Billionaires Add $1 Trillion To Their Net Worth As Millions Of Their Workers Struggle For Survival 

Throughout the timeline of the pandemic alone, billionaires in the US have collectively increased their net worth by more than $1 trillion. Many of these billionaire’s US workers, on the other hand, have been struggling to deal with unsafe working conditions that leave them susceptible to potential infection, and without hazard pay or any increase in compensation for working in a pandemic, many have been struggling for survival. 

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO and founder, added more than $70 billion to his new worth during the coronavirus pandemic, bringing his total net worth up to $185 billion. Workers at Amazon and Amazon-owned grocery chain Whole Foods have spent a majority of the pandemic protesting against the unsafe working conditions they’re being forced to work in, and the endless pressures from management to keep up with the overwhelming demand. 

Several workers who have participated or led protests at Amazon over working conditions specifically have alleged that they were fired as a result of their efforts to receive basic level safety. Profits and stockholder shares for the company have increased by billions of dollars throughout 2020, however, Amazon only provided a small fraction of those extra earnings in hazard pay and bonuses for workers on the frontline actually risking their lives everyday to further fill Bezos’ pockets. 

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In fact, Amazon ended all hazard pay back in June 2020, and instead has provided workers with sporadic one-time bonuses. On average workers have seen about a 99 cent increase in their paycheck during the pandemic, for comparison, Bezos earns about $11.7 million every single hour. 

“It’s infuriating that we live in fear every day because of minimal efforts to protect us, while executives take in tons of money while sitting safely at home.”

An anonymous employee working for Amazon recently spoke with the media about the conditions, and chose to keep their identity a secret out of fear that they would be left unemployed and with no source of income. “What they considered hazard pay was just for show. We couldn’t see a difference unless we were willing to work almost 60 hours a week. Several of us had no choice because we’re the breadwinners of our family.”

Jessica Oneto was a Whole Foods employee in California who quit in October 2020 partially due to the working conditions management was forcing upon its employees throughout the pandemic. 

“They gave us hazard pay for maybe a couple months. It was only $2 and they literally took it away as the pandemic got worse. One of the biggest companies couldn’t afford to keep it up?”

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Elon Musk, owner of Tesla Motors, earned an additional $140 billion throughout the pandemic, making him the wealthiest person in the world with a total net worth of $195 billion. Workers for Tesla have been subject to multiple factory Covid outbreaks, and unsafe conditions brought on by Musk himself, who defied local shutdown orders by reopening his plants and resuming factory production. 

Musk even went as far as to threaten his employees if they didn’t also defy the state lockdown orders by sending out an email that implied they would lose unemployment benefits if they didn’t show up to work and risk infection. At least two workers were fired for not showing up due to the fact that they were immunocompromised and worried about getting sick. 

“While people in cubicles stay home to work, we can’t do that and we don’t get any hazard pay/ Nothing has changed. Musk can afford to do so much more and he doesn’t. I find it sickening to see how much Elon Musk’s wealth has grown while we take all the risks. All we get is a ‘thank you so much’ email,” said a Tesla employee at the Fremont plant who also asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. 

Another Fremont employee cited ongoing mistreatment toward Black workers at Tesla specifically: “Musk has not once addressed this issue in his workplace or supported Black Lives Matter. No hazard pay or bonus. They gave all regular workers their regular raise, but being that I’m maxed out at my position I didn’t get anything.”

As the old saying goes the rich get richer while the poor get poorer, and this global health crisis has truly exemplified that. The only positive that workers have seen come out of these obscene billionaire wealth increases is how much more it’s being discussed now. The power of social media has created a large conversation over how America specifically runs, and why it allows this handful of white men to hoard so much wealth while millions of Americans are on the brink of complete homelessness.

Parler Sues Amazon For Removing App From Cloud Services Following Capitol Riot

Amazon Web Services removed the Parler app from its cloud services this past Monday after the company claimed that the network wasn’t able to monitor the content on its platform, especially content that promoted or incited violence.

