Posts tagged with "Amazon"

Amazon broke law and should face new union election, labor official finds

August 5, 2021

A hearing examiner for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found that Amazon tainted the election process sufficiently during the union campaign at its warehouse in Alabama last April to warrant a do-over, The Huffington Post reports.

The labor union challenging its election loss at an Amazon warehouse cleared its first major hurdle this week, with a preliminary finding that the online retailer violated labor law during the closely watched union campaign in Alabama earlier this year.

A hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a report this week recommending that workers vote in a fresh election because Amazon tainted the mail-in election that ended in April.

According to the HuffPost, the finding undermines what Amazon had cast as a clean and resounding rejection of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) by its workers. 

The NLRB official said Amazon spoiled the process for a fair election in two specific ways: The company distributed “vote no” paraphernalia to workers in front of supervisors, which may have been coercive, and pressured the U.S. Postal Service to place a mailbox at the warehouse for the election.

The election was done through mail ballots, and the NLRB had determined beforehand that there would not be drop boxes onsite. Amazon’s insistence on placing a mailbox at work “usurped the [board]’s exclusive role in administering Union elections,” the hearing officer, Kerstin Meyers, wrote.

The mailbox, alone, “destroyed the laboratory conditions and justifies a second election,” she concluded. 

Meyers’ finding does not guarantee that another election will be held. Her recommendation will now go to a regional director at the NLRB, and after that, potentially to the five-member board in Washington, D.C., that ultimately settles such disputes on appeal. 

The Senate recently confirmed two of President Joe Biden’s picks for that board, assuring that Democrats will have control of it by September. A Democratic majority is more likely than a Republican majority to rule in favor of unions in contentious cases.

Stuart Appelbaum, the RWDSU’s president, said the union supported Meyers’ findings.

“Amazon’s behavior throughout the election process was despicable,” Appelbaum said in a statement. “Amazon cheated, they got caught, and now they are being held accountable.”

Amazon defended its decision to have a mailbox placed onsite by noting that it was the U.S. Postal Service that put it there. But Meyers wasn’t buying that argument, calling it “mere scapegoating.” She noted that Amazon had procured its own mailbox in case the Postal Service did not decide to place one there.

What’s more, Meyers found that the Postal Service, an independent federal agency, went to unusual lengths to help Amazon, a major client, in what turned out to be a violation of labor law: “In an effort to placate [Amazon], the USPS officials at the highest levels jumped through hoops” to get the company a mailbox as quickly as possible.

A Postal Service spokesperson did not immediately provide comment when asked for a response.

Amazon said in a statement that it plans to appeal any determination that the election be re-run.

Research contact: @HuffPost

‘Wigs are the next big thing’: Boston beauty startup simplifies purchase process for Black women

June 24, 2021

Mary Imevbore bought her first wig online in 2017 when she was attending Williams College in Massachusetts.

Like many Black women, she had decided to “go natural” years ago—forgoing damaging hair straightening treatments. But she had trouble finding a Black hair stylist in the rural Berkshires, and as a double major in political science and computer science, didn’t have much time to style her hair in a dorm room.

“I wanted something quick and easy, so I discovered wigs—but the shopping experience was terrible,” Imevbore recently told The Boston Globe.

It struck Imevbore that a better buying option didn’t exist “because the consumer is a Black woman.” So she teamed up with two Williams classmates, Tiiso McGinty and Susana Hawken, to create the kind of brand they would want to patronize.

After three years of work, the cofounders have officially launched beauty startup Waeve —pronounced “wave”— dropping a product line of six trendy, beginner-friendly wigs on a website designed with bold colors and a Gen Z aesthetic.

“We believe wigs are the next big thing in beauty and fashion,” Imevbore said. “We are building the ultimate destination.”

The 24-year old, who was born in Nigeria and grew up in Connecticut, said wigs are popular among Black women because wigs allow them to reclaim the time they would have spent styling their natural hair. She called them an “extension of the natural hair movement,” since Black women who ditched chemical relaxers were looking for other ways to express themselves through their hair without ruining it.

