- Dozens of companies have now condemned restrictive voting bills flowing through legislative chambers in at least 43 states, with many specifically singling out Georgia’s passage of one such bill last week.
- Over 70 Black executives for major U.S. companies began urging other businesses to fight back on Tuesday.
- Delta Airlines, Coca-Cola, and Apple all joined the effort on Wednesday by condemning Georgia’s new voter law, while major players in the film and sports industry have announced plans or considerations to pull out of the state.
- In a CNBC interview Wednesday evening, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) accused the companies of making blanket criticisms without indicating what parts of the law they oppose, though CNBC’s anchors quickly outlined several specific aspects of the law that companies have criticized.
Black Execs Form Coalition Against Voter Suppression
More major companies are speaking out against GOP-led efforts to restrict voting access across the country, following the lead of more than 70 Black executives who signed a letter Tuesday urging businesses to take action.
Despite growing frustrations from consumers, many corporations were largely silent last week when the Georgia state legislature passed a massive overhaul of its election laws.
That newly-formed law enacts stricter voter identification requirements for submitting and returning absentee ballots. Counties can also now choose to only offer a single drop box location if they want, and drop boxes will be shut down on the last four days of voting. The law also makes it a misdemeanor to directly hand out food or drinks to voters waiting in line at polling sites.
Georgia isn’t alone here. According to Axios, at least 42 other states are working to restrict voting access.
With that in mind, Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of the leaders of the coalition of Black executives, wrote in Tuesday’s letter, “When the [Georgia] law passed, I started paying attention.”
“There seems to be no one speaking out,” he added. “We thought if we spoke up, it might lead to a situation where others felt the responsibility to speak up.”
As The New York Times noted, while some Georgia-based companies like Delta, Coca-Cola, and Home Depot offered general statements in support of voting rights, “none took a specific stance on the bills.” That also included Merck.
“This is about all Americans having the right to vote,” said former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, who is leading the coalition of Black executives alongside Frazier. “But we need to recognize the special history of the denial of a right to vote for Black Americans. And we will not be silent.”
That coalition has since called on corporate America to publicly reject proposed voting laws that could disenfranchise Black voters. It’s also called on companies to use their influence, money, and lobbyists to hold lawmakers accountable.
The group itself appears to be the first time that this many powerful Black executives have joined forces to call out other companies for not standing up for racial justice.
More Companies Speak out
A domino effect of companies speaking out began to appear by Wednesday, beginning with Delta Airlines.
After facing a potential consumer boycott for not taking a stronger stance on the Georgia voting bill, CEO Ed Bastian released a statement that read, “I need to make it crystal clear that the final bill is unacceptable and does not match Delta’s values.”
“The right to vote is sacred,” Bastian added. “It is fundamental to our democracy and those rights not only need to be protected, but easily facilitated in a safe and secure manner.”
“Since the bill’s inception, Delta joined other major Atlanta corporations to work closely with elected officials from both parties, to try and remove some of the most egregious measures from the bill. We had some success in eliminating the most suppressive tactics that some had proposed.”
More drastically, the director of an upcoming Indiana Jones movie, James Mangold, and Star Wars icon Mark Hamill both announced that they will no longer film in Georgia.
Last week, the executive director of Major League Baseball said he’s considering whether or not to move games out of the state. President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he would “strongly support” such a plan.
Gov. Kemp Fires Back
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) spoke about the wave of companies that have now condemned his state’s new election law in an interview Wednesday evening.
“Specifically for Delta, they did not express any reservations about the final products of this bill,” Kemp said on CNBC. “It wasn’t until a couple of days after we signed it, after the political pressure, that Ed Bastian is now putting out a statement… quite honestly, nothing he said yet is pointing to any specific points in the bill that are causing suppression or any of those things because it doesn’t exist.”
Kemp repeated his point of not having seen any specific criticisms multiple times in the interview, even though CNBC’s anchors mentioned cited complaints from Frazier and others.
