Amazon Unionization, Plus 'Your Korean Dad' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders An Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama, has become ground zero in a battle that could change Amazon as we know it. Sam chats with a worker about his experience, and labor reporter and organizer Kim Kelly talks about what the fight for unionization in Amazon's warehouses means for the future of workers' rights. Plus, Sam talks to Nick Cho, known as Your Korean Dad on TikTok, about becoming the internet's favorite dad.

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.
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The Union Fight At Amazon, Plus 'Your Korean Dad'

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The Union Fight At Amazon, Plus 'Your Korean Dad'

The Union Fight At Amazon, Plus 'Your Korean Dad'

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AUNT BETTY: Hey, y'all. This is Sam's Aunt Betty. This week, Amazon and the fight to unionize. All right. Let's start the show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SAM SANDERS, HOST:

Hey, y'all. you're listening to IT'S BEEN A MINUTE from NPR. I'm Sam Sanders.

So we're about a year into pandemic life, and it feels like one company has become a bigger part of our lives than we could have ever imagined a year ago - Amazon. The shipping giant has helped a lot of people deal with not being able to go out and shop. You can see it everywhere - the Amazon packages always on your neighbor's doorsteps or your doorsteps, the Amazon vans and trucks crisscrossing your neighborhoods. It's been a really good time for the company. Amazon actually saw its biggest profits ever in 2020. But as easy as Amazon makes it for consumers these days, the work to get that stuff to all of us, it can be hard. Many of these pandemic purchases start off at one of Amazon's fulfillment centers, these warehouses where employees fill orders and pack boxes and ship them off day and night.

JOSEPH JONES: I have an Apple Watch, and it tracks my steps. Seventeen miles is what I typically walk on any given day.

SANDERS: Oh, my God.

That is Joseph Jones. He works at one of those fulfillment centers in Bessemer, Ala. And by the way, we should say here, Amazon is a sponsor of NPR. So, Joseph - these days, he works 10-hour shifts, mostly schlepping big empty bins across the warehouse floor. And when he used to work as a scanner at the warehouse, Joseph says Amazon watched him very closely.

JONES: They call them scans. So you've got to scan a box, scan the item, scan the label that goes on the box. And you're supposed to do, like, 120 an hour. So, like, you're huffing and puffing.

SANDERS: And if your scan rate dips below a certain threshold, you could be let go.

This Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., it's become ground zero in a battle that could change Amazon as we know it. Joseph and his co-workers are fighting to unionize their 5,800-person workforce. Workers just began voting on the union this week. This push in Bessemer, it is the first viable attempt to form a union at Amazon in the U.S. And if this vote passes, there is nothing stopping other Amazon employees from following suit. But Amazon is fighting this. The company has sent reps down to Bessemer to keep an eye on things, and management is trying really hard to persuade employees to vote against it.

JONES: There is a lot of speculation that there are, you know, people being infiltrated that are anti-union workers. You know, you don't know who you're working alongside.

SANDERS: I'm going to stop you. So you're saying that there's a suspicion now that some of your co-workers might actually be secret plants from Amazon to discourage y'all from unionizing?

JONES: Well, yeah. I mean, or to pass the word along that you might be, you know, having a pro-union message that you're trying to convey to other people.

SANDERS: Wow.

JONES: But you get the vibe - like, if you're just speaking with someone that you know have been there a while, and you're talking about it, you know, you're looking over your shoulder as far as, you know, making sure that your voice isn't being carried.

SANDERS: Wow.

JONES: Because the thing is, what Amazon wants you to believe in these weekly mandatory meetings that they hold - weekly mandatory - let me say that again - weekly mandatory meetings that they hold...

SANDERS: To discourage the unionization process?

JONES: They wouldn't say that, but it's obvious that they've done their opposition research - right? - to say, well, you know, if you've - if this third party comes in, then, you know, they're going to be negotiating on your behalf. And just realize that we can do it already.

