Deepfakes Used for Entertainment, Advertising Draw Concern

Celebrity deepfakes springing up on the web, and even in advertising, are raising concerns. The technology is advancing in sophistication and commercial interest. Apple was just granted rights by the U.S. Patent Office to “face image generation with pose and expression control” from reference images. This month, video of President Biden was manipulated into a performance of the viral children’s tune “Baby Shark,” while a digital doppelganger for Elon Musk hawked investment opportunities for real estate startup reAlpha Tech. Tom Cruise, Leonardo DiCaprio and Bruce Willis are also among those artificially misappropriated for promotional use without permission. Continue reading Deepfakes Used for Entertainment, Advertising Draw Concern

Amazon Faces Economic Challenges, Continues Cost-Cutting

Amazon is continuing the cost-cutting that CEO Andy Jassy emphasized when the company reported a $2 billion loss in Q2. The company is shutting down Amazon Explore, a virtual tourism initiative launched during the COVID-19 lockdown, unplugging the robotics ventures Canvas and ORCA, and dimming the lights on the Amazon Glow, a video-calling projector for kids. In recent weeks, Amazon also confirmed the end of field tests for the autonomous delivery service Scout. This in the wake of a hiring freeze at its retail division and the closure of the Amazon Care telehealth venture. Continue reading Amazon Faces Economic Challenges, Continues Cost-Cutting

In First for Apple, Maryland Store Employees Vote to Unionize

The National Labor Relations Board announced over the weekend that 65 Apple employees at a Towson, Maryland store (near Baltimore) have voted to unionize (33 voted against). The Apple CORE (Coalition of Organized Retail Employees) will become part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The decision follows a growing labor trend across restaurant, retail and tech industries, while marking a first for Apple’s more than 270 U.S. retail locations. The Towson facility is the third Apple Store to conduct a union drive this year, but the first to hold an official vote. Continue reading In First for Apple, Maryland Store Employees Vote to Unionize

Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

A proposed Massachusetts ballot initiative designating gig drivers as independent contractors was nixed by a state court that deemed it an attempt to avoid liability by companies like Uber and Lyft in the event of accident or crime. The Tuesday ruling effectively halted a $17.8 million campaign in support of a bill the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said violates the State Constitution, with hidden language excepting drivers from being “an employee or agent” of a gig company. The move is the latest in a series of skirmishes between gig companies and local governments.  Continue reading Massachusetts Court Objects to Gig Worker Ballot Measure

Amazon Plans to Continue Diversifying Despite Tough Times

Despite slowing e-commerce sales growth and signs of a global recession, Amazon plans to continue diversifying through investments like building a brick-and-mortar grocery chain, launching a satellite network for Internet delivery, expanding Alexa services, and developing self-driving cars — including through Zoox, an autonomous taxi subsidiary. That was the message from company CEO Andy Jassy at the Bloomberg Technology Summit in San Francisco. The remarks come after Amazon posted its first quarterly loss in seven years in Q1, which also marked the company’s slowest revenue growth since 2001. Continue reading Amazon Plans to Continue Diversifying Despite Tough Times

Atlanta Apple Store Employees Pause Union Organizing Push

Apple Store workers in Atlanta, Georgia have paused organizing efforts that could have resulted in the first unionized Apple Store in the U.S. The matter was scheduled to be put to vote this month, but the Communications Workers of America withdrew the request, citing the safety of Cumberland Mall workers amidst a COVID-19 surge and charges of union busting by Apple. At least three other U.S. Apple Stores are holding union drives, according to reports. Workers at a Towson, Maryland location are scheduled to vote June 15, with New York City’s Grand Central Terminal Apple Store also teeing-up, union leaders say. Continue reading Atlanta Apple Store Employees Pause Union Organizing Push

Unions a Gaming Hot Button as Activision Blizzard Organizes

Activision Blizzard has become the first major North American video game company where workers have voted to form a union, the Game Workers Alliance. The vote, which took place over the last few weeks, passed 19 to 3, affecting 28 quality-assurance employees at the company’s Wisconsin-based Raven Software subsidiary, which works on “Call of Duty” game development. Results were tabulated by the National Labor Relations Board on Monday. Activision has a week to lodge formal objections. The Communications Workers of America says it hopes the development “serves as inspiration for the growing movement of workers organizing at video game studios.” Continue reading Unions a Gaming Hot Button as Activision Blizzard Organizes

