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Customers can soon rent a Tesla at Hertz after company orders 100,000 electric vehicles

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(NEW YORK) -- Rental car giant Hertz announced it was buying 100,000 Tesla electric vehicles that will be available to customers starting next month.

Tesla stock soared on news of the massive order, and its market cap hit the $1 trillion milestone during intraday trading Monday, a feat very few U.S. companies have attained.

The announcement also comes just months after Hertz emerged from bankruptcy, after the COVID-19 pandemic gutted the travel and rental car industry in 2020.

In addition to the initial order of 100,000 Teslas by the end of 2022, Hertz also announced it was adding new electric vehicle charging infrastructure at outposts across its global operations.

Starting in early November, the company said customers will be able to rent a Tesla Model 3 at Hertz airport and neighborhood locations in major U.S. markets and select cities in Europe. It will offer digitized guidance to educate customers about the electric vehicles, and soon hopes to offer an expedited electric vehicle rental booking process through its app.

"Electric vehicles are now mainstream, and we've only just begun to see rising global demand and interest," Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields said in a statement Monday.

"The new Hertz is going to lead the way as a mobility company, starting with the largest EV rental fleet in North America and a commitment to grow our EV fleet and provide the best rental and recharging experience for leisure and business customers around the world," Fields added.

The company said it was the first U.S. car rental company to introduce electric vehicles to its rental fleet in 2011 and that with the current order, electric vehicles will comprise more than 20% of Hertz global fleet.

Hertz is teaming up with seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady on an ad campaign about its new electric vehicle fleet.

"Although the company has been around for over 100 years, their constant evolution, especially now, is something that is amazing to be a part of," Brady said in a statement. "I've been driving an EV for years and knowing Hertz is leading the way with their electric fleet speaks to how the world is changing and the way companies are approaching being environmentally and socially conscious. I've always loved how easy and convenient Hertz makes it for me when I'm traveling to my favorite places like New York, LA and Tampa and can't wait to see what they continue to have in store."

The move comes amid mounting pressure on the private sector and beyond to take action on climate change. The transportation sector generated the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, primarily from burning fossil fuels for cars, trucks, ships, trains and planes.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Amazon's warehouse workers in Staten Island file petition for union election

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(NEW YORK) -- A coalition of Amazon warehouse workers in New York City have officially filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on Monday.

Kayla Blado, the press secretary for the National Labor Relations Board, confirmed to ABC News on Monday that the union petition was filed in the NLRB's Region 29. The petition must now go through the NLRB's formal representation election process before a vote will be held.

The group of workers, which calls themselves the Amazon Labor Union, are being led by a former fulfillment center employee of the e-commerce giant, Chris Smalls. He became the face of the labor movement at Amazon when he was fired under contentious circumstances at the beginning of the pandemic after organizing a demonstration over working conditions amid the health crisis.

The milestone comes some six months after a high-profile union bid by Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, who sought to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The unionization efforts garnered support from lawmakers and even President Joe Biden. Ultimately, however, the election resulted in the Alabama workers overwhelmingly voting not to form a union -- though the RWDSU has accused Amazon of union-busting techniques -- Amazon denies this -- and has filed objections over the election with the NLRB.

"We're completely independent, worker-led through and through, grassroots," Smalls told ABC News Friday of the New York-based group, adding that they felt there were "missed opportunities" with the failed effort in Alabama.

"We're just trying to navigate our way -- we think we know the ins-and-outs of the company better than a third party or an established union," Smalls said in describing why they're seeking to create an independent union. He said he'd worked at Amazon for almost five years before his termination and that his fellow lead-organizers have similar experiences.

Smalls said organizers are seeking to obtain better job security, pay and working conditions through collective bargaining.

"Amazon has a high turnover rate -- they hire and fire all the time," he said. "We want to protect workers with their job."

"We also want a decent living wage," he added. "I know Amazon's going to claim that they pay better than competitors, but with the cost of living in the New York state area, it's still not sustainable."

He said Amazon can afford to pay workers better, pointing to the wealth of founder Jeff Bezos, who was only recently unseated by Elon Musk as the richest man in the world, per Bloomberg's real-time data on billionaires.

Smalls told ABC News on Friday that they have more than 2,000 workers who have signed union cards, and they plan to deliver these to the NLRB's office on Monday to file for the union election for four facilities in Staten Island. There are approximately 7,000 workers at the facilities, according to Smalls, and organizers need signatures from at least 30% of the workers. He said they're confident they'll secure the remaining portion before Monday.

A statement from the newly formed coalition of workers said that they built trust among colleagues through months of organizing efforts that included hosting barbecues, handing out food and cold water and holding rallies.

"This is truly a remarkable historical moment for all Amazon workers all over the country," the Amazon Labor Union stated. "Workers under the banner of the ALU have already broken barriers, and we will continue to do so. We're not getting complacent, and we now need the support of the communities more than ever as our fight is just getting started."

The move comes amid a spate of strikes and new employee activism in the workplace as the pandemic wanes in the U.S.

"The timing is, like, perfect, everybody's been paying attention to the strikes, especially Amazon workers as well," Smalls said. "So it's kind of like we all stand in solidarity, even though we're in different industries."

"I think what we're doing here is historical, and I think the Amazon workers are happy to be a part of it," he added.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement Friday that they don't feel unions "are the best answer for our employees."

"Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have," Nantel said. "Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes -- quickly. That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle."

 

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Facebook whistleblower documents offer new revelations about Jan. 6 response

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(WASHINGTON) -- The day of the Jan. 6 insurrection, Facebook noticed a rise in social media posts calling for violence and incitement around the certification of the U.S. presidential election result and the storming of the Capitol.

How the social media giant prepared for that day, and how it responded to the sudden onslaught of misleading information and violent rhetoric on both Facebook and Instagram is detailed in internal documents obtained by ABC News and a group of news organizations.

The documents were disclosed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, a former employee, and provided to Congress in redacted form by Haugen's legal counsel. It was provided to ABC News by a congressional staffer.

In her filing, Haugen alleged that Facebook had misled investors and the public about potential harms associated with the platform.

In response to a series of Wall Street Journal articles based largely on the documents provided by Haugen, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, Nick Clegg, in a statement rejected the idea that Facebook "systematically and willfully ignores" research that is "inconvenient for the company."

One of the documents, updated on Jan. 7, shows that Facebook analyzed some of the Capitol riot's impact on its platforms.

The document shows there was a spike in the volume of reports from Facebook and Instagram users complaining about posts inciting violence on Jan. 6. There were around seven times as many hourly reports about posts containing incitement to violence as in the previous week, according to the document.