But the thing is, Sam, there's no negotiating power as it currently exists. You know, there's what they call peak season, which is Thanksgiving through Christmas. There are obviously an influx of online orders, so there were increased hours that people were mandated to do, which, you know, that's fine. But the communication system that Amazon has in place is there's an employee app that you download, and it tells you your hours. You know, there's online communications with you and the company. Well, when this peak season came up, I didn't even know that my hours had changed until I got to work. And it said I was an hour late.

SANDERS: Are you serious?

JONES: Yeah. I was supposed to get there at 7:30 every morning. Then, all of a sudden, I pull up the app, and it's, like, I was supposed to be here at 6.

SANDERS: Oh, man.

JONES: And the thing is, they won't send me a text message to say, hey, you know, work schedule shifts have changed. Check your calendar to make sure you know when to get here. They don't send you a text message for that, but you'd better believe I'm going to get daily text messages about how bad a union would be (laughter).

SANDERS: Wow. So there's these mandatory weekly meetings to, I guess, just discourage a proposal. Are there other things that I'm missing that are part of the anti-union push from Amazon management?

JONES: Well, it's just that just ad nauseum. I mean, it's just - you know, there are break station tables. Like, if it's time to go on a break, then you go to the break area. And every time that you go in, there are different banners of their generated opposition research of how scary a union would be and, you know, vote no everywhere you look. It's like it's their rallying cry.

SANDERS: Are you hopeful that things are going to work?

JONES: I mean, I don't know. I mean, you know, did you know who's going to win on November 3? (Laughter) Like, it's - I don't know.

SANDERS: (Laughter).

JONES: Like, it's...

SANDERS: Yeah. Yeah.

JONES: Your guess is as good as mine.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: Thanks again to Joseph Jones. He works at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Ala.

So for this story on Amazon and unions, we spoke to another person in Alabama.

You know, my mother's from Birmingham, and we used to go out there every summer growing up. And I remember a few things, the biggest of which was that hot dog chain, Sneaky Pete's.

KIM KELLY: I've seen them. You know, I've been hiding in my hotel room because I'm afraid of COVID. There's a lot of Applebee's in my past couple of weeks. But...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

KELLY: ...I'm hoping I can come back and get something good because I know it's down here. I just - you know, I'm kind of on a single mission right now.

SANDERS: That is freelance journalist and organizer Kim Kelly. She has been down in Bessemer this week talking to Amazon employees about their fight to form a union. Kim says she has heard similar stories like Joseph's about the working conditions in the warehouse.

KELLY: The one thing that always sticks out to me because it's such a basic human issue is the bathroom, bathroom breaks. We have folks here who are working 10-hour-plus shifts. And throughout the course of that shift, they get two 15-minute breaks. And, now, this is a very large facility, and you need to walk from one place to another. And, you know, people get written up if they go outside of their allotted time, their allotted break. Like, you are being treated like a robot that needs to be oiled every couple hours, and that's it.

SANDERS: How does the company track production, track the bathroom breaks? I talked to someone who works at this warehouse, and he alluded to, like, robots in the warehouse. But, like, lay that out for me because there's a lot of tech watching these folks, right?

KELLY: Right. They're constantly surveilled. They're constantly being watched. There's this thing - I'm sure the worker mentioned this concept - time off-task, which is any time that you spent doing anything but your specific robot-assigned task is - you know, you get in trouble if you're found to go over that. It sounds like it's a combination of tech and then old-fashioned, you know, management breathing down your neck.

SANDERS: Was there a specific issue or a specific condition that pushed this effort to unionize? Because we've heard for years that these Amazon warehouses are going to be tough places to work. And this is the first and I think only warehouse in the country that's Amazon that's having this push. Was there something unique to Bessemer?

