In the last few years, especially after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a noticeable growth in US labor organizing. Workers all over the country, from both large corporations and small companies, have gone on strikes and began forming labor unions in an effort to get better wages, working conditions, and benefits. Most recently, employees at large rail unions rejected a tentative deal to avert a walkout in September 2022 after it failed to adequately address their concerns. This is the latest, but certainly not the only, instance of workers demonstrating their increased bargaining power. We have also seen increased unionization movements by corporate employees at corporations like Amazon, Google, and Starbucks. However, as more corporate employees attempt to unionize, corporations have begun to push back, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has stepped in to put a stop to blatant anti-unionization efforts.
Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google are dominating the headlines with record-breaking profits and dismissals of antitrust lawsuits; however, that may not last long with new antitrust bills gaining traction in Congress. In fact, when the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16 – 6 to advance a major antitrust bill on January 20, 2022, the American Innovation and Choice Online Act, the tech companies stock prices dipped. Currently, with bipartisan support, the bill is on a path to pass the Senate.
With the recent antitrust lawsuit filed against Amazon and the new antitrust bills being debated in Congress, the online retail giant is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. The behemoth of a company has entered numerous markets including apparel, technology, and even grocery. The size and scope of the company begs the question, is Amazon a monopoly? As the law stands right now, Amazon is decidedly not.
In March 2019, Senator Brian Schatz and Senator Roy Blunt introduced a bill to Congress designed to provide oversight for facial recognition technology, known as the Commercial Facial Recognition Privacy Act. If passed, this law could change the way Americans deal with privacy.
New data privacy regulations entail questioning both current and future technologies. Recently, Amazon has introduced a store concept that eliminates everyone’s least favorite things about shopping, long lines and small talk. Amazon Go is the grocery store of the future and these stores allow consumers to walk in, pick up the items that they need, and then walk right back out. That’s it. No long lines, no cashiers, no shopping carts. However, as great as this concept seems, there are still concerns from a data privacy standpoint as Amazon needs to collect personal data from its consumers in order to be able to lawfully execute these checkout-less stores.
In January 2018, Warren Buffet, Jamie Dimon, and Jeff Bezos announced that Berkshire Hathaway, JP Morgan Chase, and Amazon would partner together to form a non-profit company aimed at improving the United State healthcare system and combating ever-increasing costs. The idea for the project came about from the ongoing discussion between the three CEOs regarding providing healthcare for their, collectively, approximately 840,000 employees. Even though details are scarce, given the importance of the issue and the prominent names attached to this project, the press, the public, and the market have reacted accordingly. In other words, people are scrambling to figure out what this might mean for their companies and our healthcare system as a whole.
Google answered Amazon’s Echo Dot by recently launching their own pint-sized smart speaker, the Google Home Mini. Recently, Google was forced to disable one of the features on the Home Mini after it was discovered that a technical glitch led to near 24/7 audio recording. Google responded quickly and appropriately, investigating the cause and quickly releasing an update to disable the hardware responsible for the glitch. The Equifax hack – a breach of personal data including social security numbers, driver’s license information, and other credit details – exposed nearly half the country and waited months to respond. Upcoming European legislation that can significantly impact American companies with European Union clients may be part of the reason for their drastically different responses.