Another set of documents created during the events of Jan. 6 show a wider range of restrictions explored by Facebook to limit potentially harmful content and mitigate violence and incitement. The documents indicate that more severe restrictions, known internally as "break glass" measures, had been active earlier, in 2020, and then removed or rolled back. Several of the restrictions listed as having been previously rolled back focused on groups, such as freezing commenting on some group posts or preventing groups from changing their names to include terms that aimed to delegitimize the election result.

Ciaran O'Connor, a disinformation analyst with the London-based think tank Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said keeping these type of measures in place may have prevented extremism on Jan. 6 that was inflamed by a "dangerous mix of disinformation and conspiracy theories."

"This action was entirely irresponsible and illustrative of wider failings in Facebook in wrongly prioritizing platform growth over safety," he said.

When asked about the rollback of the measures, a Facebook official stressed that they were only part of Facebook's preparations for the election, and that specific metrics were used to determine whether or not to disable them. Measures that were disabled, the official said, were done so gradually.

During the chaos of Jan. 6, Facebook considered re-enabling some of its old strategies and implementing new ones, according to the documents, to respond to the risk of "violence and incitement" in connection with the day's events.

Some of the proposed restrictions, such as demoting content promoting the storming of the capitol, were described in the documents as a "first line of reactive defense" on the day.

A Jan. 19 report by the Tech Transparency Project linked Facebook's groups feature to the growth of the "Stop The Steal" movement after the 2020 election. Some members of those groups made calls to overthrow the U.S. government by force to reverse the election result. Facebook removed the first large "Stop The Steal" group, but copycats and similar groups by other names remained on the platform through the Jan. 6 insurrection, according to the report.

In another document, which BuzzFeed News obtained and published in April, Facebook researchers said that harmful movements, such as Stop the Steal, were coordinated efforts that ultimately "helped incite the Capitol Insurrection."

O'Connor suggested there are potential dangers with Facebook's groups feature. "Groups have proven to be hubs for misinformation and harmful content, where there often [are] no gatekeepers and false information is allowed to flourish," O'Connor said.

When asked for comment on the potential harms of groups, a Facebook official pointed to an Oct. 20 update to the feature, as well as previous measures including changes to group recommendations and using independent fact-checkers to flag misinformation in groups.

After the events of Jan. 6, Facebook took further safety measures, according to O'Connor, including limiting the amount of political content shown to some users, including in the U.S., the suspension of Trump's page, and tools for group administrators to limit toxic or harmful conversations.

Facebook said on Oct. 20 that it will start "demoting" content posted in groups by people who have broken community guidelines anywhere on the platform. The announcement was made with the aim to keep rule breakers from reaching others in their community, according to Facebook's update.

Another internal Facebook document provides insight into how "demotion" -- a way of limiting the exposure of content thought likely to break the platform's rules -- was used in an effort to minimize the spread of potentially harmful information in connection with the events of Jan. 6. The document was posted on Feb. 19.

According to Facebook's Transparency Center, "problematic or low quality content" may be "demoted" in an effort to reduce the number of users who see it.

The practice of demotion was aided by custom-built algorithmic "pipelines." Two of those pipelines on Jan. 6 tracked false claims that circulated widely on Facebook amid the storming of the Capitol: that Antifa protesters were responsible, and that then-President Donald Trump had invoked the Insurrection Act, according to the document.

The Insurrection Act, passed in 1807, allows the president to deploy military troops to respond to domestic unrest and disasters. It was last invoked in 1992 by the George H.W. Bush administration during the Los Angeles riots. Trump threatened to invoke the Act in 2020 amid protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

The team responsible for these anti-misinformation pipelines encountered challenges, according to the document, including questions about which posts constituted misinformation.

Employees involved in this effort aimed to avoid "false positives" that did not contain misinformation, using "exclusion terms" like "MAGA losers" to rule out posts that criticized, rather than promoted, the storming of the Capitol.

The document says employees sought guidance from colleagues to resolve "ambiguities," such as whether a claim that former President Trump would invoke the Insurrection Act was misinformation.

Facebook's employees, according to the document, judged that claims that Trump would invoke the Act around Jan. 6 were valid, while false claims that he had already done so were considered misinformation.

"In close collaboration with Misinfo Policy, we determined that statements in the future are not considered misinfo. However, users posting the phrase "he signed the Insurrection Act" was considered unambiguous enough and judged as misinfo," wrote the author of the document, who has not been identified.

In a statement issued on the evening of Jan. 6, the company said that in addition to demoting content that likely violated its rules, it had begun removing certain types of posts, including those that praised the storming of the Capitol or that called for further violence.

Facebook later said in a Jan. 11 statement that it would remove content containing the phrase "stop the steal."

Haugen told the SEC that the company elects to demote content despite knowing it is "an ineffective response" due to concerns about being criticized over accidentally removing "false positives," or posts that do not violate its rules.

Facebook executives frequently cite the protection of free speech on the platform as a bedrock principle, such as in an October 2019 speech by CEO Mark Zuckerberg that called for its protection despite its "messiness."

During Haugen's Oct. 5 Senate testimony, she criticized Facebook's "closed design" which she alleged hides information from researchers and regulators.

"As long as Facebook is operating in the shadows, hiding its research from public scrutiny, it is unaccountable," Haugen said to a Senate Commerce subcommittee.

O'Connor said that despite the changes it implemented after Jan. 6, the company still has work to do.

"Facebook, and other online companies, must do better and take action to limit the dangers of falsified information and extremist actors on their platforms," he said.

Facebook's Oversight Board said on Oct. 11 that it would meet with Haugen "over the coming weeks" to discuss the claims she made about the platform's content-moderation decisions.

Facebook, along with other social media companies like Twitter and Snapchat, was the subject of a request for records announced on Aug. 27 by the House Select Committee on the Jan. 6 attack.

On Oct. 22, another former Facebook employee, who has not been identified, was revealed to have submitted whistleblower documents to the SEC. The former employee told the Washington Post that Facebook prioritizes profit over safety on its platforms, and failed to take adequate action to address issues including illegal activity like drug dealing and antiquities trafficking.

A Facebook spokesperson said in response to the Washington Post's report that the story was "beneath" the newspaper and set a "dangerous precedent" by relying on a single source, but did not deny the second whistleblower's claims.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Supply chain problems forcing small businesses to change how they operate

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(NEW YORK) -- The supply chain issues the U.S. economy is currently facing are not only affecting consumers during the peak shopping season, but small businesses have also started to feel the effects of these shortages.

According to the most recent U.S. Census Small Business Pulse Survey, conducted between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, 45% of businesses said they are having domestic supplier delays. The number is up from 26.7% during the first week of the year.

Supplies that small businesses rely on are becoming harder to find, especially since owners cannot always order in bulk or in advance like larger companies.

Rene Kirby, the owner of Marie's Cafe in Baltimore, works to provide baked goods from her home and in pop-up shops in her community. With essential products not available on shelves, Kirby has been left searching for answers.

