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All Workplaces Need an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

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Every savvy employer knows that your workers are the heart and soul of your business. Without them, your company simply couldn’t survive. Unfortunately, though, employees have not always been afforded the respect and care they deserve. 

For too long, workers have been expected — and even required –to leave their concerns at the office door. But that is neither feasible nor desirable. If employers want the best from their employees, then they must be willing to give their staff the best in return. 

This is just one of the many reasons why implementing a robust employee assistance program (EAP) is so critical to building strong compassionate business leadership today. 

What Is an EAP?

Employee assistance programs (EAP) can take many forms, depending on the needs of your workforce and your company’s capacity to help meet them. EAPs are designed to offer diverse forms of support for employees facing particular life challenges — from illness to caregiving to preparing for retirement.  

In general, however, EAPs encompass a range of services — from financial planning assistance to legal and medical advocacy.

EAPs for Retirement Planning

No matter what the average age of your workforce or how young they may be in their careers, retirement is a concern for every worker. For those who are nearing retirement age, however, financial anxiety can take a devastating toll. 

Because of this, integrating assistance with retirement financial planning may well be one of the greatest benefits you can offer employees in your EAP.  The peace of mind of knowing that one can live securely and well in retirement can free employees of a tremendous burden, and in turn, promote their overall well-being, loyalty, and performance.

Medical Advocacy

There are few circumstances in life more frightening than when you or someone you love is facing a medical crisis. This is why ensuring that your employees have access to a patient navigator or medical advocate can be a tremendous asset for your EAP package. 

Patient navigators, for instance, can help your employees connect with care providers, manage health and life insurance policies, and in general, ensure that your employee and their loved ones receive the highest quality of care and the best possible patient experience.

The ability to access expert support such as that provided by a patient navigator or medical advocate may well mean a life or death difference for your worker or someone they love.

The Takeaway

Employee assistance programs (EAP) aren’t just an optional perk of doing business. They’re more than an ideal benefit to add to your workers’ compensation in the future. Today’s employees, after all, are facing challenges that could not have been imagined a few short years ago. From the trauma of the global pandemic to the current financial anxieties borne of a global economy on the verge of a recession, your staff has endured a lot, and they need support today.

An EAP is designed to provide that support, helping employees access the legal, medical, and financial resources they need to overcome whatever challenges they may face.  


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How to Ease Return-to-Office Anxiety

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Dan Matthews

Businesses have been returning to their offices post-pandemic for some time now, albeit to a ‘new normal.’ With such significant ongoing change and unprecedented concerns, returning to the office is understandably evoking some anxieties for both staff and employers. 

As an employer, it can be challenging to navigate these transitions while keeping staff anxieties down and productivity high. Here are some strategies to help manage employee anxiety when returning to office life.

Take the time to understand their anxieties

We can’t fix what we don’t acknowledge. So, before you attempt to support returning employees’ anxieties, it’s important to first understand what exactly they are feeling anxious about.

There can be a number of reasons why an employee may feel anxious about returning to the office environment; it could be a social anxiety after so long working from home, concerns about adapting back to the faster pace of office life, fear of feeling unsafe – the list goes on.

It can also sometimes be difficult for the employee themselves to pinpoint what they are feeling concerned about, so it’s essential to take the time to talk it through with them in an understanding way. In some instances, it can be helpful to create an anonymous form of reporting their worries, allowing them to feel more comfortable to share what they are feeling, and giving you a deeper insight as to what needs to be addressed. 

Provide tools and strategies to manage anxiety

It’s important to take a proactive approach to supporting your employees through this transition (as opposed to simply talking it out). 

Invest some time and resources into educating your staff on subjects such as stress and panic attacks, and provide them with a variety of coping strategy information. Encourage a judgment-free environment in which employees can feel comfortable practicing breathing exercises or other relaxation techniques at their desk, or request for some time-out to get some fresh air. 

