- GM Employees are striking for the second day after contract negotiations between their union and company did not meet their demands.
- GM did give an offer after negotiations, but it was not satisfactory to the nearly 50,000 employees, who are asking for higher wages, better healthcare, a share of profits, job security, and more.
- Many of the employees say they will commit to the strike until the company meets their requirements, however, others are concerned about living off the estimated $250 of weekly assistance pay while the strike carries on.
As General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union resume negotiations, GM employees are entering their second day of nationwide strikes.
Fair wages, affordable healthcare, fairer profit shares, job security, and a path to permanent employment for temps are all on the list of demands for the close to 50,000 GM workers striking throughout nine states today. This is the first strike in the U.S. auto industry since 2007, which was also led by GM workers. Striking began Sunday at midnight after a weekend of failed negotiations between GM and UAW.
Their 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement expired Saturday night, but the UAW declined to extend it. After negotiations ended, the UAW’s Vice President, Terry Dittes released a statement standing by his commitment to worker’s needs.
“While we are fighting for better wages, affordable quality health care, and job security, GM refuses to put hard-working Americans ahead of their record profits of $35 billion in North America over the last three years,” he said. “We are united in our efforts to get an agreement our members and their families deserve.”
GM extended an offer to its employees that included over $7 billion in investments and 5,400 jobs. The deal also included wage or lump sum increases for every year of the four-year contract, an improved profit-sharing formula, and additional forms of health benefits.
Employees rejected that offer and went forward with their strike after this proposal, forcing GM to resume negotiations with UAW on Monday.
“Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business,” GM said in a statement announcing the continued talks.
Potential Consequences of Strike
The strike does not come without potential consequences, not just for GM, but for the employees as well. Reports say GM could lose up to $90 million a day during the strike, but employees also stand to lose a lot.
According to a Fox Business report, GM employees will have to wait 15 days to receive their assistance pay, which comes out to $250 a week. This barely covers rent in Detroit, a city that hosts many employees of the company.
One Detroit-area employee, Patricia Brown, told the outlet that one of her main fears is “that we might be here for a while… and we can’t make it on $250 a week. You know, GM might not want to budge. So I’m just here trying to prove a point, that’s it.”
Still, some see the risk to be worth the reward. Ray Carter-Wilson, a single father also striking in the Detroit area told CNN he is comfortable striking for a long time as long as it all works out.
“I understand the difficulty of the negotiations and the importance of them,” he said. “This being a lengthy strike, I’m fine with it as long as everything gets ironed out and is fair for everyone.”
Politicians Support Strike
Strikers also have support from prominent public officials. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) said she was “inspired” by the workers.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) also pointed out the wage inequality at the company while adding that he stood with the strike.
See what others are saying: (Fox Business) (CNN) (The Hill)
Child Safety Advocates Urge Facebook To Scrap Plans for Instagram Kids
- Nearly 100 child safety experts and international organizations sent a letter to Facebook Thursday criticizing its plans to develop an Instagram app for children under 13.
- Facebook claims the app will offer parental controls and is meant to create a safer space for kids, who are often lying about their age to access the normal version of Instagram.
- Still, critics point out that children already on Instagram are unlikely to switch to a kids version. Many also cited concerns about screen time, mental health, and privacy, arguing that younger children are not ready for such a platform.
- U.S. Lawmakers expressed similar concerns earlier this month, saying, “Facebook has an obligation to ensure that any new platforms or projects targeting children put those users’ welfare first, and we are skeptical that Facebook is prepared to fulfill this obligation.”
Instagram for Kids
An international group of 35 organizations and 64 experts, coordinated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, released a letter Thursday urging Facebook to abandon its plans to release an Instagram app for kids under 13-years old.
Plans for Instagram Kids have been public for about a month after Buzzfeed News obtained emails about the app in mid-March. Since then, there have been widespread concerns about how such an app could affect children.
Thursday’s letter argues that a version of Instagram targeting under-13-year-olds raises concerns about privacy, screen time, mental health, self-esteem, and commercial pressure. Stephanie Otway, a spokesperson for Facebook, said the company understands the concerns presented by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
“We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it,” she said.
“The reality is that kids are online. They want to connect with their family and friends, have fun and learn, and we want to help them do that in a way that is safe and age-appropriate. We also want to find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps,” Otway added, noting the reality of how many children interact with age-gated apps.
Unlikely To Stop Children From Joining Regular Instagram
The idea that children would just switch to Instagram Kids received pushback from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. In fact, the group’s executive director, Josh Golin, pointed out that most kids who are currently on Instagram are between 10 and 12-years-old, and they likely wouldn’t migrate over to Instagram Kids because it will be perceived as “babyish and not cool enough.”
”The children this will appeal to will be much younger kids,” Golin explained. “So they are not swapping out an unsafe version of Instagram for a safer version. They are creating new demand from a new audience that’s not ready for any type of Instagram product.”
It’s unknown exactly how the app would work, but it would feature content similar to what is allowed in other age-appropriate apps, such as YouTube Kids. One of the few details given out so far is that Instagram Kids will be ad-free and feature parental control options.
Concerns over Instagram Kids has also come from lawmakers. On April 5th Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), alongside Representatives Kathy Castor (D-Fla.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.), sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressing concerns that “children are a uniquely vulnerable population online, and images of kids are highly sensitive data.”
“Facebook has an obligation to ensure that any new platforms or projects targeting children put those users’ welfare first, and we are skeptical that Facebook is prepared to fulfill this obligation.”
See what others are saying: (TechCrunch) (BBC) (NBC News)
Retail Sales Jump Amid Stimulus Spending, Unemployment Claims Plunge To Pandemic Low
- The Commerce Department released a report Thursday recording a 9.8% spike in retail sales for the month of March.