"We just can't serve the same size beverages, or sometimes any beverages, because they don't have the cups we need in stock," said Kirby, adding that buying these essential products from other suppliers increases the price, making it "difficult for the consumer to buy these products."

Jeremy Plemons, the owner of County Manners, a food truck based in southern Maryland, said he has been going to the same businesses for the past six years and has been shocked recently by the lack of products at his local stores. He said he has had trouble finding to-go boxes and forks, essential for his food truck business.

"It would be one thing if I couldn't find french fries, we can change that, but when we got nothing to put it in, it's heartbreaking and stressful," Plemons said.

Plemons said he is looking to his community of restaurant owners to find a short-term solution for the most essential items he needs.

"We have been supporting each other a lot. If anyone needs anything, they know to call me, and I can always call them," said Plemons, mentioning be might buy a shipping container with a fellow small business owner to stock up on essential, single-use items.

The Biden administration has worked on ways to mend issues with the supply chain, including expanding work hours to 24/7 at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports and agreeing with large private companies to expand their hours as well.

Easing the supply chain bottleneck is one step in the right direction, according to Ayman Omar, an associate professor of supply chain management at American University's Kogod School of Business.

Omar describes the current situation as a "perfect storm." Adding that "there is no one single point in time where the delays or disruptions started, it just exacerbated significantly because the volume of disruption is much higher," pointing to the disruptions in multiple fronts, including the current shortage of truck drivers, stocking up on products, and delays in the shipping industry.

"The worst thing for a supply chain manager is inconsistency, getting 10 units one day 100 units the other day, drives supply chain managers insane," adding that stocking up is also hurting small businesses "because a business is now ordering more of a product, another business might not get their product, it's just a big domino effect."

The outlook for small businesses is improving after many were forced to close during the COVID surge last winter. According to a survey conducted by Facebook and Small Business Roundtable, 16% of small to medium businesses in the U.S. remained close in July 2021, down from 22% in February. However, the speed of supply has not improved during the reopening phase of COVID, according to Omar.

"The infrastructure is at its breaking point, in terms of being able to deal with demand and distribution of supply," said Omar. "The massive amount of demand that has shot up over the last five to 10 years, capacity has not kept up."

Omar said he is optimistic about the short-term solution put forward by the Biden administration but added that in the long term, the answer could be "a partnership between private and public sectors" to share supply chain information to pinpoint the issue early on.

Karen Keating, president and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, said the issues have been ongoing since the beginning of the pandemic. However, she said small businesses are trying to be proactive to stay competitive.

"Small businesses may have less sophisticated purchasing options, but they do have more flexibility due to their size," Keating said. She added that small businesses "communicate with customers and clients about the situation" and "stay in contact with their customers about possible disruptions and delays in their products and services" to keep up with current issues.

Kandace Loge, who owns Pidcock Glass, a four-employee business in Nelsonville, Ohio, said she has had trouble finding screen metal, an essential part of her work, since May, saying she's often had to wait several months before being delivered her orders.

Loge, who has managed the company for almost 20 years, said her solution has been to be upfront with her customers.

"You have to be very honest with your customer; when they know that you are honest, they are usually very nice about it," said Loge.

Loge has changed her supplier, which has also meant a change in product sizes and changes to the company's usual workflow and equipment.

"I am now starting to adjust our budget and change the pricing on products," said Loge.

For many business owners, the concern remains the same: Will they be able to find the products they need, and will it affect their cost of production?

Plemons said he has the same thought every time he goes shopping for his business: "What am I not going to be able to find today?"

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Hummer EV truck shows it can compete with its gas-powered rivals

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(MICHIGAN) -- "Attack the grade here. Now mash the brake and modulate the throttle," Al Oppenheiser, the chief engineer of GMC's Hummer EV, guided me as I carefully steered the 9,000-lb. truck up a steep, rocky incline.

Oppenheiser and I were driving an early prototype of the $112,595 pickup truck along a course designed to test its on-road and off-road capabilities at General Motors' proving grounds in Milford, Michigan.

Oppenheiser, a longtime GM employee and former chief engineer of the Camaro, dedicated nearly three years to building the all-electric Hummer. The leviathan conquers off-roading meccas, nimbly handles tight corners and illustrates how internal combustion engines are relics of the past.

Customer deliveries of the Hummer EV Edition 1 begin in December. First-year production is completely sold out though a GM spokesperson declined to say how many are being built. The next Hummer EV, a sport utility vehicle, launches in the first quarter of 2023.

The Hummer EV, which debuted a year ago, already has formidable competition in the red-hot EV truck market: Tesla's Cybertruck, Rivian's R1T, the Ford F-150 Lightning, the Fisker Alaska, Bollinger's B1 and B2. In January, GM will also introduce an all-electric Sierra pickup truck, built with the same Ultium battery-pack technology as in the Hummer. Seeing GM and Ford workers pull up to production plants in brawny diesel and V8-powered trucks motivated Oppenheiser to develop a hardcore electric pickup.

"I would ask myself, 'Why would these people buy an electric truck?'" Oppenheiser said. "A truck is a truck in our opinion. The off-roading world has been waiting to see what EV trucks can do."

GM has invested billions in its third-generation EV platform and is targeting annual global EV sales of more than 1 million by 2025. Battery cells will be mass-produced at a $2.3 billion plant GM is building with its partner LG Chem in Lordstown, Ohio. The Ultium system could offer driving ranges of up to 400 miles on a full charge and 0 to 60 mph acceleration of 3.0 seconds, according to the Detroit automaker.

The Hummer EV gets an estimated range of 350 miles and the truck's three electric motors make 1,000 horsepower and 11,500 lb-ft of torque. Top speed is 106 mph.

"You're buying this vehicle for lots of reasons. One of them is 1,000 hp," Oppenheiser said.

It took engineers 117 weeks to complete the development of the Hummer EV.

Ed Kim, an analyst and vice president at AutoPacific, has his doubts that traditional, die-hard truck owners are ready to shift to EVs. Power and torque -- key features on any EV -- matter greatly to this core group of buyers but, he argued, truck owners can be averse to change.

"The Hummer won't have [Ford] F-Series volume here," he told ABC News, referring to the top-selling truck in the U.S. for 44 straight years. "But GM does not have to sell a ton of Hummers for it to be a success. There are plenty of people out there ready to pay six figures for a high-image vehicle."

He went on, "Every automaker has decided there is gold to be found in electric trucks. We're seeing a saturation in truck EV space ... there are too many too soon in the short term."

AutoPacific forecasts U.S. EV sales to total 440,000 units this year, up from 262,000 in 2020 and 253,000 in 2019. That number will keep rising as consumers realize EVs are not disruptive to their daily habits, Kim said.