KELLY: Well, Bessemer does have a really interesting labor history of its own. Like, it is a union town, which is a rarity in this part of the South and this part of the country. And there are already - there is a precedent here. There are other warehouses and other poultry plants particularly who are organized, who have unions and who have, you know, reaped the benefits from that in the area. But I think, honestly, it came down to a couple people who actually had experience with unions. They got here, they saw what was happening, and they knew that something had to give.

SANDERS: You know, Amazon has responded in the press. They said to CNN last month, hey, we put more than 5,000 full-time jobs in this town that did not exist before. The average pay is $15.30 an hour, which is more than minimum wage. They have health care benefits for these employees, 50% 401(k) match from the first day on the job. I'm assuming a lot of folks even within this warehouse say, that's pretty good, and I'm not mad. Are there some folks in town who just say, hey, these are good jobs; chill?

KELLY: I think - I was talking to an organizer yesterday who - he's been engaging mostly with younger people who maybe don't have as much awareness of that union history or who are just, like, trying to make some money and, you know, get by. Like, they don't want to get involved in all this stuff. And, you know, the fact is, these are - given the context, these jobs are decent. But the thing is, you're working this job that is very hard on your body, that it's very - it's mentally stressful. It's taking a lot out of you. And you're working for the richest man in the entire world. You know that they could treat you better. You know they could pay you better. And I hear a lot from people that work there, like, I love my job. I love working at Amazon. But they need to treat us better.

SANDERS: Has Amazon given any concessions in the last few months to just - maybe in hopes that that will slow the push to get a union? Like, just hearing you talk about the conditions in the warehouse, part of me is like, well, what if Amazon just gave them all bathroom breaks whenever they wanted? Wouldn't that quell a lot of the anger, just doing that?

KELLY: It would be so easy. I'll tell you the latest concession, I guess, you could say that they gave them, was on Saturday, this past weekend. There was a community support rally - right? - like, union folk and local people, a couple of local socialist orgs, they all came out to support. Bernie Sanders sent some pizza. And Amazon - they sent all the workers home early that day. They said, you know, go take a load off. Go home early. Take a half day because they didn't want them to drive past and see this rally saying, you know, we support you. We're here for you. So they got a couple hours off because Amazon didn't want them to know how many people are behind them.

SANDERS: If this happens, does it change everything for Amazon? If Bessemer gets this union at that Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, does that mean that, of course, others follow and Amazon is faced with just a different economic reality?

KELLY: You know, I know - I'm not going to blow up their spot too much. But I know for a fact that the union has its eye on another Amazon facility in a different Southern area right after this. So I think this is going to be very consequential. I think, you know, when it comes to these kind of big, splashy precedent-setting labor battles, someone has to be the first, right? Someone has to do it and show that you can do it.

SANDERS: You know, it's interesting to think about how any change with Amazon, a company so big and so merged into every facet of our economy at this point - they are at the whole heart of our economy, for better or for worse. And the smallest change in how they operate could change things for all of us. It's interesting to think about the precipice that we might be on because even if things change 1%, we'll all feel it because Amazon affects all of us at this point.

KELLY: Right. Like, they have crept into every crevice of our daily lives. Amazon is not going to go away. But Amazon is also going to continue to make money and continue to hire people, and so it's going to continue to have opportunities to treat them fairly, you know? That's what I'm concerned about right now. Like, there are definitely broader conversations to be had about the impact of Amazon, these major corporations and the way they impact our lives. But right now, this fight is a very basic struggle between, you know, the workers and the boss.

SANDERS: You know, I'll give you my parting thought as we close this conversation. It's - I think in this moment of watching Amazon deal with this and watching these Amazon employees speak out about what it's like to work for Amazon and in their warehouses, it's kind of showing us, all of us consumers, the folks who have Amazon Prime getting everything brought to our house, it's showing that, like, nothing can be that magical. This idea that anything you want could just show up on your doorstep within a matter of hours or a day or two for next to nothing in shipping costs, that was too good to be true.

