Labor is having a moment
Dec 9, 2021
Episode 575

Labor is having a moment

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And it came to Starbucks.

Starbucks workers at a store in Buffalo, New York, have voted to form the company’s first U.S. trade union. The move could pave the way for baristas across the country to do the same. We’ll talk about what this means for today’s labor movement and workers everywhere. Plus, a quick sprint through the news, including an update on boosters for teens and China’s Evergrande. Then, in the make me smile department, we’ll hear about an Ikea-inspired tourism campaign — and a rap song about the debt ceiling? 

Here’s everything we talked about today:

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Make Me Smart December 9, 2021 transcript

Note: Marketplace podcasts are meant to be heard, with emphasis, tone and audio elements a transcript can’t capture. Transcripts are generated using a combination of automated software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting it.

Kai Ryssdal: What happened? Did you have a good time at the ballet?

Marielle Segarra: How was it, guys? What’s up?

Kai Ryssdal: Oh, my goodness. That’s funny. That’s funny. Kristen Schwab, if you’re listening to this, you have been called out. Hey, everybody. I’m Kai Ryssdal. Welcome back to Make Me Smart. Making today make sense is what we do.

Marielle Segarra: Yes. And I’m Marielle Segarra. Thanks for joining us on this hollowed out shell Thursday. How’s your shell today, Kai?

Kai Ryssdal: You know, I’m okay, actually, I’m okay. Which is funny because it’s just cold and miserable and wet here in Los Angeles.

Marielle Segarra: Oh, come on. How cold is it in Los Angeles?

Kai Ryssdal: Technically, it’s 57 right now.

Marielle Segarra: Uh huh. Yeah, no, the air hurt my face this morning when I left my apartment, so it’s actually cold here but not miserable.

Kai Ryssdal: Fine, fine, fine, fine. My blood has gotten thin over the years. Alright, anyway, so standard deal today on Thursday, we’ll do a little news. I’ve got a couple, Marielle’s got one or two anyway, and then we’ll do make me smile. And then we’ll, we’ll get out of your hair. Alright? What do you got news-wise? Go, you go first.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, it’s actually just one. I just wanted lots of, lots of background reading. Well, there—yes–so workers at a Starbucks store in Buffalo voted to form a union. And that’ll be the first Starbucks store location that has a union. There were two other votes at two other stores in the area, one store voted no and one the vote isn’t final. But even though it’s just one store, it is a big deal because a lot of the times these votes fail. And Starbucks had really pushed against it. And the thing is, like it can have a, if one store votes yes, that often gives other stores, you know, the inspiration to go for it and say like, actually, this could work. And when a company has even one location unionize, especially if it’s more than that and it starts making concessions and giving certain benefits to some workers, then often those things end up trickling down to other workers. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, and look, I mean, this is organized labor’s movement, moment, rather, right? It’s a movement but it’s also a moment, if I can quote Hamilton for, I think, the second time today. Yeah, it’s, organized labor’s having a moment. And also they are feeling the power of it. I mean, you saw, I don’t know if you saw that thing about the Kellogg’s workers who have rejected the contract offer from the company and they’re staying out. And it’s, there’s, there’s a lot going on. There’s a lot going on. So it’ll be interesting to follow the Starbucks thing and see where that goes.

Marielle Segarra: Do you think that some of that has to do with the fact that it’s also a tight labor market and it’s hard to hire? They feel like they have more power.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, I think, I think that, I think that is the root cause or the root, the root rationale. You betcha. You betcha. I mean, I think the quit rate and all of that stuff, that’s all real and that’s definitely playing into this, not a question in my mind at all.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. It’s a real mindset shift.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah, that’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And I think what you’re seeing now as we’re in, you know, month 20 or whatever it is of this pandemic and companies and businesses are coming around to the fact that things are going to be different for a long, long time if not forever, is that they realize that the workers are going to feel empowered, they’re going to make these decisions like the Starbucks workers have done, and the bosses are going to have to get used to it. I think that’s absolutely happening. For sure. I was talking to a, I was talking to a 60-something year-old lawyer today, he was leaving his law firm to—actually, he’s just 60, but anyway–leaving his law firm after, you know, a whole long career there to go work at a tech startup because he just wants to do something different. I mean, yeah, right? You know, you go, right?

Marielle Segarra: He is gonna be a lawyer there, or is he like, learning to code?