"Every year we see range going up, better performance ... there is a rapid level of learning among automakers," he noted. "We'll still see battery hiccups here and there. Everyone is having growing pains. Battery chemistry is new to automakers and engineers are still figuring it out."

GM's engineering teams, seeking to maximum power and range in upcoming EVs, are hard at work on the next iteration of cell chemistries, according to Kevin Robinet, assistant chief engineer of GM's battery electric propulsion systems.

"We're already talking about battery improvements for mid-decade," he told ABC News. "It's an evolving tech. As energy density improves, batteries will weigh less and so will the vehicles."

K.C. Colwell, Car and Driver’s deputy testing director, expects the Hummer to be a big part of GM's ambitious EV product plan.

"This is a halo product for GMC and for the Ultium battery technology," he told ABC News, adding, "GMC has not had a halo product since the Typhoon," a high-performance SUV that GM produced from 1991 to 1993.

And the reborn Hummer, a shell of its boxy, gas-guzzling former self, may finally win over the environmentalists who once decried its hefty carbon footprint.

"It behaves more like a supercar than a pickup truck," Colwell said. "GM is going after a completely different audience -- the early adopters, the Tesla buyers."

At the proving grounds, the Hummer EV tackled each drill with finesse, performing a full-turning circle ("You'd never be able to do this in a solid rear-axle truck," Oppenheiser declared), maneuvering like a crab on dirt, slaloming through serpentine cones and accelerating instantaneously in "Watts to Freedom" launch control mode.

Getting Americans aboard the EV bandwagon will be a daunting task for legacy automakers like GM. But Oppenheiser, a "high-performance car guy" with over 2,000 hp in his garage, said the Hummer will convince others like himself that it's possible.

"It's pretty damn cool," he said with a laugh.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Walmart recalls aromatherapy spray linked to rare bacterial illness, 2 deaths

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(NEW YORK) -- Walmart has recalled an aromatherapy spray after it identified a bacteria in the product that has now been linked to four illnesses and two deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that it had identified the bacteria Burkholderia pseudomallei in the aromatherapy spray.

The spray, “Better Homes & Gardens Lavender & Chamomile Essential Oil Infused Aromatherapy Room Spray with Gemstones," was found Oct. 6 in the home of a Georgia resident who became ill with melioidosis in late July, according to the CDC.

The CDC said it will continue to test the bacteria in the bottle to potentially match the bacteria identified in the four patients. The symptoms of melioidosis are similar to that of a cold or flu, according to the CDC.

The contaminated spray was sold at about 55 Walmart stores and on Walmart’s websites between February and Oct. 21.

Walmart has pulled the remaining bottles of this spray and related products from the shelves and its websites.

"Our hearts go out to the families that have been impacted by this situation," Inger Damon, director of the CDC’s Division of High-Consequence Pathogens and Pathology, said in a statement. "We at CDC have been very concerned to see these serious related illness spread across time and geography. That is why our scientists have continued to work tirelessly to try to find the potential source for the melioidosis infections in these patients. We hope this work can help protect other people who may have used this spray."

The Consumer Product Safety Commission and Walmart issued a recall for the lavender and chamomile room spray along with five other scents in the same product line.

The CDC will continue to investigate whether other related aromatherapy scents and brands may pose a risk.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Amazon workers in Staten Island say they're planning to file for union election

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(NEW YORK) -- A coalition of Amazon warehouse workers in the New York City area has announced plans to file for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board next week.

The group, which calls themselves the Amazon Labor Union, are being led by a former fulfillment center employee of the e-commerce giant, Chris Smalls. He became the face of the labor movement at Amazon when he was fired under contentious circumstances at the beginning of the pandemic after organizing a demonstration over working conditions amid the health crisis.

The move comes some six months after a high-profile union bid by Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, who sought to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. The unionization efforts garnered support from lawmakers and even President Joe Biden. Ultimately, however, the election resulted in the Alabama workers overwhelmingly voting not to form a union -- though the RWDSU has accused Amazon of union-busting techniques -- Amazon denies this -- and has filed objections over the election with the NLRB.

"We're completely independent, worker-led through and through, grassroots," Smalls said of the New York-based group, adding that they felt there were "missed opportunities" with the failed effort in Alabama.

"We're just trying to navigate our way -- we think we know the ins-and-outs of the company better than a third party or an established union," Smalls said in describing why they're seeking to create an independent union. He said he'd worked at Amazon for almost five years before his termination and that his fellow lead-organizers have similar experiences.

Smalls said organizers are seeking to obtain better job security, pay and working conditions through collective bargaining.

"Amazon has a high turnover rate -- they hire and fire all the time," he said. "We want to protect workers with their job."

"We also want a decent living wage," he added. "I know Amazon's going to claim that they pay better than competitors, but with the cost of living in the New York state area, it's still not sustainable."

He said Amazon can afford to pay workers better, pointing to the wealth of founder Jeff Bezos, who was only recently unseated by Elon Musk as the richest man in the world, per Bloomberg's real-time data on billionaires.

Smalls said they have more than 2,000 workers who have signed union cards, and they plan to deliver these to the NLRB's office on Monday to file for the union election for four facilities in Staten Island. There are approximately 7,000 workers at the facilities, according to Smalls, and organizers need signatures from at least 30% of the workers. He said they're confident they'll secure the remaining portion before Monday.

A statement from the newly formed coalition of workers said that they built trust among colleagues through months of organizing efforts that included hosting barbecues, handing out food and cold water and holding rallies.

"This is truly a remarkable historical moment for all Amazon workers all over the country," the Amazon Labor Union stated. "Workers under the banner of the ALU have already broken barriers, and we will continue to do so. We're not getting complacent, and we now need the support of the communities more than ever as our fight is just getting started."

The move comes amid a spate of strikes and new employee activism in the workplace as the pandemic wanes in the U.S.

"The timing is, like, perfect, everybody's been paying attention to the strikes, especially Amazon workers as well," Smalls said. "So it's kind of like we all stand in solidarity, even though we're in different industries."

"I think what we're doing here is historical, and I think the Amazon workers are happy to be a part of it," he added.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, told ABC News in a statement Friday that they don't feel unions "are the best answer for our employees."

"Our employees have the choice of whether or not to join a union. They always have," Nantel said. "Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes -- quickly. That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Bridal retailers face wedding dress delays due to global supply chain disruptions

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(NEW YORK) -- As global supply chain issues continue to escalate, wedding dress delays could spoil the special days for many brides-to-be.

Many couples held off on weddings and rescheduled due to the pandemic, but now some brides are faced with their wedding gowns or bridal party dresses being delayed as well.

Upscale bridal shop L'Fay Bridal is advising brides to prepare for increased lead times for gowns ordered through their company.

"Gowns used to take about six to eight months to arrive, without rush fees," L'Fay Bridal NYC shop manager McKenzie Custin told "GMA." "Now brides can expect to wait a full nine to 10 months."

