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Amazon crushed the Alabama union drive – can the Teamsters do better? | Amazon

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The announcement that the Teamsters – one of America’s most powerful unions – is going to mount an ambitious campaign to unionize Amazon warehouses across the US presents the e-retailing colossus with a far bigger threatthan the recent effort to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Alabama ever did.

In Alabama, Amazon’s fierce anti-union press crushed the organizing drive by a small union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). And besides, Amazon had a significant home-field advantage in bright red Alabama. For Amazon, the Alabama face-off felt like a one-and-done win against a junior varsity squad.

But the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with 1.3 million members, is a far larger, richer, stronger union, and has a century of experience mobilizing and unionizing warehouse workers. Not only that, the Teamsters will mount drives in many places where unions are popular and powerful and arguably have a home-court advantage – think California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Washington state. In confronting the Teamsters, Amazon will no doubt feel it’s being plunged into a never-ending, head-to-head competition against an Olympic-caliber opponent.

It’s one thing for Amazon to deploy its crack team of anti-union lawyers and consultants to stomp out a union drive at a single warehouse center in Alabama, but it will be quite another thing for Amazon and its anti-union Swat team if the Teamsters mount union drives in 20 or 30 warehouses at once.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the Teamsters union is undertaking a national drive against Amazon, the nation’s second largest private-sector employer. Amazon, Teamster officials say, is undermining wages and working conditions in warehousing and trucking, the Teamsters’ two main industries. No surprise that the Teamsters president, James P Hoffa, told his union’s convention on Tuesday that Amazon was “an existential threat to every Teamster out there”.

Asked why the Teamsters are taking on Amazon, Randy Korgan, the union’s national Amazon director, told the Guardian: “It’s a natural. Our union has represented this industry for more than 100 years. We represent hundreds of thousands of workers in this industry.

“Truth be told,” Korgan continued, “Amazon’s impact on this industry is driving wages, working conditions and safety and health conditions downward. You have a lot of UPS, FedEx and US Postal Service drivers doing the delivery portion of this job. These are good-paying middle-class jobs for middle-class families. Amazon’s model is not good for working families, it’s threatening middle-class jobs.” Korgan said Amazon drivers earn about $16 an hour in southern California, while unionized UPS drivers there earn $38 an hour, with $29 an hour above that in health, pension and other benefits.

Labor experts say it makes sense for the Teamsters to target Amazon. “It’s good that the Teamsters are doing this,” said Stewart Acuff, former organizing director for the AFL-CIO, the nation’s main labor federation. “They’re perfectly placed to do this. They’re large, they have major resources, they are committed to organizing and spending the money that’s necessary. Most important, this is their core industry. They have all the interest in the world in battling Amazon.

“They need to do this for their members,” Acuff added. “They also need to do this for their employers so their employers know the Teamsters are willing to spend money to wage war to maintain standards and not let Amazon undercut unionized transportation companies.”

Korgan said the Teamsters would often seek to bypass union elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) because many unions see that process as hugely favoring employers, which have access to workers 24 hours a day. That’s one reason the RWDSU lost badly in Alabama, with 1,798 against unionizing to 738 in favor.

The union drive at the warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, failed with 1,798 against unionizing to 738 in favor.
The union drive at the warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, failed with 1,798 against unionizing to 738 in favor. Photograph: Patrick T Fallon/AFP/Getty Images

“The NLRB strategy is only one of many ways to seek recognition,” Korgan said. One way, Korgan said, would be to seek to pressure Amazon to agree to card check and neutrality (not to oppose unionization). “Those are some of the strategies,” Korgan said. “Everything is on the table.” The Teamsters’ resolution on Amazon also spoke of “shop floor strikes, city-wide strikes and actions in the streets”.

Asked to be more specific about tactics and timing, Korgan said: “Stay tuned.”

Korgan said the Teamsters’ organizing efforts at Amazon would be helped greatly by thousands of Teamster members who volunteer to help – whether by joining a rally outside an Amazon warehouse or by telling Amazon workers of the advantages of unions. “We’re part of the fabric of these communities, we’re not an outside institution,” Korgan said. “We’re not a third party. We’re coaching baseball right next to that individual who works at Amazon. We’re living in the same neighborhoods. Our kids go to the same schools.”

Kent Wong, director of the UCLA Labor Center, said some areas hold promise for the Teamsters’ efforts; he pointed to the Inland Empire, an area east of Los Angeles teeming with warehouses.

