Most weekend mornings, Jaz Brisack gets up around 5, wills her semiconscious body into a Toyota Prius and winds her way through Buffalo, to the Starbucks on Elmwood Avenue. After a supervisor unlocks the door, she clocks in, checks herself for Covid symptoms and helps get the store ready for customers.
“I’m almost always on bar if I open,” said Ms. Brisack, who has a thrift-store aesthetic and long reddish-brown hair that she parts down the middle. “I like steaming milk, pouring lattes.”
The Starbucks door is not the only one that has been opened for her. As a University of Mississippi senior in 2018, Ms. Brisack was one of 32 Americans who won Rhodes scholarships, which fund study in Oxford, England.
in public support for unions, which last year reached its highest point since the mid-1960s, and a growing consensus among center-left experts that rising union membership could move millions of workers into the middle class.
white-collar workers has coincided with a broader enthusiasm for the labor movement.
In talking with Ms. Brisack and her fellow Rhodes scholars, it became clear that the change had even reached that rarefied group. The American Rhodes scholars I encountered from a generation earlier typically said that, while at Oxford, they had been middle-of-the-road types who believed in a modest role for government. They did not spend much time thinking about unions as students, and what they did think was likely to be skeptical.
“I was a child of the 1980s and 1990s, steeped in the centrist politics of the era,” wrote Jake Sullivan, a 1998 Rhodes scholar who is President Biden’s national security adviser and was a top aide to Hillary Clinton.
By contrast, many of Ms. Brisack’s Rhodes classmates express reservations about the market-oriented policies of the ’80s and ’90s and strong support for unions. Several told me that they were enthusiastic about Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who made reviving the labor movement a priority of their 2020 presidential campaigns.
Read More on Organized Labor in the U.S.
Even more so than other indicators, such a shift could foretell a comeback for unions, whose membership in the United States stands at its lowest percentage in roughly a century. That’s because the kinds of people who win prestigious scholarships are the kinds who later hold positions of power — who make decisions about whether to fight unions or negotiate with them, about whether the law should make it easier or harder for workers to organize.
As the recent union campaigns at companies like Starbucks, Amazon and Apple show, the terms of the fight are still largely set by corporate leaders. If these people are increasingly sympathetic to labor, then some of the key obstacles to unions may be dissolving.
suggested in April. The company has identified Ms. Brisack as one of these interlopers, noting that she draws a salary from Workers United. (Mr. Bonadonna said she was the only Starbucks employee on the union’s payroll.)
point out flaws — understaffing, insufficient training, low seniority pay, all of which they want to improve — they embrace Starbucks and its distinctive culture.
They talk up their sense of camaraderie and community — many count regular customers among their friends — and delight in their coffee expertise. On mornings when Ms. Brisack’s store isn’t busy, employees often hold tastings.
A Starbucks spokesman said that Mr. Schultz believes employees don’t need a union if they have faith in him and his motives, and the company has said that seniority-based pay increases will take effect this summer.
onetime auto plant. The National Labor Relations Board was counting ballots for an election at a Starbucks in Mesa, Ariz. — the first real test of whether the campaign was taking root nationally, and not just in a union stronghold like New York. The room was tense as the first results trickled in.
“Can you feel my heart beating?” Ms. Moore asked her colleagues.
win in a rout — the final count was 25 to 3. Everyone turned slightly punchy, as if they had all suddenly entered a dream world where unions were far more popular than they had ever imagined. One of the lawyers let out an expletive before musing, “Whoever organized down there …”
union campaign he was involved with at a nearby Nissan plant. It did not go well. The union accused the company of running a racially divisive campaign, and Ms. Brisack was disillusioned by the loss.
“Nissan never paid a consequence for what it did,” she said.(In response to charges of “scare tactics,” the company said at the time that it had sought to provide information to workers and clear up misperceptions.)
Mr. Dolan noticed that she was becoming jaded about mainstream politics. “There were times between her sophomore and junior year when I’d steer her toward something and she’d say, ‘Oh, they’re way too conservative.’ I’d send her a New York Times article and she’d say, ‘Neoliberalism is dead.’”
In England, where she arrived during the fall of 2019 at age 22, Ms. Brisack was a regular at a “solidarity” film club that screened movies about labor struggles worldwide, and wore a sweatshirt that featured a head shot of Karl Marx. She liberally reinterpreted the term “black tie” at an annual Rhodes dinner, wearing a black dress-coat over a black antifa T-shirt.
climate technology start-up, lamented that workers had too little leverage. “Labor unions may be the most effective way of implementing change going forward for a lot of people, including myself,” he told me. “I might find myself in labor organizing work.”
This is not what talking to Rhodes scholars used to sound like. At least not in my experience.
I was a Rhodes scholar in 1998, when centrist politicians like Bill Clinton and Tony Blair were ascendant, and before “neoliberalism” became such a dirty word. Though we were dimly aware of a time, decades earlier, when radicalism and pro-labor views were more common among American elites — and when, not coincidentally, the U.S. labor movement was much more powerful — those views were far less in evidence by the time I got to Oxford.
Some of my classmates were interested in issues like race and poverty, as they reminded me in interviews for this article. A few had nuanced views of labor — they had worked a blue-collar job, or had parents who belonged to a union, or had studied their Marx. Still, most of my classmates would have regarded people who talked at length about unions and class the way they would have regarded religious fundamentalists: probably earnest but slightly preachy, and clearly stuck in the past.
