A New Focus on Amazon Warehouses
Most of the workers at the tornado-ravaged Amazon delivery center in Edwardsville, Ill. were contractors.Credit…Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images
After the tornadoes
An Amazon delivery center in Edwardsville, Ill., was one of the buildings in the path of tornadoes that ripped though six states on Friday night, leaving at least 90 dead, including six at the facility. A tornado that formed in the parking lot caused about half of the 40-foot-tall structure to collapse. A candle factory in Mayfield, Ky., that had also been operating at full tilt ahead of the holiday season was leveled, trapping workers.
The tragedy raises concerns about the e-commerce giant’s use of contractors. The biggest is how Amazon prepares facilities and workers, whose ranks swell during the holiday season, for emergencies. Of the 190 people who worked at the Edwardsville delivery center, only seven were full-time Amazon employees, a local official told The Times’s Karen Weise and Eric Berger.
Industry consultants say the use of contractors lets the company avoid liability for accidents and other risks. In Edwardsville, local officials said the fact that so many of the workers at the facility were temporary made it difficult to account for all those who could be missing in the wake of the tornado, complicating initial rescue efforts.
Accounts varied about how much time workers at the facility were given to prepare for the tornado. An Amazon spokeswoman said that the facility had 11 minutes’ warning; a tornado warning for Edwardsville was in effect at 8:06 p.m. on Friday and reports of a partial roof collapse at the Amazon building came at 8:27 p.m. The facility had at least one tornado shelter.
The deaths may bolster unionization efforts among warehouse and transportation workers for Amazon. “This is another outrageous example of the company putting profits over the health and safety of their workers, and we cannot stand for this,” Stuart Appelbaum, the president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said in a statement.
More on the tornadoes:
What we know about the storms, and scenes of the damage.
“I don’t think we’ll have seen damage at this scale, ever,” said Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, where at least 80 people have been confirmed dead.
Why warnings aren’t always enough to save workers in the path of storms.
HERE’S WHAT’S HAPPENING
U.S. sanctions force a Chinese A.I. company to postpone its I.P.O. SenseTime delayed its $770 million market debut in Hong Kong after Washington blacklisted the company over Beijing’s use of its technology to track and suppress ethnic Muslim minorities in China. The I.P.O. is the latest casualty of escalating tensions between the U.S. and China.
The feds are reportedly investigating short sellers. The Justice Department is examining whether hedge funds and research firms improperly coordinated bets against companies, Bloomberg reports. The report was celebrated by some retail investors who have decried short-sellers as market manipulators.
Chris Wallace is leaving Fox News. The star anchor is joining CNN, depriving the Murdoch-owned network of its most prominent down-the-middle journalist, as more stridently conservative hosts hold sway. Wallace had expressed concern about false claims in a recent documentary from Tucker Carlson that the Jan. 6 Capitol riot was a “false flag” operation.
The mess from BuzzFeed’s market debut widens. As the digital media company’s shares continue to sputter — they’re currently down nearly 50 percent from their initial price — former employees have complained that they haven’t been able to sell their shares. Jonah Peretti, BuzzFeed’s founder, blamed a third-party administrator for the blunder.
The influential analyst firm MoffettNathanson is being sold. The independent research provider announced this morning that it would be acquired by the parent of Silicon Valley Bank. Founded by the veteran analysts Craig Moffett and Michael Nathanson in 2013, the firm is widely followed in the telecom and media industries.
Exclusive: Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest crypto venture
Goop, the actress and entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand, published a Bitcoin primer in 2018, released a podcast episode about crypto investing this summer, and Paltrow keeps up with the technology in what she calls a monthly blockchain “tutoring call.” Now, she is thinking about another big issue for the crypto industry, environmental sustainability, with an investment in a green Bitcoin mining company that DealBook is first to report.
Paltrow is backing the Bitcoin miner TeraWulf. The company plans to use renewable energy to produce Bitcoin, addressing complaints about the cryptocurrency’s heavy electricity use. TeraWulf recently raised $200 million, some of which came from Paltrow and friends, including the comedians Mindy Kaling and Lilly Singh. A spokeswoman for Paltrow declined to provide details but said they and others together chipped in for “a substantial, eight-digit equity investment.”
TeraWulf is informing the S.E.C. today that it has completed a reverse merger with Ikonics, a listed photo-imaging technology company whose shareholders approved the move on Friday. It expects to begin trading under the ticker WULF tomorrow.
Elon Musk’s tweets got Paltrow thinking. Last May, the Tesla C.E.O. announced that the company would not accept Bitcoin payments, after briefly allowing them, citing the environmental costs of Bitcoin mining. As Paltrow was doing her own research at the time, she was introduced to TeraWulf. The company says it can help communities make the transition to wind, solar or hydro power, and convert those variable power sources into an asset with enduring value. (This approach has its critics.)
“A key component of the next wave of technology has to be that it’s solving a problem for the environment,” Paltrow said in a statement. “Decentralization can’t be the future if it’s going to be this energy-intensive.”
“It’s a convenient thing, to say they don’t work for climate deniers, because none of the big trade organizations for fossil fuel corporations are saying they believe climate change is a hoax.”
