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NLRB preliminary finding revives labor organizing at Amazon

NLRB preliminary finding revives labor organizing at Amazon

NEW YORK — A recommendation to nullify the election results of an Amazon union vote in Bessemer, Alabama is breathing new life into the labor movement.The recommendation was issued Monday by a hearing officer for the National Labor Relations Board, who said that Amazon potentially interfered with the April election in which warehouse workers overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to unionize.Labor experts say that it’s rare for a hearing officer to call for a new election but in the case of Amazon, there’s a good chance it will happen since the NLRB regional director usually sticks with the hearing officer’s guidance.Moreover, the labor board’s standards in determining a new election favors the union, not Amazon. The board needs to only figure out whether the company “reasonably tended to interfere with the employees’ free and uncoerced choice in the election,” not whether it in fact coerced employees, according to the preliminary 61-page opinion filed by the hearing officer, Kerstin Meyers.“They are looking at whether there has been conduct that interferes with employees’ free choice,” said William Gould, a law professor at Stanford Law School and the former chairman of the NRLB from 1994 to 1998. “The board does not want the workers to believe that the employer is in control of the process. It’s the government, the impartial third party, that is in control of the process, not the employer.”In its filing with the NLRB in April, the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union, which spearheaded the unionization campaign in Bessemer, said that Amazon threatened workers with layoffs and even closing the warehouse if they unionized. It also said Amazon fired a pro-union employee, but declined to name the person.Many of the other allegations by the union revolve around a mailbox that Amazon installed in the parking lot of the Bessemer warehouse. It said the mailbox created the false appearance that Amazon was conducting the election, intimidating workers into voting against the union. Security cameras in the parking lot could have recorded workers going to the mailbox, giving the impression that workers were being watched by the company and that their votes weren’t private, according to the retail union.In making her recommendation, Meyers wrote that the NLRB must consider several factors, including the number of incidents; the severity of the incidents and whether they were likely to cause fear among employees in the voting unit.“The evidence demonstrates that the employer’s conduct interfered with the laboratory conditions necessary to conduct a fair election,” Meyers wrote.Still, labor experts predict that any final outcome could take months, with lots of appeals from both sides. And many believe that even if there is a do-over, Amazon would still be victorious given the high turnover of workers at the company’s warehouses, which makes it difficult for unionizing efforts to gain any steam.“It would be a huge moral victory to throw out the election, especially with all the serious allegations,” said Kent Wong, the director of the UCLA Labor Center. “But it still would be an uphill fight in securing a victory at the election.”Even if the union won, Amazon could appeal, says Alexander Colvin, professor of labor relations, law and history at Cornell University.“They could argue that somehow the election was tainted,” he said. “They have a lot of ability to drag it out procedurally and not engage in bargaining.”The process for any conclusion is expected to be lengthy.Both Amazon and the RWDSU may file responses to the hearing officer’s recommendation. Then, the NLRB regional director must review the recommendations and issue a decision on whether a new election will be ordered. A decision could take a few weeks, according to the labor board, and either party could appeal the decision to the full NLRB board in Washington.So far, Amazon has indicated it is ready to fight, issuing a statement late Monday that its employees “voted overwhelmingly in favor of a direct connection with their managers and the company. Their voice should be heard above all else, and we plan to appeal to ensure that happens.”The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which represents more than 600 major business organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Restaurant Association, slammed the NLRB’s preliminary recommendations, which could overturn the will of Amazon’s workers.“It’s disappointing that the NLRB is considering to side with Big Labor by setting aside the will of American workers,” said Kristen Swearingen, chairman of the coalition in a statement.Stuart Applebaum, president of the RWDSU, said that he wasn’t surprised by the hearing officer’s recommendations and that if another election is held, the union will have a better chance of being victorious. He says labor organizers are still on the ground in Bessemer and he is seeing the pro-union movement grow more among the workers.“Amazon may have won the first vote count, but they are losing the debate all over the world,” Applebaum said.——————Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Amazon delivers a mixed bag of 2Q results, shares slide

