The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast

Amazon and the Future of the Gig Economy with Larry Williams Jr

July 15, 2021 Traci Dority-Shanklin Season 3 Episode 10
The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast
Amazon and the Future of the Gig Economy with Larry Williams Jr
Chapters
The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast
Amazon and the Future of the Gig Economy with Larry Williams Jr
Jul 15, 2021 Season 3 Episode 10
Traci Dority-Shanklin

Companies like Amazon, Uber, Doordash, and Lyft have big advantages against organized labor. Larry Williams Jr, the founder of Unionbase and a former co-founder of the Progressive Workers Union, returns to the podcast. He explains what elements are needed to run a successful union election campaign and the need for gig workers to have a voice at the bargaining table.

Some highlights from Amazon and the Future of the Gig Economy with Larry Williams Jr include:

01:53 – Assessing the Amazon Union Vote
07:17 – Millennials and the Pension Issue
11:45 – Are the Concerns of Millennials Being Addressed?
16:30 – President Biden and the PRO-Act
23:56 – The Unseen Plight of the Gig Worker

https://unionbase.org

Show Notes Transcript

Companies like Amazon, Uber, Doordash, and Lyft have big advantages against organized labor. Larry Williams Jr, the founder of Unionbase and a former co-founder of the Progressive Workers Union, returns to the podcast. He explains what elements are needed to run a successful union election campaign and the need for gig workers to have a voice at the bargaining table.

Some highlights from Amazon and the Future of the Gig Economy with Larry Williams Jr include:

01:53 – Assessing the Amazon Union Vote
07:17 – Millennials and the Pension Issue
11:45 – Are the Concerns of Millennials Being Addressed?
16:30 – President Biden and the PRO-Act
23:56 – The Unseen Plight of the Gig Worker

https://unionbase.org

Narrator  0:02  

This is The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast with Traci Dority-Shanklin. If you're interested in labor and union benefit funds, well, you've landed in the right place. We are a go-to source for all things union benefit fund-related. And we are going to bring you interviews with key decision-makers and fund professionals that guide these plans. They'll share their insights, experience, unique perspectives, all of the latest developments, and tips to unlock the mysteries of multiemployer benefit funds. Time is short, so let's get started. 

 

Traci Shanklin  0:35  

If you're just joining us on the podcast, I've been speaking with Larry Williams, Jr. He is the founder of the Unionbase.org, the first social media platform designed for the Labor movement. Larry is also the co-founder of the PWU, the Progressive Workers Union, a white-collar union for nonprofit workers. In the first part of our conversation, Larry shared how he became a labor organizer at the Sierra Club and helped organize nonprofit workers into the Progressive Workers Union. Now, he runs Unionbase.org, a social media platform where organizers, workers, unions, and their supporters can share private and public messages in a secure and safe environment. 

 

Traci Shanklin  1:21  

Today, I am continuing my conversation with Larry Williams Jr., and we will be discussing millennials, Gen Zs, and the future of union organizing. Union favorability is up across the country. According to a September 2020 Gallup poll, 65% of those surveyed viewed unions favorably. The percentage of those who viewed unions favorably jumps to 75% among those under the age of 35. In spite of this positive trend, less than 11% of America's workforce belongs to a union. 

 

Traci Shanklin  1:53  

And recently, Amazon workers attempted to organize under the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, the RWDSU. They hosted a historic union vote in Alabama. Unfortunately, the workers failed to gain enough support to win a union contract. Even though these Amazon workers did not win a union contract with the RWDSU, Larry discusses why this push to organize at Amazon was not a failure, and answers what he believes is the future for union organizing at Amazon and places like it.

