Worthy of the Vaccine

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S1: The following program may contain explicit language in the.

S2: It’s Tuesday, December 8th, 2020, from Slate’s The Gist, I’m Mike Pesca. So there is an open question, still an open question. What business would get the biggest boost in name recognition from the Trump presidency? Trump, of course, wanted the brand Trump to trump all else. But it has been a rocky road for Trump as a company and their standing in the community.

S3: As of a few weeks ago, it seemed likely that Four Seasons landscaping might be the biggest beneficiary. And before that, I was hoping it would be essential consultants, the Delaware LLC that Michael Cohen used to pay off Stormy Daniels. I thought they might be in the mix. But, you know, what is the mix? The mix is a liquid that hardens over time, just like Don McGahn spine. The ultimate Trump brand is concrete and not just any concrete ultimate concrete. The New York Times reports a primary builder of Mr. Trump’s border wall has been awarded contracts worth more than one point four billion dollars on work on multiple parts of the wall. With those funds, the company is said to have allowed its subcontractor, Ultimate Concrete, to hire armed Mexicans and facilitate illegal border crossings that the president has worked to shut down ultimate concrete, quote, constructed a dirt road that would allow access from the Mexican side of the border into the United States. The whistleblowers have said in their complaints this U.S., which are ultimately the initials for ultimate concrete, this U.S. constructed road was apparently the route by which the armed Mexican nationals were unlawfully crossing into the United States. So the construction of a wall intended to keep gun toting Mexicans without visas or work permits off our soil was policed by gun toting Mexicans without visas or work permits. The whistleblower suit also alleges that in the six months the wall was being built, it was breached more than three hundred twenty times with people coming from Mexico also that you see bilked and padded expenses when one of the whistleblowers, a former FBI agent, told the company’s owners that you can actually have permission to use armed Mexican nationals as guards for your wall, she screamed at him, what are you going to do about it? The answer we now know file a complaint leaked to The New York Times, sue for recompense, put the owners financial and legal status in jeopardy, and finally push ultimate concrete to the front in consideration of the biggest brand beneficiary of the Trump administration.

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S1: On the show today, I spiel about who deserves the coronavirus vaccine or do we all deserve the notion of being deserving? But first, remembrances of things Trump. Donald Trump took special interest in specific companies during his administration, unprecedentedly so to a fare thee well, you might say, carrier Boeing, GooYa, the entire scrap metal industry. But what an odd ride he had with Harley Davidson. He courted the Harley riders for Trump and he wound up backing Harley as being a victim of EU tariffs and sanctions. But in between and you may have forgotten this, I would do the segment. He actually called for a boycott of the quintessential American automotive manufacturer.

S4: Shares of Harley Davidson down more than four percent today. Second worst performer on the S&P after President Trump came out in support of a boycott against the company. Tweeting yesterday, many Harley Davidson owners plan to boycott the company if manufacturing moves overseas. Great.

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S3: No, not so great. The motorcycle maker had said it would need to move a plant to Thailand in order to deal with the onerous Thai tariffs imposed on foreign motorcycle makers. All the American bikes bought by Americans would still be made in America. Still, our business man president backed a boycott of Harley-Davidson because, I don’t know, he thought doing so would make him look strong. Then, as I said, Harley got hit by EU tariffs. Trump saw a chance to court a new enemy, and Harley was back in his good graces.

S1: What a ride. Born to be wild. This has been remembrances of things Trump. And up next, California’s Proposition 22 passed on Election Day. It allowed Uber drivers and some food delivery workers to keep their status as gig workers instead of being classified as permanent workers, which meant, among other things, that have to be given benefits and could unionize. Over 200 million dollars was spent to achieve this result. And there was a lot of, let’s say, very aggressive persuasion techniques. But I did wonder if maybe the success of Prop 22 at the ballot box didn’t say as much about trickery and tactics as it did about that great motivator self-interest. Laura Rosenthal, who covers politics for California Matters, is on that. To discuss how Prop 22 won.