Rush fees have also become more prevalent for brides looking to receive their gowns in less than eight months, she said.

Custin said brides should also include time for at least a monthlong alteration process when confirming their wedding dates. For example, if the wedding is planned eight months out, that only leaves seven months for a dress to actually arrive.

"The ideal timeline is nine to 10 months for your gown to arrive and one and a half to two months for alterations," she added. "Brides should be ordering their gowns a full year or a little over year in advance to avoid any stress, worry or rush fees."

It's estimated that there will be 2.5 million weddings in 2022, the most the U.S. has had since 1984, according to The Wedding Report.

Coupled with global supply chain issues, several retailers don't foresee wedding dress delays slowing down anytime soon.

"The increased timeline is unfortunately here to stay with the sudden boom," said Custin. "Many designers are operating understaffed due to COVID-19 -- this means that rush fees are required more often and the minimum turn around time for a gown has increased."

In addition to wedding gowns, supply chain disruptions have also effected the arrival of bridesmaid dresses.

New York City-based pediatric nurse practitioner Allyson Tauber, who is scheduled to get married on March 12, 2022, found her wedding dress rather quickly. Once ordered, it arrived in six months as promised and now she is awaiting to begin alterations within the next few months.

But she hasn't had the same luck when it comes to her bridesmaid dresses. She allowed them to pick their dresses from Bella Bridesmaids, and had all participants submit orders ahead of time.

However, in September, she received an email titled "Urgent Production Change for Dressy Fabrics." "I was told that effective immediately, a few fabrics are majorly delayed due to COVID," Tauber told "GMA." "As it turns out, all of the dresses I had chosen were in the affected fabrics."

Tauber was given the option to have everyone come in for a fitting and order their dresses within eight days and they would arrive the week before the wedding or they could change fabrics, colors or designers to accommodate what was available.

"I have finally decided to move forward with a third option -- to cancel my order from Bella Bridesmaid and find my bridesmaid dresses elsewhere," she said.

Tauber said she's switched to Anthropologie's bridal service instead.

"Anthropologie’s BHLDN has been amazing to work with," she said. "I am very excited to have found a place where my bridesmaids can order dresses to try on at home and return them if they want to try another style or size."

"GMA" has reached out to Bella Bridesmaids for comment.

While a great deal of the bridal industry has been impacted by ongoing global chain supplies, some stores, such as New York City's Kleinfeld Bridal, said it has not been intensely affected.

"We are truly not seeing any issues or hearing of any," said a Kleinfeld spokesperson. "The Kleinfeld merchandising and production teams are in daily constant contact with each of our designers and have not had any delivery issues nor do we foresee this effecting our brides."

MORE: Supply chain questions answered, plus tips and solutions for smart shopping
The brand also highlighted that the store always has sample dresses available to buy straight off the rack.

Mass bridal retailers, such as David's Bridal, have also reported seeing a 45% increase for in-store purchases versus online likely due to condensed planning and supply chain issues. The company owns its own supply chain, and carries over 300,000 gowns in stock and ready to go in a variety of styles.

With continual major delays globally, experts also suggest shopping through small businesses that carry products made in America.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Truth Social could provide Trump with infusion of cash -- but critics are concerned about its content

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(NEW YORK) -- Truth Social, the social media app announced Wednesday by former President Donald Trump, could provide the former president with a substantial infusion of cash -- but critics also warn that it could create a new platform for the spread of misinformation.

The app will be the first product of Trump's new company, Trump Media and Technology Group, which is merging with the Nasdaq-listed Digital World Acquisition Group to form a publicly traded company, the former president announced.

The announcement comes at a time of turmoil for Trump's family business, with multiple branches of the Trump Organization currently under criminal investigation, sources previously told ABC News. On Wednesday, it was reported that the Westchester, New York, district attorney's office has had an ongoing criminal investigation into the Trump Organization's Westchester golf course; in July, the Manhattan DA charged the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO, Allen Weisselberg, with tax fraud; and New York Attorney General Letitia James has been conducting a parallel probe into Trump's business dealings.

Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the investigations, calling James' investigation and the investigation into his Westchester golf course a "witch hunt."

Trump also has millions in loans coming due early next year from one of his biggest creditors, Deutsche Bank. As of last year, Trump's company owed the Frankfurt-based bank an estimated $340 million, according to filings to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics in July of 2020.

The Trump Organization is also reportedly in "advanced talks" to sell the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C, which lost $71 million while Trump was in office, according to newly released federal documents.

Digital World Acquisition Group is a SPAC, or special acquisition company, also referred to as a blank-check company, which is usually a company established by a group of investors with a large sum of cash on hand seeking an investment opportunity. They are essentially shell companies that are created to facilitate a merger with companies that want to go public on stock exchanges like the Nasdaq.

If the newly announced merger is completed, Trump's company would have access to the nearly $300 million in cash raised by Digital World Acquisition. On Friday, Digital World Acquisition jumped more than 180% in Nasdaq trading before being halted due to volatility as shares surged for a second straight day. Previously, the stock surged more than 350% after the merger with Trump Media and Technology Group was announced.

The chairman and CEO of Digital World Acquisition, Patrick F. Orlando, is a Wall Street veteran who previously worked at numerous investment banks, including Deutsche Bank, until 2003. Orlando, who formed his own investment bank, Benessere Capital, is also CEO of Yunhong International, which is itself a blank-check company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with headquarters in Wuhan, China, according to Bloomberg.

Digital World Acquisition, which was incorporated in Miami in December 2020 shortly after Trump lost the 2020 election, also has ties to Brazil, as its chief financial officer, Luis Orleans-Braganza, is a current member of Brazil's National Congress and supporter of the country's far right president, Jair Bolsonaro.

Trump is no stranger to leveraging his celebrity name in the business world, with business offerings ranging from the hit TV show "The Apprentice" to now-defunct ventures like Trump University, Trump Steaks, and Trump Vodka.

"He is a marketer, he is always looking for ways to monetize," said David Richard, a social media expert and professor at Emerson College. "He can monetize his followers and I think that's exactly what he is doing."

Trump has remained banned from most major social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, since the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, with companies citing fears that he could incite further violence. Trump has long credited Twitter and social media for helping fuel his 2016 presidential victory, and in launching his own social platform the former president is hoping to regain his enormous social media following as he looks toward the 2022 midterm elections and a possible run for the White House in 2024.

With Truth Social, Trump will enter an already-crowded market of right-wing social media alternatives that promise users a space for "free speech," including Parler, Gab, and even Gettr, which was launched by the former president's longtime aide Jason Miller just a few months ago.

Trump, in his announcement Wednesday, said he created Truth Social "to stand up to the tyranny of Big Tech." But the former president, who used social media to spread falsehoods about the 2020 election, is drawing criticism from some social media experts who say Truth Social will likely become a "magnet for disinformation," spreading only "Trump's truth."

