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Morning news brief

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Governor Bill Lee is urging Tennesseans to pray for the three children and three adults killed in a school shooting and also for their community. He did this by also vowing to discuss policy changes to avoid a repeat of such a tragedy.

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BILL LEE: We can all agree on one thing - that every human life has great value. And we will act to prevent this from happening again.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Police say the shooter had planned other targets, including a mall, and messaged a former basketball teammate minutes before the shooting, fantasizing about dying. The teammate tried to get help, but it was too late.

MARTÍNEZ: Rachel Wegner of The Tennessean joins us now from Nashville. Rachel, I know there was a vigil last night. What can you tell us about how it went?

RACHEL WEGNER: Yes, good morning. Last night, a vigil held in Mount Juliet, just outside Nashville, drew hundreds. There was a time of prayer, including prayer specifically for the teachers that were in the group. Folks bowed their heads, huddled together, placed hands on each other as they prayed. There's also a citywide vigil being hosted in Nashville by our mayor tonight.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, I know police released body cam footage from the shooting. They did that yesterday. What have we learned from that footage?

WEGNER: So the footage released was from point of view of two officers who responded to the scene. It was about six minutes total. So we start with Officer Rex Engelbert as he arrives on the scene. You see a staff member directing him. Eventually, he works with a team of officers to clear the first floor of the building and then enters the second floor, which is where they encounter the shooter. You hear several shots coming from the hallway and then also as they round the corner and encountered the shooter. And then you see a blurred-out version of the shooter laying on the ground after the officers fatally shot them. And then the second point of view is from Officer Michael Collazo, similar to the first point of view, but from a different angle.

MARTÍNEZ: We also found out that the shooter had sent a message to someone before the shooting. What can you tell us about that?

WEGNER: So the shooter had messaged a former basketball teammate, I believe, from middle school saying, I want to die. Something really bad is going to happen. This will make more sense later. You'll probably hear about it on the news. So that friend quickly reached out to the suicide prevention helpline and then was directed to reach out to the police. But by the time she did, the shooter had already entered the school. So it was sadly too late at that point.

MARTÍNEZ: I mentioned earlier, Rachel, how the governor of Tennessee, Bill Lee, wants to take action. Did he say how he wanted to do that?

WEGNER: He did not. He did say they want to act to make sure this doesn't happen again. Governor Lee's wife was close friends with one of the substitute teachers who was killed in the shooting on Monday. They actually had plans to have dinner on Monday night and that never happened. But Governor Lee said, you know, there will be a time and place to discuss policy, but for now has urged people to be respectful and kind and to save that conversation for a later time.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Rachel Wegner is a reporter with The Tennessean in Nashville. Rachel, thanks.

WEGNER: Thank you.

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MARTÍNEZ: Howard Schultz, who just stepped down as interim CEO of Starbucks, heads to Capitol Hill today.

MARTIN: Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and others are preparing tough questions for him over how he has handled his employees' push to unionize.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Andrea Hsu joins us now for a preview. Andrea, I take it today's hearing has nothing to do with Starbucks putting olive oil in their coffee - only in Seattle, though, but still a great idea. So what is this hearing about?

ANDREA HSU, BYLINE: Well, Schultz is going to be in the hot seat. He's appearing before the Senate committee that oversees labor and employment issues, and that committee is chaired by none other than Bernie Sanders, who, of course, is one of labor's biggest champions in Congress. And Sanders has been trying to get Schultz before the Senate for a long time. He wants to press him on what Sanders calls Starbucks' illegal union-busting campaign. He says Schultz is the architect of that campaign. And as we've reported, nearly 300 Starbucks stores have actually unionized.

But it continues to be a pretty big fight. Starbucks, you know, has fired workers who were organizing and closed some of the unionized stores. And as Sanders will point out, federal labor officials have found Starbucks violated labor law in a number of cases across the country. So we're expecting Sanders to ask, you know, why do you keep breaking the law?

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So then what might Howard Schultz say to respond?

HSU: Well, he's going to deny that Starbucks is doing anything unlawful. The company has always said that workers who were fired were fired for misconduct, not for organizing a union. And we can also expect Schultz to talk about how much Starbucks respects and values its workers. He's going to talk about the competitive wages and great benefits Starbucks offers even part-time workers. And what's kind of ironic is that this is the same message that Howard Schultz brought to Washington nearly three decades ago. He was on this White House panel on corporate responsibility in 1996. And here's how then-President Clinton introduced him.

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BILL CLINTON: Starbucks has been recognized for its rather extensive benefit program for the workforce, including the scope of its health care plan. So I'd like for Mr. Schultz to talk about that.