Amazon delivers a mixed bag of 2Q results, shares slide

Amazon on Thursday turned in a mixed bag of results for its fiscal second quarter, coming up short of Wall Street expectations in revenue but beating on profitsBy ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AP Retail WriterJuly 29, 2021, 9:26 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Amazon on Thursday turned in a mixed bag of results for its fiscal second quarter, coming up short of Wall Street expectations in revenue but beating on profits.The world’s largest online retailer also offered a revenue forecast for its current quarter that fell short of analysts’ projections. It said revenue will be in the range of $106 billion to $112 billion for the third quarter. Analysts were looking for $119.3 billion.Shares in Amazon.com Inc. fell more than 6% in after-market trading.Amazon is one of the few retailers that has prospered during the pandemic. As physical stores that sold non-essential goods like clothing temporarily closed, people stuck at home turned to Amazon to buy groceries, cleaning supplies and more.Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky told reporters during a call following Thursday’s earnings report that the slowdown in sales is a result of the company lapping against last year’s huge pandemic-induced COVID-19 shopping binges. The slowdown also reflects that people, particularly in Europe and the U.S., are more mobile and are doing other things besides shopping, he added.Olsavsky noted that in May a year ago, the revenue growth rate jumped in the 35% to 45% range from what had been a 20% to 21% range during the pre-pandemic days. He believes that sales increases will settle in the mid-teen percentage range.Olsavsky told reporters that surging cases of the new delta variant is pushing the company to get more workers be vaccinated. It’s also working with local authorities on safety measures. He says that could mean requiring workers to wear masks even if vaccinated in some areas.“The bigger goal is to stamp this out and get people vaccinated and have a successful return to life,” Olsavsky said.During the three-month period ended June 30, the Seattle-based company reported a profit of $7.78 billion, or $15.12 per share, compared with $5.24 billion, or $10.30 a share, during the year-ago period. Revenue jumped 27% to $113.08 billion.Analysts surveyed by FactSet on average expected $115.42 billion in quarterly revenue and per-share earnings of $12.28.Besides online shopping, Amazon’s other businesses expanded, too. Sales at its cloud-computing business, which helps power the online operations of Netflix, McDonald’s and other companies, grew 37% in the quarter. And at its unit that includes its advertising business, where brands pay to get their products to show up first when shoppers search on the site, sales rose 87%.Amazon held its Prime Day from June 21 to June 22, the earliest it had ever held the sales event due as it didn’t want any distractions from the Tokyo Olympics, which is going on now. Last year, Amazon postponed Prime Day to October because of the pandemic and used it to kick off holiday shopping early. Olsavsky told reporters that this year’s Prime Day was very strong.It was the company’s last quarter with founder Jeff Bezos as CEO. He stepped down to become executive chairman in early July. Andrew Jassy, who headed its cloud-computing unit, Amazon Web Services, succeeded him.

Bezos' comments on workers after spaceflight draws rebuke

Bezos' comments on workers after spaceflight draws rebuke

The world’s richest man wanted to say thanks to the people who made his brief trip into space Tuesday possibleBy ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AP Retail WriterJuly 21, 2021, 6:29 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — The world’s richest man wanted to say thanks to the people who made his brief trip into space Tuesday possible.But for some, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ expression of gratitude went over like a lead rocket.“I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” the 57-year-old Bezos said during a news conference Tuesday after becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride in his own spacecraft.Bezos built Amazon into a shopping and entertainment behemoth but has faced increasing activism within his own workforce and stepped up pressure from critics to improve working conditions.Labor groups and Amazon workers have claimed that the company offers its hourly employees not enough break times, puts too much reliance on rigid productivity metrics and has unsafe working conditions. An effort to unionize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and a professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, wrote on Twitter that Bezos has crushed unionizing attempts for decades.“Amazon workers don’t need Bezos to thank them. They need him to stop union busting — and pay them what they deserve,” Reich wrote.Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in July, allowing him more time for side projects including his space exploration company Blue Origin. He has said he finances the rocket company by selling $1 billion in Amazon stock each year.After the spaceflight, Bezos awarded $100 million donations through a new philanthropic initiative to both D.C. chef Jose Andres and CNN contributor Van Jones to put towards any charity or nonprofit of their choice. Jones has founded a number of nonprofit organizations and Andres’ nonprofit group World Central Kitchen provides meals to people following natural disasters.Nevertheless, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, proposed on Tuesday legislation that would tax space travel for non-scientific research purposes.“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” said Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. “Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some.”Others tied his spaceflight to reports that Bezos hasn’t paid his fair share of taxes. According to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted.Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says it’s challenging for Bezos to say where the money from the space trip is coming from without being offensive. He says he should have left out those comments and focused on thanking the Blue Origin team.“For people who have an issue with inequality and his compensation versus the average employee compensation, this was rocket fuel,” Adamson said.————Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Bezos' comments on workers after spaceflight draws rebuke

