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

Bezos roasted for being ‘fake working class’

Hell hath no fury like the Twittershere! Ex-Amazon CEO, Jeff Bezos – who has a net worth estimated at more than $150 billion – has been blasted by Twitter users after he posted a tweet reminiscing about his first ever job at McDonalds. Despite first working there aged 16, Bezos’s tweet – of him having just polished off a burger and recalling his first job days – didn’t go down well with readers. “Jeff Bezos can end world hunger for 15 years and still be the 76th richest person on Earth,” Rafael Shimunov wrote in response to the Amazon chairman’s tweet. “They don’t just want to f*** the working class. They also want fake being working class while f***ing the working class. Jeff Bezos’s parents gave him $300K to start Amazon and [he] becomes the world’s richest worker exploiter. Today’s equivalent is $600,000,” he added. “Don’t forget this man tried to get the Dutch government to dismantle a historic bridge so he could navigate his $500M mega yacht. Go kick rocks with the common man schtick, Jeffrey,” another critic said.

US support for labor unions at 60-year high

Gallup’s new Work and Education survey reveals Americans’ approval of labor unions has reached its highest point in nearly 60 years – at 71%. This is a rise of 7 percentage points since before the Covid-19 pandemic, and up from 68% last year. Of the union members surveyed, 65% cited better pay and benefits as the top reason for joining a union. The second-most-chosen reason was employee rights and representation. According to the data, one in six Americans now live in a household where at least one resident belongs to a union. The approval rating comes against a backdrop of expanding unionization at firms like Starbucks and Amazon – both of which have vigorously opposed it. A Gallup spokesperson said: “The low unemployment rate that developed during the pandemic altered the balance of power between employers and employees, creating an environment fostering union membership that has resulted in the formation of unions at several high-profile companies. While already on an upswing, public approval of unions has only increased further during the pandemic and is now at a level not seen in nearly six decades.”

Essential workers inducted into US Labor Hall of Honor

Essential workers who carried on working, and providing services during the coronavirus pandemic were yesterday honored by being inducted into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor. These essential workers were called on to do everything from stock shelves, transport goods, maintain equipment, enforce the laws and heal the sick. And, as a study by the National Library of Medicine pointed out in the first months of the pandemic, they were risking their lives to get the work done. A disproportionate number of people who died from Covid-19 were essential workers and so The Labor Hall of Honor “will posthumously honor those Americans whose distinctive contributions to the field of labor have enhanced the quality of life of millions.”

Amazon took half its solar roofs offline last year…

It’s ESG promise is to have zero emissions by 2040, but Amazon has suffered a setback in these aims after it was revealed it has been forced to take half of its solar panels atop Amazon fulfillment centers offline due to electrical explosions they created. With the priority being employee safety, the firm said “Amazon proactively powered off our onsite solar installations in North America, and took immediate steps to re-inspect each installation by a leading solar technical expert firm.” Details have only just emerged about the solar panels, after Amazon published its 100 page sustainability report for 2021. “Many of our fulfillment facilities throughout the U.S., Europe, and India are powered by on-site solar, where a rooftop installation can power up to 80% of the facility’s energy use,” the report said. By April of this year, Amazon had onsite solar at 176 facilities. CNBC quotes an Amazon employee that said Amazon expects to lose $940,000 per month, or $20,000 for each of the 47 decommissioned North American sites, as long as the solar remained offline.

Starbucks accused of dragging their feet over staff contracts

A barista and bargaining committee member at the Elmwood Starbucks in Buffalo, which became the first company-operated Starbucks to unionize in the US last December, has accused the coffee chain of “dragging its feet” over new staff contracts. Eisen said the company’s insistence on negotiating individual contracts with each of the 200-plus unionized stores is a ploy to delay ever reaching a contract with all of its unionized stores. Eisen – according to The Guardian – also said that Starbucks had repeatedly failed to provide the union’s negotiators with needed information about the economics and operations of the unionized stores. Similar accusations – quotes the paper – have also been made against Amazon. “I think Amazon is going to drag out negotiations unless we put pressure on them,” said Seth Goldstein, a lawyer for the Amazon Labor Union, which scored a huge union victory at an 8,300-employee Amazon warehouse on Staten Island in New York in April.

Business leader claims hybrid offices are heading for extinction

Scott Brighton, CEO of business software firm, Aurea, has told Insurance Business magazine that he believes ‘hybrid offices’ are heading for extinction rather than ever-greater popularity. Rather than being a ‘happy middle’, he instead claims they are a ‘messy middle’. “We see hybrid work as the worst of both worlds,” he said. “You retain the negative impacts of in-office work, such as the dreaded commute, the forced employee relocations to live near the office, and the creation of work-life compromises for employees that may exclude some employees such as working mothers. But you also miss out on the benefits of being in the office, such as the connections, critical relationship development, and spontaneous interactions that occur when everyone is in the office together. And you miss out on these things because while with hybrid some people will be in the office, you won’t have the critical mass that creates that spontaneous magic.” He said that by pursuing a hybrid work strategy, employers are trying to create a model that works for both in-office people and remote people simultaneously. “But trying to create a work environment that is effective for both remote and in-office ends up creating one that works for neither,” he argued.

Ex Burger King workers get another bite at ‘no-hire’ conspiracy lawsuit

A federal appeals court has revived a potential class action against Burger King over its prior use of a “no-hire” clause that blocked all franchisees from hiring each other’s employees. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a ruling by a district court judge in Miami, who dismissed the workers’ claims that the no-hire clause was an unlawful conspiracy to suppress wages and employee turnover. The 11th Circuit said the judge erred in finding that Miami-based Burger King Worldwide, its parent companies, and its franchisees had all operated as a “single economic enterprise” that was categorically incapable of conspiring with itself. The lawsuit was one of many filed by fast-food workers since 2016, when the U.S. Justice Department and the Washington state attorney general began targeting the industry’s ubiquitous use of no-hire or “no-poach” agreements. Burger King dropped the no-hire clause from its franchise agreements in 2018 as part of a settlement with the Washington attorney general. Several other fast-food chains did the same. In lawsuits by pre-2018 workers, however, the chains have argued that there was no conspiracy or, in the alternative, that any restraint of trade was not unreasonable. The judge in the Burger King case found it unnecessary to consider the latter argument, but Burger King urged the 11th Circuit to uphold the dismissal on that ground anyway. The International Franchise Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce agreed in separate amicus briefs.


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