Wong said the Teamsters might be able to win there because southern California has strong unions and many pro-labor lawmakers, and besides, the head of the Los Angeles County Labor Federation is a prominent Teamster leader. “Anywhere you have a robust labor movement with strong labor-community alliances and elected officials who are willing to speak out and support the right of workers to form unions, that gives you a leg up,” Wong said.

He praised the Teamsters for undertaking its Amazon campaign, but said it won’t be easy. “When you take on a giant corporation that has a strong, anti-union policy, it’s going to be an uphill fight,” Wong said. “It will be a long-term, protracted fight.”

Wong said the Teamsters have a “mixed reputation, given the legacy of the original Jimmy Hoffa”.

But he added: “The Teamsters are known as a fighting union that has successfully raised the wages and working conditions for workers in these industries.”

In other words, the Teamsters have a reputation, a swagger, that stills attract many workers. In recent years, the Teamsters have unionized more than 20,000 school bus drivers and scored numerous victories unionizing warehouses, including at Sysco Foods and US Foods.

In its Amazon campaign, the question will be whether the Teamsters’ reputation as a fierce, fighting union that delivers to workers will succeed in overcoming the fierce, anti-union propaganda campaign that Amazon conducts in its warehouses.

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Amazon given contract to store data for MI5, MI6 and GCHQ | GCHQ

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The UK’s spy agencies have given a contract to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to host classified material in a deal aimed at boosting the use of data analytics and artificial intelligence for espionage.

GCHQ had supported the procurement of a high-security cloud system, which would be used by its sister services, MI5 and MI6. Other government departments, such as the Ministry of Defence, would also use the system during joint operations.

The agreement, estimated by industry experts to be worth £500m to £1bn over the next decade, was signed this year with Amazon.com’s cloud service unit AWS, the Financial Times first reported, citing people familiar with the discussions.

The contract with Amazon is likely to ignite concerns over sovereignty because the UK’s most secret data will be hosted by a single US tech company.

GCHQ told news agencies it would not comment on reports about its relationships with tech suppliers. AWS declined to comment on the report.

In February, British spies at GCHQ said they had fully embraced artificial intelligence (AI) to uncover patterns in global data to counter hostile disinformation and catch child abusers.

GCHQ has been using basic forms of AI, such as translation technology, for years but is stepping up its use, partly in response to the use of AI by hostile states and partly due to the data explosion that makes it effective.

Gus Hosein, the executive director of Privacy International, told the FT there were many things parliament, regulators and the public needed to know about the deal.

“This is yet another worrying public-private partnership, agreed in secret,” he said. “If this contract goes through, Amazon will be positioned as the go-to cloud provider for the world’s intelligence agencies. Amazon has to answer for itself which countries’ security services it would be prepared to work for.”

On Monday, the GCHQ director, Jeremy Fleming, told a conference the number of ransomware attacks had doubled across the UK in 2021, compared with last year.

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Google deliberately throttled ad load times to promote AMP, claims new court document • The Register

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More detail has emerged from a 173-page complaint filed last week in the lawsuit brought against Google by a number of US states, including allegations that Google deliberately throttled advertisements not served to its AMP (Accelerated Mobile) pages.

The lawsuit – as we explained at the end of last week – was originally filed in December 2020 and concerns alleged anti-competitive practice in digital advertising. The latest document, filed on Friday, makes fresh claims alleging ad-throttling around AMP.

Google introduced AMP in 2015, with the stated purpose of accelerating mobile web pages. An AMP page is a second version of a web page using AMP components and restricted JavaScript, and is usually served via Google’s content delivery network. Until 2018, the AMP project, although open source, had as part of its governance a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life), this being Google’s Malte Ubl, the technical lead for AMP.

In 2018, Ubl posted that this changed “from a single Tech lead to a Technical Steering Committee”. The TSC sets its own membership and has a stated goal of “no more than 1/3 of the TSC from one employer”, though currently has nine members, of whom four are from Google, including operating director Joey Rozier.

According to the Friday court filing, representing the second amended complaint [PDF] from the plaintiffs, “Google ad server employees met with AMP employees to strategize about using AMP to impede header bidding.” Header bidding, as described in our earlier coverage, enabled publishers to offer ad space to multiple ad exchanges, rather than exclusively to Google’s ad exchange. The suit alleges that AMP limited the compatibility with header bidding to just “a few exchanges,” and “routed rival exchange bids through Google’s ad server so that Google could continue to peek at their bids and trade on inside information”.