In fact, Kemp claimed multiple times in the interview that the bill actually expands voter access in Georgia.
“Governor, [these companies] don’t think so though,” anchor Sara Eisen said at one point. “No matter how much you say that. They’ve come out against it, and they’re going to fight it. And what we saw a few years ago with the LGBT bathroom bill rules, was that corporations are very powerful and once they start threatening boycotts of the state, your state, your predecessor reversed on the rules. So you’re going to deal with the corporate backlash. How far are you willing to take it?”
“Look, I’m glad to deal with it,” Kemp said before once again claiming he had not seen any specific complaints from corporations.
See what others are saying: (CNBC) (The Hill) (MarketWatch)
Nike To Clean and Resell Used Sneakers at a Discounted Price
- At least 15 Nike retail locations in the U.S. are participating in a new program the company calls “Nike Refurbish,” which is aimed at reducing waste.
- As part of it, Nike will restore shoes with manufacturing flaws, as well as donated or returned shoes, and resell them at a discounted price.
- Shoes at the end of their wear will be recycled into Nike Grind materials that are used to construct running tracks, gym floors, playgrounds, other Nike products, and more.
Nike announced a new program on Monday called “Nike Refurbish” that will help boost sustainability and reduce waste.
As part of the program, the brand will take donated and returned shoes that are like new or gently used, as well as shoes with cosmetic manufacturing flaws, then clean and restore them to resell at a discounted price. Returned shoes must have been brought back within Nike’s 60-day return period in order for them to be resold.
All the refurbished shoes will have labeling on the box with information about their condition grade. Plus, they are also covered under Nike’s 60-day return policy.
Nike’s Recycling Efforts
Nike didn’t say what it previously did with returned sneakers in its announcement, but the new plan is part of its wider attempts to recycle materials.
On its website, it markets the initiative as a way for customers to “help keep shoes out of landfills.” and join Nike’s efforts towards, “Zero carbon and zero waste to help protect the future of sport.”
Shoes that are truly at the end of their wear will be recycled into Nike Grind materials that are then used for tons of other projects, including running tracks, gym floors, playgrounds, outdoor courts, as well as other Nike apparel and footwear.
So far, 15 Nike retail locations across the U.S. are confirmed to be participating in this model, but there are plans in place to expand this list over the course of 2021.
See what others are saying: (FOX Business) (Footwear News) (Miami Herald)
Uber Sees Record Ride Demand But Doesn’t Have Enough Drivers Available
- Demand for Ubers outpaced driver availability in March, according to a Monday statement from Uber.
- On top of seeing its best-performing month since the beginning of pandemic closures, the company also received more bookings last month than any other month in its entire history.
- In an attempt to attract more drivers, Uber announced a $250 million, one-time stimulus payment last week to “boost” driver earnings.
- While Uber said it believes it will turn a profit for 2021, the company could be set back more than $500 million because of a U.K. Supreme Court ruling that gives the country’s drivers minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension.
Uber Posts Record-Setting Growth
Uber announced Monday that its ride requests for the month of March were the highest it has ever recorded in its 12-year history.
According to a filing with the SEC, last month, the company crossed “a $30 billion annualized Gross Bookings run-rate.” Alongside that, average daily Gross Bookings grew 9% from the previous month.
Notably, this also marked the company’s best month since March of last year, when pandemic closures began in the U.S.
On top of that, Uber said its delivery business crossed “a $52 billion annualized Gross Bookings run-rate in March, growing more than 150% year-over-year.”
In fact, that demand over the past month was so high that Uber didn’t have enough drivers to meet it.
“As vaccination rates increase in the United States, we are observing that consumer demand for Mobility is recovering faster than driver availability, and consumer demand for Delivery continues to exceed courier availability,” the company said.
$250 Million Driver Stimulus
Monday’s filing is in line with another announcement from Uber, which said last week that it is opening up a $250 million driver stimulus to “boost” earnings for drivers.