Kris Abrams, one of the few U.S. Rhodes Scholars in our cohort who thought a lot about the working class and labor organizing, told me recently that she felt isolated at Oxford, at least among other Americans. “Honestly, I didn’t feel like there was much room for discussion,” Ms. Abrams said.
typically minor and long in coming.
has issued complaints finding merit in such accusations. Yet the union continues to win elections — over 80 percent of the more than 175 votes in which the board has declared a winner. (Starbucks denies that it has broken the law, and a federal judge recently rejected a request to reinstate pro-union workers whom the labor board said Starbucks had forced out illegally.)
Twitter was: “We appreciate TIME magazine’s coverage of our union campaign. TIME should make sure they’re giving the same union rights and protections that we’re fighting for to the amazing journalists, photographers, and staff who make this coverage possible!”
The tweet reminded me of a story that Mr. Dolan, her scholarship adviser, had told about a reception that the University of Mississippi held in her honor in 2018. Ms. Brisack had just won a Truman scholarship, another prestigious award. She took the opportunity to urge the university’s chancellor to remove a Confederate monument from campus. The chancellor looked pained, according to several attendees.
“My boss was like, ‘Wow, you couldn’t have talked her out of doing that?’” Mr. Dolan said. “I was like, ‘That’s what made her win. If she wasn’t that person, you all wouldn’t have a Truman now.’”
(Mr. Dolan’s boss at the time did not recall this conversation, and the former chancellor did not recall any drama at the event.)
The challenge for Ms. Brisack and her colleagues is that while younger people, even younger elites, are increasingly pro-union, the shift has not yet reached many of the country’s most powerful leaders. Or, more to the point, the shift has not yet reached Mr. Schultz, the 68-year-old now in his third tour as Starbucks’s chief executive.
She recently spoke at an Aspen Institute panel on workers’ rights. She has even mused about using her Rhodes connections to make a personal appeal to Mr. Schultz, something that Mr. Bensinger has pooh-poohed but that other organizers believe she just may pull off.
“Richard has been making fun of me for thinking of asking one of the Rhodes people to broker a meeting with Howard Schultz,” Ms. Brisack said in February.
“I’m sure if you met Howard Schultz, he’d be like, ‘She’s so nice,’” responded Ms. Moore, her co-worker. “He’d be like, ‘I get it. I would want to be in a union with you, too.’”
Twitter, which went public in 2013, has also had a tumultuous corporate history. It has repeatedly dealt with board dysfunction and drama with its founders, and was courted by other interested buyers in the past, including Disney and Salesforce. In 2020, the activist investment firm Elliott Management took a stake in Twitter and called for Jack Dorsey, one of its founders, to resign as chief executive. Mr. Dorsey stepped down last year.
“This company is very much undermonetized, especially compared to other platforms and competitors like Facebook,” said Pinar Yildirim, a professor of marketing at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. “If you look at it from a point of pure business value, there’s definitely room for improvement.”
In a statement, Bret Taylor, Twitter’s chairman, said that the board had “conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process” on Mr. Musk’s bid and that the deal would “deliver a substantial cash premium” for shareholders.
Regulators are unlikely to seriously challenge the transaction, former antitrust officials said, since the government most commonly intervenes to stop a deal when a company is buying a competitor.
The deal came together in a matter of weeks. Mr. Musk, who also leads the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket maker SpaceX, began buying shares of Twitter in January and disclosed this month that he had amassed a stake of more than 9 percent.
That immediately set off a guessing game over what Mr. Musk planned to do with the platform. Twitter’s executives initially welcomed him to the board of directors, but he reversed course within days and instead began a bid to buy the company outright.
Any agreement initially appeared unlikely because the entrepreneur did not say how he would finance the deal. Twitter’s executives appeared skeptical, too, given that it was difficult to discern how much Mr. Musk might be jesting. In 2018, for example, he tweeted that he planned to take Tesla private and inaccurately claimed that he had “funding secured” for such a deal.
Investigators from almost a dozen countries combed bombed-out towns and freshly dug graves in Ukraine on Wednesday for evidence of war crimes, and a wide-ranging investigation by an international security organization detailed what it said were “clear patterns” of human rights violations by Russian forces.
Some of the atrocities may constitute war crimes, said investigators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who examined myriad reports of rapes, abductions and attacks on civilian targets, as well as the use of banned munitions.
On Wednesday, civilians were still bearing much of the brunt of the seven-week-old invasion as Russian forces, massing for an assault in the east, bombarded Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, striking an apartment building.
In an hourlong phone call with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s leader, President Biden said the United States, already a major provider of defensive armaments to Ukraine, would send an additional $800 million in military and other security aid. The package will include “new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” Mr. Biden said in a statement.
American officials said Wednesday that the United States, in helping Ukraine prepare for such an assault, had increased the flow of intelligence to Ukraine’s government about Russian forces in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine eight years ago. The administration also is considering whether to send a high-level official to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in the days ahead as a sign of support for the country, according to a person familiar with the internal discussions.
War crimes claims are famously difficult to investigate, and still harder to prosecute. It’s rare for national leaders to be charged, and even rarer for them to end up in the defendant’s chair.
But the war in Ukraine may prove different, some experts say, and momentum has been building to hold the Kremlin leadership responsible.
An International Criminal Court investigation into possible war crimes has been underway since last month, and a number of countries have been looking at ways for the United Nations to help create a special court that could prosecute Russia for what is known as the crime of aggression. Other possibilities include trying Russians in the courts of other nations under the principle of universal jurisdiction, the legal concept that some crimes are so egregious they can be prosecutedanywhere.
Part of the motivation for accountability is the revulsion in Europe and much of the world over the behavior of President Vladimir V. Putin’s forces, including reported executions of bound civilians and other atrocities.