The lawsuit also states that Google’s claims of faster performance for AMP pages “were not true for publishers that designed their web pages for speed”.

A more serious claim is that: “Google throttles the load time of non-AMP ads by giving them artificial one-second delays in order to give Google AMP a ‘nice comparative boost’. Throttling non-AMP ads slows down header bidding, which Google then uses to denigrate header bidding for being too slow.”

The document goes on to allege that: “Internally, Google employees grappled with ‘how to [publicly] justify [Google] making something slower’.”

Google promoted AMP in part by ranking non-AMP pages below AMP pages in search results, and featuring a “Search AMP Carousel” specifically for AMP content. This presented what the complaint claims was a “Faustian bargain,” where “(1) publishers who used header bidding would see the traffic to their site drop precipitously from Google suppressing their ranking in search and re-directing traffic to AMP-compatible publishers; or (2) publishers could adopt AMP pages to maintain traffic flow but forgo exchange competition in header bidding, which would make them more money on an impression-by-impression basis.”

The complaint further alleges that “According to Google’s internal documents, [publishers made] 40 per cent less revenue on AMP pages.”

A brief history of AMP

AMP was controversial from its first inception. In 2017 developer Jeremy Keith described AMP as deceptive, drawing defensive remarks from Ubl. Keith later joined the AMP advisory committee, but resigned in August saying that “I can’t in good faith continue to advise on the AMP project for the OpenJS Foundation when it has become clear to me that AMP remains a Google product, with only a subset of pieces that could even be considered open source.”

One complaint is that the AMP specification requires a link to Google-hosted JavaScript.

In May 2020 Google stated it would “remove the AMP requirement from Top Stories eligibility”.

This was confirmed in April 2021, when Google posted about an update to its “page experience” whereby “the Top Stories carousel feature on Google Search will be updated to include all news content, as long as it meets the Google News policies. This means that using the AMP format is no longer required.” In addition, “we will no longer show the AMP badge icon to indicate AMP content.” Finally, Google Search signed exchanges, which pre-fetches content to speed page rendering on sites which support the feature, was extended to all web pages where it was previously restricted to AMP pages.

This is evidence that Google is pulling back from its promotion of AMP, though it also said that “Google continues to support AMP”.

As for the complaint, it alleges that Google has an inherent conflict of interest. According to the filing: “Google was able to demand that it represent the buy-side (i.e., advertisers), where it extracted one fee, as well as the sell-side (i.e., publishers), where it extracted a second fee, and it was also able to force transactions to clear in its exchange, where it extracted a third, even larger, fee.”

The company also has more influence than any other on web standards, thanks to the dominant Chrome browser and Chromium browser engine, and on mobile technology, thanks to Android.

That Google would devise a standard from which it benefited is not surprising, but the allegation of deliberately delaying ads on other formats in order to promote it is disturbing and we have asked the company to comment. ®

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What is COP26 and what can we expect from climate talks?

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Shelley Inglis from the University of Dayton explains how global climate negotiations work and what’s expected from the upcoming Glasgow summit.

Click here to visit The Conversation.

A version of this article was originally published by The Conversation (CC BY-ND 4.0)

Over two weeks in November, world leaders and national negotiators will meet in Scotland to discuss what to do about the climate crisis. It’s a complex process that can be hard to make sense of from the outside, but it’s how international law and institutions help solve problems that no single country can fix on its own.

I worked for the United Nations for several years as a law and policy adviser and have been involved in international negotiations. Here’s what’s happening behind closed doors and why people are concerned that COP26 might not meet its goals.

What is COP26?

In 1992, countries agreed to an international treaty called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which set ground rules and expectations for global cooperation on combating climate change. It was the first time the majority of nations formally recognised the need to control greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming that drives climate change.

That treaty has since been updated, including in 2015 when nations signed the Paris climate agreement. That agreement set the goal of limiting global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius, and preferably to 1.5 degrees Celsius, to avoid catastrophic climate change.

COP26 stands for the 26th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC. The “parties” are the 196 countries that ratified the treaty, plus the European Union. The UK, partnering with Italy, is hosting COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, from 31 October to 12 November 2021, after a one-year postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Why are world leaders so focused on the climate crisis?

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report, released in August 2021, warns in its strongest terms yet that human activities have unequivocally warmed the planet, and that climate change is now widespread, rapid and intensifying.