"Donald Trump's campaign and his brand has always been about creating a truth that benefits him," said Richard. "If it's the Trump algorithm, the opposition and dissenting voices are not going to pop up in the feed. Trump will always come first. It doesn't matter what information you want, you will always get what Trump says at the top of the feed."

A representative for Trump Media and Technology Group did not respond to ABC News' request for comment about the new platform, and former President Trump's office declined to comment.

Alexander Reid Ross, a fellow with the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, told ABC News that while he believes Truth Social won't grow enough to replace top social media platforms like Twitter, it will probably become a gathering place for extremists who could "turn it into something more focused and deliberately violent."

"I think the thing about a lot of these sites is that since they're built solely on voicing frustrations and anger, the engagement is pretty limited," Ross said. "Obviously, calling it Truth Social sort of lays out a path of hard-core trolling, gaslighting, and assorted reactionary tactics that we're used to seeing from the Trump camp."

"Trump's political existence is fueled by impulsive emotional responses to easy narratives that don't match the complexities of modern life," added Ross. "So there is absolutely no reason to believe that a social media site built around his personality will involve modest inquiry based on scientific curiosity using rigorous research."

Experts also told ABC News that Truth Social could end up having a similar outcome to Trump's previous online venture.

Earlier this year, Trump shut down "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump," a website where the former president posted statements after he was banned from Facebook and Twitter, after only about a month of operation.

"Trump does not have a great track record of launching online platforms in his post-presidency," said Vivian Schiller, executive director of Aspen Digital at the nonprofit Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. "His last attempt, which he called a platform but was in fact a blog, petered out after a matter of weeks."

On the other hand, said Richard, "Trump knows how to create controversy and he knows how to say things that rile people up," which Richard said will make it easier for the platform to attract subscribers.

Schiller told ABC News that "the bar is nearly insurmountable" for the site to become an alternative to Facebook or Twitter because the site will likely appeal to mostly Trump supporters who "may grow bored if there's no one to spar with."

"That said -- and this is important -- Trump has defied expectations before, so we shall see," Schiller said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What to know about 'Striketober': Workers seize new power as pandemic wanes

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(NEW YORK) -- A spate of strikes has rocked the private sector, revealing the new power workers wield as the pandemic wanes in the U.S. and sending a message to employers who may have been working from home for the past year that a return to the status quo isn't going to cut it.

A confluence of unique labor market conditions -- including record-high levels of people quitting their jobs and an apparent shortage of workers accepting low-wage jobs -- has contributed to the recent rash of work stoppages, experts say, but they also come after decades of stagnating wages and soaring income inequality in the U.S.

The post-traumatic shock of a deadly pandemic that took an inordinate toll on workers who didn't have the privilege of earning a living remotely, and their families, has also been linked to the recent employee activism.

"I think workers have reached a tipping point," Tim Schlittner, the communications director of the AFL-CIO, told ABC News. "For too long they've been called essential, but treated as expendable, and workers have decided that enough is enough."

"They want a fair return on their work and they're willing to take the courageous act of a strike to win a better deal and a better life," he added. The AFL-CIO is a coalition of labor unions that collectively represents some 12.5 million workers.

Here is what to know about what some lawmakers are dubbing "Striketober," the recent labor movement uprising that has spanned across industries and states.

Who is striking?

There have been 255 strikes this year, with 43 occurring in October, according to the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations' tracker. The researchers behind the tracker define a strike as a "temporary stoppage of work by a group of workers in order to express a grievance or to enforce a demand," that "may or may not be workplace-related."

Among the most prominent is the ongoing strike of 10,000 John Deere workers across more than a dozen plants who are represented by the United Auto Workers. Some 1,400 workers represented by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union are also on strike at Kellogg's plants across four states.

The Cornell researchers also collect data on "Labor Protests," defined as a collective action by a group of people as workers but without withdrawing their labor in order to express a grievance or enforce a demand. The group has tracked an additional 19 labor protests this month, and a whopping 554 in 2021.

The group collects information on strikes from Bureau of Labor Statistics data, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services data, Bloomberg Law's work stoppage database, major media outlets, organizational press releases and social media. The researchers then follow a set of verification protocols to determine which instances constitute a strike or labor protest.

In 2020, as the pandemic raged, the Cornell ILR School recorded 54 strikes and eight labor protests.

Why now?

"I think it's a combination of things, but certainly influenced by the pandemic and the kind of economic situation coming out of that," Alex Colvin, the dean of the Cornell IRL School and a professor of conflict resolution, labor relations and law, told ABC News.

"People feel like they contributed a lot during the depths of the pandemic and now they're looking for some of the returns when the economy's doing better and companies are doing better -- profits are up, stock prices are up," he added. "We're seeing similar effects going on with quit rates going up, people more willing to leave their jobs now and look for something better."

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a release earlier this month that the number of people who quit their jobs in August jumped to the highest since its record-keeping began, representing nearly 3% of the entire workforce. The record-high quit rate bested the previous high of 2.7% that was set in April of this year, and then repeated in June and July.

As the number of people quitting their jobs has reached record highs in recent months, so have the number of job openings, the BLS data indicates.

Meanwhile, a dismal 194,000 jobs were added to the economy last month, according to BLS data, as employers struggled to fill positions. This was lower than the already-disappointing figure of 366,000 in August, and the million-plus jobs added in July.

Due to working through a COVID-19 pandemic that has left more than 730,000 Americans dead, and because of the recent labor market trends, workers may be "less willing to take what they've been willing to take in the past," Colvin said, but added that these factors also increase the leverage unions have when executing a strike.

"It makes sense for workers to push to kind of share in the gains of the improving economy," he said. "But also, they have more leverage because it's harder to replace them in a tighter labor market."

The AFL-CIO's Schlittner said the pandemic also exposed some deep "imbalances of power in the economy."

"The pandemic has made clear what's important and what's not, and workers are looking at work in a new way, and demanding more of a return on their labor, and demanding things like basic respect, dignity and safety on the job," Schlittner told ABC News. "The pandemic has put on display for everyone to see how important workers are to this country, and you can't call workers essential for 18 months and then treat them like crap when they all come back on the job."

What's causing the so-called 'labor shortage'?

Recent labor market data has sowed confusion for some over where workers have gone. The unemployment rate as of last month remains at an elevated 4.8%, still above the pre-pandemic 3.5% seen in February 2020. The number of job openings, however, has hit record high after record high in recent months -- with the most recent BLS data indicating that there were some 10.4 million job openings in August after a record-high 10.9 million in July.

