How a mailbox could get the Amazon union vote overturned

An RWDSU representative holds a sign outside the Amazon fulfillment warehouse that was at the center of a unionization drive in Bessemer, Alabama. | Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

A failed union drive may get new life because of the company’s insistence on installing a mailbox.

The future of what could be one of the most consequential union organizing efforts in recent memory may rest on a mailbox.

Specifically, this gray multi-compartmented mailbox that was recently installed in the parking lot of an Amazon fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama.


Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
The mailbox.

If you’ve been following the Amazon unionization story, you know that workers in its Bessemer facility have been organizing to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) since last summer, just a few months after the facility opened its doors in March 2020. And you know that the notoriously anti-union company has fought … Read the rest

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Tracking the world’s largest iceberg

This week, researchers identified what is now the world’s largest iceberg. | Alessandro Dahan/Getty Images

An ice analyst explains the job.

Recently, a humongous chunk of floating ice broke off from an ice shelf in Antarctica to become the world’s largest iceberg.

At nearly 1,700 square miles, the iceberg, which is called A-76, is bigger than Rhode Island. It’s now sitting in the Weddell Sea, and photos of the massive iceberg have since gone viral. But while news coming out of Antarctica is often related to climate change, this isn’t an example of that.

Scientists say that icebergs forming like this one are part of a natural process, and that A-76 wasn’t caused by climate change. But it’s important to track their formation because they can be dangerous to ships navigating in the area, and for understanding Antarctica more broadly. And though there are can be up to 10,000 people … Read the rest

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Amazon hit by 5 more lawsuits from employees who allege race and gender discrimination

Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert/picture alliance via Getty Images

Five women allege that managers retaliated against them for complaining internally about harassment or discrimination.

Five women who have worked at Amazon in corporate roles or in warehouse management filed separate discrimination and retaliation lawsuits against the tech giant on Wednesday afternoon, according to complaints filed in various US district courts.

The women range in age from early 20s to mid-60s, and all allege that they were retaliated against by white managers for complaining internally about race, gender, or sexual harassment or discrimination that they experienced. Two of the women are Black, one is Latina, one is Asian American, and one is white. Three of the women still work at Amazon and two are former employees. All five cases were brought by the same New York City law firm that is representing a Black Amazon Web Services manager who sued Amazon and several executives … Read the rest

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Google’s plan to make search more sentient

On Tuesday, Google announced artificial intelligence improvements that could change how we use the search engine. | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Google announces new search features every year, but this time feels different.

At the keynote speech of its I/O developers conference on Tuesday, Google revealed a suite of ways the company is moving forward with artificial intelligence. These advancements show Google increasingly trying to build AI-powered tools that seem more sentient and that are better at perceiving how humans actually communicate and think. They seem powerful, too.

Two of the biggest AI announcements from Google involve natural language processing and search. One is called LaMDA, which stands for language model for dialogue applications; LaMDA makes it easier for artificial intelligence systems to have more conversational dialogue. The other is a technology called Multitask Unified Model (MUM), which is an AI model that boosts understanding of human questions and improves … Read the rest

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Parler is back in Apple’s App Store, with a promise to crack down on hate speech

Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

That’s a commitment that’s easier said than done.

Parler, the conservative-friendly “free speech” social media app, is back in the Apple App Store. But like anything involving social media and free speech, its return is complicated.

Beginning on Monday, Parler is available for download on iPhones and iPads. This comes around four months after Parler was banned or limited by Apple, Amazon, Google, and virtually every other major tech company for allowing some of its users to openly organize violence following the 2020 US election — namely at the January 6 US Capitol insurrection.

In order for Parler to comply with Apple’s guidelines, it had to walk back its “anything goes” approach to potentially harmful speech and create a more restrictive version of its app just for iOS devices. Parler says it will start using AI to detect hate speech and block those posts … Read the rest

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It never made sense for AT&T to buy WarnerMedia. Now it’s undoing its $100 billion deal.