War crimes experts also point to technological advances in forensic tools like facial identification software not available to those looking into earlier conflicts, and the sheer number of investigators on the ground in Ukraine — crucially, with the government’s blessing. A dozen French investigators joined the inquiries this week.
“There will be prosecutions, and probably all over the world,” said Leila Sadat, an international law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, and a longtime adviser to the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity. “Ukraine is actually crawling with war crimes investigators right now.”
Still, experts warned that the process would be slow, and that any early indictments would most likely be against lower-ranking Russian officials and armed-service members. Russia, which has described the accusations as fictional or unfounded, is not expected to cooperate in any prosecution.
The report released Wednesday by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 57-member organization based in Vienna that includes Russia, Ukraine and the United States, is one of the first in-depth studies of human rights abuses duringRussia’s offensive against Ukraine.
Investigators looked at some of the most notorious attacks and other violent acts of the war, including Russia’s bombings of a theater and a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol, both depicted in the report as apparent war crimes.
They also pored through accounts of other horrific, if less visible, acts of violence. “There are allegations of rapes, including gang rapes, committed by Russian soldiers in many other regions in Ukraine,” they wrote.
But often, they were stymied.
Russia declined to cooperate with the three-person team of investigators, making it “impossible for the mission to take account of the Russian position on all pertinent incidents,” the report said.
Investigators found that Ukrainian forces, too, had been guilty of some abuses, particularly in the treatment of prisoners of war. “The violations committed by the Russian Federation, however, are by far larger in nature and scale,” their report said.
Michael Carpenter, the American ambassador to the O.S.C.E., said the report “documents the catalog of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia’s forces in Ukraine.” The European Union issued a similarly positive appraisal.
“This war is not only fought on the ground,” the bloc said in a statement. “It is clear that the Kremlin is also waging a shameful disinformation campaign in order to hide the facts of Russia’s brutal attacks on civilians in Ukraine. Reliable information and collection of facts have therefore never been as important as today.”
The Kremlin’s own mission to the O.S.C.E. dismissed the findings as “unfounded propaganda.”
On Tuesday, even as the Ukrainian authorities were unearthing bodies in full view of international journalists and other observers, Mr. Putin called the atrocities a “fake” that had been elaborately staged by the West.
On Wednesday, standing near the site of two mass graves, Ukraine’s prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova, said there was an obligation both to uncover the facts and to do so in a transparent way to combat Russian disinformation.
“When you see dead bodies here, from the other side, from the Russian Federation, they say it is all fake, all this is our theater,” Ms. Venediktova said.
Ukrainian prosecutors and the newly arrived team of French experts exhumed bodies this week from mass graves in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb, where hundreds of civilians were killed during the brief Russian occupation of the area. The French government said that its team included ballistics and explosives experts and that it had the ability to do rapid DNA tests.
Evidence from the French investigation and others involving several different countries will be channeled to the International Criminal Court, which started looking into possible war crimes a week after the Feb. 24 invasion. Although Ukraine is not part of the agreement that created the court two decades ago, it has granted the court authority to investigate and prosecute in this conflict.
Investigators say they are intent on showing the world the reality of the war.
“They can see everything. They can see the situation here: real graves, real dead bodies, real bomb attacks,” Ms. Venediktova said. “That’s why for us this moment is very important.”
The O.S.C.E. report described a range of subterfuge by Russian forces, including the use of Red Cross emblems, white flags, Ukrainian flags and civilian clothes. And the organization’s investigators expressed concern that both sides might be holding more prisoners than disclosed.
On Wednesday, President Zelensky spoke directly about one of them: Viktor Medvedchuk, a Ukrainian politician and ally of Mr. Putin’s who was detained this week. Mr. Zelensky proposed exchanging him for Ukrainians held captive by Russian forces.
Even as agreement grew among many world leaders that war crimes charges were warranted, there was some disagreement over how to characterize Russia’s actions. Some leaders, among them Mr. Biden, have begun to use the term “genocide” — an escalation of his rhetoric. On Wednesday, France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, dissented.
“What is happening is madness, it’s a brutality that’s unheard-of,” Mr. Macron said. But, he said, “Genocide has a meaning. The Ukrainian people and the Russian people are brethren people.”
“I’m not sure that an escalation of words serves the cause,” he said.
The war crimes report came amid signs that Russia’s invasion may have backfired in at least one respect. Mr. Putin has long objected to NATO’s expansion eastward into the onetime domains of the Soviet Union, describing it as a fundamental threat to Russia. But on Wednesday, two militarily nonaligned nations, Finland and Sweden, said they were seriously considering joining the alliance.
Legal experts did not rule out the possibility, some day, of an indictment of Mr. Putin, who has already been castigated as a war criminal by some Western leaders. And were Mr. Putin to be criminally charged by a court outside Russia, it would likely mean he would have to restrict his international travel in order to minimize the risk of possible arrest were he to venture beyond Russia’s borders.
David Crane, a legal scholar at Syracuse University who was the chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Sierra Leone, an international war crimes tribunal that convicted the former president of Liberia, Charles G. Taylor, said he was confident that the International Criminal Court or some other judicial body would find legal grounds to charge the Russian president.
And even if Mr. Putin is never arrested and remains the leader of Russia, he said, the legal and diplomatic consequences of a war crimes indictment would severely undermine his credibility.
It would be as if “there’s like an ash mark on his forehead,” Mr. Crane said. “There’s no good options for him.”