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  2:28 

Let me just say I can't wait to listen back to this conversation because you asked the perfect questions, and I've been thinking so much about this. You're asking a previous union organizer and union president about one of the most high-profile organizing campaigns maybe in this century. And it's something that is very personal to me to see these workers be able to get a union. I tried to be as understanding as possible to RWDSU, because I know how hard it is. It's incredibly hard to win a union election. I also say, you know, just with the current legal status of, you know, lack of protections for workers trying to organize with the level of inoculation by the company, misinformation, allegedly moving post office boxes, these are not unknown tactics. You know, these are things that most companies are accused of doing when it - when the workers are organized. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  3:21 

I remember when I was running a campaign years ago, and the company literally put like a 50-foot banner on top of the front of the building that said, "Vote no." It was like the most obvious anti-union stuff you could ever see. Because a lot of times it's not - it's not necessarily about convincing the workers. It's more like they need to know that we're actively against it, and at least have some of the workers come out and be against it. Now with all of that said, because I feel like you have to acknowledge the incredible challenge that it is to organize. As unions, and this is not a personal attack on any union, but I think this is for union folks who may be listening and want to get engaged and are nervous about it. If you want to run a successful union election, you have to first and foremost, have unimpeachable numbers. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  4:06 

And when I say that, I mean, your assessments of the workers. How many workers are there? How much support do we have? How active are anti-folks? Before you even get a card signed, before even getting one to say, "I'm signing a card to join this union," you should know exactly how a vote would go before you even submit those cards to the National Labor Relations Board. The other thing is that you want to have an Active Campaign that's focused on member leadership, member engagement, as opposed to celebrities, as opposed to any kind of external thing because at the end of the day, that's not going to help. I've marched in Mississippi with Bernie Sanders and Danny Glover, and we - it kind of led to the same result with Nissan. Again, not a knock to the union because UAW -- amazing union. I - what I'm seeing is a pattern of us thinking that we get the right people out there, then the people are going to have faith, but I don't want to underestimate specifically with black workers. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  5:03 

It's not that black workers are stupid. It's not that they don't get it. It's that they think of it like, "Okay, when you guys are gone, I still have to be here. I still live in the South. I still have this situation every day. This manager breathing down my neck." And they'll tell you one-on-one that they believe this and they want this. But, the message that you're getting from the shop floor is like, "You vote for this, and basically your life and your one opportunity to have a decent job is over." So, that's a very challenging thing. And I think the solution to that is a very numbers-driven analytical campaign; that at every single step of the way assumes that you don't have as much support as you think you do. You think you have 50%, support, great, go to 70, go to 80 go to 100, before you even think about filing those cards, because the repercussions of being wrong is that the leaders are probably going to get fired. Some of those people are going to never get a promotion now. It was what we call burnt - burnt turf. So, now it's difficult to go back and try to organize again. So, all that said, I think that RDWSU was actually very brave to do it. And I think that we need more unions to step up to the plate like UAW, and RDWSU, but use a very strategic way of doing it.

 

Traci Shanklin  6:12  

I can't help but give you a plug because Unionbase could really be a resource for unions in terms of data. If you are able to aggregate all this information into one place, I could really see that being a positive. And I think you're right on the money. I think data is everything right now. We live in a technologically based environment that unions have to use to their advantage.

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  6:41 

We do - do some consulting, particularly with some teachers’ unions, because they were going through a lot of stuff in the middle of the COVID pandemic, in terms of just you know, the basic things that they should be getting. And what we find is that a lot of times leadership, particularly at the local level is amazing. But, you got to get the buy-in from your leadership. Once your leadership has the buy-in, you come up with your plan, and you stick to it. And you say, "We're not going to file for this until we know for sure we're going to win." And this, you can do that the numbers can show you. And you know, numbers usually don't lie. If you do your assessments correctly, you assess people multiple times, and you make sure you're connecting at the root of the issues, then you won't lose. 