WarnerMedia’s Game of Thrones. | HBO

The people who brought you Game of Thrones are merging with the people who bring you 90 Day Fiance.

Five years ago, one of the world’s biggest phone companies announced it was buying one of the world’s biggest media companies. Now it wants a do-over: AT&T wants to combine WarnerMedia, the company that owns HBO, CNN, and the Warner Bros. movie studio, with Discovery Inc., the cable TV programmer that owns the Food Network and HGTV.

The short version: The people that brought you Game of Thrones and the people that brought you 90 Day Fiancé are getting together.

This won’t affect you, the person who likes to watch those shows, very much in the near future. But it underscores the upheaval in the media industry, as companies that used to dominate the landscape are scrambling to catch up with the new media giants … Read the rest

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Open for a surprise: The endearing results of Twitter’s new image crop

Twitter

Twitter users rarely agree on anything. When they do, it’s an opportunity for community building.

Twitter recently made a small but striking change to its interface: It changed the aspect ratio of cropped images on users’ mobile feeds, meaning many photos that would usually be cropped can now be displayed in their entirety.

The sudden shift — one among a slew of changes Twitter began testing in March — gave many people the impression that the social media site had done away with automatic image cropping overnight. (In actuality, the old cropping ratio is still in effect on desktop browsers, and cropping is still happening on mobile but in a different ratio.) Once users started noticing, celebrations ensued, with an outpouring of art-sharing, meme-making, and gentle ribbing. The response provides an interesting lesson in how we use social media and why such unexpected changes often become opportunities for vital … Read the rest

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WeWork’s CEO says remote workers are less engaged. Is he right?

People are less engaged when working from home. That’s likely because there’s a pandemic going on. | Ute Grabowsky/Photothek via Getty Images

What studies say about engagement and productivity.

Earlier this week, WeWork’s CEO told the remote audience at the Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival that more engaged employees want to come back to the office. “Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home,” Sandeep Mathrani said.

The backlash online was swift as people pointed out how a man whose livelihood depends on leasing office space had obvious motives for maligning remote work — a trend widely embraced by workers during the pandemic and likely to persist after we can safely return to offices.

WeWork and other coworking outfits stand to thrive as companies are reconsidering how much office space they’ll need and if workers need to show up every day. The flexible office space … Read the rest

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How angry Apple employees’ petition led to a controversial new hire’s departure

One of Apple’s many corporate office buildings in Cupertino, California.

Even Apple can’t avoid employee conflict over issues like sexism.

It’s not every day that a new hire at a major tech company unleashes employee outrage, a public departure, and debates around sexism in the workplace. That’s particularly true at Apple — a secretive company that stands apart from its largest tech rival Google, which has a history of workplace activism and a culture of employee dissent.

But that’s what happened on Wednesday, when Apple abruptly parted ways with a new advertising product technology employee, Antonio García Martínez, after thousands of employees questioned his hiring.

The situation shows how tensions over gender parity in tech have persisted since exploding in November 2018 during the Google Walkout and the Me Too movement. Even a company like Apple can’t entirely avoid being swept up in internal conflicts over fraught issues like sexism … Read the rest

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A crypto billionaire donated $1 billion to India. Make sure you include an asterisk.

Vitalik Buterin is a 27-year-old billionaire philanthropist. | David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The saga highlights just how uncharted the territory is in the world of crypto philanthropy.

A cryptocurrency billionaire seems to have made one of the largest contributions to save lives in India from the coronavirus pandemic: Over $1 billion.

But as there so often is in the world of cryptocurrency, there is a massive catch. And it’s a catch that over the next few years will likely come up again and again and again as crypto billionaires ascend to become major players in the world of philanthropy.

Here’s what happened: Vitalik Buterin, the 27-year-old programmer who founded the cryptocurrency Ethereum, disclosed on Wednesday that he had contributed about $1.5 billion worth of coins to nonprofit organizations, some of which came in his own (and relatively stable) Ether.

But $1 billion of that came in a donation … Read the rest

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