- Two employees at Kickstarter are claiming they were fired for organizing a union at the company, which would be illegal if confirmed.
- People tied to Kickstarter, and others, are speaking out in favor of the employees and encouraging the company to not fight the union.
- Kickstarter denies that the employee’s terminations had anything to do with unionizing and cited their performances, though some have pushed back on that argument.
Employees Allegedly Fired for Unionizing
Two employees at Kickstarter claim that they have been fired for organizing a union. If their accounts are true, the company would be in violation of U.S. labor laws.
First reported by Slate, the two employees in question are Taylor Moore, who was fired Thursday, and Clarissa Redwine, who was fired last week. Moore posted a Twitter thread saying the company offered him one month’s severance in exchange for signing an NDA, but he turned it down. He claimed a third employee also lost their job over the matter.
“Today a third prominent member of the union was told there is no place for him at the company,” Moore wrote. “I stand firm in solidarity with my friends and colleagues.”
“The union busting campaign that Kickstarter management is engaging in is illegal and wrong,” he added before urging other employees to unionize. “It is an unforgivable abandonment of the values of an organization that I have loved and served with my whole heart.”
Kickstarter Defends Itself
According to the National Labor Relations Board, workers have the right to unionize, which includes distributing union literature, wearing insignia, and soliciting and discussing the union with coworkers.
“You can’t be fired, disciplined, demoted, or penalized in any way for engaging in these activities,” the board says.
Kickstarter, however, claims the union had nothing to do with these terminations. According to a statement they gave to The Verge, the employees “failed to correct performance issues that were documented and discussed in detail with them over the course of several months.”
“This is not as interesting as a story about ‘union busting,’ but it is the reality of what happened here,” the statement added.
Kickstarter backed their statement up on Twitter as well.
Employee Refutes Kickstarter’s Claim
Redwine finds it hard to believe that job performance was really the catalyst. She tweeted that she did well on recent reviews. Other Twitter users also credited Redwine for being skilled at her job.
She also said she would not sign the NDA offered and told Kickstarter, “you can keep my severance.”
@kickstarter I will not be signing your termination agreement containing a non-disparagement clause. You can keep my severance. 💪— Clarissa Redwine (@ClarissaRedwine) September 12, 2019
According to Slate’s report, Redwine filed an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board citing that the offered severance contained an illegally phrased nondisparagement clause. Kickstarter confirmed to them that they received the filing.
Support for Kickstarter Employees
Many voices started speaking up for the fired employees and the employees unionizing. Andy Baio, the company’s first CTO, who as of 2018 served as a fellow to the company said, “I support the team’s right to unionize, and believe the company should recognize the union.”
“I can’t possibly know with certainty why Taylor and Clarissa were let go, but it doesn’t look good,” he added.
Boots Riley, musician and director of the acclaimed 2018 film Sorry to Bother You said he stood with the union and told Kickstarter to “stop union busting.”
The Kickstarter United account, which speaks for the company’s organizers and workers, released a statement about the matter. The company said it was committed to Kickstarter’s mission and “will continue to support creators currently on the platform and in our alumni network.” It is asking creators not to boycott the company.
“We deeply appreciate the support from our community,” they added. “The work we are doing is not only in service of employees, but the artists, makers, and backers throughout the Kickstarter ecosystem.”
Supply Chain Issues Trigger Price Hikes, School Lunch Shortages, and More
Many news outlets have cited experts warning of supply chain issues affecting holiday spending, but the consequences of ongoing bottlenecks are already being felt across the country.
Schools Struggle for Food
A host of supply chain bottlenecks are affecting products and businesses throughout the U.S., forcing prices of goods and services to rise.
In Colorado, the Denver Public Schools system said it’s struggling to make sure it has enough milk for students on a daily basis, Insider reported Sunday. In fact, the schools are so short on milk cartons they’ve now resorted to asking students to bring refillable water bottles instead.
“When the milk is available, we are prioritizing serving milk at breakfast at all schools and at our elementary schools for lunch,” Theresa Hafner, DPS executive director of Food Services, told Insider in an email.
Meanwhile, other schools are struggling to find additional lunch-related supplies including meats, orange juice, meal trays, and plastic cutlery.
According to NBC News, Shonia Hall, director of school nutrition services for Oklahoma City Public Schools, even found herself needing to make a run to a local Sam’s Club to purchase 60,000 spoons and forks each just “to get us through for a few days in hopes the truck would show up.”
“It’s an additional cost to your budget, to your program,” she added.
Zillow Pauses House Buying
The issues also extend to the housing market, as both labor and supply shortages have led to operational backlogs for renovations and closings.
Zillow cited those issues Sunday when announcing that it would stop buying homes at least through December. Instead, the company said it plans to first prioritize the selling of its current catalog of homes.
“We’re operating within a labor- and supply-constrained economy inside a competitive real estate market, especially in the construction, renovation and closing spaces,” Jeremy Wacksman, Zillow’s chief operating officer, said in a statement cited by Yahoo! Finance.
Zillow’s share price fell as much as 11% from around $94 to around $84 early Monday as investors pulled out of the company.
What’s Causing the Issues?
U.S. companies are having a hard time stocking their shelves with certain products and keeping prices from rising largely because of factors induced by the pandemic.
The first and most basic issue is that last year, most consumer spending halted amid COVID-19 lockdowns in March. Around that same time, many companies were forced to scale back production and lay off workers.
