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Starbucks Walks Back Ban on Black Lives Matter Apparel After Boycott Threats

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  • Many called for a boycott of Starbucks on Thursday after learning that employees were prohibited from wearing clothing that supports the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • The company’s dress code policy banned attire that advocates for a political, religious, or personal matter, which many found hypocritical given Starbucks’ recent statement in support of the movement.
  • Some also found the rule to be inconsistent, as the company encourages employees to wear apparel in support of the LGBTQ community.
  • Starbucks then reversed the policy on Friday saying, “We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter.They will also be designing their own BLM shirts for employees to wear.

Starbucks Reverses Decision

Starbucks will now allow its employees to wear apparel in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after facing fierce backlash for previously banning it under its dress code.

“We see you. We hear you. Black Lives Matter. That is a fact and will never change,” they wrote in a Friday morning message addressed to their employees, whom they call partners. The letter was written by the Chief Operating Officer, Roz Brewer; Executive Vice President Rossann Williams; and the Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, Zing Shaw.

The company also announced that it is currently designing its own Black Lives Matter t-shirts. Until those arrive, Starbucks is encouraging its staff to wear their own clothing in support of the movement. 

“We’ve heard you want to show your support, so just be you. Wear your BLM pin or t-shirt,” the coffee chain added. “We are so proud of your passionate support of our common humanity.”

Customers Threaten to #BoycottStarbucks

This statement came one day after many pledged to boycott the Seattle-based coffee giant for telling its employees that wearing anything in support of Black Lives Matter was not allowed under the chain’s dress code.

In an internal memo obtained by BuzzFeed News, Starbucks said staff could not wear any pin that “interferes with safety or threatens harm to customer relations or otherwise unreasonably interferes with Starbucks public image.”

Banned pins include anything that advocates for a political, religious, or personal matter. Because of this, Black Lives Matter clothing did not “currently adhere to policy.” Starbucks instead suggested that employees wear a “Keep It Brewing” t-shirt that had been designed by their Black Partner’s Network. This came after employees were asking if they could wear Black Lives Matter attire as the country sees ongoing protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

Many believed that it was hypocritical of the company to bar their employees from actually supporting the movement in their stores, especially after its recent public statement. On June 4, the chain pledged its support of Black Lives Matter and promised to donate $ 1 million to organizations promoting racial equality.

Others were frustrated that staff can wear pride pins in support of LGBTQ rights, but not Black Lives Matter. In some cases, employees have said the company will actually give out LGBTQ pins and attire. 

“If a partner can wear something in support of the lgbt community then y’all shouldn’t ban us from wearing something in support of #BLM,” one person wrote. 

A bulk of the frustrations came from the fact that many believed that racial equality should not even be considered a political issue. 

Response to Company’s New Position

Even after Starbucks reversed their decision, many were still outraged that it had to take the threat of a boycott for the company to allow its staff to publicly support Black Lives Matter. 

On the other hand, some were pleased that the chain listened to the public and its employees. 

“So damn proud to be a partner today!” one Twitter user said. 

In it’s Friday statement, Starbucks claimed that it wanted to be part of the calls for change across the country.

“This movement is a catalyst for change, and right now, it’s telling us a lot of things need to be addressed so we can make space to heal,” the company leaders wrote. They promised to ensure “a safe third place where you are seen, heard and valued.”

See what others are saying: (CNBC) (Forbes) (Wall Street Journal)

Business

Facebook Is Reviewing More Than 2,200 Hours of Footage for Next-Gen AI 

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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.

Privacy Concerns

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.”

In addition to the recent testimony and data leaks from whistleblower Frances Haugen, Facebook has also faced other privacy issues, as well as billions in fines

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.

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (CNBC) (Axios)

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FDA Issues Its First E-Cigarette Authorization Ever

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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. 

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Wall Street Journal) (The Washington Post)

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Kaiser Permanente Health Workers Vote To Authorize Strike Over Pay, Staffing, and Safety

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The vote could inspire unioned Kaiser workers in other states to eventually approve strikes of their own. 


Workers Approve Strike

Over 24,000 unioned nurses and other healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente hospitals voted Monday to authorize strikes against the company in California and Oregon.

The tens of thousands of workers who cast a ballot make up 86% of the Kaiser-based healthcare professionals represented by either the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals (UNAC/UHCP) or the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. An overwhelming 96% voted to approve the strike.

According to both unions, the list of workers includes nurses, pharmacists, midwives, and physical therapists.

The vote itself does not automatically initiate a strike; rather, it gives the unions the power to call a strike amid stalled contract negotiations between Kaiser and the unions. If the unions ultimately tell their members to begin striking, they will need to give a 10-day warning. 

The California and Oregon contracts expired Sep. 30, but several more Kaiser-based union contracts are rapidly approaching their expiration dates as well. That includes contracts for more than 50,000 workers in Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Virginia, Washington state, and D.C. Notably, the demands from those workers echo many of the demands made by California and Oregon’s union members. 

The Demands 

At the center of this potential strike are three issues: staffing problems, safety concerns, and proposed revisions to Kaiser’s payment system. For months, nurses have been publicly complaining about long shifts spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, staffing shortages, and an over-reliance on contract nurses.

Because of that, they’re seeking to force Kaiser to commit to hiring more staff, as well as boost retention.

But the main catalyst for any looming strikes is pay. According to UNAC/UHCP, Kaiser wants to implement a two-tier payment system, which would decrease earnings by 26% to 39% for employees hired from 2023 onward. On top of that, those new employees would see fewer health protections.

The unions and their members worry such a system could lead to an increased feeling of resentment among workers since they would be paid different rates for performing the same job. They also worry it could exacerbate retention and hiring issues already faced by the hospital system. 

Additionally, the workers want to secure 4% raises for each of the next three years, but Kaiser’s currently only willing to give 1%, citing a need to reduce labor costs to remain competitive.

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (The Washington Post) (KTLA)

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