Week in Review - Amazon goes to war

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Saturday, March 27, 2021 By Lucas Matney

Hello friends, and welcome to Week in Review.

Last week, I talked about Facebook’s vision for a future of mobile that it owns and why it may not be a much better situation for anyone other than Facebook. This week, I’m giving a quick snapshot of the happenings in Bessemer, Alabama, where a worker organization attempt is pushing Amazon to showcase its full corporate communications firepower.

If you're reading this on the TechCrunch site, you can get this in your inbox from the newsletter page, and follow my tweets @lucasmtny.

The big thing

Next week, union officials will begin tallying votes from workers at the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse, in what has become a blistering battle for Amazon to maintain control over its massive logistics network. In the run-up, Amazon is running a full-blown political campaign as it aims to avert crisis and keep public opinion where it wants it.

This week, the company stepped up its public relations efforts in a process that involved clapbacks at U.S. senators while grilling critics from the official @amazonnews Twitter account. Amazon is going militant with America’s liberal wing and it’s putting its lobbying dollars and communications prowess to harder work than ever.

Dave Clark — one of Amazon’s most powerful executives — responded to news of Senator Bernie Sanders meeting with Amazon union organizers by tweeting, "I welcome [Sanders] to Birmingham and appreciate his push for a progressive workplace. I often say we are the Bernie Sanders of employers, but that's not quite right because we actually deliver a progressive workplace." A couple days later the @amazonnews Twitter account got in a fight with Elizabeth Warren about the company’s corporate tax burden.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) sent TechCrunch a lengthy response to the tweet, saying, “How arrogant and tone deaf can Amazon be? Do they really believe that the wage they pay – which is below what workers in nearby unionized warehouses receive and below Alabama's median wage – gives them the right to mistreat and dehumanize their employees, put their workers' health and safety in jeopardy, require them to maintain an unbearable pace, which even Amazon itself admits that a quarter of their workforce won't be able to meet, and to deny working men and women the dignity and respect they deserve.”

The Bessemer warehouse is just one year old, launching in the midst of America’s first COVID lockdowns, a time when consumer demand surged for Amazon’s services. After years as a seemingly neutral party in conversations around Big Tech despite consistent rumblings from labor advocates, Amazon has seen its power swell to unforeseen heights amid the pandemic, and the company is going on the offensive as it aims to prevent any broad sway in public opinion surrounding workers organizing.

This certainly won’t be the last high-profile unionization attempt, but Amazon is throwing plenty of resources at this case as they aim to flex their strength and prevent cascading dominoes.

My colleague Brian dug in further to these conversations; you can read his story here.

The big thing image

Image Credits: Megan Varner / Getty Images

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Other things

Zuck pins blame on Trump for Capitol attacks
The CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google Zoomed into another legislative hearing this week, and they weren’t quite as gracious this time around as they answered questions around the platforms’ roles in the January 6th Capitol invasion. Facebook laid out a clear rebuke of the former administration, with Mark Zuckerberg saying in his opening statement that the blame lied with Trump, not Facebook.

Slack launches open DMs and then rolls elements of them back
Slack’s biggest launch in a while, open DMs, went awry this week as users quickly discovered its harassment implications. The feature is strictly opt-in for companies but it may be a headache for users who will now have one more externally facing communication inbox.

You can now buy a Tesla with bitcoin in the US
Elon Musk has made his opinions well-known on bitcoin, but he’s also expressed these sentiments with Tesla’s own investment in the currency. This week, Tesla gave U.S. users the option to buy a Tesla with bitcoin.

China reins in apps from aggressive data collection 
China may have no problem controlling voice on web platforms in the country, but the government is cracking down on tech companies that are collecting too much user data. Top regulators laid out limits for top apps in the kind of data they can collect, though rules don’t go into effect for several weeks.

David Dobrik’s camera app blows up
After news broke earlier this month of a sexual assault scandal involving one of the former members of YouTuber David Dobrik’s crew, the venture capital firm backing his startup made the unprecedented move of dumping the startup and pledging not to profit from its investment.

Controversy follows the launch of a crypto social network
This week, I wrote about BitClout, a new cryptocurrency-centric social network that aims to IPO each of its users. The platform has seen investment from top firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Sequoia Capital and Coinbase, but they’ve also courted plenty of detractors, given some of their fairly aggressive growth tactics.

Other things image

Extra things

Some of my favorite reads from our Extra Crunch subscription service this week:

WeWork lines up for a second run at the public markets
“Every CEO I talk to at a startup that's doing more than Series B-level revenue tells me that SPACs are circling, hungry for a deal so they won't have to return collected capital to their original backers. There's an old joke: If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Except this time, if all you have is a blank-check company, every erstwhile startup looks like a public company in waiting.”

5 mistakes creators make building new games on Roblox
“From Gamefam's first game two years ago that topped out at only 25 concurrent players to our current portfolio with 2 million to 3 million daily visits, our team learned to develop on Roblox the hard way — by trial and error and by getting better at listening to the Roblox community's unique gamer culture and vernacular.

UiPath’s IPO filing suggests robotic process automation is booming
“Companies that produce robotic process automation (RPA) software help enterprises reduce labor costs and errors. Instead of having a human perform repetitive tasks like data entry, processing credit card applications and scheduling cable installation appointments, RPA tools employ software bots instead.”

Extra things image

Image Credits: KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP / Getty Images

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