This is also a great time to implement some general, ongoing wellness-related resources, such as wellbeing check-in apps and perks such as discounts on local yoga classes. It is important to also implement security technology that not only secures your employees in a physical and cyber space but also conveniently.

A type of technology that can help reduce anxiety about forgetting employee badges to gain access to buildings are keyless commercial access control systems, which leverage mobile phones as credentials instead of physical cards and fobs.

Stay open and flexible

When the pandemic hit, businesses (and everyone) had to adapt to being far more mentally flexible – virtually everything about our daily lives had to be recalibrated to fit into the chaos as best as possible.

This level of ongoing disruption brought about some changes that have not disappeared alongside the gradual quieting of Covid. Remote working might have been hard for some to adapt to, but once it became the norm, many workers have experienced the advantages and don’t want to return to the former working model.

According to a 2021 survey by FlexJobs, 98% of those who became remote workers during the pandemic either want to remain so (65%), or at least wish for ongoing flexible, hybrid work options (33%) post-Covid. Even more telling, is that 60% of respondents reported that they would seek new employment if their current position refused to allow ongoing remote working options. 

Unless your business will experience significant negative impacts from facilitating ongoing flexible work options, it’s in your best interests to remain flexible with your staff and be willing to reimagine how this new normal could look. 

Prioritize clear and meaningful communication

Staff resistant to returning to ‘normal’ office life may feel agitated and even confused as to why it’s necessary to do so. Left unaddressed, these feelings of confusion can lead to resentment, inevitably impacting working relations and productivity.

If returning to the physical office, either full or part-time, is unavoidable, then make sure you communicate clearly and openly with your staff. Make sure they understand the reasons behind your decision and why it’s so important to the running of the business.

Be willing to answer any questions or concerns, and also be open to hearing their opinion and ideas regarding how best to move forward; if you don’t agree, that’s fine, but at least you have heard them out and demonstrated your willingness to consider their point of view.

Outline all Covid-related protocols clearly 

As we know, the Covid-19 vaccination doesn’t fully protect us from contracting the virus, or passing it on to others. Some workers may be understandably concerned about the elevated risks of returning to the office, especially if they live with or care for vulnerable people. 

Make sure you adhere to all necessary Covid-19 protocols and keep your staff fully informed of all policies and requirements. Giving your staff the reassurance that all appropriate measures are being taken can help them to feel more comfortable about the return to office – some may be more concerned than others, and you will have to take this on a case-by-case basis, ensuring that you provide adequate consideration and understanding to their position. 

Meet your employees where they are at

Ultimately, your employees are all individuals with their own unique feelings, needs and concerns, and treating them as such will help to address any return-to-office anxieties. Investing in your employees should always be a priority, but all the more when there are so many changes afoot.

In many cases, people just need a little reassurance and a sense that their concerns are validated, so meet them where they are at and do what you can to meet their needs.

This blog was contributed to Workplace Fairness by Dan Matthews.


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How Does a Company Qualify as a Great Place to Work?

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To ensure a company will succeed, it needs employees. That might seem obvious, but hiring and retaining the right ones can be tough. Hiring people is strenuous in and of itself, but keeping those people motivated to continue pursuing their career through your company can be even more challenging.

Some companies are considered a Great Place To Work and have a very
high retention rate when it comes to their employees. We hope this article helps you better understand how your business can reach this goal.

Culture and Values

All companies should have a list of values that they want their employees to live by, within their working hours. These values help create an atmosphere where employees feel like a team across all departments, in many different ways. Although a company may clearly state their values, they can be prioritized differently depending on the company and the administration team running the business. Employees coming in will learn and follow the example set by those
above them. This will have an effect on the way your employees work and if they choose to stay.

If the company and its reputable employees don’t abide by the values the company claims to work by, they might stray in a different direction. Sometimes this can get out of hand. An example of a value one company might list is integrity; the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.

If an employee works for a company long enough, they will realize
quickly if that company actually portrays this value. Not only could this cause new hires to start cutting corners and become more outspoken in the wrong ways, but it could lead to a higher employee turnover rate.