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S5: So the crazy thing about Election Day, especially in a presidential year, is we focus so much on that big result and we’re being forced to keep focusing on that. And there are, of course, the Senate races national. But if you just randomly took O- one or two state House results or ballot initiatives, those would be stories for days even to people outside the states. Well, California is big on ballot initiatives and they had a raft of them recently, as they always do in one of the more fascinating ones was a Proposition 22, which is specifically California thing, because the state also has a pretty strict law about unionizing gig workers. So the proposition would exempt Lyft, Uber, some of the insta cart drivers from unionization, how it played out, some of the winners and losers, some of them pretty interesting, is a fascinating story. It’s all been covered by Laurel Rosenthal, who covers politics for Cal Matters, which is a newsroom and online and in your ears and in front of your face, non-profit newsroom that’s doing a great job in California. And Laurel joins me now. Thanks for coming on. Yeah, happy to be here. Prop 22, a yes vote would mean that the Uber drivers could continue as gig workers outside of a union.

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S4: Yes, but I would just modify that a little bit because the law wasn’t really only about unionizing the law that the gay companies wanted to get their drivers exempted from really has to do with kind of how a worker is classified under the law. Are they independent contractors or are they employees? And so as an employee, yes, unionization could become an option. But there’s a lot of other things that the law required that the companies wanted to get out of. I mean, it was minimum wage and overtime and reimbursing people for their expenses and paying into the workers comp system and following the legal requirements for paid family leave and paid sick days and unemployment insurance. So, you know, it was sort of that whole menu of employee benefits that the companies didn’t want to be a part of.

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S1: What is the state of the law independent of the results of this proposition as regards gig workers in California? Because it’s different from a lot of other states.

S4: A couple of years ago, California passed a law that was called here, AB five, Assembly Bill five. The whole point of that law was to codify this state court ruling that that was trying to draw this distinction between who is an employee and who’s an independent contractor. And the law basically makes it clear that drivers for these apps and also, you know, delivery drivers would be classified as employees throughout the year in the state capital. This was in twenty nineteen. All kinds of industries were coming to the capital and lobbying for an exemption to the law. They were making the case. Why hairdressers or doctors or freelance journalist or, you know, what have you. There was all kinds of professional groups that were trying to get exempted from the law, and the legislature approved a lot of those exemptions. And so Uber and Lyft again, before this ballot measure this year, they were trying to get carved out of the law, you know, from the get go and it didn’t work. And the Democratic lawmakers who, you know, they have complete control in the legislature here in California, many of them made clear that they felt that the companies had sort of led California into this futile economy where, you know, you have just so many people who are making these barely scraping by. And there were all kinds of stories about, you know, Uber drivers who were sleeping in their cars and things like that. And so they were really clear, you know, and again, with their allies in organized labor that the drivers were not going to get the exemptions that some other professions got.

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S3: Right. So the stakes of 22 seemed clear, but the constituencies were a little unusual.

S1: Some of the not unusual parts where the unions signed up against it, Uber, Lyft, the big companies poured tons of money to support it. But what about the drivers themselves? I mean, I guess it’s hard to do an accurate poll, but what did your reporting indicate where the drivers themselves were on this proposition?

S4: I mean, they were mixed. And I give credit to my colleague, Lauren Heckler, who did a lot more reporting on this particular initiative. They were mixed. There were drivers that were on the unionise side that wanted to kill Prop 22 and be able. To set the stage for organizing and there were drivers that were on the other side that were on the company’s side, that were arguing that the flexibility that the gig work allows for is worth it to them.

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S3: Right. So tell me about the not just the amount, but what was the messaging? What was the quantity and quality of the messaging on each side of the issue?

