ghoul whose name it bears: "The world's greatest steaks," vodka that's "taken off like crazy," an airline that "had more people than anyone else," suits to "guarantee you're always board-room ready," mattresses, vitamins, casinos, shirts, ties, water, wine, candles, cookies, earrings, robes, blankets, speakers, pickleball paddles (on sale for $147.45!). There's Trump the Game - get "everything you ever wanted to own!" - Success and Empire deodorants - from reviews: "Smells like flop sweat, Adderall and cowardice," "There is nothing about this product I find acceptable," "No one loves Empire Deodorant more than me..We're going to have so many Empire Deodorants you're going to get sick of Empire Deodorant." It all crashed and burned. This year, he added digital trading cards - "the greatest trading cards in history" - pieces of a suit he wore to court - "it was a great suit" - and mugs saying "Never Surrender" with the mugshot from his surrender.

Now there are sneakers. The day after Citizen Trump got that $355 million slap from Judge Engeron, he turned up at two events. One was a campaign rally in Michigan, where he bellowed to 2,000 supporters in a freezing plane hangar about "repulsive abuses of power" by miscreant judges and prosecutors - "crooked," "a lunatic," "an animal" - who are "set(ting) fire to our laws like no one has ever seen in this country before." The other was, incongruously, Sneaker Con, “The Greatest Sneaker Show on Earth," in (very blue) Philadelphia, where before an atypically young, diverse, weed-wafting crowd he launched his very own "official sneaker" - the hideous, cheesy, gold--sprayed "Never Surrender High-Tops," with flag and T, just $399. "I have some incredible people that work with me on things, and they came up with this," he said, clutching the garish monstrosities in his teeny hands as the crowd began booing. "This is something I’ve been talking about for 12 years, 13 years, and I think it’s gonna be a big success."

Except for a red sole, and in keeping with his Richie-Rich Trump vision of wealth, his "incredible people" had slathered the entire shoe plus laces in gold spray, inevitably inviting jokes about golden showers, clown shoes and trippy Democratic competitors. "That's the real deal," he boasted of his blinding creation. Except for one shrieky MAGA hysteric - "We need him! He's a good man! "- sneakerheads were not impressed. Boos rose from the crowd, along with a wave of "Go Biden!" chants. “Wow, a lot of emotion, there’s a lot of emotion in this room! Thank you!," Trump burbled above the din. Then the old, desperate ploy: "The nice thing is...We have lines going around the block..They've never seen anything like it!" One observer: "A needier man has never existed." Other skeptics summoned visions of Four Seasons Total Landscaping and My Pillow Guy morphing into My Sneaker Guy. Michael Steele: "This is what it's come to." Charlie Pierce: "He's one step from selling counterfeit CDs from a card table on 2nd Avenue."

The shouty GetTrumpSneakers website - "For the First Time Ever! Buy Now! Special Offer!" - warns they're "Super Limited!" so "with millions of fans, get these before they sell out!" "Join Trump's sneaker community!" it gushes about a tubby loser who's likely never worn a sneaker. "Be a part of history!" There are 1000 pairs, each is numbered, 10 will be autographed, limit 3 pairs per person, buy 2 or more for a (lousy) 5% off, "bonuses" include extra laces, an "exclusive Trump Superhero charm" (don't ask), a chance for 2 tickets to a launch party, date TBD, no guarantee the perp will attend. There are also low-top, "45"-bedecked sneakers in "T-Red” or “POTUS” white for $199. Also Victory47 perfume in a golden bottle with a Trump-head stopper for $99: "Our fragrances are curated to capture the essence of success and determination...symbolizing victory and strength." Or per wiseacres: "That sweet smell of guilty verdict and federal prison chow," also (diluted) turpentine, cat urine, bleach, but drink or inject?

It's "a tribute to the Trump legacy, blending premium craftsmanship with a distinctive style...symbolizing leadership and patriotism." Just one glitch: The sneakers evidently don't exist. The FAQs tell the tale. Shipping dates are 5 and 6 months away; the response to, "Why such a long lead time?" is that they're "made to order." Scammers gonna scam: They also haven't been made, though they'll be coming any day like the health, infrastructure, immigration etc plans. To the query, "Will I be getting the exact sneaker on the site?" comes, "The images shown are for illustration purposes only...WE MAKE NO WARRANTIES (sic) IN RELATION TO THE ACCURACY OF ANY INFORMATION ON THE WEBSITE." So, you might get, like, a Trump steak or Empire deodorant stick instead? Hey, if you're lucky you'll get this fabulous Trump Doll Collection with the whole family: Melania, who came from a Ukrainian website, Don Jr., "my other son," and two anatomically correct Ivankas, "a personal fantasy of mine, actually." Act now, this offer is going fast.