- That surge was largely driven by stimulus check spending, with restaurant, sporting goods, clothing and accessory, and auto sales all being among the top-performing sectors in retail for the month.
- Coupled with that news, the Labor Department reported that 576,000 unemployment claims were filed last month — a pandemic low.
- That figure is still significantly higher than the roughly 200,000 weekly unemployment claims filed before the pandemic.
Retail Sales Spike
U.S. retail sales for the month of March jumped 9.8% from February, according to a Thursday morning report from the Commerce Department.
That spike is largely thanks to the most recent round of stimulus checks from Congress.
March was the best month of retail spending since May of last year, which at the time saw an 18.3% gain following the first wave of stimulus checks.
Sales in the bar and restaurant industry rose 13.4%, making them among the retail sectors that saw the biggest spikes last month. That’s largely a result of relaxed lockdowns stemming from the country’s current pace of around three million vaccinations a day. Meanwhile, sporting goods spending rose 23.5%, clothing and accessory sales rose 18.3%, and motor vehicle parts and dealer sales rose 15.1%.
“Spending will almost certainly drop back in April as some of the stimulus boost wears off,” wrote Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, “but with the vaccination rollout proceeding at a rapid pace and households finances in strong shape, we expect overall consumption growth to continue rebounding rapidly in the second quarter too.”
Unemployment Hits Pandemic Low
The retail sales data came around the same time that the Labor Department released this past week’s unemployment figures, which dropped to a new pandemic low of 576,000 claims.
That’s a massive difference from almost exactly a year ago when 6 million people filed for unemployment in a single week. It’s also a significant decline from the 769,000 people that filed jobless claims last week, especially since some analysts had predicted there would be around 700,000 jobs lost with this week’s report.
That said, unemployment claims are still much higher than the around 200,000 a week that were being filed prior to pandemic closures.
“You’re still not popping champagne corks,” Diane Swonk, chief economist at the accounting firm Grant Thornton, said according to The New York Times. “I will breathe again — and breathe easy again — once we get these number[s] back down in the 200,000 range.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNBC) (Fox Business)
Hundreds of Businesses and Celebrities Join Growing Fight Against Restrictive Voting Efforts
- In a letter published Wednesday, hundreds of major companies, law firms, corporate leaders, and celebrities banded together “to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
- The list of signatories includes companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon; celebrities such as Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, and Samuel L. Jackson; and billionaire investor Warren Buffet, among others.
- Though the letter does not address any specific voting legislation, it was organized by Kenneth Chenault and Kenneth Fraizer, who also organized a letter late last month in which more than 70 Black executives urged companies to take a stand against GOP-led restrictive voting proposals being floated in dozens of states.
Hundreds of Companies Oppose Restrictive Voting
The number of companies speaking out against a series of GOP-led voting proposals is growing, despite calls from notable Republicans for boycotts against companies doing so.
In a letter published Wednesday morning, hundreds of major companies, law firms, corporate leaders, and celebrities united behind what journalist David Gelles described as “the biggest show of solidarity to date.”
The letter itself doesn’t specifically call out Republican voting efforts. Instead, the statement reads, “We stand for democracy,” with the signatories also vowing “to oppose any discriminatory legislation or measures that restrict or prevent any eligible voter from having an equal and fair opportunity to cast a ballot.”
Still, the letter comes in the middle of an ongoing battle between corporate America and the GOP, which is backing dozens of state proposals that many have condemned as restrictive and discriminatory against poorer individuals and people of color.
The slew of companies that signed Wednesday’s letter includes Target, Netflix, Bank of America, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon, Mastercard, American Airlines, United Airlines, and others.
The letter also boasts star-power from celebrities like Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Gwyneth Paltrow, George Clooney, and Samuel L. Jackson, among others. Notably, billionaire investor Warren Buffet also added his name to this list.
Companies Debate Taking Action Against States That Pass Restrictive Voting Measures
Wednesday’s letter was organized by Kenneth Chenault and Kenneth Frazier, who late last month also organized a similar letter from a group of more than 70 Black executives. That message, which urged companies to speak out against the GOP-led proposals, has largely been credited with helping to catalyze the fight between the GOP and corporate America.
This past weekend, the two also partially led a Zoom call that featured over 120 CEOs and business leaders.
During that call, participating executives considered a number of possible steps, including pulling donations to politicians who support restrictive voting measures, refusing to move business or jobs to states that pass such laws, and even relocating events; however, no hard plans were actually set into motion.
Still, some groups have already gone forward with various forms of protests against such laws. Last week, Major League Baseball announced it was moving its All-Star game out of Georgia, which recently passed a series of restrictive voting measures. On Monday, actor Will Smith and director Antoine Fuqua also announced that they no longer plan to film their runaway slave thriller “Emancipation” in the state.
Some Companies Didn’t Speak Out in Wednesday’s Letter
Both federal and state Republicans have been very vocal as businesses have continued to lob criticism at their proposed laws.
Last week, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell warned businesses to “stay out of politics,” though he later walked back that statement.
Two weeks ago, the Georgia state House voted to strip Delta Airlines of its tax breaks after the company spoke out against the state’s new voting laws. In fact, that reprimand might explain why it and other Georgia-based companies like Coca-Cola were absent from Wednesday’s letter.
According to The New York Times, people involved in the process of organizing this letter said those companies feared more blowback and also did not feel the need to speak up again.
Connected to that, The Times reported that some companies originally tried to have the line of “oppos[ing] any discriminatory legislation” removed, but they later signed anyway after Chenault and Frazier insisted the line was crucial.