“The jury’s verdict delivers accountability for Derek Chauvin, but not justice for George Floyd. Real justice for him and too many others can only happen when we build a nation that fundamentally respects the human dignity of every person,” Sanders said in a tweet.
“The trauma and tragedy of George Floyd’s murder must never leave us. It was a manifestation of a system that callously devalues the lives of Black people,” Sanders added. “Our struggle now is about justice-not justice on paper, but real justice in which all Americans live their lives free of oppression. We must boldly root out the cancer of systemic racism and police violence against people of color.”
Chauvin on Tuesday was found guilty of second degree murder, third degree murder, and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd. Floyd’s death, which was caught on video, sparked worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes.
Sanders’ response to Tuesday’s verdict echoed messages from other lawmakers and political figures.
In a statement on the verdict, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said, “I would not call today’s verdict justice, however-because justice implies restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice.”
“Our hope is that this verdict will be a small step towards accountability,” Democratic Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri said in a tweet. “But that’s just about accountability, not justice. For us, justice would be George Floyd alive today.”
Former President Barack Obama in a statement said, “Today, a jury did the right thing. But true justice requires much more. Michelle and I send our prayers to the Floyd family, and we stand with all those who are committed to guaranteeing every American the full measure of justice that George and so many others have been denied.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont did not mince words as he backed growing calls for Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny to receive proper medical treatment.
“Make no mistake about what is happening here: activist Aleksei Navalny is being murdered in front of the world by Vladimir Putin for the crime of exposing Putin’s vast corruption. Navalny’s doctors must be allowed to see him immediately,” Sanders said in a tweet on Sunday.
The Russian embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Insider.
The Vermont senator’s criticism of the Russian president came after Navalny’s doctor warned that he could “die at any moment.” The Biden administration has warned Russia there will be consequences if Navalny dies.
Navalny has been on hunger strike for weeks, demanding he receive proper medical care over complaints of back pain and numbness in one of his legs.
The anti-corruption campaigner on Monday was transferred to a prison hospital at a separate penal colony from where he was being held. Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said Navalny’s condition was “satisfactory,” per ABC News.
Meanwhile, Navalny’s allies have warned that his health is rapidly deteriorating, and have pushed against referring to the facility he was transferred to as a “hospital.”
“Please stop writing that Navalny has been transferred to a hospital. It’s not a hospital, it’s just a different penal colony that has the same torturous conditions, same everything, apart from the fact that there are few formally qualified doctors on-site. This changes nothing,” Maria Pevchikh, an investigator at Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation, said in a tweet.
Navalny faced an apparent assassination attempt in August when he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok, which can cause lingering health effects. Navalny blamed Putin for the incident. Leaders across the world condemned Putin over the poisoning. The Russian president’s critics have often been killed in violent or mysterious ways.
In September, Navalny was taken to Germany for medical treatment. Upon returning to Moscow in January, he was arrested and accused of violating parole – including while he was in Germany – over a 2014 suspended sentence for fraud. Navalny, who’s mantained all charges against him are politically motivated, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
The Biden administration is requesting $753 billion in spending on the US military in its first, $1.5 trillion budget blueprint, disappointing progressives and prompting “serious concerns” from the chairman of the Senate committee that will ultimately decide just how much to appropriate.
In a proposal released Friday, the White House requested a 1.7% increase in national security spending, including $715 billion for the Department of Defense. Accounting for inflation, that is roughly the same amount that Congress approved in 2020.
But liberal Democrats had been hoping for more. Last year, members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus pushed for a 10% cut in defense spending, arguing that the money – over half of US discretionary spending – could be put to better use funding social programs, especially amid a pandemic.
‘A budget is about priorities’
Sen. Bernie Sanders said the request bothered him.
“I have serious concerns,” Sanders, an independent from Vermont who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement Friday. “At a time when the US already spends more on the military than the next 12 nations combined, it is time for us to take a serious look at the massive cost over-runs, the waste and fraud that currently exists in the Pentagon.”
That concern was echoed by Sanders’ liberal colleague, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February.
“A budget is about priorities, and we continue to overinvest in defense while underinvesting in public health and so much more that would keep us safe and that would save lives,” Warren said.
That comment came during questioning of Dr. Kathleen Hicks, the Biden administration’s pick for deputy secretary of defense. Hicks, for her part, said the Pentagon could get by on less money, but that would require “hard choices” the White House does not appear willing to tackle in its first spending proposal.
