News & Commentary

June 21, 2022

Travis Lavenski

Travis Lavenski is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news & commentary, internal email reveals that a leader in Starbucks’s union-busting campaign was terminated by the company, federal firefighters get a pay raise, and leftist-candidate Gustavo Petro wins the Colombian Presidential election.

An internal company email has revealed that Rossann Williams, the former president of Starbucks North America and key figure in Starbuck’s anti-union campaign, was terminated by the company, More Perfect Union reports. Chief Operating Officer John Culver called the decision a “difficult, but necessary change” in a letter sent to Starbucks employees. As I previously wrote on the Blog, Williams was among the top executives who rushed to Buffalo shortly after several stores there filed for a union election. For nearly 4 months, Williams was seen in Buffalo working alongside employees, mopping and cleaning the stores, and questioning workers about their union support. Earlier this month, Williams was named in a consolidated complaint to the NLRB, where she was “accused of illegally threatening employees.” Williams is to be replaced by Sara Trilling, who most recently was the president of the Starbucks Asia Pacific region.

President Biden has announced a temporary pay raise for all Federal wildland firefighters, Bloomberg reports. Firefighters could see a raise of up to $20,000 per year through at least 2023, applied retroactively from October 1, 2021. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed in November of 2021, set aside $600 million for wage increases for firefighters in “specified geographic area[s] in which it is difficult to recruit or retain” them. Up until now, the Biden administration had not distributed the funds. The National Federation of Federal Employees union has continuously pressed President Biden to “interpret the statute as broadly as possible,” noting that it has been difficult to recruit and retain firefighters across the entire country. As climate change has already resulted in the fire season becoming longer and more intense, it is important that President Biden and Congress search for a long-term solution to hiring and retaining Federal firefighters across the country.

Colombia’s presidential election this Sunday resulted in the election of the leftist candidate Gustavo Petro. Petro, who was a former member of the M-19 urban guerilla group, defeated the right-wing candidate Rodolfo Hernández by just over 3 points. Petro ran a campaign centered on fighting the country’s growing inequality, combatting corruption, and stopping new oil development. Petro’s running mate, Francia Márquez Mina, is an award-winning environmental activist and is slated to become Colombia’s first black Vice President. Petro represents a change in direction for Colombian politics, becoming the country’s first leftist president. This continues the trend of leftist presidential victories in Latin America since the start of the pandemic, following the likes of Chile’s Gabriel Boric and Peru’s Pedro Castillo. Furthermore, as it stands in Brazil, former leftist president and current nominee Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is leading in the polls against current far-right incumbent Jair Bolsanaro for the upcoming Brazilian election. Some observers view the trend towards leftist leaders as a reaction to widening economic inequality and corruption, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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