Marc Santora reported from Warsaw, Erika Solomon from Berlin and Carlotta Gall from Bucha, Ukraine. Reporting was contributed by Jane Arraf from Lviv, Ukraine; Aurelien Breeden from Paris; Cora Engelbrecht from Krakow, Poland; Farnaz Fassihi from New York; Eric Nagourney from Los Angeles; and Rick Gladstone from Eastham, Mass.
SAN FRANCISCO — Bright and early on Monday, Elon Musk sent the government a surprising new document.
In it, the world’s wealthiest man laid out his possible intentions toward Twitter, in which he has amassed a 9.2 percent stake, underlining how drastically his position had changed from a week ago.
Mr. Musk could, if he chose, buy more shares of Twitter and increase his ownership of the company, according to the document, which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He could freely express his views about Twitter on social media or other channels, the document noted. And he reserved the right to “change his plans at any time, as he deems appropriate.”
It was a promise — or perhaps it was a threat. Either way, the filing encapsulated the treacherous situation that Twitter now finds itself in. Mr. Musk, 50, Twitter’s largest shareholder and one of its highest-profile users, could very well use the social media platform against itself and even buy enough shares to take over the company.
“Twitter has always suffered more than its fair share of dysfunction,” said Jason Goldman, who was on Twitter’s founding team and served on its board of directors in the past. “But at least we weren’t being actively trolled by prospective board members using the product we created.”
Twitter’s 11-person board and agreed to not own more than 14.9 percent of the company or take it over. Then on Sunday, Twitter abruptly said all of those bets were off and that Mr. Musk would not become a director.
What exactly went on between Mr. Musk, who has more than 81 million followers on Twitter, and the company’s executives and board members is unclear. But it leaves Twitter — which has survived founder infighting, boardroom revolts and outside shareholder ire — with an activist investor unlike any other.
Mr. Musk, who also leads the electric carmaker Tesla and the rocket company SpaceX, is known for being unpredictable and outspoken, often using Twitter to criticize, insult and troll others. By no longer joining the board, he liberated himself from corporate governance rules that would have required him to act in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.
Mr. Musk leaned into that freedom after his decision was communicated to the company on Saturday morning. He proclaimed on Twitter that he was in “goblin mode” and suggested changes such as removing the “w” from the company’s name to make it more vulgar and opening its San Francisco headquarters to shelter the homeless. He later deleted some of the posts.
“This is not typical activism or, frankly, anything like activism that we’ve seen before,” said Ele Klein, co-chair of the global Shareholder Activism Group at the law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel. “Elon Musk doesn’t do things that people have seen before.”
a post on Sunday. Twitter, which published a biography of Mr. Musk as a member of its board that was still visible late Sunday, declined to comment on Monday.
Mr. Musk has long shown significant disrespect for corporate governance rules. In 2018, he faced securities fraud charges after inaccurately tweeting that he had secured funding to take Tesla private. Mr. Musk later agreed to pay a $20 million fine to the S.E.C. and step aside as Tesla chairman for three years.
He also agreed to allow Tesla to review his public statements about the company. But in 2019, the S.E.C. asked a judge to hold him in contempt for violating the settlement terms by continuing to errantly tweet about Tesla.
Inside Twitter on Monday, employees were dismayed and concerned by Mr. Musk’s antics, according to half a dozen current and former workers, who were not authorized to speak publicly. After the billionaire suggested over the weekend that Twitter convert its headquarters into a homeless shelter because “no one shows up anyway,” employees questioned how Mr. Musk would know that given that he hadn’t visited the building in some time. They also pointed out that Mr. Musk, whose net worth has been pegged at more than $270 billion, could easily afford to help San Francisco’s homeless himself.
Elliott Management accumulated a 4 percent stake and used its position to press for changes, including an ouster of Jack Dorsey as chief executive and more aggressive financial growth. Mr. Dorsey stepped down in November.
Elliott’s approach followed the typical formula for activist investors: Acquire a significant stake in a company and then press for governance and strategy changes to drive up the stock price.
“Normally an activist is very clear in their intentions,” said Rich Greenfield, an analyst at LightShed Ventures, a venture capital investment fund. But “we don’t know what Elon Musk’s true motivation is. Is this Elon having fun? Is this Elon trying to effect change? Is this Elon trying to drive the stock higher?”
Twitter is particularly susceptible to activists, analysts said, because its founders did not structure the company’s shares in a way that gave themselves more control. The founders of Google and Facebook have maintained voting power over the shares, providing them with an outsize grip over the direction of their companies.
Natasha Lamb, a managing partner at Arjuna Capital, an activist investment firm that owns some Twitter stock, said Mr. Musk was taking a more casual approach than other activist investors.
“Musk is using Twitter to have his opinions heard, but it’s not a core activity,” she said. “It appears to be what he does for fun.”
What is fun for Mr. Musk may turn out to be less so for Twitter. The relief among Twitter employees that he was no longer joining the board was short-lived, the current and former employees said, when they realized that he was no longer bound by an agreement to not buy more stock or take over the company.
Mr. Musk could continue toying with Twitter, the current and former employees said they had realized. Several added that they were afraid of what might come next.
In a world contending with no end of economic troubles, a fresh source of concern now looms: the prospect of a confrontation between union dockworkers and their employers at some of the most critical ports on earth.
The potential conflict centers on negotiations over a new contract for more than 22,000 union workers employed at 29 ports along the West Coast of the United States. Nearly three-fourths work at the twin ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the primary gateway for goods shipped to the United States from Asia, and a locus of problems afflicting the global supply chain.