 

Traci Shanklin  7:17  

On a brand's perspective, there's some studies that say that millennials will choose one brand of deodorant over the other brand of deodorant because they like the ethos of the company, but does that translate to them showing up? So, in other words, do you - they know the value of a union membership beyond the activism of better treatment and pay today? Because I work in the retirement side. And so, do you think that they understand the longer-term benefit of union membership, like the retirement benefit? I know they understand healthcare because COVID sort of brought tons of attention to this. But, do you think that if given the choice between job A or job B and one's union and one's non-union, and one has higher per hour pay, and the other one is a little bit lower per hour pay, but it has a retirement benefit associated with it, that they would pick the union, even though they're favorable to unions?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  8:19 

What I have found personally is that it depends on a stage in the life they're on. So, if this is a 20-year-old that has a kid, they're probably going to be thinking a little bit more about the longer term. But generally, the members that I represented in PWU didn't even know what was possible. So, they're coming in as a blank sheet saying, "So, I'm in the union now, what does that mean?" Which is beautiful, if you think about it, because you're like, "Well, I'm glad you asked, like, what do you want?" 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  8:45 

We could talk about the pension issue very specifically, actually, because I had a pension at my first job. And I think it was insane to have a pension and a 401k. And I know that the pension idea has gone away in a lot of circumstances, I think that there's a space for us to redefine what union membership looks like, to fit more of what those workers want. I think they don't come in and say, is it a choice between me getting paid more and getting a union. They come in and say, "How much are my dues?" They don't necessarily understand that your pay increases over the time period of the contract will basically make the dues not really matter. I think that they know some things, but some things are unclear. And we kind of need to come up with more consistent messaging. I know everything's different contract to contract employee to employer, but there needs to be shared terms, at least in some way.

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  9:36 

If we're talking about employers who have this ethos of being environmentally friendly, or whatever, like what's the standard for environmentally friendly? I'll give you an example. there's a lot of greenwashing happening in the hotel industry and Unite HERE does a lot of work trying to counter that greenwashing by saying these hotel rooms won't wash the sheets every day. Okay, cool. Maybe say the few gallons of water but then you're still using these cleaning products. There's all these other things that you're doing. You're still under-paying your hotel workers; hotel workers are still being sexually assaulted. I mean, it's very easy to point out a million things that corporations could do that they don't do, because they're not actually talking to the workers. I think that that's the consciousness that we want to bring back. At the end of the day, your workers can make your company more environmentally friendly, and you can make their job more sustainable if you actually talk to them. Let's not assume that millennials don't know. I think they know more than we think. But we need to ask them. We need to talk to them, and let them teach us what they want. And it may even expand our vision as union leaders of what's possible.

 

Traci Shanklin  10:36  

Do you have any advice to what you think they want on the retirement side? You mentioned that not a lot of plans have defined benefit plans anymore. Do you think they want that? Or do you think they're okay with just having the 401k? But, does the 401k need to have discretionary ability, like the ability to go and, or have a bucket that they can do the Robin Hood type investing?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  11:04  

There's things that come with a traditional investment scope that are of interest to folks my age. A lot of folks come in saying, "Oh, I know, I can't get a pension. But can I at least get a 401k." So, they tend to underestimate what they can get. And that's a problem. Because a lot of employers, even progressive employers, have completely taken away the pension. And so, you come in with the lower expectation of what you can get. If you think that we could reverse that trend, I think that that's brilliant. And I do think that folks will fight for it if they thought it was possible. I've always thought that we couldn't negotiate for them, especially since corporations are having record profit. But I haven't really heard many folks say that or even identify that. I've heard folks say, "Well, that's gone, but maybe we can improve our 401k."

 

Traci Shanklin  11:45  

If you have a multiemployer plan and one company goes bankrupt, then there's what they call the unfunded liability. And it becomes a very huge burden to the plan, that ultimately the remaining employers bear the burden of. It's one of the big issues in the multiemployer world. As the millennials emerge as a force, do you think that their concerns are being addressed or taken seriously by labor leaders?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  12:15  

I tend to try not to overgeneralize this. This is one of the things I'm always saying everywhere I go, which is that the Labor movement has over 20,000 unions, locals and internationals. Some unions are further than others in the process of evolving themselves to meet the expectations of millennials. And I tried to talk about what is being done right versus what's being done wrong. You know, PWU is always a great example, but we're not the only ones who are doing good things to try to reach millennials. But, I think the overall communication from the Labor movement as a whole could be more coordinated. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  12:50  