Likewise suspiciously, less than a day after his gold-spray-painted grotesqueries appeared, the website announced they were "SOLD OUT!" Theories abound. A single, foreign entity - starts with R, ends with a, symbolized by a bear? - "bought" them all in an illegal cash transfer to Trump in exchange for stolen U.S. military secrets. The too-reasonable price is only for the right sneakers; the left were in a container ship shot up by the Houthis, were pushed overboard, washed ashore and are being sold on Craig's List in Yemen. The sneakers that don't yet exist will be made in Ivanka's Chinese sweat shops for $4.50 a pair, to then surface online for insane prices. (Wait, that's already happened: At the launch some imbecile paid $9,000 for a pair, and several pairs are on sale or have sold on eBay for up to $7,500.) Or the whole scheme is already a wash because French designer Christian Louboutin, who has trademarked red-soled shoes and won several lawsuits on the issue, represents one courtroom too far.

Given Trump's sketchy legal and financial history, the last option seems plausible. He's had at least 15 failed businesses, apart from a failed presidency, and been involved in over 4,000 related legal cases in federal and state courts. He's been a crook most or all of his life, with associations to prove it: Over the years, his "crime-infested" Trump Tower has been shady home to a long list of felons, fraudsters, money launderers, tax evaders and Russian mobsters. Just recently, over a dozen of his lawyers have quit, abandoning his bourgeoning legal quagmires. A narcissistic asshole who's never been held to account, he's also had a running cease-and-desist battle with over a dozen artists whose music he regularly, heedlessly rips off; they've blasted his "craven political purposes," told him, "Fuck you. Stop playing my song," and called him "the anti-Christ." His crappy high-tops will presumably suffer the low-life fate of all his other shoddy ventures, whether before or after his 91 felonies do him in.

Above all, regardless of legality, is the crude, dumpster-fire vulgarity of it Behold, a sort-of former president and current OMFG presidential contender peddling bootleg, cheapjack, "fashion-mangled" off-whites "designed with all the crayons and colored sharpies he didn’t eat or stick up his nose." It's beyond unseemly, even for him. "I've seen many, many tasteless things in my nearly 64 years on Earth, but as God is my witness those shoes are the absolute most tacky items I’ve ever seen," writes one horrified patriot. "It’s as though all that Trump is has been boiled down and molded into sneaker form." Another suggests they look like "Trump's arrogance in shoe form," the "kind of sneaker you’d expect from a man who created a fake university named after himself and had to pay $25 million to settle lawsuits accusing him of fraud. They’re the go-to athletic shoe for people fleeing responsibility." Or, per the kitschy, tatty Trump brand, "cheap and ugly,...and very, very dumb."

To be fair, Never-Surrenders have their fans. "Perfect to distract my Labrador from destroying my 5th pair of Birkenstocks!" says one. Also, flat bottom is "perfect for slowly walking down ramps!" And okay for Halloween clown get-up if they're in K-Mart $4.99 bin. Others suggest Trump should stick with Nazi jack-boots, or get $14.98 high-tops at Wal-Mart, $5.98 Rustoleum gold spray paint and $1.99 little flag thingies and call it a day. There were questions: Do they come with a built-in ankle monitor? Do they cause or fix bone spurs? Can you say 'child labor'? Will he ever run out of stupid shit to slap his worthless name on? And "who in the time-altered universe is going to WEAR these monstrosities? I mean, LOOK AT THEM!!!!!!" Most vitally, "People should see what a hollow figure he is. Evil, traitorous, immoral, yes. But ultimately a sad little man." And, "Someday he’ll be scratching his brand name onto his cell wall painstakingly with a toothbrush. Then he’ll realize he forgot a letter and have to scratch it out and start over again. He’ll have time."

Plastic pollution

Big Oil, Plastics Industry Led 'Campaign of Deception' to Push Recycling Fraud

The petrochemical industry—including major oil companies like ExxonMobil—knew for decades that recycling was not a sustainable solution to the problem of plastic waste, yet continued to promote it in order to avoid regulation and deceive consumers into continuing to buy and use their products, a report released Thursday by the Center for Climate Integrity reveals.