KELLY: Yeah. It's a tale as old as work itself. You know, even pre-Amazon - think about, you know, those grapes you buy at a grocery store. Where do they come from? There are so many ways in which work and labor is invisiblized (ph) in this country. And that tendency always hurts the people that are already the most vulnerable people. Like, all of this magic is paid for with people's blood, sweat and tears. And, you know, just give a crap about where these things come from because magic isn't real. But work is, and exploitation is. And as consumers, it's on us to try and, you know, be decent.

SANDERS: Yeah. If it feels too magical, you should be asking some questions.

KELLY: (Laughter) There's no magic wand. There's just TOT and 15-minute bathroom breaks.

SANDERS: Thanks again to freelance journalist and organizer Kim Kelly. So we also reached out to Amazon for comment about this union story, and a spokesperson for Amazon confirmed the company did, in fact, hold information sessions for employees. And they added, quote, "if the union vote passes, it will impact everyone at the site. And it's important all associates understand what that means for them and their day-to-day life working at Amazon." Regarding the issue of bathroom breaks, the company says every associate can take short breaks, which are paid, quote, "at any time." Amazon also disputes that it sent its Bessemer employees home to avoid seeing a pro-union rally. And they added, quote, "we don't believe the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union represents the majority of our employees' views. Our employees choose to work at Amazon because we offer some of the best jobs available everywhere we hire."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: All right. Coming up, we switch gears and talk to Nick Cho. If you're on TikTok, you might know him as the very popular Your Korean Dad. We talked about why he made the account, who it's for and why these videos of him just doing dad stuff mean so much to so many people.

In 2019, Nick Cho's teenage daughters convinced him to join TikTok.

NICK CHO: They said, well, you're a coffee professional. You're a coffee expert. You should make coffee videos. And I started doing that. And right away, I thought, like, you know, this is my day job. Like, I don't want to be making coffee stuff on here, too.

SANDERS: So last year, in 2020, he pivoted.

CHO: I just thought of it as, like, little moments.

SANDERS: He shared those little moments through this persona he created just for TikTok.

CHO: I am a dad, and I'm Korean. Then there's the your part, the critical four-letter your at the beginning. It's not just - I'm not a Korean dad. I'm not the Korean dad.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

CHO: Hey. I'm Your Korean Dad. Are you a a little hungry? I am, too. I could use a little snack.

SANDERS: On TikTok, Nick Cho is Your Korean Dad. And his videos have a simple, heartwarming premise. He's just a really nice parent who wants to make sure the kids are OK.

CHO: Really speaking to camera and having everything from, hey, I saw that you were doing homework...

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

CHO: You need a coffee? I'll make you coffee - one second. OK.

I've had, like, taking trips to the drugstore, to the grocery store together...

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

CHO: Hey, I'm Your Korean Dad. Time to go to Costco - first, got to put on mask.

...From a POV perspective, as if you were my kid.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

CHO: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Be careful. It's different from when you were tiny. You can't do that anymore.

SANDERS: This account on TikTok, Your Korean Dad - it has more than 2 million followers, which makes sense when you think about it. These sweet and supportive and kind videos are a thing we could all use any time, but especially now.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

SANDERS: What's the biggest and best, most important message you want to get out there about family or fatherhood or being Korean or whatever?

CHO: It goes back to the idea of, like, Your Korean Dad. So the kind of name, the moniker, the title - I say that I'm Korean in the name. And it seems at the surface level very incidental. Like, well, he's saying he's Korean 'cause he is. But it does speak a lot to the experience of Asian Americans that - for me to say that I'm Korean at the beginning, it means they can't ask, what country do you come from? They don't have to say, like, are you Chinese? Are you Japanese? You know, what's going on here?

SANDERS: What kind of Asian?

CHO: Right, which is a super common experience for Asian Americans. And I do think that, you know, when I say, I'm your Korean dad, that's, again, in the name. And that's the first thing that I say most of the time. But everything that you see afterwards is fundamentally an American experience.