We don't really have a single voice when it comes to racial justice, for example. And in a lot of cases, we're almost nowhere. There's a lot of conversation about police unions, and what their places in the Labor movement. We've done a YouTube Live on that and talked about the intricacies of it. And we had a lot of - no, I shouldn't say a lot, but we have some police union leaders participating in the call. It's like a very nuanced perspective of what the Labor movement even is. I talked the other day about how people don't understand that the NFL, MLB, NHL, these are all union members, pilots and airline stewardesses. So, I think some of it is like understanding that the Labor movement isn't one thing. And then once you get them past that point, and they understand that, then getting them to understand that they have to make themselves a part of the Labor movement, and that the Labor movement is them and not just some organization out there in the ether. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  13:41  

So, I feel like my organization has some responsibility in that. But every union has the own responsibility at, "Okay, who are the young folks in my area that could be educating, organizing, bringing into the fold? How is this going to benefit the membership that we have now?" It's really important. Because if not, they're going to go right over to the tech sector, libertarian side of view of things, where it's like, "We hate everything government. We hate everything that's like, trying to control me, right?" Like this is the narrative that we're up against. So, when I'm talking to labor leaders, I'm trying to get them understand if you're not organizing these workers then Uber is going to get them and once Uber or Lyft, or Doordash, or whoever gets them, they're just stuck in a loop, and they don't think things can change. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  14:23  

So, I could ask that same question about employers. Do you think that the millennials' concerns are being addressed and taken seriously by employers?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  14:32  

At the surface level, I think employees do a good level of surface-level lip service. So, they'll put up a Black Lives Matter banner or a logo or something, or they'll do a hashtag or whatever, because of pressure. And then they'll engage in cancellation to the degree that it like protects their bottom line, but generally no. So, that's why I think that there's still a huge space for the Labor movement to move around and be authentic and say, "Okay, so the employer is like, not really being legit, like this is what we're gonna do. We're gonna put our money where our mouth is. We're gonna show up. Wherever employers are not doing what they say that they believe in is where our space is to be authentic and represent the history of what we've done before.

 

Traci Shanklin  15:12  

What about political leaders?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  15:14  

There are some that are exciting and really have captured the imagination of young people, obviously AOC and the Squad, Bernie Sanders. I mean, some of these folks have really lit up the younger folks. Young people don't want to hear, "This is impossible." This is another reason why they join the Labor movement, right? Because they want to fight for it. But I don't think that they're ready to accept, we can't do this. And, in fact, they're so young, you got to keep in mind that a lot of folks who are now 26, 27, Obama was their first president. So, they came in on this ride of like, this is my first time to vote, I feel this hope. And then the Trump era was like, "Whoa, what is happening?" Right, and so, their perspective hasn't been the last 20, 30 years, like some folks, so that their - their frame of reference is a lot shorter. And I don't think that they're jaded completely. I do think that they're impatient. I think that every year more and more of these folks are able to vote. So, we need to think about folks who don't just talk about pro-labor, but actually show pro-labor. So, if we're the Labor movement, and we're harnessing our cash, and we're putting it behind the candidate, I get it that we typically don't want to put our money behind a candidate that's too pro-labor because we're like, is that realistic, but I think it's been proven that those people can win, and we need those people to win.

 

Traci Shanklin  16:30  

A lot has been happening. So, in March, House Democrats passed the PRO-Act otherwise known as Protecting the Rights to Organize Act. Could you please share what this legislation is and what it means to Labor with our listeners?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  16:49  

The PRO-Act is really a response to a problem that's been happening since probably 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act, which was an anti-labor bill, which came after the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. People talk about the Landrum Griffin Act, I think it's 65. But that was more I think, political and corruption based, but really the protection for workers trying to organize, the classification of workers as employees versus gig workers, all of these things need to be corrected. And the PRO-Act is the most robust efforts since the Employee Free Choice Act during the Obama era, to try to write those wrongs. Protect the right organize, it's in the name, but I think we're very, very close to passing this thing. I don't know if we're gonna get it through. But I hope that we do. And it's very, very essential to improving the working reality for both the typical essential worker and average worker and also gig workers as well.