Man Filing for Unemployment

Weekly Jobless Claims Remain Stagnant As Hiring Slows Down In America 

Throughout this past week in America there have been indicators that the labor market is continuing to weaken, and new jobs aren’t being created at a rate they once were. The pandemic obviously has everything to do with this, however, despite the decline in hiring throughout the nation, first-time filings for unemployment remained relatively stagnant in the end of 2020. 

This is surprising because in terms of the pandemic and economy, the US has entered into its worst phase so far; and that began back in November. First-time filings have been on a steady increase throughout the fall, but by the end of last week, weekly claims totaled 787,000. The Labor Department and Dow Jones both estimated that 815,000 filings would’ve been the total based on the trends that existed at the end of the year. 

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The report showed that compared to the week prior the amount of filings decreased by 3,000 for first-time filings, and 126,000 for continued claims. Now, the total amount of individuals receiving continuous claims is around 5.07 million and those receiving benefits from all government assisted programs declined by 420,000 to 19.2 million. 

This week ADP reported that private contracts and workers accounted for 123,000 job losses in December, which is the first time that the sector of the labor market has seen such a substantial decline in employment. Ian Shepherdson, a chief economist, recently spoke with the media about this predictable yet devastating consistency in unemployment. 

“A combination of Covid fear and state-mandated restrictions on activity in the services sector is squeezing businesses, and no real relief is likely until a sustained decline in pressure on hospitals emerges.”

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The Labor Department is currently projected to report that the US economy has added at least 50,000 jobs to the labor force in America at the end of 2020. However, the unemployment rate has continued to increase and is now at 6.8%, according to estimates from Dow Jones. 

While the labor market continues to remain in deep distress the average for continued unemployment claims has oddly decreased; last week it fell down to 818,750, for comparison this time last year the amount of continued claims totaled 219,750. 

Illinois is the state responsible for the biggest drop in claims with a decline of 62,765. Multiple states showed that they gained more than 10,000 claims in the last week; including Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Virginia, and Texas. 

The fourth quarter is expected to show a considerable growth in the amount of new hires that occurred. This is also based on current investment and consumer spending data. The Atlanta Federal Reserve’s GDPNow tracker of activity is predicting a 8.9% gain for “domestic product” and employment.

Novavax Covid-19 Vaccine Is Beginning Its Phase 3 Trial In The US

Vaccine maker Novavax and federal health researchers in the United States announced this Monday that they will begin a Phase 3 trial for the Novavax Covid-19 vaccine. This marks the fifth vaccine against the coronavirus that has reached this phase in the US. 

“We’ve come this far, this fast, but we need to get to the finish line. That will require multiple vaccines using different approaches to ensure everyone is protected safely and effectively from this deadly disease.”

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, recently released a statement regarding the vaccine, claiming that Novavax plans to enroll around 30,000 individuals across 115 trial sites in the US and Mexico. The vaccine is specifically known as NVX-CoV2373, and it will also be entering a Phase 3 trial in the united Kingdom as well. 

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Much like Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine’s, Novavax is a two-dose regime that is designed to boost the body’s immune system and help it recognize the coronavirus should it enter into the body. The vaccine manufactures its own antigens which mimics the virus’ distinct spike protein. The antigen itself can’t “replicate or cause Covid-19,” either. 

Novavax announced the promising data that the initial phases of the trial showed proves that the vaccine is safe and effective, and has so far only produced mild reactions that are typical to other vaccines as well. If the vaccine proves to be effective in the Phase 3 trials, it’ll be much easier to distribute than Pfizer and Moderna’s due to the fact that those vaccines must be kept at ultra-cold freezer temperatures, while the Novavax vaccine can be stored at refrigerated temperatures. 

Johnson&Johnson and AstraZeneca are the other two companies that have vaccines currently in their own Phase 3 trials currently as well. Trials for these companies are also occurring on an international level to ensure full security in terms of the vaccine’s safeness. 

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Novavax should also be one of the companies receiving an infusion of funds from Operation Warp Speed, a program created by the Trump administration to help increase vaccine development. However, now that Pfizer and Moderna have already begun distributing their vaccines to healthcare workers and other vulnerable groups in America, there may be less funding available. 

Dr. Gregory Glenn, the firm’s president of research and development, recently published a news release addressed to Americans who may be hesitant to sign up for the Phase 3 trial for the Novavax vaccine, expressing the importance of the research that they’re doing every day. 

