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Employees gain a new litany of legislative benefits this year

(BUSINESS NEWS) New Year, new you, new employment laws! Check out the Employees Empowerment edition of new legislation on our j-o-b…s!

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Employees enjoying benefits

Y’all, it’s a new year, with new laws! The Man is putting his foot down, and for once, it actually looks like it’ll be making a mark on the right people in this new decade!

PS: If you need to fight me on the decade “actually” beginning in 2021 like a nerd, I’m based out of Austin, so take a number and come at me after you read about…:

Leaving past pay in the past

This is the one I’m the most excited about, even though it’s not nationwide yet.

No more scared, deep breaths over never working a salaried day in your field while you freelanced in between retail jobs!

No more anxiety over being ‘overqualified’ when you’re really just looking to start over somewhere new!

From now on, people in New Jersey, and Kansas City, MO can walk into interviews knowing they’re taking a step towards greater equity, and better bargaining! Now it’s not ‘Okay, how little will they take’ it’s ‘How much should we give them?’!

For the record, yours truly is loving how these turntables have turned.

Weed’s out as a weedout

Rock on, Nevada. From now on, having a little green in your gold when you leave a job screening urine sample will no longer disqualify you from the position! I won’t give y’all the whole spiel, and I don’t indulge myself, but considering what pot does and what alcohol does, I figure either we try Prohibition 2: Lame Ass Boogaloo, or we legalize both.

Just keep it off the worksite, and the sand peoples of the wild wild west are all set! Fingers crossed for a contact high from this new development nationwide.

Sidenote, now that 10 states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana usage, we’re faced with even more questions regarding travel. If you should sample the jazz cabbage brownies visiting Colorado, would proof of a flight be enough to secure a job you interview for later on? What happens if you road tripped instead?

Questions for our legislators for later.

Overtime pay! Yay!

It’s a dumb, weird, number, but if you make less than $35,568 per year…well first of all, SOLIDARITY, and backpats to you. Make like Tupac said and keep ya head up.

But more to the point, if you’re under that bar, your employers are either gonna need to pay you overtime by force, or you get an actual raise!
I’m not in the business of tolerance for ‘job creators’ that aren’t also ‘living-wage creators’, so while this isn’t the >$47k threshold that got overturned in 2016, it’s a hell of a step up from the 23.7k from the ‘aught years.

Definitely worth a prosecco pop.

All about AB5

As a part-time freelancer, I enjoy going from job to job, making my own hours, and being able to pick up extra work here and there as I actually want.

However, I’ve noticed a particularly disturbing trend during my job searches, and that’s full time, onsite contractor work. IE, taking advantage of someone’s need for a job without paying for the things freelancers trade in for the lack of benefits.

AB5 is forcing companies in California to pony up and do the right thing by treating independent contractors as real employees and sidestepping the de-facto 9-5 BS in favor of respecting people’s time.

Of course big companies like Vox and Uber are already being whiny babies about not getting to upgrade their yacht beasts to white tigers instead of those peasanty orange ones, and making workers pay for it by either refusing to comply or cutting jobs entirely.

My take is–the chickens came home, and now whoever’s signing the checks better figure out how to make an omelette. Bawk bawk.

Baby Crazy-Good

The west coast is where you want your womb to be apparently. Oregon expanded its Fair Employment Practices Act to require reasonable accommodations being made for even small companies (6 employees or more) to be made for complications due to the incredibly arduous task of growing and squeezing out a human being.

California has also expanded its preggo/parent protections by mandating pump rooms with accommodations including: electricity, a pump surface, total privacy, seating, and a running sink.

Congratulations in more ways than one!

Paid breakdown break time

18 weeks, 3.5 months, more than a quarter of the year is a long time to go without pay if something happens to you.

You get hit by a car, you have a premie baby, your spouse gets carried off by bats, and you have to journey to the hidden cities of MesoAmerica and defeat the death-bat god Camazotz in tests of wit and perseverance to get them back—these are just things that life can and will toss your way.

And in most jobs, in most places, you won’t have any recourse to making sure the lights stay on during all of that.

Well now, some employees in Washington state will be able to take those 18 weeks with guaranteed pay to care for their families, and themselves! DC and Massachusetts will be following suit soon, though it can’t come soon enough!

And states requiring paid leave are going up and up! Nevada now allows leave for any reason, and benefits in New York, California, Arizona, and Dallas, TX are also going to increase.
No longer having to reconcile a needed break with being able to feed your kids can only be a good thing. GoFundMe isn’t a viable path for every dang thing, and it’s good to see places stepping up their sabbatical game!