 

Traci Shanklin  17:42  

So far, President Biden appears to be a huge ally of labor, I think you could argue that he is the most pro-union positive president we've had since FDR. He's handpicked a labor leader for his cabinet, labor leaders, for his cabinet and advisory jobs and his administration. And I've read that he's putting together a task force. Do you know what the purpose of the task forces? And are there any union millennials on the task force?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  18:12  

Well, the task force itself is still being constructed, I believe. So, shout out to Mr. Walsh, if, you know, want to give me an invite, but I'll say, what I read, I think I've probably read the same things as you is that they're still putting that cabinet together. It is going to be some activists, labor leaders, you know, of various - varying group of folks, and the task force is - is tasked with for lack of a better word, coming up with ways to help workers organize, make it easier for workers to organize. If you think about it, I mean, that's pretty radical. Not radical in the, you know, extreme sense. But radical like, "Wow, this is so different than what's been happening for the last 100 years." For the federal government to literally say, "We understand that this is a right, and that it should be easier for this to happen." I just got - I'm thrilled for that. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  19:01  

Also, just yesterday, Biden's Labor Department reversed the Trump era, gig worker, independent contractor rule, which is a very new development story. So, I don't have too much information. But it follows a statement by Mr. Walsh, saying that, you know, most gig workers should be employees, which is - I mean, it's - it's obviously night and day from the Trump era. I think we're headed in the right direction. I am very, very excited about not just the things that President Biden is saying, but what he's doing it because like, within his first month when he was just President-Elect, he sat down with union leaders from some of the top unions and employers, which I mean, when's the last time that happened? 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  19:41  

It was a little bit overshadowed because Trump had it handed over the keys yet. People were worried about whether President Biden was even going to be able to become president that point. So, it didn't really catch a lot of media attention. But the Biden/Harris administration has been doing a ton to try to build momentum. I would say we need a diverse set of labor leaders in the room, not just traditional unions, but smaller unions, get some worker in there to get folks who are just traditionally overlooked. Get some gig worker organizing groups in there. Because, you know, like I said, working-class looks like a lot of different things, 50% of the labor movement, I think 50, or 51%, is now people of color now. So, we have a changing workforce,

 

Traci Shanklin  20:20  

Could you just define the gig worker for our listeners?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  20:25  

A gig worker is essentially someone who is earning income through an app. And they're doing work that's on-demand. Generally, they're classified as independent contractors. The key difference is that the work isn't necessarily as static, and the agreement is not as formal as a typical employee. They may do a 1099k, and their wages, they come in spurts. It's not a consistent wage that's paid. But I think the defining thing is the fact that it's a digital app that they're doing the work through or website to doing the work through.

 

Traci Shanklin  20:56  

Do you think that definition will get expanded?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  20:58  

There's this battle always going on. Again, it's so much stuff under the surface that you wouldn't necessarily be tuned into unless you're in the Labor movement like us, or paying attention to the Labor movement. But, there was AB 5, I think, got passed in California, which was pro-worker, defining workers as employees, and then Prop 22 passed, which was backed by Uber and Lyft, and other powerful groups, which was defining them as independent contractors. And then you had the PRO-Act at the national level, which is concerned with defining them as employees. So, it's this push and pull. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  21:28  

And there's a lot of misinformation that kind of tries to trick these drivers. There's Instacart; there's Doordash; there's Uber; there's Lyft. There's so many of these companies, and they have so much money because we all have been essentially forced to use them because of COVID, right? And we rely on them as essential workers, but we don't treat them as essential workers. They're rolling the dice every time they go to the store for us, or pick us up or whatever. And a lot of them died during the COVID pandemic and we don't have any numbers. We don't have really great numbers on that. Versus take that in comparison to like meatpacking workers represented by UFCW. We know pretty much exactly how many passed away, which is a lot. And we also know that the union leadership really pushed for protection for those workers, social distancing, PPE protections, all kinds of great stuff.