Bezos' comments on workers after spaceflight draws rebuke

The world’s richest man wanted to say thanks to the people who made his brief trip into space Tuesday possibleBy ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AP Retail WriterJuly 21, 2021, 4:36 AM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — The world’s richest man wanted to say thanks to the people who made his brief trip into space Tuesday possible.But for some, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ expression of gratitude went over like a lead rocket.“I want to thank every Amazon employee, and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” the 57-year-old Bezos said during a news conference Tuesday after becoming the second billionaire in just over a week to ride in his own spacecraft.Bezos built Amazon into a shopping and entertainment behemoth but has faced increasing activism within his own workforce and stepped up pressure from critics to improve working conditions.Labor groups and Amazon workers have claimed that the company offers its hourly employees not enough break times, puts too much reliance on rigid productivity metrics and has unsafe working conditions. An effort to unionize workers at an Amazon warehouse in Alabama failed earlier this year.Robert Reich, former secretary of labor under President Bill Clinton and a professor of public policy at University of California, Berkeley, wrote on Twitter that Bezos has crushed unionizing attempts for decades.“Amazon workers don’t need Bezos to thank them. They need him to stop union busting — and pay them what they deserve,” Reich wrote.Bezos stepped down as Amazon CEO in July, allowing him more time for side projects including his space exploration company Blue Origin. He has said he finances the rocket company by selling $1 billion in Amazon stock each year.After the spaceflight, Bezos awarded $100 million donations through a new philanthropic initiative to both D.C. chef Jose Andres and CNN contributor Van Jones to put towards any charity or nonprofit of their choice. Jones has founded a number of nonprofit organizations and Andres’ nonprofit group World Central Kitchen provides meals to people following natural disasters.Nevertheless, Rep. Earl Blumenauer, who is on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, proposed on Tuesday legislation that would tax space travel for non-scientific research purposes.“Space exploration isn’t a tax-free holiday for the wealthy,” said Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat. “Just as normal Americans pay taxes when they buy airline tickets, billionaires who fly into space to produce nothing of scientific value should do the same, and then some.”Others tied his spaceflight to reports that Bezos hasn’t paid his fair share of taxes. According to the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica, Bezos paid no income tax in 2007 and 2011.“Jeff Bezos forgot to thank all the hardworking Americans who actually paid taxes to keep this country running while he and Amazon paid nothing,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., tweeted.Allen Adamson, co-founder of marketing consultancy Metaforce, says it’s challenging for Bezos to say where the money from the space trip is coming from without being offensive. He says he should have left out those comments and focused on thanking the Blue Origin team.“For people who have an issue with inequality and his compensation versus the average employee compensation, this was rocket fuel,” Adamson said.————Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Nordstrom pivots as shopper habits change during pandemic