“We recognize that volunteers considering our trial may have questions about the potential impact on their ability to receive an authorized vaccine when it becomes available to them. We wish to reassure participants that we are working to ensure that their involvement in our trial does not negatively impact their ability to be vaccinated at the appropriate time,” he stated, continuing on that volunteers who are worried about receiving the placebo shot in the trial should also understand how important that data is as well. 

The United Kingdom just wrapped up all the enrollments for their Phase 3 trial of the Novavax vaccine, and the US and Mexico should hopefully be following suit in the new year. In the meantime, continue to listen to your healthcare professionals and follow all the necessary protocols still in place to keep us all safe and healthy.

Moderna Vaccine

FDA Advisory Panel Officially Recommends Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine 

An advisory panel working for the Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization, nearly one week after Pfizer’s vaccine was approved. The panel itself isn’t a part of the FDA, but is a crucial part in the process of a new vaccine being approved for public consumption. 

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met this Thursday and unanimously voted 20-0 in favor of the vaccine’s approval. Now the FDA will review the committee’s analysis and trial data, like they did with Pfizer, and will likely start sending out the vaccine next week throughout the nation. 

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The committee’s unanimous vote indicates that each expert on the panel believes that the scientific evidence gathered from Moderna’s clinical trials prove the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for individuals 18 years or older. Dr. James Hildreth is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and was a member of the panel who recently spoke with the press about how hopeful he was after looking through all the data.

“To go from having a sequence of a virus in January to having two vaccines available in December is a remarkable achievement.” 

The committee’s main role is to provide solid advice to the FDA for moving forward in terms of vaccine distribution. Members have obviously been quite busy the past two weeks as now two vaccines are receiving the green light to be administered to Americans starting this month. For the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, frontline healthcare workers and other priority groups (nursing home residents) began receiving their initial doses this Monday. 

Panel member Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and professor of pediatrics, claims that with Moderna’s vaccine “the evidence that has been studied in great detail highly outweighs any of the issues we’ve seen and it really supports us being able to put the pandemic in our background, really move forward and finally provides a safe and effective way to get to herd immunity.”

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The Moderna vaccine reportedly is 94% effective in providing immunity against the coronavirus; Pfizer’s is just as effective as well. One of the biggest hurdles that healthcare workers/vaccine administers have had to deal with in terms of Pfizer’s vaccine is the fact that it has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures beyond what standard pharmaceutical freezers typically can handle.

Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, can be kept at a standard freezer temperature, which would make it much easier to store and allow it to be distributed to more vaccination sites throughout the nation who may not have the technology to store Pfizer’s vaccine. 

Both of the vaccines require two separate doses; the Pfizer vaccine’s second dose must be given 21 days after the first while Moderna’s can be given 28 days later. 

These vaccines couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is currently in the worst phase of the pandemic yet. More than 17 million people have been infected with Covid-19 and over 310,000 people have died. As case numbers surpass 100,000 daily and deaths surpass 1,000, the federal government is continuing to debate whether or not to give its citizens $600 or not and is continuing to allow the states to determine what establishments remain open to curb the spread. 

While President-elect Joe Biden has made numerous policy promises in terms of curbing the spread, he won’t be taking office for another month, and as we’ve seen, a lot of damage can be done in a month.

California Shutdown Is Causing Restaurants And Other Businesses To Struggle Greatly

After an intense second-wave of Covid-19 infections, California Governor Gavin Newsom shutdown the state with measures that yet again restricted a multitude of businesses and restaurants from making an income.

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US Government Files Major Lawsuit Against Facebook

Dozens of state and federal government bodies have sued Facebook in twin antitrust lawsuits that allege the social media platform has “abused its dominance in the digital marketplace and engaged in anticompetitive behavior.” The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is specifically seeking a permanent injunction to be made in federal court that would require Facebook to divest its assets, which includes popular social media apps Instagram and WhatsApp.

“Personal social networking is central to the lives of millions of Americans. Facebook‘s actions to entrench and maintain its monopoly deny consumers the benefits of competition. Our aim is to roll back Facebook’s anticompetitive conduct and restore competition so that innovation and free competition can thrive,” said Ian Conner, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, in a statement to the press. 