S4: Yeah, so this is just a huge part of the story because the companies, which were it was Uber, Lyft, Jordache hosts mates and insta car. They were the five funders of Prop 22 and they poured two hundred million dollars into this initiative, which completely smashed all records in California, where we have really expensive political campaigns here, a large state, many media markets. And, you know, but the previous record had been I mean, practically half of that. So they were really pouring an insane amount of money and and basically made it the most expensive ballot initiative in in history, probably not just in California, but probably for the whole country. And how they were doing their campaign was so interesting because they were really using all of the tools that they had already to reach their customers and their drivers. So, you know, think about it, a corporate backed campaign of which there have been many in California, you know, that might be sponsored by a pharmaceutical company or a oil company or a cigarette company. They have very indirect ways to reach their customers. Right. Because they have to just send out mailers and put commercials on TV. They don’t have as super direct way. But a company that already has your address, cell phone number, email shopping preferences, travel history. I mean, these companies, these apps, they have an inroad right into our pockets and our purses and know in a way that was really different. So they were sending in ads out. You know, if you if you use the nap to hail a ride, you would see an ad, the Jordache company put a bunch of stickers on the delivery bags, like the paper bags that restaurants would pack up the food in that would get sent home to people. And Insta Kurt was also like asking their shoppers to put campaign literature in the shopping bag. So they were really doing this campaigning in a way that we that we haven’t seen, you know, just just directly to the customer. And same thing with the driver. Drivers were seen. Yes, on twenty two ads when they would open up their side of the app, when they were trying to start their shift driving. And then of course they also used their money to flood the airwaves with all of the normal traditional kind of campaign ads, including, you know, text messages and TV and digital and all that. On the other side, the labor unions, they put a lot less money into it. I think it was in the ten to fifteen million dollar range and they had a lot of priorities on the ballot this year. So they were sort of splitting up their money and their effort on multiple different initiatives that they were working on. And so this one, the firepower was really kind of diluted for labor on this because they had so many other things they’re working on. Well, the big companies, this was their their only fight on the ballot. And some people in labor also said that they were held back by the circumstances of the pandemic. Obviously, labor unions, you know, their strength is in communicating with their people and with voters kind of boots on the ground face to face style, which just wasn’t possible, you know, during during the pandemic and also during the pandemic.

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S1: The only other person that some people would see is the door dash or insta cart delivery driver for days on end. Exactly. Did your reporting show that one side was arguing more honestly than the other?

S4: This is a fight that is being fought in many realms, right? There’s lawsuits in the court. There’s legislation in the state house. And then there’s also the the ballot initiative and the gig companies. They were fighting against a law that they never followed. So when the law was passed as saying that they had to treat their drivers like employees, they basically just said, no, we’re going to try to undo this. We’re going to try to change this. And so, you know, we’re not going to follow the law. So all of their messaging was focused on comparing Prop 22 to what they were doing with out following the law right there, making a status quo argue.

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S5: But that was only true because they were ignoring the law to maintain the status quo.

S6: Right. And so that makes it really confusing.

S4: And there are also arguing that if they did follow the law, if they did have to provide all of these employee benefits to the drivers, that they would have to cut back service, that there would be fewer drivers, that the service would get more expensive. And, you know, that is probably true. I mean, is it true to the extent that they said it would be I mean, the economists, both side hired economists that, you know, came up with different numbers that, you know, in terms of how much the drivers would get paid and how much the service would be cut back. But that is a powerful argument. If people are afraid that the rides are going to become a lot more expensive or that this is a desirable service could disappear.

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S5: Yeah, there’s one other thing that I want to get to, which is that I talked about the coalitions on each side and, you know, the major Democratic candidates, including Kamala Harris, supported the law as it was, and they supported the fact that Uber, Lyft, Jordache should have to follow the law. But then there was the NAACP. Tell me about the NAACP endorsement and perhaps motivation thereof.

S4: Yeah. So the California NAACP is a big player in California politics and had been headed until very recently by a woman named Alice Huffman. She’s the political consultant with a long, successful career in California politics. And she also had been the president of the California chapter of the NAACP for about 20 years. Over the years, she took on political clients, campaign clients, ballot measures that also align perfectly with endorsements by the NAACP. But this year, it was really remarkable because that that happened on five different ballot measures and her campaign consulting firm was paid one point seven million dollars by these five different corporate ballot measures. And also the NAACP endorsed those positions. And there were black leaders all over California who said that these positions were not in the best interest of African-American communities. So and also was an issue where, you know, a lot of these political campaigns were framing their messages around issues of racial justice and equity and in response to Black Lives Matter. And that played out in Prop 22 as well, because the corporate side was definitely playing up the fact that that many of the drivers are black and Latino and that they wanted to have their freedom and that the benefits they would get with Prop 22 were better than they would get without it. And the other side was saying the same thing, you know, in order to have better wages and better protections.

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S7: And, you know, because there are so many people who are drivers who who are black and Latino, that they should vote no on it because that was the way to get better job protections. So it was definitely a part of the campaign.

S5: Right. And to make my listeners understand, if they’re saying, well, maybe there are both two legitimate sides on if, you know, the black community or a classic NAACP stance would be to vote yes or no on Prop 22. And maybe they’re saying, you know, normally, doesn’t the NAACP align with labor? There’s another prop., Prop 15, which is about boosting property taxes and putting the money for school funding. That would be a classic kind of proposition that the NAACP would back, but they, in fact, opposed it. And guess what? The backers of that proposition gave this NAACP president hundreds of thousands of dollars for her private company. And in fact, she has resigned after you and your organization have documented over a million dollars that she took privately with stances that aligned with her public NAACP endorsements.