SANDERS: Yeah. And you're showing that, like, a Korean dad could be your dad, too. I watch some of these TikToks, and I'm like, oh, he's my dad, too. That's really nice. I would follow him to the Walgreens and buy candy. It's very much saying, even with just the name, I'm for all of you. I'm here to help and comfort all of you. And that's nice.

CHO: Fundamentally, I'm offering myself up to people. And it's been really amazing that the messages and the comments, the feedback that I get from the audience, just how much that means to them. And again, that's something that I didn't plan for, I didn't expect. But then realizing - oh, I wasn't widely enough and deeply enough to see how it could reach different kinds of people in different ways. And that's been some of the most wonderful and also really heartbreaking parts of this.

SANDERS: What's been the most heartbreaking comment you've gotten about all of your TikToks?

CHO: I get, on a daily basis, I will say comfortably without exaggeration, dozens of messages that describe complete and utter devastation, heartbreak, trauma, abuse, loss. Just the most painful stuff that you can think of shows up in my inbox every day. And, you know, people ask me, like, what's that like? Like, how are you handling that? And for me, I really try to focus on the people who are sending it. They trusted me enough to share their story and share their pain. And very often, they'll say, I haven't been able to tell this to anyone. And so I think there is a point at which I can say, like, I don't have to understand all of this. But I'm just really grateful for it and grateful for the opportunity.

SANDERS: Yeah. Can you tell me more about your Korean dad, like, your father?

CHO: He - you know, you're asking this question. It's a common question. People ask about my dad. They assume that my persona is an extension, in some ways, of my relationship with him. And I got to say, it's really not. And I got to go back to the idea of an immigrant experience. And a lot of immigrants who are hearing this understand what I mean when I say that my parents raised me. And also, I was totally on my own to figure out so many things that they couldn't help me with.

He was a medical doctor by trade. He's retired now. But he's a really sweet guy. Also, you know, when he was a young child was during the Korean War. And so he's not someone who's particularly in touch with his own feelings. And he wasn't a particularly nurturing father. But I think that, ultimately, if there's anything that I learned from him, it really is about - you know, there is something to be said for someone's heart and your intentions. But then also, like, your intentions only goes so far. It's really about the impact that you have and the choices that you make.

SANDERS: Yeah, yeah. You know, this is a really interesting moment for content from someone calling themselves Your Korean Dad to be trending because at the same time, across the country, we are seeing a really big uptick in violence against Asian Americans...

CHO: That's right.

SANDERS: ...Particularly older Asian Americans.

CHO: I've been so confused by these stories because this violence is happening, and it's like a trend. And for me, my first question right away that I haven't found an answer to is, why is this happening? Because I think that there are the simple answers that - like, oh, well, this is anti-Asian hate because of COVID-19 and the stresses about that and sort of blaming Asians and Asian Americans for that, which is something that we've seen over the past year. But I think that that's too easy an answer. There's something else going on.

For me, I'm kind of trying to figure out where this is coming from, who's doing it and what those motivations might be. And if there's a way for me to address that, then there is. And if not, I don't know.

SANDERS: You're approaching this very painful issue with a lot of clearheadedness, and I could totally understand you just being really angry about it. How do you keep your emotions in check as you see these attacks?

CHO: It makes me sad, and it makes me worry. I guess - ultimately, at the end of the day, I believe everyone is trying to do good. Well, if that's the case, then how do you explain all the pain and suffering and evil in the world? And for me, the answer is the evil and the pain and the suffering is 100% the result of the unintended consequences of people trying to do good.

And I know that this is, you know, some people might be shaking their head listening to this, that this is an oversimplification. It is absolutely an oversimplification. But I feel like that's the pathway to real healing, reconciliation and ultimately making things better, that pointing fingers and calling people bad or evil is one of the most unproductive things. And ultimately, it just adds to the list of unintended consequences that create more pain and more suffering. And I want and I try my best for my choices and my words and actions to reflect that belief.