The report, titled The Fraud of Plastic Recycling: How Big Oil and the Plastics Industry Deceived the Public for Decades and Caused the Plastic Waste Crisis, includes newly disclosed industry documents proving that companies and trade groups knew that plastics could not be recycled indefinitely in the 1980s and 90s even as they launched a massive public relations campaign to sell voters and policymakers on the process.

"This evidence shows that many of the same fossil fuel companies that knew and lied for decades about how their products cause climate change have also known and lied to the public about plastic recycling," Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) president Richard Wiles said in a statement. "The oil industry's lies are at the heart of the two most catastrophic pollution crises in human history."

Plastic pollution is a major environmental and public health crisis. If current trends continue, plastics are expected to outweigh fish in the ocean by 2050, and the toxic fumes from plastic production facilities and incineration are a major environmental justice hazard for frontline communities. Humans in general also ingest an estimated credit-card's worth of plastic each week, with unknown but potentially serious health impacts.

Recycling is often touted as a solution for keeping plastic out of the environment, but this has proven to be ineffective and insufficient: More than 90% of the plastics disposed of between 1950 and 2015 were either burnt, sent to landfills, or dumped into the environment. There are several technical and economic reasons why plastic recycling doesn't work at scale. Plastics lose quality as they are recycled and can only really be reused once or potentially twice. The decline in quality also means that recycled plastics are more likely to leach toxins added during production or picked up from other waste items. Economically, it is cheaper to produce new plastics than recycle older ones, and only two types of plastic—PET and HDPE—actually attract markets that will recycle them.

The industry has long been aware of these limitations. In 1969, the American Chemical Society declared, "It is always possible that scientists and engineers will learn to recycle or dispose of wastes at a profit, but that does not seem likely to happen soon on a broad basis."

"We are committed to the activities, but not committed to the results."

Despite this, petrochemical companies and their trade groups began to push plastic recycling in the 1980s and 90s as a response to growing public concern over plastic waste, and the threat that this would lead to bans on plastic products.

"No doubt about it, legislation is the single most important reason why we are looking at recycling," Wayne Pearson, the executive director of industry front group the Plastics Recycling Foundation and a DuPont marketing director, said in 1988.

The plastics industry used various strategies to sell the public on recycling, according to the report. These included:

  1. Funding front groups to promote recycling;
  2. Running ad and PR campaigns;
  3. Investing in recycling research to convince the public that it was taking action;
  4. Setting unrealistic internal recycling goals;
  5. Writing educational material promoting recycling to school children;
  6. Advocating for "advanced recycling," a term for breaking plastics down to chemical components that can theoretically be reused but are not in practice; and
  7. Claiming, against evidence, that recycling can be part of a "circular economy."
CCI provides new evidence that, while the industry was employing these strategies, it was simultaneously aware of recycling's limitations.

For example, a report from the Vinyl Institute trade group concluded in 1986 that "recycling cannot be considered a permanent solid waste solution, as it merely prolongs the time until an item is disposed of."

In 1994, Exxon Chemical Vice President Irwin Levowitz told employees of the American Plastics Council that "we are committed to the activities, but not committed to the results."

CCI argued that the petrochemical industry should face legal consequences for its "campaign of deception" similar to suits brought against tobacco and opioid companies.

"When corporations and trade groups know that their products pose grave risks to society, and then lie to the public and policymakers about it, they must be held accountable," Wiles said. "Accountability means stopping the lying, telling the truth, and paying for the damage they've caused."

CCI vice president of legal and general counsel Alyssa Johl added: "Big Oil and the plastics industry's decades-long campaign to deceive the public about plastic recycling has likely violated laws designed to protect consumers and the public from corporate misconduct and pollution."

"Attorneys general and other officials should carefully consider the evidence that these companies defrauded the public and take appropriate action to hold them accountable," Johl said.

Jeff Bezos and his fiancée Lauren Sánchez

Tax-Dodging Jeff Bezos to Save $610 Million With Move to 'Billionaire Bunker' in Florida

Jeff Bezos, founder of the e-commerce behemoth Amazon and one of the richest men in the world, is poised to save at least $610 million in taxes by moving from Washington state to a hyper-exclusive Miami island that's been dubbed "Billionaire Bunker."

Bezos announced the move from Seattle—home to Amazon's headquarters—to Miami in an Instagram post on November 2. The previous month, Bezos purchased two mansions in Indian Creek Village for $68 million and $79 million. Other prominent figures, including retired NFL superstar Tom Brady and billionaire investor Carl Icahn, own properties on the island, which is only accessible to those with invites.