S7: Yes. And one of the most surprising ballot measures that she was involved in had to do with cash bail. And, you know, that was a situation where California legislators had passed a law that was going to outlaw the use of of cash bail in California. So the bail bonds companies, they, of course, didn’t like that law because it would put them out of business in California. And so they funded a ballot measure to overturn that ban on cash bail. And they hired Alice Huffman to work on their campaign. And she was featured very prominently in their ads arguing that the replacement system would be even worse, was would be, you know, would also be a racist system and would be even worse. And so in the end, she helped basically preserve the. Use of cash bail in California with that successful campaign by the bail bondsman and at the same time the national NAACP was putting out a statement saying they urged all states and cities to find a way to end the use of cash bail.

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S5: Yeah. So before the vote on Prop 22, what was the polling indicating?

S4: Well, there is a lot of undecided people.

S7: So, I mean, it was basically like a little more than a third were, you know, for it and a little more than a third were against it. But there was a lot of undecided people. And so that that was obviously what they were successful at was persuading those undecideds.

S5: Yeah, but the results of the vote, it wasn’t that close, was it?

S6: Not at all. I mean, in the end, I think this thing passed with about 58 or 57 percent support.

S5: Isn’t there one interpretation? Because as I was consuming media about this, there’s a strong case to be made that the companies who are in favor of Prop one were deep pocketed and engaged in things like lining up NAACP support for them. You know, based on donations. It seemed all pretty nefarious, seemed to be that the premise was perhaps maybe a lot of voters in California were tricked or hoodwinked. But I wonder if the role of self-interest and just voters saying, well, I like these ride hailing services and I want them to be affordable. And look, here’s where the NAACP is or maybe they don’t consider it or look, I’ve seen a bunch of ads with drivers saying vote yes on it that maybe gave them what’s called the permission structure to just act in their own self-interest. Might that not be a very valid way of interpreting the results on this proposition? Sure.

S7: I mean, I think yes, it was. And I also when you look within California where the measure succeeded and where it failed, it was the least popular in the Bay Area counties where there’s a lot of angst about the tech economy, you know, the Bay Area counties that are in and around Silicon Valley.

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S6: Yes, that’s where a lot of tech workers live. But it’s also where a lot of people live who feel that the tech economy has really changed California in ways that they aren’t happy about. And so the overall feeling about these companies, you know, statewide may be that they are providing a useful service at an affordable cost and providing flexible jobs for people who want that flexibility. So I do think that that is an interpretation of it, because the proposition gave those drivers more benefits and more salary guarantee than they had compared to nothing if they ignored the law. But it didn’t give them as much as they would get if they followed the law. So I think there was also some confusion around that. Yeah, but I do think that other states should look to California as something that could happen in the future.

S1: Laura Rosenthal covers California politics for Cal Matters and her podcast, Force of Law podcast looks at the state’s attempt to reduce police shootings. Laura, thanks so much.

S8: Hey, thanks for having me.

S1: And now the spiel New York Times story, many trial volunteers got placebo vaccines, do they now deserve the real one? There’s one word in there that struck me as a little bit off and it was deserve deserve. Discourse around vaccines, I think is exactly the wrong way to think about it. First of all, the concept of who is or isn’t deserving, it’s entirely subjective and it’s a really poor proxy for effective medical decision making. Talking about who deserves a vaccine is like a reverse trolley problem. But we’re not just talking about the number of workmen to be saved or slaughtered. We’re delving into their character, their history, their employment status, even their girth. Fox News headline Could Obese Americans Get the coronavirus vaccine first? As the article explains, those who suffer from obesity are at an increased risk for severe illness. Should they contract coronavirus. They quote Dr. David Bushin as saying, We saw a disproportionate number of people who are overweight, require hospitalization or receive intensive care, nearly 50 percent greater chance of death. But of course, the comments underneath disagreed on deserve grounds. Quote, Obesity is a choice for most Americans who fail to eat properly and exercise. I stop there, but it’s entirely the wrong way to think about it. And it seems horrible. It does seem horrible to say, oh, fat people don’t deserve it because they brought it on themselves. We kind of get stuck in the mindset. No, they didn’t bring it on themselves. I’m saying that entire discussion, which is pretty much settled, is irrelevant. The question is what would have the greatest medical effect? And not only would giving the vaccine to people who are more likely to be hospitalized and receive intensive care help those people? It would help everyone else because they wouldn’t be using hospital beds or requiring intensive care. Now, if the concept of the deserving or undeserving fat strikes you as unnecessarily cruel and backward. What about the idea of the deserving or undeserving felon? The experts agree covid is raging out of control in U.S. prisons, and once it’s introduced into such an ecosystem, it spreads quickly. If the goal is a combination of humanitarianism and effectiveness, prisons should be high on the priority list. But here’s Colorado’s Democratic governor, Jared Polis.