A report from Moody's Analytics released earlier this week attributed the workforce reduction in large part to child care issues, which have plagued working parents and taken a disproportionate toll on mothers during the pandemic, and was the most-cited reason for why people aren't returning to work. The Wall Street analytics firm also found that millions not working said they were out of work because they were laid off or their employer had gone out of business during the pandemic, and some economists have attributed pandemic-era protections and government support to their slower return to the workforce. Finally, their data indicates fear of getting or spreading the virus was heavily cited among those not working.

Schlittner said he doesn't see it as a labor shortage, but rather "a shortage of good-paying jobs."

"There's a shortage of good-paying, quality jobs; that's the scarcity story in America today," he said. "If employers raise pay, improve working conditions and give every worker the right to form a union, the workers will be there, ready to report to the job."

Some data indicates the power that lack of laborers willing to accept low pay can have on pushing up wages, and the power of collective activism.

The federal minimum wage has remained unchanged for over a decade at $7.25 an hour, despite widespread activism -- especially in the hospitality industry -- to raise that to $15 an hour through organizations such as the Fight for 15. Post-pandemic demand for staffers as restaurants reopen has pushed the average hourly wages of workers at food and drinking establishment to a record-high $17.40 an hour in August, according to preliminary data from the labor department.

Meanwhile, a GoFundMe started in support of the John Deere workers on strike has garnered over $80,000 in just four days from more than 2,000 donors.

"More workers are recognizing the power in each other, that standing together with their co-workers is a powerful act, and can bring about great change," Schlittner said. "And that's what 'Striketober' is all about. It's about changing an economy and a system that isn't working for regular working people. One picket line at a time, we can start to do that."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Black Friday 2021: The stores closed (and open) on Thanksgiving Day

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(NEW YORK) -- Last year, Thanksgiving and Black Friday looked a little different, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While holiday shopping has increasingly shifted to online in recent years, the pandemic led to an e-commerce boom.

But this year, many retailers will also focus on in-person shoppers, as in seasons past. This holiday season, industry watchers say consumers may opt to shop in stores because of shortages and supply chain issues, and reports of slower mail service.

While you can still get a lot of deals online, if you are ready to hit the stores, you'll want to know what's open on Thanksgiving Day and what time you can score in-person savings on Black Friday. Of course, there are plenty of earlier opportunities to get big savings, such as Amazon's already-released Black Friday-worthy deals, but if you're ready to shop 'til you drop, we'll help you stay on top of what's happening this holiday season with this list of major retailers and their plans for closures and sales.

Stores closed on Thanksgiving

Walmart

Just like last year, one of the country's largest retailers plans to close on Thanksgiving Day. It's the second time in Walmart's history it's closed on Thanksgiving.

Stores will operate with normal hours on Nov. 24 and the retail giant plans to roll out its online Black Friday Deals for Days in early November.

Target

One of Walmart's top competitors, Target, also announced plans to close on Thanksgiving this year.

While shoppers won't be able to shop the aisles during the holiday, Target's Black Friday Now sales will be available through Black Friday.

Bed Bath & Beyond

The home and kitchen giant will close on Thanksgiving Day but reopen on Black Friday. Deals will become available online and in-stores earlier in November.

Best Buy

While customers can still enjoy deals online and via Best Buy's app, physical stores will be closed on Thanksgiving this year.

Beginning Nov. 26, shoppers can enjoy huge savings through a variety of sales events.

Kohl's

Kohl's announced plans to close for the second Thanksgiving Day in a row on June 17. It will reopen for Black Friday.

Bix box retailers

Big box retailers such as Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's have traditionally closed on Thanksgiving and resumed normal hours on Black Friday. This year is no exception as all three retailers plan to close on Thanksgiving 2021.

Top retailers open on Thanksgiving

Some of the most popular retailers that will remain open include CVS, Walgreens, RadioShack, Big Lots and Bass Pro Shops.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Latina Equal Pay Day: Meet organizations fighting to close the income gap

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(NEW YORK) -- More than 50 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Latinas typically earn only 57 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men and must work nearly 23 months to earn what white men earn in 12 months.

Latina Equal Pay Day -- the day when Latina pay catches up to that of white, non-Hispanic men from the previous year -- is being observed on Oct. 21.

In 2019, the median wealth of a Latino household was about $14,000, which represents only 9% of the median wealth of white households: $160,200, according to the National Bureau Of Economic Research. It's a gap that can affect Latino families for generations.

As Latinas across the country fight for equal pay and equal opportunities, organizations like #WeAllGrow Latina, the Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement and Vela are working to support, uplift and fund Latina workers on their path toward breaking glass ceilings.

"If I'm going to grow, if I'm going to understand how to do this, then I'm going to teach it and we're all going to do this together," said Ana Flores, the founder and CEO of the online networking community #WeAllGrow Latina. "Now we're on 11 years later and we really have become a community."

Systemic racial and gender-based discrimination is at the root of this pay gap, according to Patricia Mota, the CEO of Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement.

However, these groups are working hard to not only cultivate a strong Latinx network, but also provide professional development trainings, talent acquisition services and grants or fellowships to entrepreneurs, businesses and students. They also offer tools for mental health and self-care.

For example, Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement hosts the Women's Leadership Program, which has hosted about 3,000 Latinas over the years with leadership workshops. Within less than 12 months of completing the program, Mota said that 70% of the program's alumni have reported an increase of pay or promotion at their place of employment.

#WeAllGrow has taken on many forms since its conception. What started as a tool for Latina bloggers has become a multimedia environment with forums, breakout sessions and chat rooms that brings the expansive community of Latinas from across the globe to one home base online.

To address Latina Equal Pay Day, #WeAllGrow and Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement are teaming up with experts across many industries to provide seminars, panel discussions and conversations to host a cohort of future leaders on different skills to help them on their journey.

The Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, #WeAllGrow and the Vela network, which is an up-and-coming Latinx professionals network for entrepreneurs, reach people of all ages -- from students to early career workers to veteran professionals.

Creating a space for Latinas to talk openly about their experiences can give other Latinas the tools needed to fight against systems of discrimination, Vela founder Vanessa Nevarez said.

Nevarez has been inspired by those who have started similar efforts before her. She has never started her own business and neither has anyone in her family, so navigating this project has been a learning experience. She hopes that this network can be a tool for not only her members, but for herself as well.

Nevarez is just one example of how much the system of support and community has worked and will continue to work.

"[Vela] will extend into a hub, where we believe in community over competition," Nevarez said. "We're not a monolith ... but we do have a commonality, which is that we care about our community and want our community to go forward."

As glass ceilings continue to be smashed by Latinas across the globe, and as organizations fight to change the system that keeps Latinas at the bottom of the pay scale, these professionals offer some words of advice in the meantime.

Mota recommended doing your research when negotiating pay or a promotion -- what others in your industry are being paid for the same work; what your colleagues make; and what opportunities are there for growth?