Try to have an employee-first mindset when creating these values.

Benefits and Recognition

There are many ways for a company to grab the attention of someone in search of a job. Some might look for a specific salary, but not all can negotiate compensation. Others are simply looking for a company that will recognize their employees and show their appreciation for all the work they provide. Whatever category your company chooses to focus on, make sure the website or job listing points that out. When applying to jobs, this might be the first place people will look.

Sometimes compensation is harder to increase as this depends on how well the company is profiting. Providing the right benefits, allowing opportunities for employees to receive appreciation, and giving recognition when it’s due can balance out the happiness your employees feel when it comes to how the company treats them.

As far as benefits go, most companies will likely include your typical insurance coverage for medical, dental, and vision.

Along with these basic benefits, it is important to provide your employees with information regarding the open enrollment period. This is the time where employees can sign up for specific benefits and only occurs once a year. Letting them know about this period of time will allow your employees to make changes to their benefits in a timely manner, that won’t raise red flags for your insurance company.

The benefits that catch the eye of people in search of a job are the ones that aren’t so typical such as paid time off (PTO) and family medical leave. Some
companies also give out holiday bonuses as a thank you for the year’s work.

There are many different ways to give back to your employees, these are just a few options.

Networking and Events

Corporate team-building events are a great way to allow employees to connect on a more personal level. Sometimes those events look like networking. Networking is a chance for employees from one company to connect with others from similar companies. This could be great for many reasons. It could open up doors for companies to work together for a bigger purpose or combine their services to reach more potential customers.

Networking can also bring in new employees by providing classes for others to learn what it is your company specializes in. Consider networking as an event that goes outside of your business.

Other events within your company could be things such as holiday parties, in-office events, or happy hours that occur outside of the work day.

These events are a great way to help your employees feel truly connected. Throwing holiday parties is a fun way to give everyone a chance to unwind, while getting to know each other and can help boost morale. Happy hour would allow employees the same chance to relax while still conversing about work. Who knows… maybe a new idea could arise through these conversations.

In-office events could be for a birthday or achievement within the company. This just shows your employees how much you appreciate them and the work they provide.

Remember, we’re all human and we are all working towards a common goal.

Retaining employees could seem like a challenge at first, but organizing your thoughts and achievements can make your company a great place to work.


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Labor Did Not Get Much in the Good Years

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Hamilton Nolan

On January 20, 2021, Joe Biden was inaugurated as president, and an invisible clock started ticking.

That clock has been measuring the window of opportunity: The time during which Democrats held the White House and both branches of Congress. History told us that window would probably be closing with the 2022 midterm elections.

When you think back over the past two years, they may feel, subjectively, like a time of great chaos — Covid, economic peril and great political struggles over democracy itself. 

Wrong! The last two years were the good times.

The Democrats did better than expected in the midterms, but they appear likely to lose the House (thanks to gerrymandering). That’s all it will take to shut down the chance at any progressive legislation for the next two years.

For organized labor, the question worth asking now is: Did we take advantage of that opportune moment we had? The answer is no. And working people will suffer for that failure for many years to come. 

Political party power ebbs and flows, but movements are permanent. The labor movement has the same job after the midterms that it had before the midterms: to increase the power of working people relative to the power of capital. In the long sweep of American history, the movement has not been doing this job very well.

The political parties have swapped off control for the past half-century, but for virtually the entire time, union density has continued to decline, and economic inequality has widened. Individual victories notwithstanding, organized labor as an institution has been getting its ass kicked for generations now. 

Since Ronald Reagan swaggered into office, the national political situation has been that Republicans try to wipe unions off the face of the earth, and the Democratic Party — in exchange for huge campaign contributions — agrees not to try to wipe unions off the face of the earth.