Bloombergreported last month that "Bezos emissaries have reached out to at least three other homeowners on the island about purchasing their properties, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters. Conversations are ongoing."

While Bezos didn't mention the potential tax savings as one of the reasons for his move, the announcement came after Washington state's new 7% capital gains tax on the sale or exchange of stocks and other assets worth more than $250,000 took effect after a lengthy court fight. The tax brought in far more revenue in its first year than supporters expected.

As CNBCreported Monday, Bezos has been selling Amazon shares nearly every year for more than two decades—but he stopped in 2022, the first year of Washington's new tax.

Now that he's in Florida, which doesn't tax income or capital gains, Bezos has resumed selling his Amazon stock, dumping around 12 million shares worth roughly $2 billion last week. CNBC pointed to recent U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings showing that Bezos has "launched a pre-scheduled stock-selling plan to unload 50 million shares before Jan. 31, 2025. At today's price, that would total more than $8.7 billion."

"On the $2 billion sale last week, he saved $140 million that he would have paid to Washington state," CNBC observed. "On the entire sale of 50 million shares over the next year, he will save at least $610 million. And that's assuming Amazon shares remain flat. If they continue to rise, the value of his shares—and his tax savings—will be even higher."

"If Bernie's Make Billionaires Pay Act was signed into law during the pandemic Bezos would have paid $42,800,000,000 more in taxes and everyone in America would have had healthcare as a right."

According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), Bezos' new home state has the most regressive tax system in the U.S.—a title that was held by Washington prior to the enactment of the 7% capital gains tax.

Bezos is currently worth around $197 billion, a number that can fluctuate significantly on a given day based on the movement of Amazon's stock price.

Warren Gunnels, staff director for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), argued in a social media post late Monday that Bezos' exorbitant wealth cries out for more aggressive taxation at the federal level.

"If Bernie's Make Billionaires Pay Act was signed into law during the pandemic Bezos would have paid $42,800,000,000 more in taxes and everyone in America would have had healthcare as a right," Gunnels wrote, noting that revenue from the 2020 bill would have been enough for Medicare to fully pay out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for all Americans for a year.

Right-wing commentators, such as the Cato Institute's Scott Lincicome and FreedomWorks' Stephen Moore, used Bezos' move to suggest that taxing the wealthy only pushes them to move elsewhere in search of lower tax rates.

But ITEP research director Carl Davis told Common Dreams that "when you look at the data, there isn't much support for the view that high-income people are moving in meaningful numbers because of taxes." A 2016 study by Stanford University researchers found that while "millionaire tax flight is occurring," it is "only at the margins of statistical and socioeconomic significance."

"Without good data to back them up," said Davis, "the folks who want to use migration fears to argue against taxing the rich often end up relying on anecdotes to make their point."

Americans for Tax Fairness, a progressive advocacy group, wrote on social media Tuesday that "if we had a national billionaire income tax, we'd collect that revenue no matter where he lived."

"Billionaires can't quit America to avoid paying," the group added. "If they left, we'd collect a fortune in exit taxes."

European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton

Amnesty Says EU Digital Services Act 'Must Be Robustly Enforced'

As the European Union's Digital Services Act expanded to cover nearly all online platforms in the bloc on Saturday, Amnesty International stressed the importance of robust enforcement.

"It's a historic day for tech accountability," said Alia Al Ghussain, researcher and adviser on technology and human rights at Amnesty Tech, in a statement. "Today must mark the end of the era of unregulated Big Tech, and for that to happen, the DSA must be robustly enforced to avoid it becoming a paper tiger."

"Today must mark the end of the era of unregulated Big Tech."

E.U. member states and the European Commission "are primarily responsible for the monitoring and enforcement of the additional obligations that apply to Big Tech companies under the DSA," Al Ghussain added. "They must resist any attempts by Big Tech companies to water down implementation and enforcement efforts, and insist on putting human rights at the forefront of this new digital landscape."

Some of the E.U.'s online rulebook took effect in August for 19 major platforms and search engines: Alibaba AliExpress; Amazon; Bing; Booking.com; Apple's AppStore; Google's Play, Maps, Search, Shopping, and YouTube; LinkedIn; Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram; Pinterest; Snapchat; TikTok; Wikipedia; X, formerly called Twitter; and Zalando.