HOWARD SCHULTZ: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

HSU: So it's really interesting that Howard Schultz has gone from being Mr. Corporate Responsibility to union-buster-in-chief, even though his playbook is largely the same.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, it shows how much times have changed, too. So is anything going to come out of this hearing?

HSU: Well, probably nothing too concrete. But what Sanders and Democrats have been wanting to do when it comes to unions is pass something called the PRO Act. It's a bill that would do a number of things. For one, it would introduce financial penalties for companies who illegally interfere with labor organizing. Right now, there aren't any penalties. And, in fact, the AFL-CIO's president, Liz Shuler, recently pointed out, you get a bigger fine for violating fishing laws in many states than you do for busting unions. But, you know, of course, with Congress divided the way it is, the PRO Act has gone nowhere. So Sanders is doing what he can do, which is basically public shaming.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, but, you know, I keep hearing about union campaigns in places like Tesla, Apple Store. I mean, so aren't unions having a moment right now?

HSU: Well, yes and no. We have seen a surge in labor organizing, and Gallup found public approval of unions is at a 60-year high. But the share of workers in the U.S. who are members of unions is pretty small. It's actually the lowest on record. And researchers who study labor movements say we're unlikely to see the numbers budge much until there's some significant change to labor law that makes organizing less of an uphill climb.

MARTÍNEZ: NPR's Andrea Hsu, thanks a lot.

HSU: Thanks, A.

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MARTÍNEZ: This week, Disney begins the first of three rounds of layoffs aimed at cutting 7,000 jobs from the company.

MARTIN: That's according to a memo circulated by CEO Bob Iger. Those job cuts amount to about 3% of the total global workforce of the entertainment giant.

MARTÍNEZ: Here to talk about what this means for Disney and consumers of its entertainment brands is NPR TV critic and media analyst Eric Deggans. Eric, 7,000 jobs - that is a lot. Why is this happening now?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Well, the job reductions are something that Bob Iger first announced back in February, and they're part of about $5.5 billion in cost savings that the company is trying to implement. And this all seems to be part of an effort to restructure the company and show Wall Street investors that Disney can be a more disciplined venture at a time when there are worries about profitability and streaming, cord-cutting in cable TV and fears of an oncoming recession. And let's not forget, lots of media companies, including Amazon, Meta and us here at NPR, have been forced to implement significant layoffs due to downturns in advertising revenue and concerns about an ongoing economic climate.

MARTÍNEZ: Do we know anything about the rollout of the cuts? Which part of Disney will it affect?

DEGGANS: Well, Iger said in his memo that there would be one round of job reductions beginning this week, a larger group of layoffs in April, and then a final group of cuts that would come just before the beginning of the summer. Word's just starting to spread about which areas of the company have been affected this week. But The Wall Street Journal reported that Disney eliminated a unit focused on creating next-generation storytelling experiences, including work in the virtual reality space called the Metaverse.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Now, Bob Iger has a really interesting history. He returned to the CEO job in November after he had retired in 2021. He replaced the man who had succeeded him, Bob Chapek. Was Bob Iger expected to come back with such an extensive cost-cutting measure?

DEGGANS: Well, you know, Iger was expected to provide the kind of leadership that would calm down jittery investors on Wall Street and maybe ease tensions with the creative community that had kind of ramped up during Chapek's tenure. But he also faced a challenge from an activist investor named Nelson Peltz, who tried to get a seat on Disney's board, saying that some of Iger's decisions showed poor financial management. Peltz didn't back down until Iger announced these cost-cutting measures. So these changes can be seen as Iger showing the business world that he's willing to curb costs, move towards profitability, and, in particular, there's pressure to show that streaming services, like Disney+, will eventually make a profit. Now, at the same time, he's dismantling some of the changes that Chapek made during his tenure. He's restructuring Disney so people closer to the creative decisions in film and TV have a little bit more power.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, under the Disney umbrella, there are platforms such as ESPN and Hulu. Will any of those cutbacks extend to those properties?

DEGGANS: Well, I mean, that's uncertain right now. There is a question about what's going to happen at ESPN, which has seen its value affected by consumers dropping cable TV subscriptions. And Iger has also speculated publicly about the streaming service Hulu, which Disney currently owns about two-thirds. I mean, will Disney buy it all outright or are they going to sell their stake to someone else? And even as Iger works to find yet another successor to lead this company long-term, he faces the threat of a writer's strike, which could hobble TV and film production if the Writers Guild of America can't negotiate a new contract with Hollywood Studios this year. So I guess you could say there's a lot going on that could affect what consumers see from Disney platforms in the coming year.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, absolutely. That's NPR TV critic and media analyst Eric Deggans. Eric, thanks.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.