Joe Biden’s election offered a respite from this depressing dynamic. Biden has been rightly called the most pro-union president of our lifetime. It’s a low bar, but one he meets. Jennifer Abruzzo, Biden’s choice to lead the NLRB, has pursued the most aggressive pro-union agenda that agency has ever seen. Though starved of resources and funding, the NLRB has been the one beacon that illustrates what a government that cared about labor could be. 

Legislatively, the union establishment made the passage of the PRO Act, which would transform America’s broken labor laws, their top priority.

This was a mistake. It was clear from day one that the PRO Act would never pass the 50-50 Senate unless we finally scrapped the filibuster. By lobbying for the law itself more voraciously than the structural change that is necessary to get the law passed, we got neither.

Even in this administration, the one that unions cannot stop declaring is the best ever, organized labor has had to settle for a smattering of nice-but-not-amazing regulatory changes from the White House, rather than any meaningful legislation. In retrospect, unions would have been better served by training all their firepower for the past two years on abolishing the filibuster and fully funding the NLRB, the only real government firewall against the hellacious illegal union-busting that corporations routinely engage in. 

The Democratic Party did in fact make an attempt to advance some transformative things in its big reconciliation package, once called Build Back Better, but those attempts crashed against the sullen wall of Joe Manchin. If the labor movement is being honest with itself, it will look back on 2021 and 2022 as a period of potential that was not taken advantage of.

If Republicans take control of even a single house of Congress, all legislative hope will instantly die; everything becomes mired in performative recriminations. There is plenty of promise on the state level for worker power — Illinois just enshrined collective bargaining in its state constitution, and Nebraska, for god’s sake, just passed a $15 minimum wage — but the climate for unions in Washington, D.C. is not going to be improving. 

The fact that this meager collection of crumbs is all that the labor movement has been able to shake loose from Washington over the past two years is a stark reminder that political power will always follow from labor power, not vice versa.

Do not fall into despair when the midterms spawn two years of mind-numbing debt limit showdowns over border walls and House investigations into Hunter Biden’s love life. Do not make the mistake we made in the Obama years, settling for the wolves of neoliberalism out of fear that the dragons on the right were even worse.

Go organize workers. Spend every last cent possible on organizing workers, before this moment of enthusiasm fades. Washington, D.C. is but one small speck in a vast nation of working people waiting impatiently to win a union. The labor movement’s future rests not on the outcome of the midterms, but on its willingness and ability to organize workers. Good things happen when we organize workers, and bad things happen when we don’t.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on November 14, 2022. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor writer for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.


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Union Members Are Democrats’ Last Defense in Swing States

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Maximillian Alvarez

The soul of the labor movement is the fight for democracy in and outside of the workplace.

From the shop floor to the ballot box, organizers, volunteers, and rank-and-file workers with UNITE HERE are putting everything they have into that fight. Even in the midst of a deadly pandemic that hit the service and hospitality industries especially hard, union members with UNITE HERE hit the pavement in record numbers ahead of the 2020 general elections. 

As Harold Meyerson notes in The American Prospect, UNITE HERE members canvassed “more precincts than any other organization on the Democratic side of the ledger that year.”

Talking to well over a million voters in Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, they played a key role in Joe Biden’s victory and in the Democrats winning control of the Senate.

This year, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, “they have even more members knocking on doors than they did two years ago.” As working people face an increasingly unbearable cost-of-living crisis, as the right continues to attack abortion rights (and voting rights, and workers’ rights, and LGBTQ people, and teachers, etc.), as basic human needs like healthcare, housing, and clean water are put farther out of reach for the poor and working classes, as more people give up on a political system they feel gave up on them a long time ago, the fight for a better society is happening at the grassroots level.

In a special panel, recorded a week before the 2022 midterm elections, we talk with three UNITE HERE members — Maggie Acosta (Arizona), Bryan Villarreal-Vasquez (Nevada), and Sheila Silver (Pennsylvania) — about their tireless canvassing efforts in battleground states, what they’re hearing from voters, and what the struggle for democracy means to them and their union.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on November 8, 2022 alongside a podcast. Republished with permission.

