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About 500 challenged ballots at stake in Amazon union vote: report

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About 500 of the ballots cast in Amazon’s landmark union election were challenged before the e-commerce titan took a commanding lead, the labor group involved in the push said.

The challenged ballots could make a difference if the number of votes in favor of unionizing Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse catches up with the number of votes against when counting resumes Friday, according to Reuters, which first reported the figure.

Amazon and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union challenged the ballots in a private process before the National Labor Relations Board began the public count Thursday afternoon, the news agency reported.

RWDSU spokesperson Chelsea Connor confirmed the number of challenged ballots, saying Amazon contested votes “at a rate of nearly 4 to 1.” The NLRB also made some challenges, she said.

Michael Foster of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union encourages voters at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama.
Michael Foster of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union encourages voters at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama.
AP/Jay Reeves

The board will reportedly adjudicate the challenged ballots — which account for roughly 15 percent of the 3,215 votes cast — if they’re needed to determine the election’s outcome.

Jeff Bezos is the CEO of Amazon.
Jeff Bezos is the CEO of Amazon.
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Amazon’s large lead so far makes it unclear whether they’ll be necessary. The NLRB had counted 1,100 votes against unionization by the time counting stopped Thursday, compared to just 463 votes in favor.

Parties to a union vote can challenge ballots that they suspect came from an ineligible voter or were tampered with, among other reasons, the news agency reports.

An NLRB spokesperson said the agency could not release the number of challenged ballots or the total number of votes cast until the end of the count. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Friday.

Union leaders are joined by community group representatives, elected officials and social activists for a rally in support of unionization efforts by Amazon workers in the state of Alabama.
Union leaders are joined by community group representatives, elected officials and social activists for a rally in support of unionization efforts by Amazon workers in the state of Alabama.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The vote count is slated to resume Friday morning in a closely watched election that could bring the first union to an Amazon warehouse in the United States.

Amazon has fought tooth and nail against the union push while labor activists and political figures such as President Biden have thrown their support behind the effort.

An Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is stands in Bessemer, Alabama.
An Amazon-sponsored billboard urging employees to return their unionization ballots is stands in Bessemer, Alabama.
Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

The RWDSU pledged to continue the fight Thursday while acknowledging it was likely to lose the vote.

Citing emails among federal employees, the union has reportedly accused Amazon of pushing the US Postal Service to place a mailbox outside the Bessemer facility — a move that could lead workers to think the company had a role in collecting their ballots.

People in Los Angeles, California, protest in support of the unionizing efforts of the Alabama Amazon workers.
People in Los Angeles, California, protest in support of the unionizing efforts of the Alabama Amazon workers.
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

“Our system is broken,” RWDSU president Stuart Appelbaum told the Washington Post. “Amazon took full advantage of that, and we will be calling on the labor board to hold Amazon accountable for its illegal and egregious behavior during the campaign.”

With Post wires



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Glasses retailer Warby Parker eyeing IPO as soon as this year

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Hipster glasses retailer Warby Parker is eyeing an initial public offering.

The 11-year-old business, which started out as an e-tailer before rolling out some 130 stores across the US, is considering an IPO as early as this year, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday.

The New York-based company has amassed a huge customer following by offering less expensive prescription glasses. Warby Parker raised $120 million in its most recent funding round giving it a $3 billion valuation, according to the report.

“We’ve always explored various financing opportunities in both the debt and equity markets,” the company said in a statement. “To date, we have successfully and deliberately raised money within the private market on favorable terms and have plenty of cash on our balance sheet. We’ll continue to make strategic decisions in line with our commitment to sustainable growth.”

Founded by college buddies Dave Gilboa and Neil Blumenthal, who met at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Warby Parker has attracted some large investors including the mutual fund company, T. Rowe Price.

It turned it first profit in 2018, Gilboa told The New York Times at the time.

Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Warby Parker co-founder Neil Blumenthal
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Customers can get prescriptions through their apps on their smartphones and use cameras to pick out frames. The company also has an optical lab in Sloatsburg, NY where it produces lenses.