The European Commission took its first formal action under the DSA in December, announcing an investigation into X—which is owned by billionaire Elon Musk—for "suspected breach of obligations to counter illegal content and disinformation, suspected breach of transparency obligations, and suspected deceptive design of user interface."

As of Saturday, the DSA applies to all online platforms, with some exceptions for firms that have fewer than 50 employees and an annual turnover below €10 million ($10.78 million)—though those companies must still designate a point of contact for authorities and users as well as have clear terms and conditions.

The DSA bans targeting minors with advertisements based on personal data and targeting all users with ads based on sensitive data such as religion or sexual preference. The act also requires platforms to provide users with: information about advertising they see; a tool to flag illegal content; explanations for content moderation decisions; and a way to challenge such decisions. Platforms are further required to publish a report about content moderation procedures at least once a year.

While companies that violate the DSA could be fined up to 6% of their global annual turnover or even banned in the E.U., imposing such penalties isn't the ultimate goal. According toAgence France-Presse:

Beyond the prospect of fines, Alexandre de Streel of the think tank Centre on Regulation in Europe, said the law aimed ultimately to change the culture of digital firms.

"The DSA is a gradual system, everything is not going to change in one minute and not on February 17," he said. "The goal isn't to impose fines, it's that platforms change their practices."

Still, Thierry Breton, a former French tech CEO now serving as the European commissioner for the internal market, said in a statement that "we encourage all member states to make the most out of our new rulebook."

Like Amnesty's Al Ghussain, he stressed that "effective enforcement is key to protect our citizens from illegal content and to uphold their rights."

Earlier this week, Politicoreported that "senior E.U. officials like Breton and Věra Jourová, commission vice president for values and transparency, have butted heads over how to sell the rulebook to both companies and the wider public." Internal battles and industry pushback aren't the only barriers to effectively implementing the DSA.

"At the national level, member countries are expected to nominate local regulators by February 17 to coordinate the pan-E.U. rules via a European Board for Digital Services," Politico noted. "That group will hold its first meeting in Brussels early next week. But as of mid-February, only a third of those agencies were in place, based on the commission's own data, although existing regulators in Brussels, Paris, and Dublin are already cooperating."

Campaigners are also acknowledging the shortcomings of the DSA. European Digital Rights on Saturday recirculated a November 2022 essay in which EDRi policy advisers Sebastian Becker Castellaro Jan Penfrat argued that "the DSA is a positive step forward" but "no content moderation policy in the world will protect us from harmful online content as long as we do not address the dominant, yet incredibly damaging surveillance business model of most large tech firms."

Meanwhile, Al Ghussain said that "to mitigate the human rights risks posed by social media platforms, the European Commission must tackle the addictive and harmful design of these platforms, including changes to recommender systems so that they are no longer hardwired for engagement at all costs, nor based on user profiling by default."

United Auto Workers members

Number of US Workers Who Joined Major Strikes Surged by 280% in 2023

While federal data released on Wednesday shows nearly half a million workers last year participated in 33 major work stoppages—the most since the turn of the century—labor experts still stressed the need for more policies protecting the right to strike.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics noted that there has been an average of 16.7 U.S. work stoppages with more than 1,000 strikers over the past two decades, meaning last year's number was almost double the norm. BLS also said that 458,900 workers joined the 2023 strikes, and nearly 87% of them work in service-providing industries, including 188,900 with jobs in education and health.

In their analysis of the data, also published Wednesday, Margaret Poydock and Jennifer Sherer of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) pointed out that "this is an increase of over 280% from the number of workers involved in major worker stoppages in 2022, which was 120,600. Further, it is on par with the increase seen in pre-pandemic levels during 2018 and 2019."

Poydock, a senior policy analyst at the think tank, said in a statement that "a surge of workers went on strike in 2023 to fight back against record corporate profits, stratospheric CEO pay, and decades of stagnant wages. From the United Auto Workers to nurses across the country, these strikes provided critical leverage to workers to secure better wages and working conditions."

Other notable actions include the actors' and writers' strikes that together effectively shut down television and film production for months. A report released last week by researchers at Cornell University and the University of Illinois—who, unlike the BLS, also tracked smaller U.S. actions—tallied 466 strikes and four lockouts involving a total of 539,000 workers.

"It's a historic moment for the labor movement," declared Robert Reich, a former U.S. labor secretary who is now a University of California, Berkeley professor. "Workers are done letting billionaires and corporations hoard all the wealth and power."

