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United Auto Workers Announce Major Progress in Big 3 Strike Negotiations

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United Auto Workers Announce Major Progress in Big 3 Strike Negotiations

On Facebook Live Friday afternoon, Auto Workers President Shawn Fain symbolically awarded roses to automakers General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford based on progress at the negotiating table, a reference to the reality show “The Bachelor.” The only thing missing was teary-eyed CEOs breathing a sigh of relief as the UAW agreed not to widen its strike to more factories for now.

The UAW was poised to tap 5,000 members at GM’s assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, as part of its latest stand-up strike escalation. These workers would have joined 25,000 already on strike at five assembly plants and 38 parts distribution centers nationwide.

But in the eleventh hour, GM agreed to put battery manufacturing facilities for electric vehicles into its national union contract.

“We were about to shut down GM’s largest money maker, in Arlington Texas,” said Fain on Facebook Live. “Today, under threat of a major financial hit, they leapfrogged the pack in terms of a just transition. And here’s the punchline: Our strike is working. But we’re not there yet.”

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The companies have argued that the union can’t legally negotiate over EV battery plants, but apparently the threat of a widening strike changed GM’s horizons.

GM’s Arlington plant is considered by some analysts to be the most profitable manufacturing facility in the world, which is why the union chose it as a target.

The significance of GM’s concession is even greater when you consider that the Arlington plant plans to reduce production of SUVs at the facility in favor of all-electric alternatives.

Refusing Overtime

UAW Local 276 members in Arlington had been organizing to refuse voluntary overtime, holding practice pickets that drew 80 to 100 workers, and finding creative ways to avoid doing the company any favors.

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The mammoth Arlington plant covers 250 acres. To cover that huge expanse, UAW electricians and other skilled trades on their way to repair breakdowns typically hop on bikes to cross the factory floor. “Now even the electricians are refusing the overtime,” said production worker Tiffany Martin last week. “And I noticed a few of them not using their bicycles to get to the breakdowns in the line. They have been walking without any rush.”

Nicole Adams, an assembly line worker at the plant, said body shop workers have refused to work through their breaks.

“We were ready on the first go-round,” said Adams. She credits Local 276 President Keith Crowell for keeping members engaged with weekly Facebook Live events modeled after Fain’s appearances.

Adams said her co-workers have traveled to nearby parts distribution centers to stand in solidarity with fellow workers. Workers at GM and Stellantis parts centers have been on strike since September 22.

“We understand the struggle,” Adams said. “This is my second strike. My first strike pay was $250 a week, so I can imagine how stressful it is to just be making a portion of your paycheck.” The UAW raised strike pay to $500 a week earlier this year.

Rose Ceremony

The UAW’s rose ceremony ribbing reflects just one key dimension of its Stand-Up Strike strategy: public bargaining updates. The weekly live video updates and shifting targets are a big departure from the union’s traditional approach, where negotiators disclosed nothing while union members sat tight and waited for a final result.

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“Serious bargaining happens at the table, not in public,” complained GM CEO Mary Barra in a September 29 statement. “The UAW is pitting the companies against one another, but it’s a strategy that ultimately only helps the nonunion competition.”

But nonunion auto workers appear to be drawing inspiration from the UAW’s fight. “The response from auto workers at nonunion companies has been overwhelming,” Fain told NBC News. “Hundreds of workers across the country, from the West to the Midwest and especially the South, are reaching out to join our movement and to join the UAW.”

At the 1,800-worker Toyota engine plant in Huntsville, Alabama, where they finish the V6 and V8 engines for Tacoma and Tundra trucks and Sequoia SUVs, worker Gerald Bernstein (a pseudonym) said his co-workers talk in hushed tones about the strikes — and especially about the UAW.

The strike is helping them make sense of their own workplace problems, like speed-up, Bernstein said; Huntsville workers must complete their assembly tasks in 46 seconds. Another top issue is mandatory overtime.

“Seeing the other workers go on strike and talking about the UAW, it has sparked conversations about whether we should go on strike too,” Bernstein said.

Class War Theater

The companies responded to the union’s strike strategy by dismissing it as mere theatrics. “The CEOs are trying to trivialize our strike,” said Fain. “They are saying it’s just theatrics. And yes, we are loud and proud about our fight. We want the public to understand our fight, and to side with us, as poll after poll shows they do.

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“But it’s not about theatrics. It’s about power. The power we have as working-class people. Theatrics don’t cause companies to agree to double digit pay increases. Theatrics don’t result in the right to strike over plant closures. Theatrics don’t win COLA. Theatrics don’t result in GM battery cell manufacturing to be under our national agreement.”

The union is aligning its key demands across all three automakers — including a big wage boost, a shorter work week, elimination of tiers, a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) tied to inflation, protection from plant closures, conversion of temps to permanent employees, and the restoration of retiree health care and benefit-defined pensions to all workers.

Ford agreed to bump wages to 23 percent, up from the initial 9 percent it first proposed. Ford and Stellantis have agreed to reinstate COLA, with GM, according to Fain, not “far behind.”

In its latest offer, Ford has shortened the time it takes workers to reach top pay from eight years to three, compared to four years at GM and Stellantis. The UAW is still demanding that all workers receive top pay after 90 days.

GM and Ford have agreed to end one of the many tiers in the current contracts, putting workers at certain parts plants back on the same wage scale as assembly workers. The top rate for Big 3 assembly workers is currently around $32.

Temps got big pay bumps to $20 an hour at GM and Stellantis and $21 an hour at Ford. All three companies have made commitments to convert temps to permanent employees, but the details are still unclear on where wages and conversions will land in ongoing negotiations.

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The main sticking points remain post-retirement health care and pensions. “For those members who never got a pension or post-retirement healthcare, we are fighting like hell for real retirement security. But the companies are fighting like hell to keep our retirement uncertain and insecure,” said Fain.

Fain concluded his remarks with an emphasis on the results the stand-up strike strategy has yielded so far. “Not everything is about pulling out the bazooka,” he said, wearing a union T-shirt that read, “Eat the rich.” “We’ve been very careful about how we escalate this strike. We have designed this strategy to increase pressure on the companies — not to hurt them for its own sake, but to move them. To get them to say ‘yes’ when they want to say ‘no.’

“Today is a perfect example of that. We know their pain points. We know their money makers. We know the plants they really don’t want to see struck. And they know we’ve got more cards left to play.”

This story was originally published by Labor Notes.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

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Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

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Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

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Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

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Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

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Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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What went wrong with ‘the Metaverse’? An insider’s postmortem

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What went wrong with 'the Metaverse'? An insider's postmortem


It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description. 

But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.  

Consider:

The forgotten novel

Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.

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Snow Crash.

You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change: 

In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.

Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.  

Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users. 

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But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.

Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.

Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.

Meta Quest 3 comes out on October 10 for $500.
Meta Quest 3.

Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse. 

Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.

Duct-taped to yet another buzzword

Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.

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But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me

“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”

All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.

But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.  

Roblox leads the rise of user-generated content.
Roblox.

Into this mix, a new wave of metaverse platforms is preparing to launch, refreshingly led by seasoned, successful game developers: Raph Koster with Playable Worlds, Jenova Chen with his early, successful forays into metaverse experiences, and Everywhere, a metaverse platform lead developed by a veteran of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.  

Wagner James Au is author of Making a Metaverse That Matters: From Snow Crash & Second Life to A Virtual World Worth Fighting For 

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