While Warby Parker is not the least expensive option, it beats Costco in a recent comparison with Costco charging as little a $126 for a pair of prescription glasses compared with Warby Parker’s least expensive pair at $95.

“As consumer walk into a LensCrafters or Sunglass Hut, they see 50 different brands of glasses but don’t realize that all those brands are owned by the same company that owns the store that they’re standing in, that probably owns the vision insurance plan they’r using to pay for those glasses,” Gilboa said in a recent CNBC interview.

“And so, it’s no surprise that a lot of those glasses are marked up 10 to 20 times what they cost to manufacture,” he said.

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Dogecoin hits new high boosted by DogeDay hashtags

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Dogecoin prices hit an all-time high on Tuesday, with a market capitalization above $50 billion, after social media fans used hashtags to fuel a rally in the meme-based cryptocurrency.

An 8,000 percent price surge this year has seen Dogecoin, which was launched as a satirical critique of 2013′s cryptocurrency frenzy, overtake more widely-used cryptocurrencies like Tether to become the fifth-largest coin.

While Dogecoin, whose logo features a Shiba Inu dog at the center of the meme, a represents only a fraction of bitcoin’s $1 trillion value, it can be traded on crypto exchanges and more popular mainstream trading apps.

“The Doge rally represents an interesting convergence,” said Diana Biggs, CEO of crypto start-up Valour, after Dogecoin’s price soared by more than five-fold in the last week to a record 42 cents, according to CoinMarketCap.

“A meme coin created as a joke for early crypto adopters whose community found that kind of thing to be fun, with now a new generation of retail investors for whom memes are a native language,” Biggs added.

Dogecoin fans used the hashtags #DogeDay and #DogeDay420 to post memes, messages and videos on Twitter, Reddit and TikTok, referring to the informal April 20 holiday to celebrate cannabis which is marked by smoke-ins and street parties.

“GIMME THAT DOGECOIN LAMBO!!! #DogeDay” one tweeted, referring to the Lamborghini car popular in crypto culture.

Dogecoin’s rise has come amid a surge in online trading of stocks and crypto by retail investors, stuck at home with extra cash because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It has not coincided with a growth in usage of the coin for payments or in commerce.

The same trend has spurred a boom in usage of online trading apps like Robinhood, and also fueled the social-media driven rally in GameStop stock that pitted retail investors against hedge funds earlier this year.

“It’s an extension of the same phenomenon that has led Tesla stock to be valued well beyond fundamentals and more recently to the GME (GameStop) short squeeze,” said Ajit Tripathi, head of institutional business at decentralised finance startup Aave.

Like other cryptocurrencies, Dogecoin’s price is heavily influenced by social media users including Tesla chief Elon Musk, whose tweets on the cryptocurrency in February sent its price soaring over 60 percent.

“If this goes as planned and everybody including Mr. Musk go ahead and just pour money into Doge on April 20th all at once Doge will reach prices that originally were not even conceptual,” a TikTok user said in a video promoting the coin.



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Amazon is opening a beauty salon in London

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Amazon is opening a hair salon in London — its latest odd lurch into new businesses as the pandemic continues to fuel the e-commerce giant’s torrid growth.

The Amazon Salon, unveiled in a Tuesday blog post, will occupy a two-story, 1,500-square-foot space in Spitalfields, a trendy neighborhood in East London that is also home to Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.

Indeed, the new salon, which will be open seven days a week, initially will only cater to Amazon workers. Members of the public will be able to make bookings in “the coming weeks” by calling, emailing or visiting the salon, the company says.

“This will be an experiential venue where we showcase new products and technology,” Amazon said in a blog post on Tuesday, adding that there are no plans to open other salons.

That will include making Amazon’s Fire tablets available at each station, allowing customers to use augmented reality technology to see what they look like as a platinum blonde, brunette or with highlights, the company said.

The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
The salon is located at Amazon’s UK headquarters, which houses about 5,000 employees.
Amazon

The salon will also test new “point-and-learn” technology, where customers can point at a product they are interested in on a display shelf and the relevant information, including brand videos and educational content, will appear on a display screen.

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