‘There Was No Mercy’ – The New York Times

Amazon faces a union movement in a warehouse in Bessemer, Ala. – The largest and most viable US work challenge in years. The Times’s David Streitfeld examined the e-commerce giant’s previous efforts to block organized labor. He found a lot of tough tactics … that worked. Will they do it again?

Among Amazon’s moves to oppose a union movement in Chester, Virginia five years ago, according to official documents and employees:

  • Personnel officers were brought in and some were accused of following workers to determine their positions on the union action.

  • Supporters of the effort have been described as “Cancer and Disease for Amazon and the Facility,” according to Bill Hough Jr., a leader of the organization and a memo from the union supporting the effort.

  • Mr. Hough has been charged with disobedience and has been told that if he continues to have “adverse effects” he may lose his job.

  • Mr. Hough’s verdict: “There was no mercy.”

Amazon has secretly reached an agreement with the National Labor Relations Board to after the union lodged a complaint behind the drive. The company was forced to publish notices in the camp promising good behavior, but was not forced to admit violations of labor laws or pay fines.

Union work organizers in Alabama say the company has tried similar tactics. They claim Amazon tried to monitor workers while they were sending messages to the union at the Bessemer warehouse. (One claimed workers had to save on dinner to pay union dues.) Management even changed a traffic light to hamper organizers’ efforts to reach out to workers.

  • These allegations led President Biden to state that “workers in Alabama” – Amazon was not specifically named – should not be subjected to “employer intimidation or threats.” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio expressed support for Amazon workers, saying the company “decided to wage a culture war against working class values.”

Union organizers are pessimistic. Nearly 6,000 employees in the Bessemer warehouse have until March 29 to decide whether to join the retail, wholesale and department store union. “They will face threats or think,” I won’t have a job, Amazon will replace me, “Mr. Hough told The Times, adding,” I hope for the best. “In a statement, Amazon said it believe it not that the Alabama union push “represents the majority of the views of our employees.”

Other European countries are suspending use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine. Germany, France, Italy and Spain suspended vaccinations after reports that a handful of recipients had developed blood clots. Medical experts said there was “no evidence” linking the vaccine to an increased risk of clotting, but the measures could add to the problems facing European vaccination initiatives.

Volkswagen outlines plans to counter Tesla’s battery dominance. The European automaker announced efforts to cut costs, improve vehicle charging times and build six battery factories. One analyst said it was “a blueprint for what older automakers need to achieve”.

Warren Buffett calls for ESG disclosure requests. On Berkshire Hathaway’s annual proxy, the conglomerate called on Mr Buffett’s shareholders to reject proposals for greater transparency on climate-related risks and efforts to promote diversity and inclusion. This is a clear contrast to the increasing disclosure on environmental, social and corporate governance issues (more on this below).

The Sackler family can relinquish control of the manufacturer of OxyContin. Purdue Pharma has released its bankruptcy restructuring plan, which includes a commitment from its founding family to pay $ 4.3 billion – $ 1.3 billion more than previously offered – to reimburse the cost of the opioid epidemic.

Streaming giants dominate the Oscar race. Netflix garnered 35 nominations – led by “Mank” by director David Fincher – while Amazon earned 12 as pandemic theater shutdowns bolstered online video services and traditional studios shifted many competitors to the next year.

A day after Danone’s chairman and CEO Emmanuel Faber resigned under pressure from activist investors, other shareholders of the French food giant are turning against the activists. CtW, an advisor to union pension funds with over $ 250 billion in assets, yesterday sent a harsh letter to Artisan Partners leading the uprising over Mr. Faber’s leadership. The twist in the letter reviewed by DealBook is that CtW owns a “substantial” number of Artisan stocks – and that the fund needs the kind of governance reorganization it has pushed for Danone.

Danone’s commitment to social and environmental goals is at the heart of the problem. Last year, Danone, which owns Evian and several yoghurt brands, was the first publicly listed company to adopt the French legal framework “Entreprise à Mission”, which enables companies to take social and environmental aspects into account more strongly in their business models. Around 99 percent of the shareholders supported the move, but not Artisan Partners. Danone’s performance has lagged behind competitors like Nestle and Unilever lately, Artisan said as he called for changes in the boardroom, including someone other than Mr. Faber becoming chairman.