About the Author: Maximillian Alvazerez s editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at InTheseTimes.com.


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When Unions Back Corporate Mergers, Workers Lose

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Hamilton Nolan

There has always been a fundamental tension in the organized labor world between people who think that unions exist to counteract the self-serving tendencies of businesses, and people who think that unions should copy the self-serving tendencies of businesses.

The gap between the view that unions should change capitalism and the view that unions should just help working people get their piece of capitalism is not just fodder for theoretical arguments — billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and the entire direction of the post-neoliberalism economy could ride on it. We’re seeing that tension painfully demonstrated right now, at the grocery store. 

Last week, Kroger announced its plan to merge with Albertsons. That merger would create a $25 billion grocery giant that would control more than 15% of the American grocery market, second only to Walmart. (In certain local markets, it would control the majority of the grocery business.) Kroger argues that it needs such massive scale in order to compete with Walmart and Amazon — a strange claim, since Kroger’s profits grew 14% in the past year. 

Why do companies find this sort of mega-merger so attractive? It allows them to squeeze suppliers for lower prices, and, on the flip side, it gives them greater pricing power over consumers. (Mergers also create a ton of fees for advisors and potential bonuses for executives, and a little sugar rush jolt to the stock price — all things that create personal incentives for the people in charge to do deals, whether or not they end up being wise.)

What companies say when they do such mergers is, “It will help us lower prices for consumers, and it will help us strengthen our company for shareholders,” as if corporate dealmaking was an altruistic process. What they mean is,“It will help us proceed one step closer to monopoly power, the ultimate goal of all corporations, and also it will help the CEO buy a new house.” 

Then there is the labor angle.

These grocery companies have an enormous number of employees who are unionized with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) — the merger, in fact, could create the biggest single private sector union employer in the country, even bigger than the Teamsters unit at UPS. Common sense should tell you that bigger, more omnipotent companies with more extreme market power are not generally a good thing for their own blue collar workers, for many of the same reasons they are not a good thing for consumers. Companies want to get bigger to squeeze suppliers, customers, and workers in service of shareholders and executives. That is Capitalism 101, and it has been demonstrated countless times.

It is an easy call for anyone who considers themself a progressive, or who cares even a bit about the balance of power between capital and labor, to oppose this merger and others like it. It is quite a tell that the fairytale of the free market’s benefit is all about how competition will create an optimal outcome for everyone, but the reality of capitalism is that companies seek to eradicate every possible trace of competition in order to accrue benefits for themselves and screw everyone else. 

This merger needs approval from the Biden administration’s Federal Trade Commission. That means this is a political issue, and opens a door for organized labor — particularly the UFCW — to have an extraordinarily large say, given the fact that this administration actually listens to unions more than any other in living memory. As soon as the merger was announced, a group of five UFCW locals representing tens of thousands of grocery workers in the Western United States put out a statement opposing the merger, saying it would be, “devastating for workers and consumers alike and must be stopped,” for all of the reasons just mentioned. Their position was very clear. They knew this would be bad, and they immediately stood against it. The internal reform caucus called Essential Workers for a Democratic UFCW is also agitating against the merger.

Oddly, though, a full day then went by with silence from the UFCW’s International headquarters. Then, the union dropped a statement that was excruciating in its refusal to take a stand. Rather than clearly coming out against the merger, it said that, “Given the national impact such a merger would have, the UFCW and our Local Unions are discussing this and will stand together to prioritize the best interests of our members, their families, and the communities they proudly serve,” adding that the union, will oppose any merger that threatens the jobs of America’s essential workers, union and non-union, and undermines our communities.” It was a glaring, flashing siren that the leadership of the UFCW may be considering cutting a deal. 

And here is where we come to my initial point about how union leaders see their mission. In theory, the UFCW could reach an agreement with Kroger that, for example, ensured the company would be neutral as UFCW went about organizing more of its workers. It could be a way to deliver hundreds of thousands of new members into the UFCW’s ranks. (Of course, thousands of existing UFCW members could be laid off as a result of the store divestments that would go along with this merger.) But no matter what the company offered, common sense again tells you that they will not give up the underlying benefits of this mega-merger — which are structurally bad for suppliers, consumers, and workers.