More like NAH-bitration

Imagine being wronged.

Not like ‘scuffed your brand new boots stepping on you by accident because they can’t look where the EFF they’re going, and also walk on the RIGHT, you FOOL’, kind of wronged.

But something along the lines of ‘My employer took the doors off the men’s bathrooms’ or ‘My coworkers are continually insulting my faith and no one’s doing anything about it’ wronged.

Normally, I’d say, sue. In many employment situations, I can do no such thing.

Agreeing to things like forgoing the right to take your employer to court as a condition of employment has become a matter of course, even in traditionally undervalued jobs. And considering how bad life can get when you’re unemployed, it’s very nearly coercion to require employees either sign their rights away, or hit the bricks.

California, has mandated that as of the dawn of 2020, no employers may mandate arbitration for discrimination claims, which is a great step forward. I’m hoping this spreads and moves into banning contracts that force employees to waive their right to band together in a class action suit.

All told, these changes represent a positive pro-worker step forward! And for anyone grumbling, reLAX. What’s good for your employees is good for your company, no ifs ands or buts. I suggest pulling the money out of post-Bring your dog Fridays-cleanup, and multicultural foosball tables, to start focusing on REAL benefits.

Save the quirky sprinkles for last.

You can't spell "Together" without TGOT: That Goth Over There. Staff Writer, April Bingham, is that goth; and she's all about building bridges— both metaphorically between artistry and entrepreneurship, and literally with tools she probably shouldn't be allowed to learn how to use.

Business News

Too connected: FTC eyes Facebook antitrust lawsuit

(BUSINESS NEWS) Following other antitrust hearings, we’re expecting to hear more about the FTC’s antitrust lawsuit against Facebook, soon.

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device.

Facebook might be wishing it had kept the “dislike” button.

On September 15, the Wall Street Journal announced that the Federal Trade Commission was preparing a possible antitrust lawsuit against the social media titan. Although the FTC has not made an official decision on whether to pursue the case, sources familiar with the situation expect a determination will be made on the matter sometime before the end of 2020. Facebook and the FTC both declined to comment when asked about the story.

The news comes following a year-long investigation by the FTC that has looked into anti-competitive practices by the Menlo Park-based company. This past July, the United States House of Representatives held hearings in which they grilled the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Google, and Facebook regarding their business practices. In August, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also testified in front of the FTC as part of the department’s antitrust probe into the organization.

The FTC seems to be especially interested in Facebook’s past acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram, which they believe may have been done to stifle competition. In internal emails sent between Zuckerberg and Facebook’s former CFO David Ebersman back in 2012, the 36-year-old seemed worried that the apps could eventually pose a threat to the social media conglomerate.

“These businesses are nascent but the networks established, the brands are already meaningful, and if they grow to a large scale the could be very disruptive to us,” Zuckerberg wrote to Ebersman, “Given that we think our own valuation is fairly aggressive and that we’re vulnerable in mobile, I’m curious if we should consider going after one or two of them.”

When Ebersman asked him to clarify the benefits of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg stated the purchases would neutralize a competitor while improving Facebook.

“One way of looking at this is that what we’re really buying is time. Even if some new competitors springs up, buying Instagram, Path, Foursquare, etc. now will give us a year or more to integrate their dynamics before anyone can get close to their scale again.” Zuckerberg said.

This isn’t the first time the FTC has investigated Facebook either. Last year the agency fined the company $5 billion for the mishandling of user’s personal information, the biggest penalty imposed by the federal government against a technology company. As a part of the settlement with the FTC in that case, Facebook also promised more comprehensive oversight of user data.

If the FTC does pursue an antitrust suit against Facebook, it could end up forcing the social media giant to spin off some of the companies it has acquired or place restrictions on how it does business. Considering how long it will take to file the litigation and prove the case in a courtroom, however, it seems that Zuckerberg will once again be “buying time.”

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Business News

What you need to know about the historic TikTok deal (for now)

(BUSINESS NEWS) No one really knows what’s happening, but the TikTok deal’s impact on business, US-China relations, and the open internet could be huge.

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Male black hands holding app opening TikTok app.

So, maybe you’ve heard that Oracle and Walmart are buying TikTok for national security!

Um, not exactly.

Also, Trump banned TikTok!

Sort of? Maybe?

But then he said he approved the Oracle-Walmart-TikTok deal!