The contract for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expires at the end of June. For those whose livelihoods are tied to ports — truckers, logistics companies, retailers — July 1 marks the beginning of a period of grave uncertainty.
A labor impasse could worsen the floating traffic jams that have kept dozens of ships waiting in the Pacific before they can pull up to the docks. That could aggravate shortages and send already high prices for consumer goods soaring.
impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and as China imposes new Covid restrictions on industry.
Understand the Supply Chain Crisis
The dockworkers have moved unprecedented volumes of cargo during the pandemic, even as at least two dozen succumbed to Covid-19, according to the union. They are aware that many of the shipping terminals in Southern California are controlled by global carriers that have been racking up record profits while sharply increasing cargo rates — a fact cited by President Biden in his recent State of the Union address as he promised a “crackdown” to alleviate inflation.
With ports now capturing attention in Washington, some within the shipping industry express confidence that negotiations will yield a deal absent a disruptive slowdown or strike.
“There’s too much at stake for both sides,” Mario Cordero, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said during a recent interview in his office overlooking towering cranes and stacks of containers. “There’s an incentive because the nation is watching.”
“If they don’t come to a compromise, then freight will get permanently diverted to the East Coast,” Mr. Matinifar said.
Animating contract talks is the popular notion that the longshoremen are a privileged class within the supply chain, using the union to protect their ranks — a source of resentment among other workers.
“They treat us like we’re nobodies,” said Mr. Chilton, the truck driver. “The way they talk to us, they’re very rude.”
traced to the outbreak of Covid-19, which triggered an economic slowdown, mass layoffs and a halt to production. Here’s what happened next:
A reduction in shipping. With fewer goods being made and fewer people with paychecks to spend at the start of the pandemic, manufacturers and shipping companies assumed that demand would drop sharply. But that proved to be a mistake, as demand for some items would surge.
Demand for protective gear spiked. In early 2020, the entire planet suddenly needed surgical masks and gowns. Most of these goods were made in China. As Chinese factories ramped up production, cargo vessels began delivering gear around the globe.
Then, a shipping container shortage. Shipping containers piled up in many parts of the world after they were emptied. The result was a shortage of containers in the one country that needed them the most: China, where factories would begin pumping out goods in record volumes.
Demand for durable goods increased. The pandemic shifted Americans’ spending from eating out and attending events to office furniture, electronics and kitchen appliances – mostly purchased online. The spending was also encouraged by government stimulus programs.
Strained supply chains. Factory goods swiftly overwhelmed U.S. ports. Swelling orders further outstripped the availability of shipping containers, and the cost of shipping a container from Shanghai to Los Angeles skyrocketed tenfold.
Union officials declined to discuss their objectives for a new contract.
Mr. McKenna, the maritime association chief executive, said the union had yet to outline demands while declining to engage in discussions before May.
He expected that the union would resist efforts to expand automation at the ports, a traditional point of contention. He said greater automation — such as adding self-driving vehicles and robotics to move cargo — was unavoidable in ports in dense urban places like Los Angeles. There, land is tight, so growth must come from increasing efficiency, rather than physically expanding.
The last time the I.L.W.U. contract expired, West Coast ports suffered months of debilitating disruptions — the source of enduring recriminations.
Terminal operators accused dockworkers of slowing operations to generate pressure for a deal. The union countered that employers were the ones creating problems.
Some dockworkers question whether terminal owners are sincerely seeking to speed up cargo handling, given that shipping rates have soared amid chaos at the ports.
Jaime Hipsher, 45, drives a so-called utility tractor rig — equipment used to move containers — at a pair of Southern California shipping terminals. One is operated by A.P. Moller-Maersk, a Danish conglomerate whose profits nearly tripled last year, reaching $24 billion.
She said maintenance of equipment was spotty, producing frequent breakdowns, while the terminals were often understaffed — two problems that could be fixed with more spending.
A Maersk spokesman, Tom Boyd, rejected that characterization.
“Freight rates have been impacted by the global Covid-19 recovery and the demand outpacing supply,” he said in an emailed statement. “Ships at anchor are not productive, nor are they earning revenue against a backdrop of large fixed costs.”
That Ms. Hipsher spends her nights on the docks represents an unexpected turn in her life.
Her father was a longshoreman. He urged her to attend college and do something that involved wearing business attire, in contrast to how he spent his working hours — climbing a skinny ladder to the top of ships and loading coal onto vessels.
“He would come home after work and he would have coal dust coming out of his ears, out of his nose,” Ms. Hipsher recalled. “His hands would just be completely black.”
But in 2004, when she was working as a hairstylist, her brother — also a longshoreman — suggested that she enter a lottery for the right to become a casual dockworker.
The ports had changed, her brother said. Growing numbers of women were employed.
Eighteen years later, Ms. Hipsher has gained the security of seniority, health benefits and a pension.
As contract talks approach, she pushes back against the notion that the union poses a threat to the global economy.
“You’re complaining about my wages, thinking that my wages are the source of inflation, and we don’t deserve it,” she said. “Well, look at the billions that the owners are making.”
After getting battered by the pandemic, supply chain chokeholds and leaps in prices, the global economy is poised to be sent on yet another unpredictable course by an armed clash on Europe’s border.
Even before the Kremlin ordered Russian troops into separatist territories of Ukraine on Monday, the tension had taken a toll. The promise of punishing sanctions in return by President Biden and the potential for Russian retaliation had already pushed down stock returns and driven up gas prices.
An outright attack by Russian troops could cause dizzying spikes in energy and food prices, fuel inflation fears and spook investors, a combination that threatens investment and growth in economies around the world.