However, more people are now returning to the outside world, and with that comes a boost in shopping. Still, several businesses have found themselves unable to ramp up production to meet the increased and arguably unprecedented demand.
In addition to production issues, there are numerous transportation challenges. For example, a large wave of businesses have struggled for months to fill open positions. One such industry where that’s being acutely felt is trucking.
In fact, the country is so stressed for drivers to haul freight that at least one high school in California has now launched a program to train seniors to drive big rigs.
Meanwhile, Walmart, UPS, and FedEx all made 24/7 transportation commitments last week.
The supply chains problems don’t stop with ground transportation. One of the most pressing situations seen so far involves the problems at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California, where container ships are backed up.
Pre-pandemic, it was fairly unusual for any cargo ship to be seen waiting off the coast to get into one of the two ports, which process 40% of all shipping containers entering the U.S. Now, dozens of ships have been waiting weeks to get in.
Even once they unload, there’s another major backlog involving shipping containers at the ports. Because of those combined issues, Long Beach extended its operational hours in September.
President Joe Biden later announced on Oct. 13 that L.A.’s port will “operat[e] around the clock 24/7” as part of a “90-day sprint” to clear a path for cargo.
Supply chain issues are expected to impact holiday shoppers, but many analysts expect the problems to extend well into 2022. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg echoed that prediction on Sunday during an appearance on CNN.
See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Insider) (Wall Street Journal)
Facebook Is Reviewing More Than 2,200 Hours of Footage for Next-Gen AI
The project, which could prove to be revolutionary, is already raising some big privacy concerns.
Facebook’s Next-Gen AI
Facebook announced Thursday that it has captured more than 2,200 hours of first-person video that it will use to train next-gen AI models.
The company said it aims to make the AI, called Ego4D, capable of understanding and identifying both real and virtual objects through a first-person perspective using smart glasses or VR headsets. In effect, that could potentially help users do everything from remembering where they placed forgotten items to recording others in secret.
Facebook listed five key scenarios the project aims to tackle and gave real-world examples of how each may look for people who will eventually use the AI.
- “What happened when?” With that scenario, Facebook gave the example, “Where did I leave my keys?”
- “What am I likely to do next?” There, Facebook gave the example, “Wait, you’ve already added salt to this recipe.”
- “What am I doing?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
- “Who said what when?” For example, “What was the main topic during class?”
- “Who is interacting with whom?” For example, “Help me better hear the person talking to me at this noisy restaurant.”
Facebook said the amount of footage it has collected is 20 times greater than any other data set used by the company.
In the wake of recent controversy surrounding Facebook, it’s important to note that the footage wasn’t reaped from users. Instead, the company said it, and 13 university partners, compiled the footage from more than 700 participants around the world.
Still, that hasn’t alleviated all privacy concerns.
In an article titled, “Facebook is researching AI systems that see, hear, and remember everything you do,” The Verge writer James Vincent said that although the project’s guidelines seem practical, “the company’s interest in this area will worry many.”
Vincent pointe out that the AI announcement doesn’t mention anything in the way of privacy or removing data for people who may not want to be recorded.
A Facebook spokesperson later assured Vincent that privacy safeguards will be introduced to the public in the future.
“For example, before AR glasses can enhance someone’s voice, there could be a protocol in place that they follow to ask someone else’s glasses for permission, or they could limit the range of the device so it can only pick up sounds from the people with whom I am already having a conversation or who are in my immediate vicinity,” the spokesperson said.
Among positive reception, some believe the tech could be revolutionary for helping people around the house, as well as for teaching robots to more rapidly learn about their surroundings.
FDA Issues Its First E-Cigarette Authorization Ever
The authorization only applies to tobacco-flavored products, as the FDA simultaneously rejected several sweet and fruit-flavored e-cigarette cartridges.
FDA Approves E-Cigarette
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an e-cigarette pen sold under the brand name Vuse on Tuesday, as well as two tobacco-flavored cartridges that can be used with the pen.
This marks the first time the FDA has ever authorized the use of vaping products. In a news release, the agency said it made the decision because “the authorized products’ aerosols are significantly less toxic than combusted cigarettes based on available data.”
“The manufacturer’s data demonstrates its tobacco-flavored products could benefit addicted adult smokers who switch to these products — either completely or with a significant reduction in cigarette consumption — by reducing their exposure to harmful chemicals,” the agency added.
The company that owns Vuse, R.J. Reynolds Vapor Company, also submitted several sweet and fruit-flavored pods for review; however, those were all rejected. While the FDA did not specify which flavors it rejected, it did note that it has yet to make a decision on whether to allow menthol-flavored e-cigarettes, including ones sold under Vuse.
FDA Is Reviewing All Vape Products Still on the Market
In January 2020, the FDA banned pre-filled pods with sweet and fruity flavors from being sold. While other e-cigarette related products, including some forms of flavored vapes, were allowed to stay on the market for the time being, they were only able to do so if they were submitted for FDA review.
The FDA’s primary issue with fruity cartridges stems from statistics showing that those pods more easily hook new smokers, particularly underage smokers.
In fact, in its approval of the Vuse products, the FDA said it only authorized them because it “determined that the potential benefit to smokers who switch completely or significantly reduce their cigarette use, would outweigh the risk to youth, provided the applicant follows post-marketing requirements aimed at reducing youth exposure and access to the products.”
While some have cheered the FDA’s decision, not everyone was enthusiastic. Many critics cited a joint FDA-CDC study in which nearly 11% of teens who said they vape also indicated regularly using Vuse products.