We guess?

The terms of the proposal seem to shift daily, if not hourly. The sheer number of contradictory statements from every player suggests no one really knows what’s going on.

Just one example: Trump said the deal included a $5 billion donation to a fund for education for American youth. TikTok parent ByteDance, said, “Say what now?”

Here’s what we think we know (as of this writing):

Oracle and Walmart would get a combined 20 percent stake in a new U.S.-based company called TikTok Global. Combine that with current US investors in China’s ByteDance, TikTok’s parent, that would give American interests 53 percent. European and other investors would have 11 percent. China would retain 36 percent. (On Saturday Trump said China would have no interests at all. But that does not jibe with the reporting on the deal.)

Oracle would host all user data on its cloud, where it is promising “security will be 100 percent” to keep data safe from China’s prying eyes. But reporting has differed on whether Oracle will get full access to TikTok’s code and AI algorithms. Without full control, skeptics say, Oracle could be little more than a hosting service, and potential security issues would remain unaddressed.

Walmart says they’re excited about their “potential investment and commercial agreements,” suggesting they may be exploring e-commerce opportunities in the app.

The US Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is overseen by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, still has to approve any deal.

As for the TikTok “ban” – which isn’t really a ban because current users can keep it – the Commerce Department postponed the deadline for kicking TikTok off U.S. app stores to September 27, to give time for the deal to be hammered out. Never mind that it’s still not clear whether the U.S. government has authority to do that. Unsurprisingly, ByteDance says it doesn’t in a lawsuit filed September 18.

Whatever happens with the whiplash of the deal’s particulars, there are bigger issues in play.

According to business news site Quartz, moving data storage to Oracle mirrors what companies like Apple have done in China: Appease the Chinese government by allowing all data hosting to be inside China. A similar move could “mark the US, too, shifting from a more laissez-faire approach to user data, to a more sovereign one,” says China tech reporter Jane Li.

More obvious: Corporate sales and mergers are now part of the parrying between the U.S. and China, which adds a whole new playing field for negotiations among businesses.

In the meantime, TikTokkers keep TikTokking. White suburban moms continue to lip sync to rap songs in their kitchens. Gen Z continues to make fun of the president – and pretty much everything else.

And downloads of the app have skyrocketed.

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Business News

Hobby Lobby increases minimum wage, but how much is just to save face?

(BUSINESS NEWS) Are their efforts to raise their minimum wage to $17/hour sincere, or more about saving face after bungling pandemic concerns?

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Hobby Lobby storefront

The arts-and-crafts chain Hobby Lobby announced this week that they will be raising their minimum full-time wage to $17/hour starting October 1st. This decision makes them the latest big retailer to raise wages during the pandemic (Target raised their minimum wage to $15/hour about three months ago, and Walmart and Amazon have temporarily raised wages). The current minimum wage for Hobby Lobby employees is $15/hour, which was implemented in 2014.

While a $17 minimum wage is a big statement for the company (even a $15 minimum wage cannot be agreed upon on the federal level) – and it is no doubt a coveted wage for the majority of the working class – it’s difficult to not see this move as an attempt to regain public support of the company.

When the pandemic first began, Hobby Lobby – with more than 900 stores and 43,000 employees nationwide – refused to close their stores despite being deemed a nonessential business (subsequently, a Dallas judge accused the company of endangering public health).

In April, Hobby Lobby furloughed almost all store employees and the majority of corporate and distribution employees without notice. They also ended emergency leave pay and suspended the use of company-provided paid time off benefits for employees during the furloughs – a decision that was widely criticized by the public, although the company claims the reason for this was so that employees would be able to take full advantage of government handouts during their furlough.

However, the furloughs are not Hobby Lobby’s first moment under fire. The Oklahoma-based Christian company won a 2014 Supreme Court case – the same year they initially raised their minimum wage – that granted them the right to deny their female employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Also, Hobby Lobby settled a federal complaint in 2017 that accused them of purchasing upwards of 5,000 looted ancient Iraqi artifacts, smuggled through the United Arab Emirates and Israel – which is simultaneously strange, exploitative, and highly controversial.

Why does this all matter? While raising their minimum wage to $17 should be regarded as a step in the right direction regarding the overall treatment of employees (and, hopefully, $17 becomes the new standard), Hobby Lobby is not without reason to seek favorable public opinion, especially during a pandemic. Yes, we should be quick to condone the action of increasing minimum wage, but perhaps be a little skeptical when deeming a company “good” or “bad”.

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