Nordstrom pivots as shopper habits change during pandemic

Like many of its peers, venerable department store chain Nordstrom is having a tough time keeping pace with customer demand for new clothes because of supply issuesBy ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AP Retail WriterJuly 20, 2021, 6:00 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLike many of its peers, venerable department store chain Nordstrom is having a tough time keeping pace with customer demand for new clothes because of supply issues.That will be an even bigger challenge heading into the full swing of its anniversary sale, a tradition since the 1960s. Last year, customers stayed away because there was no reason to buy dressy clothes during a pandemic.But Nordstrom is framing this year’s event as an opportunity for shoppers to reinvent themselves as they come out of their homes. Amid product delays, the retailer says it developed a back-order feature on its website for customers who want to take advantage of the sale but find the item not in stock.Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom stores and great-grandson of company founder John W. Nordstrom, recently spoke with The Associated Press at its Manhattan store to share some thoughts about changing shopper habits, shipping delays and why the Seattle-based Nordstrom plans to pack up masks soon. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.Q. What kind of delays in merchandise shipments are you seeing?A. Anywhere from a couple of days to a month. And you don’t really always know exactly what’s causing it. Is it the port in Asia? Is it the port at Long Beach where ships anchored out there can’t get offloaded. We’re retailers. We’re focused on serving customers. We’ve got a great team that’s focused on the inbound supply chain. And whether it’s a few days or a couple of weeks, we’re ready to roll with the punches on that.Q. Anything left of the COVID-19 safety measures?A. In most cities and markets we do business in, we are able to do the full makeover in our beauty departments and in our spas. That was probably one of the last things that we’re able to unlock. But we want customers to know — and it’s been this way for quite a while now — that when they come to Nordstrom store, they’re getting the full experience. It’s not a watered-down COVID version of Nordstrom.Q. What’s the customer traffic like?A. It has been very different across the regions. It started in the South — South Florida, Texas — over the last several months. It’s the states that dropped the restrictions first is where traffic started to build. And then as you moved North and West, as states dropped restrictions, we saw that traffic come back pretty quickly. And so we’re encouraged by the path that we’re on and the pace that customers are coming back in.Q. What makes the anniversary sale extra important this year?A. More than anything, it’s a wardrobe refresh. People have discovered comfort. They don’t want to sacrifice style. There’s a big demand out there for people to really go through their closets and kind of reinvent how they want to look over the next couple of seasons.Q. Which trends from the pandemic will remain and how are you reacting?A. So casual, athleisure, denim. We are scrambling to get after what the new suit is. It may not be the same suit that it was. It’s a sport coat and it’s a pair of jeans. It’s an interesting time to try and react to very quickly changing customer needs.Q. What’s not coming back?A. Maybe masks. We’ve been selling a lot of masks the last year and a half. We’re not selling a whole lot right now, which is a good thing. And so I think maybe we’ll pack those masks away, and hopefully we’ll never have to bring them out again.——————Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Nordstrom pivots as shopper habits change during pandemic

Nordstrom pivots as shopper habits change during pandemic

Like many of its peers, venerable department store chain Nordstrom is having a tough time keeping pace with customer demand for new clothes because of supply issuesBy ANNE D’INNOCENZIO AP Retail WriterJuly 20, 2021, 5:49 AM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLike many of its peers, venerable department store chain Nordstrom is having a tough time keeping pace with customer demand for new clothes because of supply issues.That will be an even bigger challenge heading into the full swing of its anniversary sale, a tradition since the 1960s. Last year, customers stayed away because there was no reason to buy dressy clothes during a pandemic.But Nordstrom is framing this year’s event as an opportunity for shoppers to reinvent themselves as they come out of their homes. Amid product delays, the retailer says it developed a back-order feature on its website for customers who want to take advantage of the sale but find the item not in stock.Jamie Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom stores and great-grandson of company founder John W. Nordstrom, recently spoke with The Associated Press at its Manhattan store to share some thoughts about changing shopper habits, shipping delays and why the Seattle-based Nordstrom plans to pack up masks soon. The interview has been edited for clarity and length.Q. What kind of delays in merchandise shipments are you seeing?A. Anywhere from a couple of days to a month. And you don’t really always know exactly what’s causing it. Is it the port in Asia? Is it the port at Long Beach where ships anchored out there can’t get offloaded. We’re retailers. We’re focused on serving customers. We’ve got a great team that’s focused on the inbound supply chain. And whether it’s a few days or a couple of weeks, we’re ready to roll with the punches on that.Q. Anything left of the COVID-19 safety measures?A. In most cities and markets we do business in, we are able to do the full makeover in our beauty departments and in our spas. That was probably one of the last things that we’re able to unlock. But we want customers to know — and it’s been this way for quite a while now — that when they come to Nordstrom store, they’re getting the full experience. It’s not a watered-down COVID version of Nordstrom.Q. What’s the customer traffic like?A. It has been very different across the regions. It started in the South — South Florida, Texas — over the last several months. It’s the states that dropped the restrictions first is where traffic started to build. And then as you moved North and West, as states dropped restrictions, we saw that traffic come back pretty quickly. And so we’re encouraged by the path that we’re on and the pace that customers are coming back in.Q. What makes the anniversary sale extra important this year?A. More than anything, it’s a wardrobe refresh. People have discovered comfort. They don’t want to sacrifice style. There’s a big demand out there for people to really go through their closets and kind of reinvent how they want to look over the next couple of seasons.Q. Which trends from the pandemic will remain and how are you reacting?A. So casual, athleisure, denim. We are scrambling to get after what the new suit is. It may not be the same suit that it was. It’s a sport coat and it’s a pair of jeans. It’s an interesting time to try and react to very quickly changing customer needs.Q. What’s not coming back?A. Maybe masks. We’ve been selling a lot of masks the last year and a half. We’re not selling a whole lot right now, which is a good thing. And so I think maybe we’ll pack those masks away, and hopefully we’ll never have to bring them out again.——————Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