“In 2021, there are more riders requesting trips than there are drivers available to give them—making it a great time to be a driver,” the company said at the time. “We want drivers to take advantage of higher earnings now because this is likely a temporary situation.”
“As the recovery continues, we expect more drivers will be hitting the road, which means that over time earnings will come back to pre-Covid levels.”
Can Uber Become Profitable?
In February, Uber reported $6.8 billion in losses for 2020, and for years, many have questioned if its business model is even profitable at all; however, in this latest filing, Uber said it believes it’ll become profitable by the end of 2021.
That said, last month, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom handed drivers a major win by ruling that they need to be reclassified as “workers,” guaranteeing them minimum wage, holiday pay, and pension.
While big news, the U.K. classifies “workers” and “employees” separately. As a result, U.K. drivers still aren’t granted full benefits.
The decision will also likely be a setback for Uber, as Bank of America has estimated that it could cost the company more than $500 million.
Uber’s Vaccine Access Fund
In other Uber news, the company — along with PayPal and Walgreens — has launched a “Vaccine Access Fund.”
Through that fund, customers can donate money that will be used to help people who normally lack transportation get to their vaccination appointment.
Notably, all three companies have said they’ll donate a joint $11 million.
That’s on top of the $5 million PayPal previously donated, as well as the 10 million free and discounted rides Uber promised to give in December.
Uber users are able to donate in-app, and PayPal has launched a donation page on its website.
See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (CNBC) (CNET)
China Hits Alibaba With $2.8 Billion Antitrust Fine
- Chinese regulators slapped Alibaba with a $2.8 billion fine for monopolistic practices on Saturday, which amounts to 4% of the e-commerce mega-giant’s domestic sales.
- Regulators accused the company of specifically engaging in a policy known as “choose one out of two,” where Alibaba would penalize sellers who also used other platforms to sell their goods.
- CEO Daniel Zhang believes the company won’t be negatively affected by the fine, which could have been set as high as 10% of all sales.
- Despite the fine, the company’s stock rose over 6% by Monday’s closing of the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Dominating the Marketplace
The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba was hit with a $2.8 billion antitrust fine by Chinese regulators on Saturday for using its dominant position in the market to punish merchants and rivals.
In particular, it engaged in a policy known as “choose one out of two,” where a seller on Alibaba would be penalized in a variety of ways if they were found to be selling on another platform.
While the $2.8 billion fine seems large, it only accounts for 4% of the company’s domestic sales. The fine could’ve been far worse, as antitrust fines in China can go as high as 10% of the company’s annual sales.
Alibaba has agreed to take the fine, not fight it, and will fully comply with the demands of the regulators. Those demands include three years of “self-examination compliance reports” to ensure the company isn’t engaging in the same practices.
The news comes after the company’s founder, Jack Ma, has been under intense scrutiny from Chinese officials. Ma has not been seen in the public eye for months and his Ant Group, a sister company to Alibaba, is being forced by Chinese regulators as of Monday morning to become a financial holding company; therefore facing much stricter banking regulations.
Clear Sailing From Here
Fortunately for Alibaba, the company has managed to dodge much of the scrutiny Ma faces as he isn’t really involved with the business anymore. Its current leadership also doesn’t think the fine will really affect the company at all. Unlike Ma’s past rhetoric that was dismissive of regulators, CEO Daniel Zhang released a statement on Saturday that struck a conciliatory tone.
“Alibaba would not have achieved our growth without sound government regulation and service, and the critical oversight, tolerance and support from all of our constituencies have been crucial to our development,” he said.
Zhang added Monday morning that he doesn’t expect any negative impacts from the situation, which possibly helped Alibaba’s stock to rise sharply from $223 per share to $241 as of Monday’s closing of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, where the shares are traded.
There are a plethora of reasons that could explain the stock’s rise just after it was the target of a major antitrust fine, but notably, there doesn’t seem to be any more antitrust fines in the pipeline, leading investors to be confident that the worst is behind the company.