“The perception is that a wig is a utility, like you have one umbrella,” she explained to the Globe, “but that is not how people are wearing wigs … people are building wig collections.”

In college, she and her friends would spend hours vetting companies, comparing contradicting product reviews on YouTube, and grappling with varying delivery times and changing prices. That was in 2017, when companies such as eyewear retailer Warby Parker and beauty products seller Glossier were disrupting markets by reaching customers online instead of through stores.

Imevbore figured the same thing could happen with wigs, and although she never considered herself an entrepreneur, she began thinking like one.

“Wigs are an expensive product that is growing in demand; people are spending hundreds of dollars on them multiple times a year,” she said.

The market for wigs and hair extensions in North America is expected to reach $2 billion by 2026, according to French research firm Reportlinker, with Black consumers accounting for a big chunk of that spending.

The trio started with $30,000 after winning two business competitions in 2018—one at Williams and the other at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—to launch a direct-to-consumer wig business.

That same year Imevbore, McGinty, and Hawken were finishing up their senior year of college, and they all happened to be headed to Boston and moved in together. Imevbore worked as a software engineer at online pharmacy startup PillPack in Somerville — which was acquired by Amazon that year — while McGinty pursued a program at Boston University, and Hawken started on a PhD at MIT.

The momentum started building in 2020 when the company raised $2 million in a funding round led by Boston venture capital firm Pillar VC, with participation from Maveron, an investor in consumer companies such as Allbirds, eBay, and Everlane. Waeve also garnered high-profile support from three current and former executives of Glossier. And TJ Parker and Elliot Cohen, cofounders of Pill Pack, also participated in the round. (Imevbore worked at Pillpack through the Amazon acquisition until last year, when she decided to pursue Waeve full time).

Waeve exists in a world that hasn’t always welcomed, understood, or catered to Black hair. While that allowed the startup to fill a gap, it also led to challenges behind the scenes. Imevbore said there was a learning curve with potential investors, who didn’t immediately understand why consumers would buy more than one wig.

The numbers were not in Waeve’s favor, either: Crunchbase found that in 2020, less than 1% of all venture capital funding went to Black founders, and a similarly small slice of money went to startups founded by women.

“As a team, I remember us griping,” Imevbore said. “If we were selling lipstick or shoes, we wouldn’t have to explain why someone wants those things. People are buying [wigs] like handbags and sneakers, but [that] is something I had to convey to investors.”

The Waeve team began interviewing Black women about their hair experiences, gathering testimonials and videos to show investors they were tapping a segment that had long been overlooked. It worked and also became the foundation for Waeve World, a grassroots effort to build a community around the brand through shared experiences and hair advice.

According to the Globe, Waeve’s first collection, “Days of the Week,” is inspired by the idea that wigs are an accessory that can constantly change. The company worked with a manufacturer in China to design six initial styles—which range from a curly, middle-part wig to a platinum blonde, straight cut—and it will drop a new line every quarter. Ranging in price from $72 to $398, the wigs are delivered to the company’s distribution center and office in Boston, where employees package them into “starter kits” filled with additional supplies.

Imevbore said she wants to build the type of cult-like brand loyalty for Waeve that other online brands enjoy, and it’s starting with Boston. Waeve has nine full-time employees and more than 5,000 followers on Instagram, and is already hosting community events, such as a recent picnic in the Public Garden.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

James Bond, meet Jeff Bezos: Amazon just bought MGM Studios for $8.45 billion

May 27, 2021

Jeff Bezos has a new pet lion, Fast Company reports.

Amazon has reached a deal to acquire the storied MGM Studios for $8.45 billion—a move that will significantly bulk up its content library and entertainment intellectual property (IP) in the escalating war between premium streaming services, reports Fast Company.

In a joint announcement on Wednesday, May 26, the companies said MGM’s arsenal of more than 4,000 titles—including franchises ranging from James Bond and The Pink Panther to the Rocky and Poltergeist movies—will complement the Seattle e-commerce giant’s existing Amazon Studios, which is largely focused on TV series.