Free samples are back, but with safety in mind

NEW YORK — When Pat Curry spotted bite-sized wood-fire rotisserie chicken with portabella mushroom at her local Costco in early June, she felt “giddy.” After a 14-month hiatus, free samples were back.“It was one of the markers that told me that we turned a corner,” said the 60-year-old who lives in Augusta, Georgia. “It’s the little things that you do that were taken away, and now they’re back.”When the pandemic was declared in March 2020, retailers worried about the potential spread of the coronavirus so they cut off free sampling of everything from food to makeup to toys. But now with vaccinations rolling out and the threat of COVID-19 easing in the U.S., stores like Costco are feeling confident enough to revive the longstanding tradition.For customers, sampling makes it fun to shop and discover new items — not to mention getting all the freebies. For retailers, they’re critical tools to keep shoppers coming back and battle against online retailers like Amazon.Food sampling converts browsers into buyers at a 20% higher rate than if customers weren’t allowed to test, says NPD Group Inc., a market research firm. The conversion rate is 30% higher when beauty products are sampled.“Sampling is critical,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry analyst. “Impulse alone drives 25% of the retail business.”Jake Tavello, a senior vice president at Stew Leonard’s, said promoting new items had been challenging without sampling, a tradition started by his grandfather who founded the regional grocery chain in 1969. Sales of a new item pink glow pineapple were OK this past spring, for example, but have tripled since demonstrations were reintroduced.“When people taste it, that’s what can makes people want to buy it and decide what they want to eat for dinner,” Tavello said.But while sampling is back, it’s not clear if everyone is ready to bite. With that in mind, some retailers are putting various safety protocols in place to ease any safety concerns.At Costco, masked workers prepare the hot and cold samples behind plexiglass counters and distribute to its members one at a time. Stew Leonard’s also brought back hot samples with similar safety measures.Meanwhile, Walmart and its wholesale club division Sam’s Club are only serving pre-sealed food samples. And Sam’s Club is limiting to sampling on the weekend. Target said that staffed food and beverage sampling has remained on pause since March 2020 but it has been allowing self-service sampling of individually wrapped items.With beauty testing, retailers appear to be even more cautious. Beauty chain Ulta Beauty said it’s still figuring out how to bring back makeup testers. Target said in May it will resume beauty product sampling in stores this year where customers can take home individually wrapped items. Kohl’s would only say that it hadn’t brought back makeup or fragrance sampling.Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University, said handling and eating food has not been a major route for the spread of COVID-19. But food sampling can lead to people congregating together, and that increases the risk of transmission. He also pointed to concerns about food sampling that go beyond the coronavirus: “Multiple hands grabbing samples can lead to the spread of germs, while contaminated gloves can also disperse unwanted bacteria.”As for makeup testing, Gostin said it’s “much safer and wiser” to use samples that are fully packaged. And with letting kids play with toys, frequent sanitizing of objects is recommended to contain viruses like influenza, which unlike COVID-19 can be easily spread through touching contaminated surfaces.Toy retailer Camp, which centered its shopping experience around children playing with toys, now has individually wrapped craft kits in the store instead of letting kids dig around for art supplies, says Tiffany Markofsky, the company’s marketing director. For testing out toys, it’s sticking to items that can be easily cleaned, like remote control toy cars instead of dolls with faux hair.Marianne Szymanski, president of Toy Tips Inc., a toy guide, believes toy testing overall will be “limited” because of the lingering fears about germs due to the pandemic.Some retailers are doing away with sampling altogether. For instance, West Hollywood, California-based beauty company Blushington isn’t reopening its six stores and is instead moving more toward virtual makeup sessions and offering services at shoppers’ home, says CEO Natasha Cornstein. She thinks shoppers believe they have better control of their environment and hygiene in their own home.“The consumer is coming out of COVID with very different habits,” she said. “It’s not only about COVID now.”———————Follow Anne D’Innocenzio: http://twitter.com/ADInnocenzio

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