 

Traci Shanklin  22:13  

What are the biggest differences or greatest distinctions between a gig worker and an independent contractor?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  22:20  

I think that right now, they're - they're defining gig workers as independent contractors. And I think that that definition prevents them from the wages, health insurance, and benefits that you get from being an employee. I've been thinking lately about the fact that we're all working from a distance now. So, the distance worker thing isn't really, right, a great way to define it. But the independent contractor definition, and the way that the Labor Department is starting to shift this position on the matter, is something that's still developing, but the PRO-Act, I think, will put some clear definition into that. And in a lot of cases, you know, people don't necessarily understand the ramifications of what it means to be an independent contractor. And that is a problem.

 

Traci Shanklin  23:01  

In your opinion, do you think that the PRO-Act will get passed in the Senate?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  23:04  

There's the kind of right-leaning politics that is still pervading. And these folks who are in the conservative districts are in a very difficult position, trying to figure out how am I going to get reelected and still not make everybody mad on the left. So, I do think an important thing is making sure that people understand that this isn't necessarily a right or left thing. People being able to survive and live is a very important thing. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  23:27  

Now, I did see Marco Rubio was supporting the PRO-Act, which really was - I was so confused by that. There's a couple of people who you would not expect it who are really supporting this stuff. And so, let's not count it out. I think now's the time to gear up the pressure, both on the Biden administration because he's always said we need to push him, but also on these companies. So, now's the time for us to really make clear what's happening to these workers and really push for this legislation, because you might not get another opportunity like this for a long time.

 

Traci Shanklin  23:56  

Have gig workers organized to date? And if so, is there a particular union that is working to help them organize?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  24:05  

There's one group in particular that I've been following, Gig Workers Rising. There's some other groups that are working, the Alphabet Workers, which is not gig workers, but it's a kind of contingent group. And that's - that's mostly what we see is these groups that are not necessarily directly backed by union. And then there are some unions that are supporting these efforts. But, I don't want to mention any in case, they're not ready to necessarily go public with it. But, I do think that generally, unions understand that helping these workers to organize themselves either into a union or into their own group is really beneficial to other workers in these different industries. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  24:38  

I've seen a lot of positive support from unions, but there are several groups of workers that - people don't realize that Uber drivers have been organizing for a long time. And it's a global effort. I was in Kenya one year and even workers there are organizing, but there's really, really harsh penalties for those workers from the government when they do things like that. And I really want people to know this, you can go 15 miles in an Uber in Nairobi, Kenya. And you can be charged between $1.25 and $1.50 for that ride. Now, as an American, that's literally nothing. That's like pocket change. But then if you can imagine, once you take the Uber fee out of that, and then the driver gets their money out of what's leftover. I mean, it's next to nothing. So, the whole business model of gig - the gig economy is just - is defunct,

 

Traci Shanklin  25:28  

That leads to the next question, which was how have workplaces or the employers of gig workers responded to the gig workers' demands and complaints?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  25:40  

The gig companies are pretty quiet about these things. They focus on communicating with their workers through the app or, you know, whatever the means that they have to make sure that they keep them separated. Most Uber drivers never come in contact with each other. There's no central meeting point. They can't communicate through the app. They may see each other in traffic, but they're not talking. And that's - that's why we create Unionbase, because we understand that it's pretty intentional that these workers don't talk, and if - when they can, a lot of stuff comes up. There's a lot of work to be done to create community amongst the drivers. And a lot of the pushback you may see from them to organizing will probably be diminished when they understand that they have the similar struggle and the same struggle that they're all going through.

 

Traci Shanklin  26:19  

Has the federal government put any protections into place for the gig worker? I mean, you mentioned that they put themselves at risk every time they go to do their job.

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  26:30  

Yeah, I think that there's almost nothing right now. And that's why it's so exciting to see what the Labor Department is doing. I'm particularly interested in what's going to happen over the next few weeks with this independent contractor classification. Because it means a lot. If the company is on the hook for the safety and health of its employees, now, you know, we have to have a complete different conversation, when a driver gets attacked, or you know, one of these situation pops up where we see a news story about a gig driver being attacked or something like that, and then it just goes away. And then from the federal level, like, what can they really do if they can't directly connect what's happening to the employer? If it makes it seem like the worker was just off on their own doing something, then they're liable for everything, including the accident.