  • For some, bigger concerns are at stake: whether the stakeholder model can withstand resistance from activist investors who are primarily focused on shareholder returns.

According to CtW, Artisan’s own guidelines are inconsistent with Danone’s demands. Particularly, Eric Colson serves as Artisan’s Chairman and CEO. “Artisan’s request for an independent chairman at Danone while retaining the positions of CEO and chairing its own board of directors contradicts best governance practices,” wrote Dieter Waizenegger, CEO of CtW. He also questioned the company’s use of “large discretionary cash rewards” and requested a discussion with management by the end of the month. Artisan did not respond to a request for comment.

– Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Associates on the state of the markets.

Yesterday we announced an important address by Allison Mr. Lee, Acting Chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Investors are increasingly demanding more company disclosure about these factors, and she suggested that voluntary schemes are not enough. “No single issue has been more urgent to me than making sure the SEC is fully aware of the risks and opportunities that climate and ESG pose to investors, our financial system and our economy,” she said.

We asked Ms. Lee a few more questions about the scope and timing of the agency’s initiatives. Your answers have been edited for clarity and length.

DealBook: why act now?

Ms. Lee: We have a lot to do and a lot of time to make amends. What I don’t want to do is sit here and step on the water.

Can businesses focus on profits and the planet? Are there tensions?

This is one of the most complex problems we have ever seen: climate change and how companies should deal with it. We need to give companies leeway to experiment and see how this works best. It has to be an iterative process. You must have some certainty about predictions and forward-looking statements. We have to work with them. I’m certainly not implying that there is a set approach that every company must take.

What are the main lines of error do you anticipate in the ESG debate?

One of the biggest questions will be, “What is the right mix of principles and metrics?” How can we find out which metrics make the most sense and are broadly applied to help investors choose which companies to invest in?

Political spending is also a hot topic. Can you talk about it

We have over a million comment letters telling us this is essential. Everything I see and read and analyze and scientific work I’ve seen on it makes it pretty clear that it can be material. Maybe not in all cases. But it can be. After January 6, companies made announcements about political issues. But we had no idea what they were doing before, did we? How can investors test this? How do you know? There is no question that it is an integral issue – companies themselves clearly think so based on the statements they have made.

In response to Ms. Lee’s remarks, Senator Patrick Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania and senior Senate banking committee member, said an increased focus on ESG would “be a total abuse of power and politicization of the SEC’s disclosure standards.”

deals

  • China reportedly urged Alibaba to sell its media assets, including shares in Weibo and The South China Morning Post, for fear of swaying public opinion. (WSJ)

  • Canada’s Rogers Communications agreed to buy a rival, Shaw, for $ 16 billion, but the deal faces antitrust hurdles. (Reuters)

  • Blackstone and Starwood Capital have teamed up to buy Extended Stay America hotel chain for $ 6 billion. (NYT)

Politics and politics

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is coordinating a global minimum tax for multinational companies with other countries. (WaPo)

  • Senator Elizabeth Warren has become one of the greatest influences on the financial policy of the Biden administration after her appointments. (Politico)

  • “The Financial Crisis That The World Forgot” (NYT)

technology

  • Facebook agreed to pay News Corp for its media content in Australia a month after it blocked news links in the country over legislation requiring platforms to compensate publishers. (NYT)

  • Electric vehicle start-ups going public through SPACs promise breathtaking sales growth. (WSJ)

  • Peter Thiel’s largest political donation to date is $ 10 million for a Super PAC supporting Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance, who may be running for the Ohio Senate. (Recode)

The best of the rest

  • Hand gel, dumbbells and sweatpants: the items that Britain uses to calculate inflation have been pandemically reshaped. (NYT)

  • Innovation takes place in an environment in which employees feel safe and secure. But women often don’t. (NYT)

  • The New York Times Book Review turns 125 this year. Here are some highlights. (NYT)

We appreciate your feedback! Please email your thoughts and suggestions to dealbook@nytimes.com.

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