For Amazon, the acquisition is the largest since it scooped up Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in 2017, Fast Company says. It comes as competing firms such as Disney and Netflix are spending more and more each year to keep their streaming services replenished with fresh movies, TV series, and familiar franchises.

“The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,”

Research contact: @FastCompany

Styling with Amazon: The e-commerce giant opens its first hair salon in London

April 22, 2021

Amazon opened its first hair salon on Tuesday. April 20. Located in London’s trendy Spitalfields shopping district, Amazon Salon offers hairdressing services dressed up with technology—including augmented-reality hair consultations, Fox New reports.

The two-story, 1,500-square-foot store also includes entertainment streaming on Amazon Fire tablets and a test of a new “point and learn” experience for bricks-and-mortar retail. The technology lets customers point at an item on a shelf to display product information on a screen mounted behind.

Consumers looking to purchase items for sale, such as hair conditioner, must scan the QR codes displayed on the shelf to order them for home delivery on Amazon’s U.K. website.

In a statement, Amazon  said the space was designed as an experiential venue where it will showcase new products and technology. The company hopes to offer customers a new experience that will also benefit the wider salon industry, an Amazona spokesperson told Fox News, when asked about the site’s broader business purpose.

Amazon made its name and money in e-commerce, digital subscriptions and other web services, but has in recent years entered physical retail in ways small and large.

After opening kiosks in shopping malls to sell devices and Amazon-branded accessories and apparel, the company opened its first bookstore in Seattle in 2015. In 2017, it bought upmarket grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and went on to open a number of stores to showcase its cashierless Just Walk Out technology—including Go and Go Grocery. It also operates stores that only sell goods with four-star-and-above ratings on its e-commerce marketplace

The opening of Amazon Salon reconfirms the company’s interest in retail and may reflect its ambitions in markets that combine both goods and services, Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at marketing and communications companPublicis, told Fox News.. The technology giant already operates Amazon Home Services, which allows customers in some cities to hire external contractors for odd jobs such as furniture assembly.

But service-heavy businesses don’t tend to scale as well as those in the technology sector, given their reliance on labor, Goldberg added.

“So my immediate knee-jerk reaction is that the professional services aspect is kind of a necessary evil for them, and that they’re doing this to establish some credibility and a foothold” in the professional beauty space, he said. “But Amazon has surprised us before, and I certainly wouldn’t take it to the bank that they don’t have aspirations to make money on this.”

The salon’s opening follows the introduction of a professional beauty section on Amazon’s U.K. website, which offers local hair and beauty businesses supplies for spas and salons. Amazon Salon services will be provided by Elena Lavagni, owner of Neville Hair & Beauty, an independent salon based in London.

John Boumphrey, Amazon’s U.K. country manager, said in a statement that Amazon wants the new space to be a place “where we can collaborate with the industry and test new technologies.”

The salon may also be designed as a showroom for such innovations: The company began licensing its Just Walk Out technology to other retailers after proving it worked in its own stores, and could do the same with innovations such as the point and learn experience, Goldberg said.

Amazon Salon is currently open to Amazon employees only. The general public will be able to sign up for appointments in the coming weeks, the company said, adding that it has no current plans to open further salon locations.

Research contact: @WSJ

Hundreds of companies, CEOs band together to defend and protect voting access

April 15, 2021

Hundreds of business leaders and companies—including Amazon, JPMorgan Chase, General Motors,. and Netflix—have signed on to a statement promising to “defend the right to vote and oppose any discriminatory legislation” in the latest corporate response to a wave of Republican-led voting suppression bills being advanced in dozens of states.

Among the executive signatories are BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet, and Bloomberg CEO Michael Bloomberg.

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, more than 300 companies, CEOs, and other executives signed the statement, which appeared as a full-page advertisement in The New York Times and other publications on March 14.

It was organized by Kenneth Chenault, the former chief executive of American Express, and Kenneth Frazier, CEO of Merck.

“There is overwhelming support in corporate America for this principle of voting rights,” Chenault said. “The right to vote is fundamental to America. It is not a partisan issue.”

