Amazon shows off newest delivery drone; South Dakota bans staff using TikTok on federal de…

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Dec 2, 2022
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Amazon shows off urban ‘driverless’ delivery drone

The spectre of technology killing off jobs came a little bit closer this week, as Amazon showed off its new Prime Air drone that is scheduled to go into service in 2024, and which could be a familiar sight in the skies by the end of the decade. The 80-pound, five and a half foot drone is reportedly nimble enough to make deliveries in highly populated areas, such as Boston, Atlanta and Seattle. It is more capable and less intrusive than the model Amazon is using in its Prime Air service, which will begin in California, and Texas, in the coming weeks. The new drone requires an Amazon employee to load a package weighing no more than five points into a shoebox-shaped sized space. But after that, the flight is automated, potentially taking thousands of CO2-emitting trucks off the street. Upon arrival, the drone descends, scans the area to make sure it’s clear, then drops the box from a height of about 12 feet in specially-protected packaging.

Sacked Twitter and Meta staff taking to TikTok

Ex-Twitter and Meta staff are refusing to go quietly; taking to rival social media platform, TikTok, to vent their ire. In one video, an ex-Twitter employee invites viewers to “get ready with me to see if I was laid off from my job” [“Get ready with me” – or #GRWM – is a common TikTok trope where users invite followers to join them as they do things like get dressed for work, have a night out or go on a first date]. Sack staff claim posting on TikTok helps them cope with losing their job and commiserate with other people in the same situation – as well as network for the next opportunity. Daizha Brown worked on a marketing team that promoted Facebook’s services for small businesses and posted on TikTok within an hour of getting her pink slip. Brown, who’s based in Seattle, is now using the platform to document her journey to whatever’s next with a series of “day in the life post-layoff” videos. Most videos garner sympathy from viewers, although (perhaps to be expected), there are also comments by those who are more critical. “Like, ‘Oh, you’re crying on the internet, if I were a hiring manager, I would never hire you,’” said one viewer.

…as South Dakota bans state employees using TikTok on government devices

The governor of South Dakota has signed an executive order banning staff from using Chinese social media platform, TikTok on government devices, saying that she “will have no part in the intelligence gathering operations of nations who hate us.” Although it is unclear how many (if any), state employees are actively using TikTok on state-owned devices, the order – by Gov. Kristi Noem – is effective immediately. CNN Business claims there has been renewed criticism of TikTok this year, stemming from a Buzzfeed News report in June that said some US user data has been accessed from China. Even though a TikTok executive testified before a Senate panel last year to say that it doesn’t share information with the Chinese government, Noem said: “I hope other states will follow South Dakota’s lead, and Congress should take broader action, as well.” She added: “Because of our serious duty to protect the private data of South Dakota citizens, we must take this action immediately.”

Nebraska offering $66million in staff stipends to prevent childcare worker shortage

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services has announced it is setting aside $66 million to be paid out as stipends and loan repayment grants for workers who work for at least six continuous months at a licensed childcare facility in the state. The move is specifically designed to attract and reward childcare workers, and ward off a potential shortage. A survey of 750 Nebraska childcare employers revealed that 90% we having trouble finding and retaining workers – people who have an average hourly income of just $12.31 an hour. In the same survey, 70% of childcare employers also said some of their workers are leaving the profession entirely. Full- and part-time licensed childcare employees can apply, from teachers to kitchen staff. Those who have earned higher degrees will be eligible for higher awards. Applications will be accepted from December 5 to January 11.

‘Hero Pay’ becomes a victim of its own success

A Connecticut program that offered “hero pay” bonuses to essential workers at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic has received so many applicants that state lawmakers have had to go back into session to find extra funding and put new limits on who could get the biggest bonuses. Initially, around $30 million in bonuses were expected to be paid people who had to go to work (in person), to provide essential services. But after getting 155,730 applications, lawmakers realized they would have to either put more money in or slash benefits. Under the revamped Connecticut plan, funding will be boosted by $76.6 million and a new tiered system will be imposed for the program, which has stopped accepting new applications. Only eligible full-time workers earning $50,000 or less per year will now receive the full bonus of $1,000. Other applicants will receive reduced sums. (The original program had offered full bonuses to workers earning as much as $150,000). Numerous states provided bonuses to certain workers during the coronavirus pandemic, often by tapping into federal relief funds. Half the states have collectively budgeted about $2.7 billion for extra pay to public or private-sector workers by using federal American Rescue Plan funds.

Amazon told to ‘cease and desist’ anti-union retaliation

Amazon will this week be forced to read out a public notice to all employees at its Staten Island warehouse, saying it will “cease and desist” from retaliating against staff involved in union organizing. Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, became the first to pass a union vote in April, but Amazon has been accused of treating those involved with the unionization movement unfairly, including sacking employee Gerald Bryson, who became involved in workplace organizing when he called on Amazon to do more to protect workers against Covid-19 in 2020. While the order does not reinstate Bryson, Amazon could be held in contempt of court if found to be violating the order. US district judge Diane Gujarati ruled that Amazon must read out all 30 pages of the cease and desist notice on 1st December.

Kern River Brewing becomes 100% employee owned

California-based beer maker, The River Brewing Company, has announced it is the latest company to become 100% employee owned. The employee ownership movement is growing in America, with more than 7,000 companies now wholly owned by their employees – 800 of which are in California alone. Co-founder Eric Giddens has entered into a Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which transfers the total share of the company into a trust funded by the company. Shares will be given to all eligible employees – those defined as working more than 1,000 hours a year – at no cost. In their first year, employees will receive 20 percent of their capable share, and in each year following, their shares will increase in grades of 20 percent. Because stocks received cannot be sold or taken if an employee quits, the arrangement aids engagement and retention. A 2020 report from Rutgers University found that “ESOP companies were between three and four times more likely to retain staff.

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.