A brutal cold snap and snowstorm has brought multiple cities to a halt across Texas and the midwest and left millions without power, trapped in their homes in far-below-freezing temperatures, in an ongoing crisis that doesn’t have a clear end in sight.
Meanwhile, House Democrats are working to get Joe Biden’s first COVID stimulus bill over to the Senate by the end of next week. Certainly took them long enough!
And lastly, Amazon’s anti-union tactics at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse reach a new low.
THESE ARE THE STORIES YOU NEED TO KNOW:
The winter storm catastrophe in Texas has spiraled wildly in the past 48 hours, as abnormally frigid temperatures and the widespread failure of the state’s mismanaged power infrastructure have left millions without power and thousands without heat. If you caught the show with Emma Tuesday afternoon, you got most of this, but here’s where we’re at now.
In parts of the midwest and south that usually don’t see freezing temperatures, the thermometer has plunged into the 20s and teens with a sharp windchill. The weather alone would be a hardship, but thanks to years of neglect and mismanagement by state officials, Texas’s power grid has crumpled under the harsh conditions. The Texas Tribune reports that over 2 million people don’t have electricity.
Part of the problem is that Texas’ power administration, known as the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, was completely unprepared for a storm of this size. Texas’s energy demands are usually pretty light in the winter, and many of its power plants aren’t built to withstand cold in the way that ones in more northern states are.
It’s also worth noting that ERCOT is separate from the rest of the U.S.’s interconnected power grid, in large part because it wanted to skirt federal regulations in the 1930s. This system, according to the Washington Post, created an electric grid that puts an emphasis on cheap prices over reliable service, and gives power providers no financial incentive to prep for cold weather.
As one analyst told the Post, Texas’s grid is a quote “Wild West market design based only on short-run prices,” endquote.
And now, ordinary Texans are feeling the brunt of this systemic mismanagement. The GOP is already trying to shoehorn the disaster into a strange attack on clean energy, blaming frozen
wind turbines for the outages, despite the fact that gas and coal power plants were also knocked out in the storm. What they don’t want to admit is that GOP leadership could have lessened the impact of this crisis, just like the pandemic. But once again, their constituents have been left out in the cold, and the crisis is only getting worse.
House Moves Slowly On Stimulus
We’ve got an update on the much-awaited first COVID stimulus bill during the Biden administration. It’s coming... well... sometime.
House Democrats on Tuesday said that they hope to have a finalized bill on the floor of the House by next Friday. That seems like a pretty long timeline given that the country is currently still wracked by the pandemic and a worsening weather crisis in Texas, but this is Congress after all.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called this quote “bold and resolute action.” Endquote. We’ll believe that when we see it, Steny. The House, like the Senate, is on recess after all. But when they’re back from their little break, we’ll hopefully see action on the proposed $1.9 trillion bill, which the Democrats want to pass through the budget reconciliation process.
Their reluctance to do away with the filibuster makes all of this more difficult, of course, and all of these bureaucratic hangups delay the aid Americans need. And of course, the $2000 payments we were promised during the Georgia runoffs are still going to come in as $1400.
The question now is how progressive Democrats fare at getting other vital measures, like a minimum wage increase, into the bill. McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendys employees are once again preparing for a Fight for 15-led strike. The reconciliation process could make such a provision difficult in this stimulus package, so Bernie Sanders and other lawmakers are working on a separate bill. For what it’s worth, Biden said at a town hall on Tuesday night that he supported a $15 minimum wage, but didn’t indicate he’d be making it a priority.
Amazon Pulls Out All the Stop(Lights)
Our last story today is a detail from the ongoing union battle at an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. To catch you up: workers in Bessemer are currently in the middle of an official NLRB election to decide whether or not they’ll be represented by the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. If they succeed, they’ll be the first major union shop in Amazon’s sprawling empire.
But Amazon is pulling out all the stops -- literally -- to prevent that. According to More Perfect Union, Amazon literally asked county officials to change the timing of stoplights outside of the Bessemer warehouse so union campaigners would have less time to chat with employees waiting at the lights or in parking lines to get into work.
Other employees claim that Amazon has been forcing them into anti-union meetings, texting them up to 5 times a day, and posting anti-union messaging in bathrooms. All of that is, sadly, pretty standard stuff. But the traffic lights is a new one.
Amazon claims that the traffic light change is a rumor. But More Perfect Union reports that the Jefferson County Roads & Transportation Department was quote “notified by Amazon of traffic delays” late last year, when the union campaign was already underway. The county came down for an inspection, and eventually gave Amazon what it wanted: an increase in what they call “maximum green times” at the stoplights outside the warehouse. No red lights, no time for the pesky red shirts of the RWDSU organizers to chat with workers about what the union means.
Voting in the NLRB election is ongoing throughout this month and next, and should wrap up around March 29. There’s no telling what tricks Amazon will try to pull before then, so stay tuned.
AND NOW FOR SOME QUICKER QUICKIES:
Former President Donald Trump released a lengthy statement on Tuesday blasting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, calling him a quote “dour, sullen, and unsmiling political hack,” and giving the true sickos among us a long-awaited hit of incoherent Trump venom to laugh at for a little while. The New York Times reports that Trump’s initial draft of the statement was even nastier -- too bad he’s not on Twitter anymore! Sad!
George Conway, resistance grifter and husband to the notorious Kellyanne Conway, said that he backs shuttering the Lincoln Project after numerous scandals have tanked the Centrist PR firm’s reputation. Sounds like the rats in charge of that one got their money, and now they’re fleeing a sinking ship.
Some highlights from Biden’s town hall late on Tuesday night, aside from what we mentioned above: he expects vaccines to be available to everyone by July, and wants K-8 schools reopened by the end of his first 100 days. But he said no to $50,000 in student debt relief and was uninterested in defunding police departments.
Trump’s feud with Mitch McConnell is making other GOP leaders take sides. In an interview with Hannity on Tuesday night Senator Lindsey Graham said quote “We don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of taking back the majority without Donald Trump,” endquote. We can only hope that he’s right, and that Trump and McConnell keep tearing their own party apart.
FEB 17, 2021 - AM QUICKIE
HOSTS - Sam Seder & Lucie Steiner
WRITER - Jack Crosbie
PRODUCER - Dorsey Shaw
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER - Brendan Finn