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S9: That won’t happen. There’s no way that prisoners are going to get it before members of the vulnerable population. Now, as we do sixty five and up, I would think that would include prisoners that are in that category. But the vast majority of people 65 and up are free. It’ll first go to people in nursing homes, veterans facilities, front line workers. So there’s no way it’s going to go to prisoners before it goes to people who haven’t committed any crimes.

S1: And that was probably the most progressive stance we’re going to hear in terms of vaccinating prisoners. To reiterate, he’s saying that a vaccine won’t be denied to them just because they’re prisoners. Like if they’re over 65 and everyone over sixty five is getting it. But he’s also saying we are not going to go out of our way to vaccinate prisoners before the law abiding. Why? Because they don’t deserve it sometimes deserve this is stated in the affirmative and maybe it gets a little trickier to ethically sort out those arguments. This from the Daily Sun Paper of California Editorial Farm workers deserve priority when it comes to coming covid-19 vaccination seems fair, you say? Yeah, they do. But that would imply that non farm workers deserve to be pushed further down the line. Or let’s hear Melinda Gates talk about it. You know, we know there are 60 million health care workers around the world who are keeping everybody safe. They deserve to get this vaccine first. Well, they should get it first because they have the highest risk of exposure and they’re being sidelined with covid hurts our overall fight against the virus more than anyone else being affected. I understand the appeal of Melinda Gates putting it in terms of who deserves it. Everything I’ve said so far in this segment would indicate that we’re very oriented towards who deserves it. And if you make the right argument, should be two health care workers for the wrong reasons, they deserve it. Well, at least health care workers still get the vaccine. Now, I have a modest proposal when it comes to arguments about who should get the vaccine. Just drop the word deserve. And once you drop the word, you will start to chip away at the concept of deserve. Deserve doesn’t belong in our consideration. We can’t spend time making ethical and moral judgments based on the goodness of people. The entirety of the judgment should be about the effectiveness of the medicine. I actually made a similar point a couple of weeks ago about the idea of some people deserve PP funds and some don’t. But we always get it wrong, I think it’s doubly true about vaccine deserve edness, because if no one deserves to get covered and I believe even Rudy Giuliani doesn’t deserve to get covid, that no one deserves to be denied the cure from covid. And if there are only 10 million, one hundred million cures out there and the rest of us would go uncured, that would be one thing. But we’ll be able to get everyone who needs a vaccine, a vaccine over time. We will certainly be able to get everyone who needs a vaccine in order to achieve group immunity, a vaccine. And what we need to do is to be smart and targeted. How to do that by using the vaccine among the population most likely to acquire the virus or most likely to suffer very ill effects from it. Maybe there is one deserve in all of this, and it’s that we all deserve the smartest, least judgmental tactics to achieve mass immunity.

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S2: And that’s it for today’s show, Margaret Kelly produces the gist. She also moonlights at the company penultimate Pudi not quite as firm as ultimate concrete, but second best. Daniel Shrader produces the gist. His favorite brand name from the Trump administration is Chanel Riaan, the O and correspondent who hasn’t been given press credentials. But she just shows up as a special guest of the administration and ask questions every press conference. Alicia Montgomery is the executive producer of Slate. Podcasts at the end of a long workday, just likes to open up that 131 cubic inch screaming eagle xrayed engine and drown out the troubles of the workaday grind. And it’s attached to a Harley. And just go in the garage, put on engine two wheels and the open road rah rah and her troubles away.

S1: The just say what you want about ultimate concrete. It is an improvement on concrete ultimate the Frisbee based sport that has broken more fingers than the Lucchese crime family member desperate to Peru. And thanks for listening.