In 2020, the Pentagon failed its audit for the third year in a row. It does not expect to pass a comprehensive review of its assets until at least 2027.
Biden administration defends proposal
A White House official, speaking on background with reporters on Friday, sought to assuage progressive critics.
“A large chunk of that increase is to pay for the pay raise for men and women in uniform and the civilians that support them,” they said.
According to the federal formula for military pay increases, service members should expect a 2.7% increase in their salary, the Military Times reported last December.
The Biden administration will release a more detailed spending proposal in the coming months.
“The willingness of Amazon workers in Bessemer to take on the wealthiest man in the world and a powerful company in an anti-union state is an inspiration,” Sanders said on Twitter, in response to news of the failed union attempt. “It takes an enormous amount of courage to stand up and fight back, and they should be applauded.”
The intense campaigning from union activists and Amazon ended with a decisive victory for the online retailer, as 1,798 workers voted against the union, and 738 workers voted for it.
In further tweets, Sanders said he agrees with calls for an investigation into the tactics the company used in its efforts to defeat the organizing attempt.
“The workers were up against a company that was willing to spend vast sums of money and use every kind of tactic there is to defeat them,” he said.
“The history of every struggle in this country tells us that we do not always win the first time out,” Sanders added. “But I believe, as a result of their courage, workers in Alabama will inspire significant growth in union organizing efforts around the country.”
In a statement, Amazon thanked employees for participating in the election, and said, “There’s been a lot of noise over the past few months, and we’re glad that your collective voices were finally heard.”
“It’s easy to predict the union will say that Amazon won this election because we intimidated employees, but that’s not true,” the statement read.
Prior to that, the Vermont senator criticized Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for not showing up to a Congressional hearing and said had the executive been present he would have said, “you’re the wealthiest person in the world. Why are you doing everything in your power to stop your workers in Bessemer, Alabama, from joining a union?”
The company later fired back at the senator, with Amazon Consumer Chief Dave Clark tweeting Sanders “should save his finger wagging lecture until after he actually delivers in his own backyard,” referencing minimum wage legislation.
The Fast Company piece documented this little-known anecdote from the e-commerce behemoth’s beginning days as an online book seller. The company’s first logo read “Amazon.com” with a slight frowning orange line below. Then, more than two decades ago, Bezos met with a branding agency and shared his grandiose plans for Amazon to sell everything – even furniture, the article said.
The company came back with a logo that dropped the “.com” and flipped the swoosh into the famed smile recognizable worldwide today. The smile points from A to Z, a message indicating the range of products now sold on the platform.
Though Amazon has stuck with the smile since that pinnacle meeting, the branding has continued to change. For example, the company dropped “Amazon” from its Prime brand. Prime Video and Prime Now also became stand-alone phrases. The smile remained with each, though the color for Prime members is a soft blue, instead of the orange. The move reflected Prime’s growth to more than 100 million payers in 2018.
Recently, the company rebranded its app logo to a blue-taped box with the iconic orange smile. Critics said the logo reminded them of Adolf Hitler’s mustache, so Amazon abruptly made changes to the image.
The article added that instead of a well-branded business, Bezos succeeded in designing a customer-first company with his razor-sharp focus on buyers. That design, though, has come at the expense of thousands of workers and the environment, Fast Company said.
The company has been under scrutiny as thousands of workers at the Bessemer, Alabama, have voted on whether to unionize, grabbing the attention of Sen. Bernie Sanders, who said they should be able to negotiate for better wages. Drivers for the e-commerce giant have said their working conditions are inhumane, noting they have often peed in bottles.
“Amazon is a great place to work with highly competitive pay, benefits from day-one, and training programs for in-demand jobs,” the company said in an emailed statement to Insider. “This includes a starting wage of $15/hour, health insurance, up to 20 weeks of paid parental leave, and company-funded upskilling opportunities. As we always have, we constantly evaluate our processes and policies while listening to employee feedback, and encourage associates to bring their comments, questions and concerns directly to their managers.”
Amazon is facing a fresh round of scrutiny over the army of warehouse workers it enlisted to defend the company and CEO Jeff Bezos on Twitter against criticism of the company’s grueling working conditions.