SANDERS: What do your daughters make of this, your TikTok fame?

CHO: You'd have to ask them. I have one of them here.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: Coming up, Nick Cho's daughter Madeline (ph) joins the show. She tells us what she thinks of Your Korean Dad, and all three of us play my favorite game - Who Said That?

(SOUNDBITE OF FLEVANS' "FLICKER")

MADELINE: It keeps coming out.

CHO: Just kind of - just hold it into your ear, then, if it keeps coming out.

MADELINE: It's OK.

CHO: But point your mouth at this. Come a little closer.

SANDERS: Nick's daughter Madeline is here for this chat, and she says she is not at all surprised by his TikTok success. She also says he owes it all to her.

MADELINE: I think it was me who encouraged you to do TikTok first, right?

CHO: Yeah, for sure. Definitely.

MADELINE: Because...

SANDERS: (Laughter).

MADELINE: I was like, oh, his...

SANDERS: She's like, this is all me, right? Just so you know.

MADELINE: Yes.

SANDERS: (Laughter) So are you going to get, like, an agent's cut of the proceeds?

CHO: I was going to say, like, is this - is it 10% is the agent's cut, the daughter's cut?

MADELINE: Well, there's a funny story about this thing that I did, which was after he got his first couple - it was the first couple, like, Korean Dad videos, I was doing a lot of the filming out. Like, his - one of his first viral ones, the Walgreens one, I filmed for that one. And I did some other ones as well.

SANDERS: Oh, that was your hand in there?

CHO: That was her hand.

MADELINE: Yeah, that was my hand. It's my hand a lot of the time. And I wrote out this silly contract.

CHO: (Laughter) That's right.

MADELINE: I wrote out a fake contract. I found, like, a template online. I think it was I was getting M&M's or something like that for every video (laughter).

SANDERS: I love it. I love it. Well, I want you both here to play a game that we play on this show a lot. It's called Who Said That?

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE REAL HOUSEWIVES OF ATLANTA")

KANDI BURRUSS: Who had been saying that?

PORSHA WILLIAMS: Who said that?

KENYA MOORE: Who said that?

SANDERS: And it's a really simple game. I share three quotes from the week of news, and you got to just guess who said it. And you can just yell the answer out. I'll probably give you a bunch of hints. There's no buzzers. You just yell it. And the winner actually gets nothing...

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...Except bragging rights. But it's fun. Y'all want to play?

CHO: Yeah.

SANDERS: OK. I think this is the first time we've had a parent-child duo compete against each other in Who Said That?

CHO: Oh. Who's going to win, Madeline?

MADELINE: I don't know. I'm scared.

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: I mean, well, this is the part where the nice dad says or gently indicates that he'll let his child win.

CHO: I was - I definitely did not let them win when we would play games as - when they were children (ph).

SANDERS: (Laughter)

MADELINE: No, he's never been that kind of dad.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: OK. OK. Noted, noted. Well, this is going to be a fun competition. Let's get to it. Here is the first quote. It is from someone on the Internet who has - gosh, she had a big problem, but it probably got fixed this week. The quote is, "I need my hair done. It's about to be Valentine's Day."

CHO: I know who this is.

MADELINE: You do?

CHO: Yes. I don't know their name.

SANDERS: Say it. Just say it.

CHO: It's the Gorilla Glue hair lady.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: Yes. Yes, yes. So this saga of the Gorilla Glue woman, it is incredible. Over a week ago, we saw this TikTok video go viral of a young woman named Tessica Brown. But she's talking in the camera saying, the reason my hair is so slicked down flat is because I ran out of my gel or my spray, so I used spray Gorilla Glue to set my hair, and now I can't get it out.

(SOUNDBITE OF TIKTOK VIDEO)

TESSICA BROWN: Gorilla Glue spray - bad, bad, bad idea.