Amazon NY Workers Spark Reevaluation of Union Organizing

The stunning victory by an independent union at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse has organized labor reassessing its strategies for the future. The efforts of what were essentially amateur organizers — current and former facility employees relying on tools like GoFundMe — succeeded where Big Labor has in recent times often failed. Amazon on Friday objected to the results in a filing with the National Labor Relations Board and has until April 22 to provide proof that the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) broke the rules to achieve its win. At that point, the NLRB will hold a hearing to consider Amazon’s claims. Continue reading Amazon NY Workers Spark Reevaluation of Union Organizing

Amazon Workers’ Labor Victory Points to New Union Playbook

The strategy that successfully unionized Amazon workers on New York’s Staten Island has energized worker groups around the nation, including employees at other Amazon warehouses who are expected to try and follow suit. Most immediately, a smaller warehouse in Staten Island has a union vote scheduled for the end of the month, while a past election in Bessemer, Alabama sees employees contesting the ballots of a failed initial effort. Other companies are also facing a restless workforce that has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic with new focus and tactics. Continue reading Amazon Workers’ Labor Victory Points to New Union Playbook

Amazon Closes $8.5B Deal for MGM, FTC Watches in Wings

Amazon completed its $8.5 billion acquisition of MGM late last week. The companies finalized the deal immediately upon expiration of the Federal Trade Commission’s mid-March deadline to object, though the agency let it be known that it can challenge a deal any time it finds cause. Amazon in May announced intent to acquire MGM, which has a library of more than 4,000 films and some 17,000 TV episodes as well as ongoing production in both areas. In August, a group of four labor unions collectively urged the FTC to quash Amazon’s bid. Continue reading Amazon Closes $8.5B Deal for MGM, FTC Watches in Wings

European Commission Advances New Rules for Big Gig Firms

The European Commission took steps last week to require ride-hailing firms and others to classify drivers and couriers as employees, which would entitle them to minimum wage and other legal protections. Should they go into effect, the proposed rules would impact some 4.1 million people, and would make the European Union among the strictest in the world when it comes to protecting so-called gig workers. Uber and others that depend on low labor costs and limited liability are expected to fight the proposal, which must proceed through several legislative steps before being codified as law. Continue reading European Commission Advances New Rules for Big Gig Firms

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Will Step Down as CEO on July 5

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will officially leave his position as chief executive on July 5, and Amazon Web Services chief executive Andy Jassy will take over the Amazon CEO position. The departure of Bezos was originally announced in a February earnings report but a specific date was not revealed. Bezos said July 5 is “sentimental” because it was the date Amazon was incorporated in 1994. Bezos will become executive chair, focusing his attention on “new products and early initiatives.” He said he expects Jassy to be “an outstanding leader.” Continue reading Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Will Step Down as CEO on July 5

Amazon Debuts Wellness Program to Curb Workplace Injuries

With the goal of lowering workplace injuries 50 percent by 2025, Amazon introduced its WorkingWell safety and injury prevention program. Chief executive Jeff Bezos has long focused on common warehouse manual labor injuries, especially MSDs (musculoskeletal disorders), most recently in his annual letter to shareholders. WorkingWell will offer employees with physical, mental and nutritional support in every U.S. operation by the end of 2021. The program, which comes as Amazon looks to hire 75,000 new workers, targets “recordable incident rates,” an OSHA measurement for worker injury and illness. Continue reading Amazon Debuts Wellness Program to Curb Workplace Injuries

Labor Department Reverses Trump-Era Rule for Gig Workers

On May 6, the Biden administration rescinded the “Independent Contractor Rule,” created during the Trump administration, that made it easier to classify gig workers as independent contractors. The Department of Labor stated that withdrawing the rule would “maintain workers’ rights to the minimum wage and overtime compensation protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh added that the move will “stop the erosion of worker protections that would have occurred had the rule gone into effect.” Continue reading Labor Department Reverses Trump-Era Rule for Gig Workers

Amazon: Jeff Bezos Touts New Vision for Employee Success

In the wake of Amazon warehouse workers in Alabama voting against unionization, company founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos stated that, “it’s clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees — a vision for their success.” Seventy percent of workers at the Alabama warehouse voted against the union. Bezos, who will step down as chief executive — but remain as chair — in Q3 this year, touted the fact that Amazon helped 200+ million Amazon Prime members save $630 each during the year. Continue reading Amazon: Jeff Bezos Touts New Vision for Employee Success