Kai Ryssdal: No, he’s no, he’s gonna be the counsel. He’s gonna be counsel, but, you know, he’s leaving a really safe white collar law firm to go do tech startup land. And that’s, that’s a big deal. You know?

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. I think people are just over it. They’re like, I can’t, something has to change in my life.

Kai Ryssdal: Right. That’s, that’s exactly right. Something has to change, Something has to change. Okay, so I’ve got a couple, I’m just gonna kind of bang bang them out. Two of them are COVID related, and one of them’s global financial catastrophe related. First of all, there’s a piece in The Washington Post today about long COVID. And I think we all know sort of empirically that if you get a long chronic disease that is debilitating, it will be bad for you. This piece lays it out really starkly exactly how bad it is. And the answer is it will be very bad. So please protect yourself, which gets me to item number two. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine booster has been approved for 16- and 17-year-olds, which is good news. It’s big news, and it’s very big news in my house where I’ve got a 17-year-old who now doesn’t have to wait until his birthday in February to get his booster, so that’s good. That’s good. That’s a good thing. More boosters, more shots in arms. And then the other thing is after Evergrande, the Chinese real estate conglomerate, has $300 billion in outstanding debt, which may or may not trickle out into the rest of the global economy. Anyway, they are, Fitch, the ratings people, say that Evergrande is now officially in default having missed a Monday dollar bond payment due date. And so this could be the unraveling that sort of takes a little bit of the steam in the air out of the Chinese economy, out of the Chinese financials, and out of Chinese real estate, which would be big and not necessarily great. And I think we ought to keep an eye out for that one. I don’t know that it’s going to be the Chinese Lehman Brothers. But it will not be, it will not be a great thing. It will not be a thing we all want to live through all over again, let me just say that. Let me just say that. Yeah. So that’s what I’ve got. Alright, that was a pretty quick spin through the news. But Charlton let’s, let’s do what, what we do. Okay, you go first on this one because mine is, is requires a little bit of a setup.

Marielle Segarra: Okay, so you know how IKEA has, names its products after–well, I don’t know if you know this–after places in Sweden? I just like, thought those were names for Swedish stuff.

Kai Ryssdal: No, those aren’t real. Those aren’t real places. Those aren’t real place names, are they?

Marielle Segarra: Yes, they are. They are. So this is, this is the whole thing. So these are the names of like, in a lot of cases, small towns and places in Sweden. For instance, there is a toilet brush named after a famous lake in Sweden called Lake Bollmann. I don’t know how famous it is, actually. But it is a lake and it is big. And there is like, a cabinet leg named after a southern county.

Kai Ryssdal: That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I totally thought they were all made up names.

Marielle Segarra: They are not. And, and so the Swedish tourism industry has decided to capitalize on this. And it has a whole marketing campaign with pictures of these places. And it says, for instance, Bollmann, more than an Ikea toilet brush. And I just think it’s like, very, it’s very good fun. They’re having some fun with it. And I, any kind of travel, the idea of travel makes me smile right now. And I just like, I think they’re so clever, like a lot of the times the tourism industries for these small towns, they have to really be like, on their game because there’s not that much to see. So it’s like, if there’s any association with something you know, you know, or something funny they can do, they’ll, they’ll try it.

Kai Ryssdal: Yeah. That’s cool. That’s cool. I can’t actually wait to like, really travel again. You know, it’s been so long.

Marielle Segarra: Where do you want to go?

Kai Ryssdal: Where do I want to go? Well look, big picture, I want to go to India, I want to go to Russia in the summertime, I want to go to Argentina and I want to go to Southeast Asia. I mean, I’ve been there but I want to go to Southeast Asia again and just spend some time. What I should do is just like, quit and take my life savings and travel. But then, you know, the kids wouldn’t go to college. So that’d be a whole different thing.

Marielle Segarra: And where would Marketplace be?

Kai Ryssdal: They’d be fine. Marketplace will be fine. Marketplace will be fine, trust me. Oh, my goodness.

Marielle Segarra: Well, okay. So I just want to know, you said that’s long term. But like, what, what about like, 2022? Can you see going to, like, what can you reasonably see doing next six months?