However harsh the effects, the immediate impact will be nowhere near as devastating as the sudden economic shutdowns first caused by the coronavirus in 2020. Russia is a transcontinental behemoth with 146 million people and a huge nuclear arsenal, as well as a key supplier of the oil, gas and raw materials that keep the world’s factories running. But unlike China, which is a manufacturing powerhouse and intimately woven into intricate supply chains, Russia is a minor player in the global economy.
spikes in heating and gas bills, which are already soaring. Natural gas reserves are at less than a third of capacity, with weeks of cold weather ahead, and European leaders have already accused Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, of reducing supplies to gain a political edge.
United Nations report. Russia is the world’s largest supplier of wheat, and together with Ukraine, accounts for nearly a quarter of total global exports. For some countries, the dependence is much greater. That flow of grain makes up more than 70 percent of Egypt and Turkey’s total wheat imports.
This will put further strain on Turkey, which is already in the middle of an economic crisis and struggling with inflation that is running close to 50 percent, with skyrocketing food, fuel and electricity prices.
And as usual, the burden falls heaviest on the most vulnerable. “Poorer people spend a higher share of incomes on food and heating,” said Ian Goldin, a professor of globalization and development at Oxford University.
Ukraine, long known as the “breadbasket of Europe,” actually sends more than 40 percent of its wheat and corn exports to the Middle East or Africa, where there are worries that further food shortages and price increases could stoke social unrest.
Lebanon, for example, which is experiencing one of the most devastating economic crises in more than a century, gets more than half of its wheat from Ukraine, which is also the world’s largest exporter of seed oils like sunflower and rapeseed.
On Monday, the White House responded to Mr. Putin’s decision to recognize the independence of two Russian-backed territories in the country’s east by saying it would begin imposing limited sanctions on the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Mr. Biden would soon issue an executive order prohibiting investment, trade and financing with people in those regions.
range of scenarios from mild to severe. The fallout on working-class families and Wall Street traders depends on how an invasion plays out: whether Russian troops stay near the border or attack the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv; whether the fighting lasts for days or months; what kind of Western sanctions are imposed; and whether Mr. Putin responds by withholding critical gas supplies from Europe or launching insidious cyberattacks.
“Think about it rolling out in stages,” said Julia Friedlander, director of the economic statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council. “This is likely to play out as a slow motion drama.”
As became clear from the pandemic, minor interruptions in one region can generate major disruptions far away. Isolated shortages and price surges— whether of gas, wheat, aluminum or nickel — can snowball in a world still struggling to recover from the pandemic.
“You have to look at the backdrop against which this is coming,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist for EY-Parthenon. “There is high inflation, strained supply chains and uncertainty about what central banks are going to do and how insistent price rises are.”
at 7.5 percent in January, and is expected to start raising interest rates next month. Higher energy prices set off by a conflict in Europe may be transitory but they could feed worries about a wage-price spiral.
“We could see a new burst of inflation,” said Christopher Miller, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and an assistant professor at Tufts University.
Also fueling inflation fears are possible shortages of essential metals like palladium, aluminum and nickel, creating another disruption to global supply chains already suffering from the pandemic, trucker blockades in Canada and shortages of semiconductors.
The price of palladium, for example, used in automotive exhaust systems, mobile phones and even dental fillings, has soared in recent weeks because of fears that Russia, the world’s largest exporter of the metal, could be cut off from global markets. The price of nickel, used to make steel and electric car batteries, has also been jumping.
Understand How the Ukraine Crisis Developed
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Failed diplomatic efforts. The United States, NATO and Russia have been engaged in a whirlwind of diplomacy to prevent an escalation of the conflict. In December, Russia put forth a set of demands, including a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO. The West dismissed those demands and threatened economic consequences.
It’s too early to gauge the precise impact of an armed conflict, said Lars Stenqvist, the chief technology officer of Volvo, the Swedish truck maker. But he added, “It is a very, very serious thing.”
“We have a number of scenarios on the table and we are following the developments of the situation day by day,” Mr. Stenqvist said Monday.
The West has taken steps to blunt the impact on Europe if Mr. Putin decides to retaliate. The United States has ramped up delivery of liquefied natural gas and asked other suppliers like Qatar to do the same.
negotiations to revive a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Iran, which is estimated to have as many as 80 million barrels of oil in storage, has been locked out of much of the world’s markets since 2018, when President Donald J. Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord and reimposed sanctions.
Some of the sanctions against Russia that the Biden administration is considering, such as cutting off access to the system of international payments known as SWIFT or blocking companies from selling anything to Russia that contains American-made components, would hurt anyone who does business with Russia. But across the board, the United States is much less vulnerable than the European Union, which is Russia’s largest trading partner.
Americans, as Mr. Biden has already warned, are likely to see higher gasoline prices. But because the United States is itself a large producer of natural gas, those price increases are not nearly as steep and as broad as elsewhere. And Europe has many more links to Russia and engages in more financial transactions — including paying for the Russian gas.
Oil companies like Shell and Total have joint ventures in Russia, while BP boasts that it “is one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia,” with ties to the Russian oil company Rosneft. Airbus, the European aviation giant, gets titanium from Russia. And European banks, particularly those in Germany, France and Italy, have lent billions of dollars to Russian borrowers.
“Severe sanctions that hurt Russia painfully and comprehensively have potential to do huge damage to European customers,” said Adam Tooze, director of the European Institute at Columbia University.
Depending on what happens, the most significant effects on the global economy may manifest themselves only over the long run.
economic ties to China. The two nations recently negotiated a 30-year contract for Russia to supply gas to China through a new pipeline.