No union should think of workers as pawns to be traded back and forth with companies, in order to benefit the union.

This blog originally appeared in full at In These Times on October 19, 2022. Republishing with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor writer for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.


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Musk and Social Media Struggling with Twitter Takeover

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Laura Clawson

Things are wild over at Twitter following Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media platform.

The company is laying off up to half of its workforce, which would amount to around 3,700 people.

As layoffs started, former Twitter employees wasted no time filing a class action lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court. Meanwhile, Musk continues to troll and whine all over the platform he is rapidly tanking.

Musk sent all Twitter employees an email on Thursday alerting them that layoff notifications would come Friday. People won’t even need to open the emails to know their fate because if they’re being fired the email will go to their personal accounts, while if their job is safe for now the email will go to their company accounts. But some people didn’t have to wait until Friday to find out: Their remote access was cut off Thursday night. 

This is very bad for Twitter as huge amounts of institutional knowledge and capacity are eliminated immediately before a plan goes into effect allowing users to buy blue checkmarks without any verification process other than their willingness to pay. That symbol will become a marker of people willing to fork over their money to Musk, but it will also be a big opportunity for scammers to make themselves look legit. Oh, and this scammer-enabling feature is set to roll out the day before Election Day.

The layoffs are also illegal. The federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, as well as a California WARN Act, require that workers get 60 days notice before mass layoffs. That obviously did not happen here. Four workers—one terminated on Nov. 1 and three terminated on Nov. 3—initiated the class action suit, represented by well-known workers’ rights attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan. Presumably that class will grow as layoff notices go out. 

The workers are seeking financial judgments including wages owed, but they also want the court to block Twitter from getting laid-off employees to sign away their right to join the class action. The latter is a significant concern since under Musk, Tesla did exactly that, getting workers to sign documents releasing the company from its WARN Act requirements in exchange for much smaller severance payments. A federal judge later called that “misleading,” requiring Tesla to inform workers they could join a class action suit. 

“Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, has made clear that he believes complying with federal labor laws is ‘trivial,’” Liss-Riordan said in a statement to CNN, quoting Musk on the earlier lawsuit against Tesla. “We have filed this federal complaint to ensure that Twitter be held accountable to our laws and to prevent Twitter employees from unknowingly signing away their rights.”

On Friday Musk went onto his new toy to whine that “Twitter has had a massive drop in revenue, due to activist groups pressuring advertisers, even though nothing has changed with content moderation and we did everything we could to appease the activists.” He added, “Extremely messed up! They’re trying to destroy free speech in America.”

Awww, someone made his bed and is unhappy lying in it. Multiple companies have confirmed that they are pausing their Twitter advertising while they wait to see where things go. But activist pressure takes time to build and this happened almost immediately, pointing to other causes. Like, say, the flood of racist slurs that swept over Twitter as soon as Musk took control of the company. Or the plan to replace a blue-check system that let users know they were reading tweets from verified public figures or journalists with one that lets users know they are reading tweets from people willing to pay Elon Musk a monthly fee. Or the mass layoffs that erode confidence that the site will be secure.

One possibility is that Musk thinks he’s being clever here with regard to that class action suit, but if so … it’s not going to work.

Elon Musk took over Twitter and immediately use of the N-word spiked. He personally spread a conspiracy theory about an attempted assassination of the speaker of the House that left her 82-year-old husband hospitalized. He announced a series of ill-considered plans for the company and laid off thousands of workers in violation of the law. But sure, it’s activist groups causing advertising revenue to drop off. 

If nothing else, at least we probably won’t have to hear so much hype about the brilliance of Elon Musk from now on.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the assistant managing editor for Daily Kos.

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on November 4, 2022. Republished with permission.


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