"It's an employees market, a job-seeker market," Mota said. "Right now is the opportunity to be able to leverage that and to really increase what you're bringing in in terms of income -- whether it's in another industry or another opportunity."

Vanessa Valentin, the director of marketing and communications at Hispanic Alliance for Career Enhancement, recommended talking to others openly about income and pay since transparency helps make the process more equitable. She and Mota also recommended working on maintaining self-confidence, building connections and never settling with the first salary offer without a negotiation.

They also recommended building connections, your network and taking advantage of groups like theirs to ensure you have a Latinx force to support your goals and needs.

"It's not your fault -- this system has not been created for us -- but we are here, showing up together, to make sure to change it and to make sure that the gatekeepers are listening to us," Flores said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Donald Trump launching new social media platform, TRUTH Social

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(NEW YORK) -- Silenced by many major platforms, former President Donald Trump is launching his own social media app.

Trump Media and Technology Group and Digital World Acquisition Group, which is already listed on the Nasdaq, have entered into a merger to form a new company, chaired by the former president, according to a press release.

Trump says the group will form "a rival to the liberal media consortium."

Its first step will be launching a new social media platform called TRUTH Social. A beta version will be available to invited guests in November, according to the release.

"We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced," Trump said in the statement.

According to the release, the company was formed using a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, which the Securities and Exchange Commission's website says is a "popular vehicle for various transactions, including transitioning a company from a private company to a publicly traded company." The SEC says these companies are often referred to as "blank check companies."

Patrick F. Orlando, who according to the release is the chairman and CEO of the Digital World Acquisition Group that is merging with the former president's new media company, is also CEO of Yunhong International, which itself is an international blank check company incorporated in the Cayman Islands with headquarters in Wuhan, China, according to Bloomberg.

It's currently unclear who else is behind the SPAC that is launching Trump's new platform.

The former president and his advisers have hinted since he left office that he was considering creating a rival platform to Facebook and Twitter, after the social media giants suspended his accounts following the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Trump, who throughout his presidency used Twitter to attack his enemies and often break his own news, has been emailing out statements almost has frequently as he previously tweeted.

Trump's announcement comes only months after his longtime aide Jason Miller launched his own social media company called GETTR in July. The former president quickly pushed back on rumors that he would be joining Miller's platform shortly after it launched, writing in a statement, "I am not on any social media platform in any way, shape, or form, including Parler, GETTR, Gab, etc. When I decide to choose a platform, or build or complete my own, it will be announced. Thank you!"

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Johnson & Johnson looking to bankruptcy to resolve 40,000 baby powder cancer suits

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(NEW YORK) -- Citing what it calls an “unrelenting assault” by greedy lawyers, Johnson & Johnson is hoping to use the bankruptcy process to dispose of 40,000 lawsuits that claim its baby powder products caused cancer.

A J&J subsidiary created to hold the liabilities from the litigation announced last week it was filing for chapter 11 protection.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the first in the case, the judge is expected to hear from J&J why bankruptcy is the best method to resolve the lawsuits and from critics who called the move “an unconscionable abuse of the legal system.”

“There are countless Americans suffering from cancer, or mourning the death of a loved one, because of the toxic baby powder that Johnson & Johnson put on the market that has made it one of the most profitable pharmaceutical corporations in the world. Their conduct and now bankruptcy gimmick is as despicable as it is brazen,” Linda Lipsen, of the American Association for Justice, an advocacy group pushing for change in bankruptcy laws, said in a statement.

The company has denied its signature Johnson’s Baby Powder and other talc-based products contained asbestos and caused cancer, as alleged by tens of thousands of plaintiffs. J&J has spent nearly $1 billion defending itself, according to a court filing.

“Debtor continues to stand behind the safety of its cosmetic talc and does not believe the claims have merit,” J&J said in a court filing. “The unfortunate reality is that this filing is necessitated by an unrelenting assault by the plaintiff trial bar, premised on the false allegations that the Debtor's 100+ year old talc products contain asbestos and cause cancer.”

The company stopped selling Baby Powder in the United States and Canada in May 2020.

“Johnson's Baby Powder has been a staple for hundreds of millions of people for over 125 years. If claimants' allegations were correct that the product causes disease, there should have been long ago an epidemic clearly attributed to the use of the product. That is not the case,” the filing said.

Johnson & Johnson has put $2 billion into a settlement fund to pay the talc claims even though the company said “$2 billion is substantially in excess of any liability the Debtor should have.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Supply chain questions answered, plus tips and solutions for smart shopping

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(NEW YORK) -- The strained supply chain and worldwide shipping crunch has had an impact on everything from holiday shopping to every day goods and services.

Good Morning America assembled an expert panel to explain what's happening and shopping strategies to know.

ABC News' chief business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, ABC News' consumer correspondent Becky Worley and GMA e-commerce editor Tory Johnson answer questions related to the supply issue and offer shopping tips for the holiday season.

What's causing the issue?

"This goes back a long time -- back to the beginning of the pandemic when everything shut down," Jarvis said. "Factories all over the world weren't working, but Americans were sitting on their couches and started shopping and they started buying so much stuff. Suddenly there was this giant backlog because factories hadn't created items, people weren't working, there weren't enough people to bring the items to our homes."

"Now we find ourselves in the most important season of all -- holiday shopping season when we buy more ever and not enough stuff has been created. It's sitting in those backlogs and you see those cargo ships -- it's waiting to get into stores and there isn't enough of it as it stands," she continued.

What should consumers expect moving forward?

Some retailers like Costco and Home Depot have comissioned their own cargo ships, but Jarvis explained that medium and smaller comanies don't have that same level of control.

"They're getting cancellations for orders that were supposed to come in November. They're being told it's not coming until February," she said of many orders that consumers hoped to have in time for Christmas.

What can shoppers do as we head into the holidays?

Worley said to "start with how you find it."

"Many big chains like Best Buy, Target, they may be sold out of an item online, but remember that's the stock they have in their online warehouse," she said. "Every store is a mini- warehouse. So the item you want could be sitting on a shelf."

Worley suggested using website tools like "pickup in store" and change the location to see if it's available anywhere around you. "But one big caveat before you drive a long distance, call to make sure the item is actually there -- trust but verify."

Any items easier to get than others?

"This time of year it's all about tech," she said, and that anything with a computer chip,"has been harder to find."

Worley also advises using apps that check stock from big stores such as the HotStock app, which is advertised as able to seek out prouct availability in real-time.

Shop small and local

Johnson offered a handful of tips for small business operators to be ready for more business and also protect themselves from the same supply issues.

  • Communicate with all partners with up to date information
  • Share up-to-date status reports
  • Make contingency plans
  • Try local pop-ups, trunk shows and holiday markets to move merchandise
  • Partner with complementary brands for cross-promotion and marketing opportunities
  • Leverage social media and e-commerce tools to sell direct to consumers

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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