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🪧 Amazon has unions now?

The Hustle

In the midst of spring break, major airlines canceled ~10k flights due to weather issues in Florida and tech problems. Bad news for spring breakers. Good news for airport food courts and Netflix.

In today’s email:

  • Amazon’s union: A 1st for the tech giant could be a watershed moment for the industry.
  • Chart: Asian languages are on the rise. Why?
  • Digits: Overdue books, avocado mayhem, and other wild numbers.
  • Around the web: How to sketch, a tool for fighting image theft, and more neat internet finds.

🎧 On the go? Listen to today’s 10-minute podcast to hear us explore guacamole’s big problem, major emoji news, China’s attempt to stop kids from becoming influencers, Amazon’s 1st union, and more.

The big idea
Amazon workers

Amazon workers vote to unionize in closely watched case

In one of the most significant labor victories in a generation, Amazon employees at an 8k-worker warehouse near New York City voted late last week to unionize.

The victory for workers –– the 1st in a string of unionization attempts at the country’s 2nd-largest employer –– could represent a watershed moment for the tech industry, which is grappling with a bifurcated workforce dividing high-paid office workers from low-wage hourly employees and contractors.

The effort grew out of a friendship…

… between 2 Amazon warehouse workers –– Christian Smalls, who was fired last year after staging protests against unsafe covid protocols inside the facility, and Derrick Palmer, his best friend from the warehouse, according to The New York Times.

While the tech giant waged a fierce battle against unionization inside the Staten Island, New York, facility –– “its most important pipeline to its most important market,” as the Times describes it –– the 2 friends built bonfires to warm colleagues waiting to leave after their shifts and made TikTok videos to plead their case.

As Amazon’s sales soared during the pandemic, the company doubled maximum base pay for corporate and tech staff to $350k in February, yet its warehouse associates make ~$32k a year.

The win for warehouse workers could create a ripple effect

Workers across the tech industry are agitating for change, with numerous efforts to unionize:

  • In February, The Washington Post reported that employees at 2 Apple stores are planning to file paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), while at least a half dozen more are at earlier stages of unionization.
  • The same month, Justice For App Workers, a coalition of 100k rideshare and delivery drivers from the likes of Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, launched to demand better working conditions and pay, and the right to unionize.
  • Last January, the Alphabet Workers Union, a membership organization including Google’s temporary workers, vendors, and contractors, was founded to support organizing efforts across the US and Canada.

Amazon itself has more battles ahead

Workers at an Alabama warehouse recently narrowly lost their bid to unionize, with 400+ ballots under dispute. The NLRB is expected to hold a hearing on that case in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, ballots will be cast at a 2nd Staten Island facility starting April 25. The vote will set up another contentious battle — Amazon is already accusing the NLRB of inappropriately influencing the 1st election and mulling over options to file objections over its results.

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SNIPPETS

It’s not just Amazon: Starbucks’ New York City Reserve Roastery became the 9th shop to unionize last week. #ecommerce-retail

The Boston Red Sox will purchase carbon credits using a portion of each ticket sold. Fenway Park has already implemented solar panels and a rooftop garden. #clean-energy

Frosty tech: The Wendyverse is now online for Quest users. It’s a Wendy’s-themed virtual town where visitors can score coupons. #emerging-tech

Fractal, a gaming NFT marketplace from Twitch co-founder Justin Kan, raised $35m. The platform lets people buy Solana-based NFTs from gaming companies. #fintech-crypto

More trouble for Activision Blizzard: Employees will walk out on April 4 to protest the company lifting its US vaccine mandate. #big-tech

Konnichiwa
top 10 languages studied on Duolingo

Selina Lee

Asian languages are on the rise. One reason: cartoons

The most studied languages don’t change often. English, Spanish, and French consistently lead the pack.

But that could change if a new trend continues.

Asian languages are on the rise — Chinese and Japanese are the fastest growing languages in the US and UK in 2021, per Duolingo.

While the reasons for Chinese are less clear, the surge in Japanese — which saw 80%+ learner growth on Rosetta Stone in 2020 — is led by a younger crowd who attribute their interest to:

  • Cartoons, like manga and anime, which have grown in popularity in the US.
  • Pop culture, which Japan influences through fashion, food, music, and travel.

Other languages, like Korean, have seen culturally-driven spikes in popularity, thanks in part to shows like “Squid Game.” (Google searches like “million in Korean” spiked dramatically after its release.)

Historical scholars, take note — perhaps all you need for Latin to be cool again is a solid TV show.

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By the numbers
flag emojis

No more new flags?! (Source: Unicode)

Digits: Emoji news, overdue books, avocado mayhem, and more

1) The supreme overlord of emoji, the Unicode Consortium, is no longer accepting applications for new flags. Apparently, flags aren’t very popular emoji and adding territorial subdivisions can get sketchy. Unsurprisingly, the red flag (🚩) — as in, what you hope you don’t find in a date — is the most popular flag, and ranks 212th among all emoji.

2) Last year, the New York Public Library said it would remove late fees to incentivize people to return long-lost books. Since then, ~88k overdue items were returned. Pre-1954, the late fine was 1 cent per day. Before it was eliminated, the fine had reached 25 cents a day.

3) Avocad-oh-no. The price of Mexican avocados has skyrocketed recently, up 81% this year to $38 per 9-kg box. With per capita US consumption up 100%+ since 2010, and with Mexico supplying 80%+ of America’s avocados, the fate of guacamole is at stake.

4) A recent Gallup poll found 35% of in-person workers frequently feel burnt out, compared to 27% of fully remote workers. To take a wild guess, this is likely due to the fact that remote workers can wake up at 9am and work from bed, while in-person workers cannot. Thoughts?

5) China’s influencer-led $30B livestreaming industry is absolutely bonkers. So bonkers that authorities are considering capping the value of tips that can be sent to streamers to ~$1.6k per day to disincentivize young people from aspiring to livestream professionally.

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AROUND THE WEB

🖥️ On this day: In 1975, friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen founded Microsoft — then called Micro-Soft — in Albuquerque. By 1979, their sales would top $1m.

✍️ How to: A great thread on learning how to sketch.

Cure boredom: This game about squares gets more complicated as it goes on — and it goes on for a while.

🤳 Useful: Pixsy helps you find out if your photos are being used online without your permission.

🦎 Aww: And now, a crested gecko and her luxurious eyelashes.

Meme of the day
Amazon meme

Nothing fishy here. (Source: imgflip.com)

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In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

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