“Russia is likely to pivot all energy and commodity exports to China,” said Carl Weinberg, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.
The crisis is also contributing to a reassessment of the global economy’s structure and concerns about self-sufficiency. The pandemic has already highlighted the downsides of far-flung supply chains that rely on lean production.
Now Europe’s dependence on Russian gas is spurring discussions about expanding energy sources, which could further sideline Russia’s presence in the global economy.
“In the longer term, it’s going to push Europe to diversify,” said Jeffrey Schott, a senior fellow working on international trade policy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. As for Russia, the real cost “would be corrosive over time and really making it much more difficult to do business with Russian entities and deterring investment.”
Mr. Silbar, the real estate agent, has sold it twice in the past three years. The first time, in November 2019, he represented a buyer who offered $168,000 and got it with zero drama. This year it went back on the market, and Mr. Silbar listed it for $250,000. Fourteen offers and a bidding war later, it closed at $300,000.
When Mr. Silbar got into the business, he said, his clients were “nurses and teachers,” and now they’re corporate managers, engineers and other professionals. “What you can afford in Spokane has completely changed,” he said.
The typical home in the Spokane area is worth $411,000, according to Zillow. That’s still vastly less expensive than markets like the San Francisco Bay Area ($1.4 million), Los Angeles ($878,000), Seattle ($734,000) and Portland ($550,000). But it’s dizzying (and enraging) to long-term residents.
Five years ago, a little over half the homes in the Spokane area sold for less than $200,000, and about 70 percent of its employed population could afford to buy a home, according to a recent report commissioned by the Spokane Association of Realtors. Now fewer than 5 percent of homes — a few dozen a month — sell for less than $200,000, and less than 15 percent of the area’s employed population can afford a home. A recent survey by Redfin, the real estate brokerage, showed that home buyers moving to Spokane in 2021 had a budget 23 percent higher than what locals had.
One of Mr. Silbar’s clients, Lindsey Simler, a 38-year-old nurse who grew up in Spokane, wants to buy a home in the $300,000 range but keeps losing out because she doesn’t have enough cash to compete. Spokane isn’t so competitive that it’s awash in all-cash offers, as some higher-priced markets are. But prices have shot up so fast that many homes are appraising for less than their sale price, forcing buyers to put up higher down payments to cover the difference.
A dozen failed offers later, Ms. Simler has decided to sit out the market for a while because the constant losing is so demoralizing. If prices don’t calm down, she said, she’s thinking about becoming a travel nurse. With the health care work force so depleted by Covid-19, travel nursing pays much better and, hopefully, will allow her to save more for a down payment.
“I’m not at the point where I want to give up on living in Spokane, because I have family here and it feels like home,” she said. “But travel nursing is going to be my next step if I haven’t been able to land a house.”
LONDON — When Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain warned his country in a televised address on Sunday night that a tidal wave was coming, he might well have been talking about his own political future.
Mr. Johnson’s reference was to the latest coronavirus variant, which is sweeping across Britain and prompted him to ramp up a campaign to deliver 18 million booster shots by New Year’s Day. But the prime minister faces a different kind of deluge: from a rebellious Conservative Party, collapsing poll ratings and persistent questions about whether he or his staff flouted the very lockdown rules they imposed on the public.
The cascade of bad news is so extreme that it has raised questions about whether Mr. Johnson will even hang on to power until the next election. It is an ominous turn for a leader who has long defied political gravity, surviving scandals and setbacks that would have sunk many other politicians.
“It’s not the end for him, but I think it’s the beginning of the end,” said Jonathan Powell, who served as chief of staff to a Labour prime minister, Tony Blair. “The problem is that these crises have a cumulative effect. As soon as he ceases to be an asset and the party is facing an election, they’ll get rid of him.”
according to a poll by the market research firm Opinium. The opposition Labour Party has jumped to a lead over the Conservatives of nine percentage points, its largest advantage since February 2014.
“The thing that should most worry the prime minister is that while the Tory share has dipped quite clearly, the ratings for the prime minister have dipped even more,” said Robert Hayward, a Conservative member of the House of Lords and a polling expert. “The message is quite clear: that this is at the prime minister’s door.”
For Mr. Johnson, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant could help him politically, giving him a fresh public-health crisis around which to mobilize another national vaccination campaign. Britain’s rapid rollout of vaccines early in the year buoyed the government, though the pace fell off later in the summer, and Britain’s rate of fully vaccinated people now trails those of France, Italy and Portugal.
There was anecdotal evidence on Monday that Mr. Johnson’s urgent call for booster shots had resonated with the public: People had booked more than 110,000 appointments by 9 a.m. on Monday morning, causing the National Health Service’s website to crash under the weight of the demand. Long lines formed outside vaccination sites, including one snaking around St. Thomas’s Hospital, across the river from Parliament in London.
recently likened Mr. Johnson to President Richard M. Nixon and accused his aides of lying consistently.
“There are several reasons for this,” Mr. Hodges wrote. “One is obviously Boris himself. As a former minister said: ‘He treats facts like he treats all his relationships — utterly disposable once inconvenient.’”
resigned in a flap over his outside lobbying activities. Oddsmakers now expect the Tories to lose the seat to the Liberal Democrats.
That would be a demoralizing setback for both Mr. Johnson and his party; those are the type of working-class voters who swept Mr. Johnson to power and whom he needs to hold on to if he wants to win again in the next election.
“The Tories are more willing to get rid of their leaders than the other political parties: We do it much more quickly and ruthlessly,” Mr. Hayward said. “But the loss of support is attritional; it isn’t over one particular event.”