Kai Ryssdal: That’s a really good question. That’s a really good question. I mean, you know, so the easy answer is look, I’d love to go to like, the south of France this coming summer. Or maybe Italy in the summertime. Yeah. You know, like the Middle East and maybe not in the summertime, maybe in spring or fall. But, but yeah, just, you know, I think first trip out the gate probably got to be someplace familiar. I don’t know. For me, anyway.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, I’m doing Puerto Rico. That’ll be my first big–

Kai Ryssdal: I know, we talked, we talked about that yesterday.

Kai Ryssdal: Then maybe Paris.

Marielle Segarra: So actually, let’s, let’s do this. If you’re listening to this and you want to get the hell out of dodge, tell us where you want to go. Seriously, tell us where you want to go. Makemesmart@marketplace.org. Drop us a line or shoot us a voicemail. Sadly, sadly, I don’t have the phone number in front of me, but it’s something, something-UB-SMART. It’s on the show page. It’s not in the rundown today, I know, I’m looking for it. Anyway, drop us a line or shoot us a note and let us know where you want to go. And we’ll, we’ll see what the consensus is. Okay, so here’s my make me smile and this came actually to me yesterday and I meant to get it into Marketplace today but I forgot and I didn’t have room anyway. Came from buddy of mine who’s in finance but you might have seen it out there floating around. Sorry, I gotta let the dogs in. But, but you might have seen it floating around online. There’s an American comedian, a standup comedian named Remy Munasifi, and 10 years ago he did a rap about the debt limit and how basically just raise the damn debt limit because it’s money already spent. He has now, as we’re on the cusp of another debt limit fight, although it looks to be solved, I believe, he’s got another one out about raising the debt limit again and we’re gonna play a little bit for you, we’re gonna put it on the show page. It’s actually really quite clever but, but here goes a bit of it.

Kai Ryssdal: Anyway, it’s tough to do on a 15-minute podcast, but yeah, it’s great. It’s amazing.

Marielle Segarra: Do you just like, have this bumping in your car, top down, driving in LA?

Kai Ryssdal: That’s me. That’s me. That’s what I’ve got in my car. I got, I got raise the debt limit and then I got DESSA doing who’s Yellen? Yeah, that’s what I got. That’s, that’s pretty funny. Oh, snap. Yeah. Oh, my God. That’s funny. Alright, alright. So anyway, check it out. It’s on the show page. Marissa is going to put it there. It’s really quite clever. Tough to do justice in audio without the visual. So we’ll just let you go see it.

Marielle Segarra: Oh, yeah, and we have the number. The phone number to leave us a voice message is 508-827-6278 or 508-UB-SMART. Let us know about where you want to travel.

Kai Ryssdal: Where you want to go. We would love to hear it. We’ll all live vicariously through each other. Okay, so we’re done on a Thursday and I think Marielle, we have lived up to your whole, I don’t want to be hollowed out thing, so we did that right.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah. Yes, we’re feeling good.

Kai Ryssdal: Good. We’ll call that a win. I am back tomorrow with Kimberly for economics on tap, the YouTube live stream. Somebody will be keeping an eye on the discord, I imagined it’s going to be Kimberly because it’s not going to be me. 3:30 out here on the West Coast, 6:30 in New York or points east. Last happy hour show of the year before we’re off of the holidays. But you can still get your make me smart fix if you need it, running some of our favorite episodes of the year. I think every Tuesday we’re gonna do weekly through, through like New Year’s. And then we’re back on the 10th of January. Look out for me in your feed. We’ll, we’ll hook you up. We will hook you up. Make Me Smart, which is this podcast that we’re all muddling our way through, is produced by Marissa Cabrera with some help from Marque Greene. Today’s episode was engineered brilliantly by Charlton Thorpe.

Marielle Segarra: Bridget Bodnar–wow, I said that wrong–Bridget Bodnar is our senior producer and the director of on demand is Donna Tam. Sorry, Bridget.

Kai Ryssdal: Bridget’s like, working while she’s on vacation. I’m not sure you can probably, don’t take a vacation day for today but she kept working.

Marielle Segarra: Yeah, for real.

Kai Ryssdal: Fight back. Stand up to the man.

Marielle Segarra: Oh, she’s not taking a vacation day.

Kai Ryssdal: I’m not taking a vacation day, are you kidding me? Alright.

Marielle Segarra: Good for you.

Kai Ryssdal: Just checking. Oh, my god.

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The team

Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marque Greene Associate Producer