On Tuesday, The Intercept published leaked documents detailing the program, which Amazon launched in 2018 under the codename “Veritas,” revealing how Amazon recruited and trained employees to “set the record straight – leaving no lie unchallenged and showing that people who actually know what it’s like to work in our FCs love their jobs.”
Amazon required the “ambassadors” to “have a strong performance background and clean HR record, be authentic, have a great sense of humor, and be excited about speaking their mind and rebutting our critics in a polite, blunt way,” according to the internal documents obtained by The Intercept.
In a pilot test for Veritas, Amazon employees practiced pushing back against criticism that Bezos should be taxed higher, a post by Sen. Bernie Sanders interviewing a worker who said they experienced suicidal thoughts as a result of Amazon’s working conditions, and even reporting by Insider about workers urinating in bottles because they feared punishment for being “off task.”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Amazon’s Twitter army came back under the spotlight this week amid a landmark effort by warehouse employees in its Bessemer, Alabama, facility to unionize – the largest such effort in the company’s history.
But Twitter shut down some of the accounts after Gizmodo reported that at least one was likely not a real person. (Amazon told The New York Times’ Karen Weise that the account was fake and that it had reported the account to Twitter).
Amazon’s top executives and public relations teams have also become increasingly confrontational on Twitter recently, sparring publicly with lawmakers including Sens. Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as Rep. Mark Pocan.
The tweets, which The Intercept reported were so antagonistic that Amazon’s security team even though the company might have been hacked, were sparked because “Jeff Bezos was pissed,” according to Recode.
In one instance, Amazon’s official PR account replied to Rep. Pocan, saying “You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us.”
Amazon, which has been openly and aggressively anti-union, has deployed a range of union-busting tactics, from pushing company talking points during mandatory midnight “education” meetings to changing the timing of traffic lights near its facilities. The Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, under which Amazon employees are seeking to organize, said the move was a ploy to stop its members from talking to workers stopped at red lights.
The company also reactivated its Twitter ambassadors to respond to a recent wave of criticism about the “pee bottles” and other complaints workers have raised about working conditions.
“So glad to be on Twitter! Feel free to ask my anything about my experiences as a member of the Amazon family, I’m an open book!” an account tied to an employee named Darla tweeted last week. The account, like several others reviewed by Insider, was started in March 2021.
The move was in response to the first revelations that some Amazon warehouse and delivery staff were peeing in bottles to save time due to the demands of their job. The employees paid by Amazon were easy to identify, as they all shared the same “Amazon FC” naming convention on their profiles (FC for “fulfillment center,” the name of Amazon’s shipping warehouses).
After Darla’s cheerful intro written in late March, the second tweet on the account reflects the grim reality of being an Amazon FC ambassador. “One thing that’s become obvious to me in my short time on Twitter is how willing people are to shout down and be cruel to a fellow member of the working class who disagrees with them, even when they think that person is ‘brainwashed.’ The cruelty I’ve had directed at me!!!” she tweeted.
“What bothers me most about unions is there’s no ability to opt out of dues!” she said on Monday. “As a single mother with two boys I’m barely scraping by as it is, and now unions want to come to Amazon and make pay them a piece of my salary. No thanks!”
Several other Amazon FC ambassadors kept their main tweets to a minimum, choosing instead to reply to ongoing Twitter threads about working at the company. The majority of those responses are specifically regarding bathroom breaks, per the reports of employees peeing in bottles.
“My [fulfillment center] lets me to take (2) 20min breaks and (1) 30min lunch. On overtime days, we get three 20min breaks, which is also pretty nice as well,” one such response from an employee identified at Gary reads. “Before the pandemic, our breaks used to be only 15min. Being an essential worker is dignifying for me.”
Another such response to a thread, from an employee named Yola, also addresses the repeated reports of employees peeing in bottles to save work time.
“Although the facility is big, there are numerous bathrooms to use,” she wrote on March 28. “My building has 12. Each bathroom can have 3-6 toilets. That’ plenty. Plus with 20-30 [minute] breaks that’s more than enough time.”
Like Gary and Darla, Yola’s account was also started in March 2021 and didn’t become active until late in the month – just as Amazon began publicly pushing back on unionization at its Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center and reports of workers peeing in bottles resurfaced once again.
And Amazon consumer chief Dave Clark also got involved in those public spats, even going after Sen. Sanders’ record directly. “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers,” he said, “but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents: a $15 minimum wage, health care from day one, career progression, and a safe and inclusive work environment.”