The IPCC’s scientists explain how climate change has been fuelling extreme weather events and flooding, severe heat waves and droughts, loss and extinction of species, and the melting of ice sheets and rising of sea levels. UN secretary-general António Guterres called the report a “code red for humanity.”

Enough greenhouse gas emissions are already in the atmosphere, and they stay there long enough, that even under the most ambitious scenario of countries quickly reducing their emissions, the world will experience rising temperatures through at least mid-century.

However, there remains a narrow window of opportunity. If countries can cut global emissions to “net zero” by 2050, that could bring warming back to under 1.5 degrees Celsius in the second half of the 21st century. How to get closer to that course is what leaders and negotiators are discussing.

What happens at COP26?

During the first days of the conference, around 120 heads of state, like US president Joe Biden, and their representatives will gather to demonstrate their political commitment to slowing climate change.

Once the heads of state depart, country delegations, often led by ministers of environment, engage in days of negotiations, events and exchanges to adopt their positions, make new pledges and join new initiatives. These interactions are based on months of prior discussions, policy papers and proposals prepared by groups of states, UN staff and other experts.

Non-governmental organisations and business leaders also attend the conference, and COP26 has a public side with sessions focused on topics such as the impact of climate change on small island states, forests or agriculture, as well as exhibitions and other events.

The meeting ends with an outcome text that all countries agree to. Guterres publicly expressed disappointment with the COP25 outcome, and there are signs of trouble heading into COP26.

What is COP26 expected to accomplish?

Countries are required under the Paris Agreement to update their national climate action plans every five years, including at COP26. This year, they’re expected to have ambitious targets through 2030. These are known as nationally determined contributions, or NDCs.

The Paris Agreement requires countries to report their NDCs, but it allows them leeway in determining how they reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The initial set of emission reduction targets in 2015 was far too weak to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

One key goal of COP26 is to ratchet up these targets to reach net-zero carbon emissions by the middle of the century.

Another aim of COP26 is to increase climate finance to help poorer countries transition to clean energy and adapt to climate change. This is an important issue of justice for many developing countries whose people bear the largest burden from climate change but have contributed least to it.

Wealthy countries promised in 2009 to contribute $100bn a year by 2020 to help developing nations, a goal that has not been reached. The US, UK and EU, among the largest historic greenhouse emitters, are increasing their financial commitments, and banks, businesses, insurers and private investors are being asked to do more.

Other objectives include phasing out coal use and generating solutions that preserve, restore or regenerate natural carbon sinks, such as forests.

Another challenge that has derailed past COPs is agreeing on implementing a carbon trading system outlined in the Paris Agreement.

Are countries on track to meet international climate goals?

The UN warned in September 2021 that countries’ revised targets were too weak and would leave the world on pace to warm 2.7 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. However, governments are also facing another challenge that could affect how they respond: energy supply shortages have left Europe and China with price spikes for natural gas, coal and oil.

China – the world’s largest emitter – has not yet submitted its NDC. Major fossil fuel producers such as Saudi Arabia, Russia and Australia seem unwilling to strengthen their commitments. India – a critical player as the second-largest consumer, producer and importer of coal globally – has also not yet committed.

Other developing nations such as Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa and Mexico are important. So is Brazil, which, under Jair Bolsonaro’s watch, has increased deforestation of the Amazon – the world’s largest rainforest and crucial for biodiversity and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

What happens if COP26 doesn’t meet its goals?

Many insiders believe that COP26 won’t reach its goal of having strong enough commitments from countries to cut global greenhouse gas emissions 45pc by 2030. That means the world won’t be on a smooth course for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and the goal of keeping warming under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

But organisers maintain that keeping warming under 1.5 degrees is still possible. Former US secretary of state John Kerry, who has been leading the US negotiations, remains hopeful that enough countries will create momentum for others to strengthen their reduction targets by 2025.

The cost of failure is astronomical. Studies have shown that the difference between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius can mean the submersion of small island states, the death of coral reefs, extreme heat waves, flooding and wildfires, and pervasive crop failure.

That translates into many premature deaths, more mass migration, major economic losses, large swathes of unliveable land and violent conflict over resources and food – what the UN secretary-general has called “a hellish future.”

The Conversation

By Shelley Inglis

Shelley Inglis is executive director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton in Ohio. She is a research professor of human rights and law, and previously held various management positions with the United Nations Development Programme.

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