According to the Journal, the statement doesn’t directly address specific voting legislation, nor does it call on companies to take business action or halt political donations to lawmakers supporting such bills.

“Clearly, we’re not being prescriptive about how people manifest their opposition,” Chenault said. “Who in their right mind would say that they want legislation that will limit people’s ability to vote?”

Research contact: @WSJ

Square acquires majority of Tidal, Jay-Z’s streaming service, in $297 million deal

March 5, 2021

What did Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey talk about when they went yachting around the Hamptons together last summer? Beyoncé knows—and now we do, too, based on a report by The New York Times.

Square, the mobile payments company founded by Dorsey (who also is CEO of Twitter) announced on March 4 that it would acquire a “significant majority” of Tidal, the streaming music service owned by Jay-Z and other artists—including Jay-Z’s wife, Beyoncé, , and singer and entrepreneur Rihanna, who is a client of Jay-Z’s entertainment management company, Roc Nation.

Square will pay $297 million in stock and cash for the stake in Tidal. Jay-Z will join Square’s board, the Times says.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after Jay-Z announced that he would sell 50% of  his champagne company, Armand de Brignac—better known as Ace of Spades—to LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton amid a downturn in the entertainment industry caused by the pandemic that has affected some of Jay-Z’s holdings.

“I think Roc Nation will be fine,” Jay-Z said in an interview last month about the sale of Armand de Brignac. “Like all entertainment companies, it will eventually recover. You just have to be smart and prudent at a time like this.”

Also last month, Dorsey announced that he and Jay-Z had endowed a Bitcoin trust to support development in India and Africa.

Tidal, which Jay-Z bought in partnership with other artists in 2015 for $56 million, provides members access to music, music videos and exclusive content from artists—but the streaming music industry has been dominated by competitors like Spotify, Apple and Amazon.

In 2017, Jay-Z sold 33% of the company to Sprint for an undisclosed amount. (After a merger, Sprint is now a part of T-Mobile.) Earlier this week, Jay-Z bought back the shares from T-Mobile, and most will be sold to Square as part of the deal.

Dorsey and Jay-Z began to discuss the acquisition “a few months ago,”  Jesse Dorogusker, a Square executive who will lead Tidal on an interim basis, told the Times.

“It started as a conversation between the two of them,” he said. “They found that sense of common purpose.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Parler reappears with help from Russian-owned security service

January 20, 2021

Parler—a social network similar to Twitter to which then-President Donald Trump fled after he was tossed off his @realDonaldTrump feed for bad behavior—has reappeared.

Early in January, Parler also was taken down—by big tech companies Apple, Google, and Amazon after it was used by members to send messages inciting violence at the U.S. Capitol. However, its website is back  up—powered by a hosting service from DDoS-Guard, a Web security service that is owned by two Russians, according to a report by The Boston Globe.

“Our return is inevitable due to hard work and persistence against all odds,” CEO John Matze wrote in a new post—the latest since Amazon Web Services stopped hosting the site and it was banned from Apple and Google’s app stores. “Despite the threats and harassment not one Parler employee has quit. We are becoming closer and stronger as a team.”

According to the Globe, public data associated with the Parler.com domain name shows that one of the Internet servers it directs visitors to is routed via DDoS-Guard. Another server, specifically for routing Parler.com e-mail but not website content, is an Outlook.com address, operated by Microsoft.

A spokesperson for DDoS-Guard said the company was not hosting Parler and declined to comment on what services it was providing to the social media app. It confirmed it did store customer data as part of its offering.

On Sunday, January 17, Apple CEO Tim Cook defended Apple’s decision to delist the Parler app despite complaints from critics that the move impinges on free speech.

“We looked at the incitement to violence that was on there,” Cook said on Fox News Sunday, adding, ”We don’t consider that free speech and incitement to violence has an intersection.”

Parler’s domain name is now registered with Epik, a website services company based in Sammamish, Washington, according to public records made available by Internet regulator Icann. Epik is also the domain registrar for Gab, another less restrictive social networking site popular with the far right.