 

Traci Shanklin  27:13  

Fascinating time. I think the last question I have for you is probably a big one. So, you were talking about politics earlier, and there is a massive political divide in this country. I think that there's no mistaking that it's there, and it still exists. I mean, you just look at the Biden-Trump election results. And you see that a lot of people got out to vote. And it was historic in what happened in terms of the people that voted and how important it was, but it was still so close. And we've talked a lot about millennials, I have not looked at the research to know what politically the millennials look like. It sure sounds like they are a left-leaning generation. But what is your impression of all that?

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  28:09  

Wow, you save the best for last. There's times when I feel like I understand America, and then there's times I feel like I have no idea what's going on. I kinda was like everybody else during the election, I was just like, worried, stressed out, particularly during that period, right after the voting was done. And all the counting was happening. And in some ways, there was a prediction. It was going to be a few days before we knew, but then we all threw that out the window. We're like, "Oh, my God, what's happening?" I think from what I know, you know, I talked to my nieces and nephews a lot about I want to know, you know, what their generation is saying. There's people in my age group in their 30s, you know, what are they thinking. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  28:51  

I think that there's a lot of concern on both sides of the aisle about what's happening to the American dream. And I know that sounds really cheesy, but literally, people are worried about being able to afford a home. People worried about the economy after COVID. And, you know, our country really got swept up during those four years, and a less caring, less community-based way of living. It's us versus them, meaning the United States versus the rest of the world, more inward-looking and, you know, less of America being a leader in the world. If you're asking people from my generation, I think that the average person wants the same thing they always wanted, and that goes beyond race or gender or anything else. They want to be able to take care of the family. They want home if they can, you know if that's in their life plan, and they want to be able to feel safe, and I think a lot of that has gone away. 

 

Larry Williams, Jr.  29:44  

We're all very concerned about you know, again, who regardless of who you are, there's always the mass shootings. There's the social unrest because of police violence. There's all of these things that no matter who you are, it's impacting your mental health. I think that, particularly what's happened in the first 100 days of the Biden administration it's been a real breath of fresh air. We don't have to look at our phone, and see what's being tweeted out. And, you know, what, you know, feel stressed out or worried that something bad is gonna happen. And I think you can't beat that. I think there's a lot of people that we don't talk about, who are just regular people who may have voted for Biden, even though they're Republican or whatever, they just want peace, and they want us to all get along. So, I think that that's the message I got out of the election. Not necessarily that everybody voted for Trump is a racist or whatever. I think people have their reasons for what they do. But, I do think that there's more folks in the country that want us to get along than those that want us to be separate. So, I think that that's the positive thing that I got out of this whole situation. And I'm really hoping that we continue in that direction, regardless of who comes up next, and on the Republican side.

 

Traci Shanklin  30:44  

There's more that unites us than divides us from your mouth to God's ears. I hope that that is true. I applaud so much what you're doing with Unionbase.org. I'm going to watch as it explodes. I really believe that. So, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today, Larry, and being a part of the conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts on millennials, organizing, and the future of organized labor. I wish you luck with Unionbase.org. It sounds like a great network for labor, and I hope that labor takes advantage of it. 

 

Traci Shanklin  31:20  

If you enjoyed our podcast today, please subscribe to us and give us a five-star review. You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, and many of your favorite podcast platforms. You may also subscribe to our newsletter or listen to one of your favorite episodes on our website at www.multiemployerfunds.com. That's www.multiemployerfunds.com. Thanks again for joining the conversation where listeners connect with leading experts throughout the multiemployer world. Be part of the change. 

 

Traci Shanklin  31:58  

And that's it for this week's episode of The World of Multiemployer Benefit Funds Podcast. We'd love to hear from you. And if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions, head over to www.multiemployerfunds.com, and let us know. Thank you for joining us, and we look forward to next time.

 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai