Good morning and happy Passover. Here’s what you need to know in the business and technical news for the week ahead. – Charlotte Cowles
What’s happening? (March 21-27)
Suez Canal Crunch
A huge container ship that ran aground and blocked the Suez Canal in Egypt caused an international traffic jam. More than 100 ships carrying oil and goods for ports around the world are now stuck halfway, putting more of a strain on supply chains already overburdened by the pandemic. Workers digging the stuck ship out of the mud warned it might not be movable until next week. The canal offers the most direct shipping passage between Europe and Asia. Without them, ships have to circumnavigate Africa, adding significant time, cost and danger to their voyage.
Big Tech’s testimony
The legislature harassed those responsible for Facebook, Google and Twitter for five hours on Thursday about the connection between the misinformation spread on their platforms and the uprising on January 6 in the Capitol. When asked directly, Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey publicly admitted for the first time that his product had played a role in the uprising. (More typically, both Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Google’s Sundar Pichai dodged the question.) Executives were also asked how their companies enable racism and helped spread falsehoods about Covid-19 vaccines. The hearing ended with more calls to regulate the tech industry, but it remains to be seen what Congress will actually do.
China strikes back
A long list of western brands like Tommy Hilfiger, H&M, Adidas, Nike and Burberry can feel the coldness of Chinese wallets. The Chinese government is urging consumers to boycott these companies after pledging to stop using cotton from the Xinjiang area, where Chinese authorities are detaining ethnic minorities in detention centers. (The United States and some of its allies imposed a new round of sanctions against Chinese officials earlier this month, citing human rights abuses that the Chinese government continued to deny.) It is unclear whether Beijing’s calls for a boycott will be a serious nuisance. Previous government-sponsored campaigns against brands like Apple and Starbucks have not had much success in deterring Chinese consumers from buying what they want.
What’s next? (March 28th – April 3rd)
New York lawmakers reached an agreement to legalize recreational marijuana for adults ages 21 and older, opening the state to a potential $ 4.2 billion industry that could create tens of thousands of jobs and become one of the largest markets in the country. The law can be passed as early as this week, though the first legal sales are likely more than a year away. The marijuana trade is expected to generate millions in tax revenue for the ailing state once it goes live. The legislature has promised to reinvest a large part of this money in minority communities, which in the past have been disproportionately punished by the drug police.
The vote of the Union
Workers at an Amazon camp in Bessemer, Alabama, will finalize a week-long vote on Monday to form a union. Amazon is known for its anti-union tactics (some of which are under legal scrutiny) and has encouraged its employees to vote “no”. She also denied claims about harsh working conditions and the lack of coronavirus safety protocols, pointing out that the starting wage of $ 15 an hour is significantly higher than what workers could find elsewhere. If the union is approved, it would be a first for Amazon workers in the United States and could encourage labor movements across the country.
President Biden has outlined his next big plan to stimulate the economy: a huge infrastructure package. The details are still in flux as administrative officials scrutinize the proposal to congressmen and industry leaders. However, the far-reaching measures are in line with Mr Biden’s election pledges to make the economy fairer, to address climate change and to strengthen American manufacturing and technology industries in escalating competition with China. Who is paying the estimated $ 3 trillion cost of the plan? The administration has suggested that it could be funded in part through tax hikes for businesses and the rich.
To combat pandemic zoom fatigue (symptoms include dry eyes, forgetting to put on pants, and compulsive lying about your video camera not working), Citigroup is introducing zoom-free Fridays. In the meantime, many companies are offering free or discounted products – including donuts, yogurt, and beer – to people who can prove they received Covid vaccines. And Elon Musk, the executive director of Tesla, is in trouble with the National Labor Relations Board, which upheld a decision that he broke the law by firing a worker who was involved in the union organization and threatening others when they followed.