SANDERS: She said that she had washed it more than 15 times. She went to the ER. But there was a happy resolution this week. A doctor - a few doctors, in pro bono work, used a combination of, like, medical-grade adhesive remover, aloe vera, olive oil and acetone to get all that Gorilla Glue out of her hair. And as she's coming up out of, I think, like, whatever they had put her under with, she's, like, feeling her hair, realizing that she has her hair again. And she goes, OK, I got to get my hair done now...

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...It's about to be Valentine's Day.

CHO: Yeah.

SANDERS: Did y'all watch this saga?

CHO: I did. I note - I mean, a part that a lot of people, I feel like, skipped in this story is that she thought that it was a different kind of product, that she didn't know that she was putting Gorilla Glue itself, that she - there was a similar product that she thought it was that had a similar name. And that's where the confusion started.

SANDERS: Wow. I tell you what - what always surprised me with these TikToks of, like, things going badly, it's like, you shared the video? Like, if I...

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: ...Had a big hair mistake like that, there's no way I'm posting that to the Internet. There's no way. She's very brave. She's very brave.

CHO: Most definitely.

SANDERS: Tessica, we're glad you're OK. Who got that point? Nick, you got that point. Here is the next quote. "I'll always love being onstage, but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person. I love simply enjoying the basics of everyday life. Each person has their story and their take on other people's stories."

CHO: I have a guess. You have a guess?

MADELINE: No, I don't yet.

CHO: My guess is Britney Spears.

(SOUNDBITE OF VICTORY TUNE)

SANDERS: You're right. Look at you. You're on a roll.

MADELINE: What? My guess was going to be Justin Timberlake.

(LAUGHTER)

SANDERS: So both of you, feel free to tell our listeners why Britney Spears is trending this week.

CHO: I guess there was a documentary that came out. Is that where that comes from?

MADELINE: Yeah.

SANDERS: Have y'all watched it?

CHO: No, not yet. I want to, though. I'm - we're very much a Team Free Britney household here in San Francisco.

SANDERS: Me, too. I really like her. So you know, she has, for years, been under a conservatorship. She had some mental health issues some years back. And after that, a court basically put her father in charge of her finances and her business. And this week, a New York Times documentary came out - or last week. And it raised a bunch of questions about the conservatorship that she's been under. And this documentary, y'all got to watch it because it kind of implicates our entire society in, like, the downfall of Britney because at her peak as a pop star, the culture really wasn't nice to her.

MADELINE: Totally.

CHO: Absolutely.

SANDERS: Favorite Britney Spears song, go, both of you.

CHO: "Toxic."

MADELINE: Also "Toxic."

SANDERS: That's the right answer.

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: That's the right answer. That is actually the right answer. Both of you get an extra point for that one because I agree.

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: I'm going to say - I'm not going to say the game is over because I'm going to just be the referee here and say that this last question is worth 3 points. So whoever gets it, you're going to win. I'm giving Madeline a chance to come back.

MADELINE: Oh, no.

SANDERS: Well, you're not going to come back with that attitude.

CHO: (Laughter).

SANDERS: Come on. Believe in yourself. You can do this.

MADELINE: We'll see.

SANDERS: Here's the quote. "I'm prepared to go forward with it. I'm here live. I'm not a cat."

MADELINE: That guy with the cat filter on his face in the Zoom meeting.

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SANDERS: Yes.

CHO: Right.

SANDERS: Yes. Did Nick hold back to let Madeline get that point?

CHO: No. It rang a bell...

SANDERS: OK.

CHO: ...But I couldn't place it.

SANDERS: So this guy's name is Rod Ponton. He's a lawyer from Texas, and in this, like, legal Zoom meeting, he has this sad kitten filter on. And it's just, like, this kitten with these sad eyes. And his eyes are in the kitten's eyes, so you see him talking through the kitten's mouth, and his eyes are rolling back and forth. And he's like, I don't know how to get out of the cat face.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ROY FERGUSON: You might want to take a look...