Most of the features on Parler.com appeared to remain down early Tuesday, the Globe reports—besides statements from Matze and other employees. Members are unable to log in or post messages and the app is still unavailable in the Apple or Google Play stores.

Microsoft didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Epik said in a sprawling statement on its website from JanIuary 11 that it’s had “no contact or discussions with Parler in any form.” The statement also addressed propaganda, breakdowns in civil society, and editorial malfeasance on the part of “major media owners.”

Before its ban, Parler—which has less restrictive terms dictating what members can post and was endorsed by some Republican lawmakers and media figures—had seen a surge in users as Twitter and Facebook banished outgoing President Trump along with users and groups that supported the violence.

Research contact: @BostonGlobe

 

Trump supporters flee to MeWe, Gab, and Rumble after Parler goes offline

January 13, 2021

Now that the account of @realDonaldTrump has been banned from Twitter—and both Apple and Google have dropped Parler from their app stores—supporters are flocking to the social media sites MeWe, Gab, and Rumble, Fortune reports.

Gab, a service that claims to champion free speech, said it added 600,000 new users over the weekend. Meanwhile, MeWe, a similar service, said it has added 400,000 users every day since Saturday and now has more than 14 million members.

The gains follow Sunday’s shut down of conservative social network Parler, which went offline after Amazon web hosting service dumped Parler as a customer because of violent posts and threats in wake of the Capitol riot. Shortly beforehand, both Apple and Google had banned Parler from their app stores.

Adding to the increased interest in alternative social media sites are bans by Twitter and Facebook on President Trump and other high-profile conservative personalities..

On Monday, Fortune notes, Facebook went to the additional step of removing content containing the phrase “stop the steal” in hopes of preventing future violence. The phrase is a popular rallying call of Trump supporters who falsely believe there was widespread fraud in the presidential election.

“It’s almost like the perfect storm,” MeWe CEO Mark Weinstein told the news outlet, adding, “The melting pot of people coming to MeWe are coming from all directions.”

Weinstein hammered home the point that his goal is to be “more vigilant” in moderating content on his service, and that he does not want to be an “anything goes” app—a thinly veiled swipe at Parler’s lax approach.

He said that MeWe has just shy of 100 content moderators who review posts on its service, and that they actually adhere to “strict” terms of service that includes the possibility that they’ll alert authorities about any concerning posts. But on Monday, several QAnon and “patriot” private groups could be found, one of which called Patriots Unleashed asked users if they were “armed and ready” before allowing them to join.

Weinstein acknowledged that some of MeWe’s user growth has been due to Parler shutting down. But he added that the app was growing prior to the election and riots. As a result, he said MeWe’s users have a wide array of political views, and are not just Trumpists.

“Those other guys, they’re opinion chambers,” he said about Parler and Gab. “We’re a social network.”

The rise of alternative social media services began late last year after Facebook and Twitter began labeling and removing more posts on their services for election misinformation. Conservatives considered the crackdown to be evidence of bias against them and President Trump.

For example, Rumble, a little-known YouTube rival, suddenly soared in popularity. Over the weekend, users downloaded its app 162,000 times— a nearly 10-fold gain from last weekend, Fortune says.

But Mark Shmulik, analyst at investment bank AB Bernstein, said he doesn’t expect the latest rise in popularity of MeWe and Gab to be long-lasting. “It’s a fad,” he said. “There will be a little niche, but it won’t disrupt what we’re seeing on Twitter.”

Shmulik said Twitter and Facebook, though growing slower, are far larger and also attract a more diverse set of users with a diverse set of thoughts. That’s what makes big social media companies more engaging than the upstarts, he added, which he described as the “equivalent to Trump rallies.”

“You can continue that, but at some point you have to reach the masses,” Shmulik said.

Research contact: @FortuneMagazine

Verizon launches $44 million ‘upskilling program’ for Americans who wants to land an in-demand job

October 23, 2020

Telecommunications giant Verizon is investing $44 million in an upskilling program to help Americans unemployed by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as Americans looking for better jobs, Business Insider reports.

Currently, applications are being accepted for residents of Dallas, Las Vegas, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Spartanburg, SC, and Washington, DC. The program will start in November and expand to more cities in 2021.