At one particularly tense moment, in October 2020, American intelligence reports detailed how Chinese leaders had become worried that President Trump was preparing an attack. Those concerns, which could have been misread, prompted Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to call his counterpart in Beijing to assure otherwise.
“The Taiwan issue has ceased to be a sort of narrow, boutique issue, and it’s become a central theater — if not the central drama — in U.S.-China strategic competition,” said Evan Medeiros, who served on President Obama’s National Security Council.
China’s ambitious leader, Xi Jinping, now presides over what is arguably the country’s most potent military in history. Some argue that Mr. Xi, who has set the stage to rule for a third term starting in 2022, could feel compelled to conquer Taiwan to crown his era in power.
Mr. Xi said Saturday in Beijing that Taiwan independence “was a grave lurking threat to national rejuvenation.” China wanted peaceful unification, he said, but added: “Nobody should underestimate the staunch determination, firm will and powerful ability of the Chinese people to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Few believe a war is imminent or foreordained, in part because the economic and diplomatic aftershocks would be staggering for China. Yet even if the recent flights into Taiwan’s self-declared air identification zone are intended merely as political pressure, not a prelude to war, China’s financial, political and military ascendancy has made preserving the island’s security a gravely complex endeavor.
Until recently, the United States believed it could hold Chinese territorial ambitions in check, but the military superiority it long held may not be enough. When the Pentagon organized a war game in October 2020, an American “blue team” struggled against new Chinese weaponry in a simulated battle over Taiwan.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — It was never a secret that China tightly controls what its people can read and write on their cellphones. But it came as a shock to officials in Lithuania when they discovered that a popular Chinese-made handset sold in the Baltic nation had a hidden though dormant feature: a censorship registry of 449 terms banned by the Chinese Communist Party.
Lithuania’s government swiftly advised officials using the phones to dump them, enraging China — and not for the first time. Lithuania has also embraced Taiwan, a vibrant democracy that Beijing regards as a renegade province, and pulled out of a Chinese-led regional forum that it scorned as divisive for the European Union.
Furious, Beijing has recalled its ambassador, halted trips by a Chinese cargo train into the country and made it nearly impossible for many Lithuanian exporters to sell their goods in China. Chinese state media has assailed Lithuania, mocked its diminutive size and accused it of being the “anti-China vanguard” in Europe.
In the battlefield of geopolitics, Lithuania versus China is hardly a fair fight — a tiny Baltic nation with fewer than 3 million people against a rising superpower with 1.4 billion. Lithuania’s military has no tanks or fighter jets, and its economy is 270 times smaller than China’s.
met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who pledged “ironclad U.S. support for Lithuania in the face of attempted coercion from the People’s Republic of China.”
European Council on Foreign Relations indicate that most Europeans don’t want a new Cold War between the United States and China. But they also show growing wariness of China.
“There is a general shift in mood,” said Frank Juris, a researcher at the Estonian Foreign Policy Institute who tracks Chinese activities in Europe. “Promises have not materialized and countries are tired of being constantly threatened with the whip.”
That whip is now being brought down hard on Lithuania, a member of the European Union and also NATO.
Particularly galling for Beijing was Lithuania’s announcement in July that it had accepted a request by Taiwan to open a “Taiwanese representative office” in Vilnius.
by Lithuania’s Defense Ministry Cyber Security Center was yet another provocation. The hidden registry found by the center allows for the detection and censorship of phrases like “student movement,” “Taiwan independence,” and “dictatorship.”
The blacklist, which updates automatically to reflect the Communist Party’s evolving concerns, lies dormant in phones exported to Europe but, according to the cyber center, the disabled censorship tool can be activated with the flick of a switch in China.
The registry “is shocking and very concerning,” said Margiris Abukevicius, a deputy defense minister responsible for cybersecurity.
The maker of the Chinese phones in question, Xiaomi, says its devices “do not censor communications.”
In addition to telling government offices to dump the phones, Mr. Abukevicius said in an interview that ordinary users should decide “their own appetite for risk.”
The Global Times, a nationalist news outlet controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, derided the Lithuanian report as a “new trick” by a small “pawn” in Washington’s anti-China agenda.
China has steadily ramped up pressure on Lithuania, last month recalling its ambassador from Vilnius and urging Lithuania’s envoy in Beijing to go home, which she did. It halted a regular cargo train to Lithuania, though it still lets other trains transit through the Baltic country filled with Chinese goods destined for Germany.
While not announcing any formal sanctions, China has added red tape to block Lithuanian exporters from selling goods in China.
Lithuania’s economy minister, Ausrine Armonaite, downplayed the damage, noting Lithuania’s exports to China accounted for only 1 percent of total exports. Losing that, she said, “is not too harmful.”
A bigger blow, according to business leaders, has been the disruption in the supply of Chinese-made glass, electronic components and other items needed by Lithuanian manufacturers. Around a dozen companies that rely on goods from China last week received nearly identical letters from Chinese suppliers claiming that power cuts had made it difficult fulfill orders.
“They are very creative,” said Vidmantas Janulevicius, the president of the Lithuanian Confederation of Industrialists, noting that the delays were “targeted very precisely.”
Lithuania has made “a clear geopolitical decision” to side decisively with the United States, a longtime ally, and other democracies, said Laurynas Kasciunas, the chairman of the national security and defense committee. “Everyone here agrees on this. We are all very anti-communist Chinese. It is in our DNA.”
Tomas Dapkus in Vilnius, Monika Pronczuk in Brussels, and Claire Fu contributed reporting