ROD PONTON: We're trying to - can you hear me, judge?

SANDERS: It is ba-nonkers (ph). It's crazy and hilarious. And I keep wondering, though - like, we're now a year into Zoom culture, and we haven't figured out filters yet? What's going on here?

CHO: I mean, Madeline being very much a representative of Generation Z, like, I can't believe she hasn't said, OK, some kind of boomer joke at this point. But I mean, that's ultimately what's going on, right?

MADELINE: You know, I think, you know, as fun as it is to make fun of older people maybe, who sometimes have a little bit of trouble with the technology, I completely understand that, like, filters, as a new idea and as a new concept from, like, the last several years, can be confusing. And, you know, when it just, like, pops up like that in a meeting and you're not sure where it came from, it can definitely be confusing and disorienting. So I have sympathy.

SANDERS: Yeah. And like, who among us has not been in a weird Zoom situation? I still am on mute half the time without even knowing it. It's just weird. It's still weird. Zoom is weird.

CHO: It's very weird.

SANDERS: Well, on that note, congratulations to you both. Madeline, you won, but everyone's a winner. This was really fun. Thank y'all so much. Our first parent-child Who Said That? competition - it was a fun one.

MADELINE: Thank you.

CHO: (Laughter) Thanks.

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AUNT BETTY: Now it's time to end the show as we always do. Every week, listeners share the best thing that happened to them all week. We encourage folks to brag, and they do. Let's hear a few of those submissions.

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ILEANA: Hey, Sam. This is Ileana (ph), calling in from Houston, Texas. The best part of my week was earlier today, when I discovered my new go-to taqueria in Houston. It's a small little gem, no indoor seating, for obvious reasons. So I took my tacos to my car, turned on a little podcast called IT'S BEEN A MINUTE and enjoyed three of the best tacos I've ever had in my life.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hi, Sam. The best thing to happen for me this last week is my wife and I sat down. We had a really long talk. We separated in January of last year and filed for divorce. But after this last year with the pandemic, we have both realized we don't ever want to be apart again.

MELISSA: Hi, Sam. My name is Melissa (ph), and I'm from Niagara Falls, N.Y. The best thing that happened to me this week was about a week ago, my father was released from the ICU after falling ill with COVID-19 - very, very severe. He was not doing well. And Saturday, they sent him home, and he's doing so much better now. He keeps getting better, and we're all very grateful that he is home.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Hi, Sam. I'm a fifth-grade teacher. I'm doing the fully online thing this year, and the best part of my week was another one of my students just came out as queer to the whole class. And the best part is not only that their peers are so supportive and even online I've seen some really amazing friendships flourish, but I myself am queer, but I'm not out professionally. And it's been so cool to see my class be a welcoming and affirming space not just for these 10- and 11-year-olds but also for me. I hope you have a great week. Thank you so much for all that you do, and it's something I always look forward to. Take care. Bye.

MELISSA: Thank you, Sam, for your podcast. I appreciate everything that you do, and I hope that you have an awesome week. Thanks, Sam.

ILEANA: Wishing you and Aunt Betty all the best. Take care.

SANDERS: Shout-out to tacos and reconciliations and supportive communities. Thanks to all those listeners you just heard - Hannah (ph), Melissa, Shay (ph) and Ileana. All right, listeners, don't forget you can be a part of this segment, too. At any point throughout any week, you can record your voice on your phone sharing the best part of your week and then email that voice memo to me. The email address is samsanders@npr.org. Again, send us your voice memos. Email them to samsanders@npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SANDERS: All right. This week, the show was produced by Jinae West, Andrea Gutierrez and Sylvie Douglas. Our intern is Liam McBain. Our fearless editor is Jordana Hochman. Our director of programming is Steve Nelson, and our big boss is NPR's senior VP of programming, Anya Grundmann. All right, listeners, till next time, stay safe. Be good to yourselves. Go find some tacos. I'm Sam Sanders. We'll talk soon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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