— Christine Arena, a former executive vice president at the P.R. giant Edelman, which is facing pressure to cut ties with clients in the fossil-fuel industry.
Exclusive: Harry’s buys deodorant
Harry’s is announcing a deal today to acquire Lumē, a natural deodorant brand created by Dr. Shannon Klingman. The deal is the shaving brand’s first acquisition via its start-up incubator, Harry’s Labs. Terms were not disclosed.
The deal comes after the F.T.C. blocked Harry’s $1.37 billion sale to Schick parent Edgewell last year,over fears it would reduce competition in the shaving industry.“Our vision even before Edgewell was to build this family of omni-channel brands,” Harry’s co-founder and co-C. E.O. Andy Katz-Mayfield said. “Right now we are focused on doing that independently.” In April, Harry’s raised $155 million, valuing the company at $1.7 billion.
Lumē is the fifth brand in Harry’s portfolio. In addition to its namesake shaving line, it also started Flamingo (body care for women), Cat Person (products for cat people) and Headquarter (hair care) through Harry’s Labs. The initial plan is to put Lumē on Harry’s online distribution channels, and retail “may make sense at some point,” Dr. Klingman said. Other deals may be in the works: Harry’s Labs meets often with founders and companies, Katz-Mayfield said, adding that Harry’s is also considering going public “at some point. ”
Consolidation in the consumer products industry continues. After Edgewell’s acquisition of Harry’s was blocked, Edgewell bought Billie, a female-focused razor brand. (That was after Billie’s sale to Procter & Gamble was blocked by the F.T.C.) The deal gives Billie the resources that Edgewell would have afforded Harry’s had its deal been approved. And as Harry’s diversifies, it must fend off consumer giants who can slash prices to compete. Katz-Mayfield said that the effectiveness of Lume’s deodorants means that price won’t be a “key point of differentiation in that market.”
The week ahead
► Central banks: The Fed is expected to discuss speeding up plans to cut back on its support of the economy as inflation soars, before announcing its latest actions on Wednesday. The Bank of England and the European Central Bank are also set to meet.
► Retail sales: On Wednesday, the Commerce Department is scheduled to publish its monthly report on consumer spending, which has shown three consecutive months of increases. Economists are expecting another positive month as shoppers continue to open their wallets.
► Holmes trial: Lawyers for Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, concluded their defense in the last phase of a fraud trial that has stretched over four months. Closing arguments will begin on Thursday.
Here we go again
It may have seemed that the waning of the Delta coronavirus variant allowed companies to finally set dates to fully reopen their offices — at least, until the emergence of Omicron. That, The Times’s Emma Goldberg writes, has rendered return-to-office plans more “wishful thinking rather than a sign of futures filled with alarm clocks, commutes and pants that actually button.”
With fully fledged office returns now being pushed back to, well, who knows when, Emma has compiled a glossary of new lingo for the Zoom-enabled workplace. Here are some of our favorites:
Bookcase credibility. Some Zoomers have chosen to put Robert Caro’s magisterial “The Power Broker” on display for their calls, while others have gone for more offbeat options — say, Thomas Hardy’s “Jude the Obscure,” in the actor Paul Rudd’s case. The comedian Aparna Nancherla said that “seeing into every person’s home no matter how well you knew them felt intrusive,” but that it also fostered a kind of bond among the work-from-home crowd.
Maskhole. “That office co-worker who inexplicably lowers his mask when he has to cough,” Emma writes.
Zoombie. The semi-catatonic state that befalls “anyone who has entered their eighth hour of staring at a co-worker’s pores and found themselves wishing they were back under the fluorescent lighting of an open floor plan.”
THE SPEED READ
Companies spent nearly $235 billion on share buybacks last quarter, setting a record and helping drive up stock prices. (WSJ)
The S.E.C. is reportedly investigating a private equity firm backed by the Coors family and others after complaints that it misused investor funds for personal expenses. (WSJ)
Getty Images, the stock-photo giant, will return to the public markets after 13 years under private equity control by merging with a SPAC. (Reuters)
How a tussle to manage Alex Rodriguez’s fortune highlights internal struggles within JPMorgan Chase’s wealth management arm. (FT)
President Biden criticized Kellogg’s plan to permanently replace striking workers who rejected a proposed employment contract. (NYT)
How Biden’s banking regulators are trying to push out Jelena McWilliams, the Trump-appointed chair of the F.D.I.C. (NYT)
Companies are rushing to fix a security flaw in the widely used software Log4j after a warning by U.S. cybersecurity officials. (Bloomberg)
Best of the rest
Alibaba dismissed an employee who accused her boss of sexual assault during a business trip, months after firing him. (NYT)
Carolyn Everson stepped down as Instacart’s president after just three months, following a clash with her former Facebook colleague, the Instacart C.E.O. Fidji Simo. (The Information)
Women now make up a majority of nonexecutive board members in Britain, but executive directors are overwhelmingly male. (FT)
It isn’t just supply-chain disruptions: A cyberattack is contributing to a shortage of cream cheese. (Bloomberg)
Peloton is poking fun at the controversy over its appearance in the “Sex and the City” reboot in a Ryan Reynolds-produced ad that is going viral. (NYT, @onepeloton
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