According to a report from Vox, Amazon cofounder and CEO Jeff Bezos specifically directed executives to push back harder on critics of the company. Amazon representatives did not respond to a request for comment as of publishing.
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday leapt into an ongoing Twitter feud between lawmakers and Amazon, calling into question whether the company’s policies have forced workers to skip bathroom breaks.
Ocasio-Cortez responded by sharing an internal Amazon Logistics memo asking staffers to stop using Amazon bags as bathrooms. The May 2020 memo, which was first reported by The Intercept, asked employees to not “return bags to station with poop inside.”
Ocasio-Cortez joined a growing cluster of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle calling for Amazon to update policies. Senator Elizabeth Warren clashed with Amazon on Thursday on Twitter over tax laws.
“You make the tax laws @SenWarren; we just follow them,” Amazon said on Friday.
“There’s a big difference between talk and action,” Amazon said on Friday. “@SenSanders has been a powerful politician in Vermont for 30 years and their min wage is still $11.75. Amazon’s is $15, plus great health care from day one. Sanders would rather talk in Alabama than act in Vermont.”
Senator Marco Rubio earlier this month also said he supported the union drive. “When the conflict is between working Americans and a company whose leadership has decided to wage culture war against working-class values, the choice is easy – I support the workers,” he said on Twitter.
The company has long said its workers were treated fairly. Its Amazon News account said: “The truth is that we have over a million incredible employees around the world who are proud of what they do, and have great wages and health care from day one.”
“Stuart Appelbaum, Chief Disinformation Officer of RWDSU, in an attempt to save his long declining union, is taking alternative facts to a whole new level,” Amazon representative Max Fleber said in a statement to CNN’s Sara Ashley O’Brien on Friday.
Amazon confirmed the veracity of the statement to Insider, but said it “should have been attributed to Drew Herdener, Amazon’s Vice President for Worldwide Communications. Please feel free to use his statement in your article attributed to him.”
Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama are in the process of voting to join the RWDSU, or Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. Amazon has been aggressively anti-union, while highlighting worker benefits such as its minimum wage of $15 per hour.
“Alternative facts” is a phrase made famous by Trump advisor Kellyanne Conaway in 2017, when she told “Meet the Press” that “Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts.” Trump, meanwhile, is known for accusing critics of spreading “fake news.”
Amazon has been following Trump’s press strategy in other ways, by criticizing a number of progressive politicians on Twitter.
Earlier in the week, Clark said in a statement to Insider: “I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that’s not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace for our constituents: a $15 minimum wage, health care from day one, career progression, and a safe and inclusive work environment.”
In a third Twitter spat, Amazon faced off against Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan. Pocan had tweeted: “Paying workers $15/hr doesn’t make you a ‘progressive workplace’ when you union-bust & make workers urinate in water bottles.”
“You don’t really believe the peeing in bottles thing, do you? If that were true, nobody would work for us,” Amazon replied.
Amazon did not respond to multiple request for comment on workers urinating in bottles, which drivers described as a common practice. The company declined to comment on its criticism of politicians on Twitter or its use of the phrase “alternative facts” in a statement, beyond correcting the representative’s name.
Amazon is going all-in on attacking Sen. Bernie Sanders.
The company’s consumer chief Dave Clark went after Sanders for the second day in a row. In a tweet, Clark called out Vermont’s $11.75 minimum wage and said “The Sen should save his finger wagging lecture until after he actually delivers in his own backyard.”
“We listened to our critics, thought hard about what we wanted to do, and decided we want to lead,” CEO Jeff Bezos said. “We’re excited about this change and encourage our competitors and other large employers to join us.” The company has since used the move as a means of hurting its competitors.
“I look forward to meeting with Amazon workers in Alabama on Friday,” Sanders said on Wednesday. “All I want to know is why the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, is spending millions trying to prevent workers from organizing a union so they can negotiate for better wages, benefits and working conditions.”
Amazon employees have criticized the company’s working conditions for years.
Amazon delivery drivers speaking with Insider in 2018 described a variety of time-saving measures they used to meet company demands: urinating in bottles, speeding, and sprinting to meet deadlines. In the UK, fulfillment center workers also “peed in bottles” so they didn’t have to leave their station to walk to a restroom, eating up work time.
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