Amazon workers struggle for union rights

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Amazon workers battle for union rights, Covid-19’s mysterious origins and which countries are open to American travelers.

Here’s what we’re watching this Tuesday morning.

Fired, interrogated, disciplined: Amazon warehouse organizers allege year of retaliation

Victor J. Blue / for NBC News

The pandemic supercharged home shopping and Amazon warehouse workers were on the other end of it, faced with increasing demands amid fears about their own workplace health and safety.

As worker activism for improved conditions gained momentum, so did Amazon’s effort to counter it with anti-union propaganda, firings of key organizers and surveilling employees, according to interviews with more than two dozen workers.

The highest-profile organizing campaign so far is in Bessemer, Alabama, where 5,800 workers are in the midst of a precedent-setting vote to form a union.

Labor historians say the fight is significant for the future of employees at one of the world’s fastest growing companies.

“There is a David versus Goliath aspect to this. Workers getting paid $15 per hour are going up against one of the world’s most powerful corporations owned by the world’s richest man,” said John Logan, director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University. “Having a union would be a disaster for Amazon, so it’s pulling out all the stops to prevent workers from organizing.”

Tuesday’s top stories

Dado Ruvic / Reuters file

WHO report finds coronavirus ‘extremely unlikely’ to be result of lab leak

The coronavirus is likely to have emerged in bats and spread to another animal before it jumped into the human population, according to a study from the World Health Organization and Chinese scientists that is scheduled to be released Tuesday. As more people get vaccinated, many are daydreaming about traveling again. Check out a map showing which countries Americans are currently allowed to visit. By Denise Chow, Keir Simmons and Amy Perrette | Read more

Derek Chauvin trial to resume Tuesday after ‘technical glitch’

The trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd, is expected to resume today at 10:30 a.m. ET. Prosecutors focused on graphic videos from Floyd’s arrest during Day 1 of the trial. Catch up on some of the key moments here. By David K. Li | Read more

Arkansas passes bill to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth

The bill, which has been called the “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature” by the ACLU, now heads to Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson for final sign-off. By Jo Yurcaba | Read more

OPINION: Covid vaccine priority for college students makes sense, even if it seems wrong

Why should state and federal policies privilege the young, healthy and occasionally reckless? Because it’s the best way to protect everyone, the founding director of the College Crisis Initiative argues in an opinion piece. By Christopher R. Marsicano | Read more

Hedge fund bets set off market gyrations

How a fire sale by one hedge fund firm classified as a “family office” sent the American media conglomerates, banks and a Chinese tech firm spinning. By Martha C. White | Read more

BETTER: Passover in a pandemic: Reflecting on family, food and traditions

One writer reflects on how despite missing loved ones during these challenging times, boxes of bland, tasteless matzo made her feel like it was all going to be OK. By Ronnie Koenig | Read more

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Back to biz

It’s back to business on the Suez Canal. Traffic has resumed on the crucial waterway after the massive Ever Given cargo ship was finally set free Monday.

Watch video of huge container ships finally sailing through the Suez Canal again.

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Thanks, Petra