People who are Black or Latinx (a gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina), unemployed, or without a four-year-degree will be given priority admissions.

To deliver the program, the company is partnering with two nonprofits focused on workforce development, Generation and JFF, to launch the initiative.

It will train those in need to get jobs like junior cloud practitioner, junior web developer, IT help desk technician and digital marketing analyst.

The upskilling program is part of Citizen Verizon, Verizon’s recently unveiled responsible business plan that includes a goal of preparing 500,000 people for jobs of the future by 2030.

Digital upskilling has increased during the pandemic as millions of Americans look for in-demand jobs, Reuters reported.

In addition to Verizon, Business Insider notes, Amazon,  PwC,  IBM,  and  AT&T have launched major upskilling programs to retrain their workforces or attract new talent in recent years.

Research contact: @businessinsider

Get Undressed! Startup brings fresh meaning to the words ‘salad bar’

September 24, 2020

These aren’t exactly our “salad days”—carefree times of enthusiasm and idealism—but, thanks to Anne Klassman, a self-described foodie and fitness enthusiast, we can now eat salad fixings, no matter what mood, or neck of the woods, we happen to find ourselves in.

One night, as she made dinner with her husband, Klassman recently told Food Business, “We were just swapping ideas, and one of them was, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could make this salad into a snack somehow?’” she recalled. “Many iterations later, we came up with this idea to take the various ingredients you would find in a salad and turn it into a shelf-stable snack.”

It seemed like a simple idea, but Klassman encountered multiple challenges in developing and launching the brand. Undressed debuted in April at the initial peak of the pandemic when many shoppers weren’t seeking or discovering new products. The initial items are snack bars, a segment of the packaged food market that hasn’t seen the same surge in demand as numerous other products as on-the-go consumption has declined due to stay-at-home guidelines.

Introducing a savory product in a predominately sweet category is another obstacle. Are consumers ready for a range of bars featuring spinach and kale?

“We know it can be a bit of a shock to the consumer because we’re all so accustomed to the sugar-laden bar market that is also largely brown or brownish tone,” Klassman explained to Food Business.. “Our bars are green. That is completely unexpected.”

Formulating a snack that met her scrupulous ingredient and nutrition standards also proved tricky. Klassman, who had no prior food industry experience, partnered with a team of advisers and product developers who “affectionately call me the CE-No,” she said.

“I felt so strongly about using whole ingredients and real food,” Klassman said. “It kept the bars so very clean but made it super difficult to keep them shelf-stable. It would have probably been easier for us to go in the refrigerated space rather than the shelf stable space, but I really felt strongly about creating something you could throw in your bag or leave in your car and not have to worry about it.”

Each Undressed bar contains 5 to 7 grams of protein and a full serving of vegetables. Varieties include chipotle cranberry, cilantro lime, honey mustard and sesame ginger. The products contain no gluten, soy, dairy, added sugar or genetically modified ingredients. 

“We like to think of ourselves as the first greens-based savory bar in North America, or the first salad bar as we’ve decided to call ourselves,” Klassman said. “Everything we do is inspired by our love for greens, and especially salads. We get excited about the possibility of people eating greens every single day. The current flavor profiles, which we launched with four, were initially chosen by our team of advisers. We taste tested a bunch of fresh salads and then did some research on flavors, and our goal was to make the most delicious bar.”

Undressed bars are sold online at Amazon.com and eatundressed.com and at select Whole Foods Market stores in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii. Klassman hopes to expand distribution next year to retailers on the East Coast, as well as to gyms and athletic events.

In addition to adding more flavors, Klassman plans to expand the brand’s portfolio beyond bars into other convenient, greens-based products.

“Our hope is this is just the beginning of an array of potential solutions to help people eat more plant-based foods, especially greens, in the future,” she said. “So we certainly have plans for some line extensions under name Undressed. There’s really nothing quite like what we have, certainly in North America, outside of kale chips and variations on those.”

Research contact: @linkedin.com/in/anne-klassman-137b1299