As Poydock and Sherer, EPI's State Worker Power Initiative director, wrote in their report:

It should be no surprise that workers are taking collective action to improve their pay and working conditions—but we should be asking why it is happening now. The U.S. economy has churned out unequal income growth and stagnant wages for the last several decades. Research shows that unions and collective bargaining are key tools in combating income inequality and improving the pay, benefits, and working conditions for both union and nonunion workers. However, the continued rise in collective action is not likely to increase unionization substantially unless meaningful policy change is enacted to ensure all workers have the right to form unions, bargain collectively, and strike.

The BLS said last month that "the union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of
unions—was 10% in 2023, little changed from the previous year."

"In the public sector, both union membership and the union membership rate (32.5%) were little changed over the year," the bureau added. "The number of union workers employed in the private sector increased by 191,000 to 7.4 million in 2023, while the unionization rate was unchanged at 6%."

Stressing that "the increase in major strike activity in 2023 occurred despite our weak and outdated labor law failing to protect workers' right to strike," Sherer argued that "federal and state action is needed to ensure the right to strike."

At the federal level, EPI supports several proposals. As Poydock and Sherer detailed:

  • The Richard L. Trumka Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act includes critical reforms that would strengthen private sector workers' right to strike. The PRO Act would expand the scope for strikes by eliminating the prohibition on secondary strikes and allowing the use of intermittent strikes. It would also strengthen workers’ ability to strike by prohibiting employers from permanently replacing striking workers.
  • The Striking and Locked Out Workers Healthcare Protection Act would prevent employers from cutting off health coverage of workers and family members in retaliation against striking workers.
  • The Food Secure Strikers Act would allow striking workers to qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
  • Congress should also pursue policies that extend a fully protected right to strike to railway, airline, public sector, agricultural, and domestic workers. None of these workers has the fundamental right to strike under current federal law.

"Right now, only a dozen states grant limited rights to strike to some public sector workers," the pair also highlighted. "States should also join New York and New Jersey in making striking workers eligible for unemployment benefits."

A U.S. Predator drone armed with a Hellfire missile

US Accused of Killing Cuban Doctors in Somalia Airstrike

The United States military said Tuesday that it is investigating whether a drone strike on Somalia targeting al-Shabaab fighters killed two Cuban doctors being held hostage by the militant group.

According to al-Shabaab, surgeon Landy Rodríguez Hernández and general medicine specialist Assel Herrera Correa were killed in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia's southern state of Jubaland last Thursday—although there has been no confirmation of the deaths.

"The aerial bombardment, which began at around 12:10 am, targeted a house in Jilib, instantly killing Assel Herrera and Landy Rodríguez," the al-Qaeda-affiliated group said on social media.

The Cuban Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that National Assembly President Esteban Lazo Hernández traveled to Kenya "to make urgent efforts with the highest authorities of that country in the search for cooperation and clarification, in the light of the recent published news on the possible unconfirmed death" of the two doctors.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) acknowledged carrying out the February 15 bombing but said that "we do not have further information at this time about these reports, but we do take all claims of civilian casualties seriously. The command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as available."

According to Airwars, a U.K.-based monitoring group, hundreds of Somalis—including some civilians—were killed by U.S. airstrikes last year alone as the Biden administration quietly continues the so-called War on Terror launched in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. The U.S. has been conducting airstrikes and ground raids in Somalia since the George W. Bush administration.

Al-Shabaab kidnapped the Cuban doctors in Mandera County, Kenya in April 2019. The doctors were working there under an agreement between the Kenyan and Cuban governments for the provision of medical professionals for services including the implemention of universal healthcare.

Cuba's socialist government provides universal healthcare to the Caribbean country's citizens and also deploys doctors to dozens of nations on humanitarian missions. While Cuban doctors are hailed around the world for their lifesaving service, they also allegedly face serious restrictions on their freedoms while working abroad.

Responding to news of the doctors' possible deaths, Cuban President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel y Bermúdez said: "I express all my solidarity and affection to the families of our doctors Assel and Landy, in these moments of uncertainty and increased pain, and in the face of the tragic news not yet confirmed, in whose clarification we are working hard with international authorities."

"I admire the strength of both families and I remember with great affection our previous meetings," he continued. "Assel and Landy represent the noble and generous spirit of a people who share even what they do not have, with the humble of the Earth."

"Cuba does not lose hope of finding them alive," Díaz Canel added. "We will do so as long as there is no official confirmation that they have died."