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The multiple lawsuits have been months in the making and reflect a major point of contention that has existed in the tech industry for awhile now. Facebook acquired Instagram back in 2012 in a deal worth $1 billion. Two years later it announced that it was buying WhatsApp in a deal that was worth $19 billion. 

New York Attorney General Letita James made an announcement around 14 months ago that claimed her office was leading a group of attorneys in investigating Facebook for alleged anti competitive practices. More than 40 attorneys general signed onto the complaint that was filed against the platform this week. The FTC investigation has been completely separate from what James has been working on, however, the two legal complaints essentially regard the same issues. 

“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition.”

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James continues to claim that “by using its vast troves of data and money, Facebook has squashed or hindered what the company perceived to be potential threats.” The New York state suit involves a court order that demands Facebook notify state officials of any future business deals and acquisitions worth $10 million or more. 

Facebook has over 3 billion users worldwide across its portfolio of apps. The dominance has raised a lot of concerns for competing platforms and brands in the industry, especially with the way that Facebook has been involved in the elections and with Trump’s administration in general. Google was involved in a similar federal suit this year after it was alleged that the company had “stifled its competition” in order to maintain its power as the most popular search engine. 

The issue of having “too much power” has existed within the tech industry since the dawn of its creation. Potential anticompetitive behavior is the most prominent in that industry in particular, and is one of the greatest threats to the way our economy works, according to the lawsuits. For Facebook, government officials will now work to prove that the company’s misconduct led to real-world harms to its competitors, and users. 

In another allegation, state officials claim that Facebook has opened up its platform to third-party app developers, however, once the multi-billion dollar company perceives those developers as a threat, it cuts off its services and funding as a means of killing it before it grows too large. 

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10,000 Restaurants Have Closed In The US Since September 

According to a trade group that has been working to get Congress to provide some sort of immediate financial relief to the restaurant industry in America, over 10,000 food establishments have now shut down either temporarily or permanently due to economic troubles brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Many restaurant and small business advocate groups throughout the nation are calling on lawmakers and pushing Congress to approve of a $120 billion bill that would help assist eateries and independently owned restaurants a fighting chance to survive the rest of the pandemic. There are around 500,000 independent restaurants throughout the country that rely on local consumerism to remain afloat. 

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These groups also want the government to revive the Paycheck Protection Program which was initially aimed at protecting small businesses, however, after the initial rounds of these payments, many businesses soon realized a majority of the money was going to largely owned multi-million dollar companies. Even worse, the program didn’t have a specific fund set aside for restaurants only, so they were especially left in the financial dust. 

This summer the US eased a lot of its restrictions for outdoor in-person dining, which allowed the industry to bounce back a little, however, with the winter season fully approaching and now a massive surge of new Covid-19 cases also appearing, many cities are moving to shut down again. Sean Kennedy is an executive vice president for Public Affairs at the National Restaurant Association (NRA) who recently sent a letter to Congress on behalf of the entire association and independently owned restaurants all over the country. 

“More than 500,000 restaurants of every business type are in an unprecedented economic decline. For every month that passes without a solution from Congress, thousands of more restaurants will close for good.” 

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A recent survey performed by the NRA showed that of its members, almost 6 in 10 chain and independent restaurant operators expect to lay off or furlough employees consistently within the next three months. In November, the number of workers in bars and restaurants declined by about 18,000, after being on a steady increase since April when these establishments were able to reopen and keep their workers employed. 

Beyond just the lack of customers, restaurants are also worried about working in the middle of a global health crisis that is killing hundreds of thousands. Ashwin Deshmukh owns an all-day cafe and bar in New York City, and he recently spoke with the local media about how intense this pandemic has actually been for the industry. 

“Owners are really worrying about not being able to cover fixed costs amid the demand destruction caused by the pandemic. Costs are higher due to spending about $100 per week on personal protective equipment.” 

Getting through the winter will pose a major struggle for the industry unless another government funded assistance program is distributed among all the small businesses and establishments that are just trying to remain afloat during the worst global health and economic crisis’ in decades.

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Google Illegally Spied On And Fired Employees, According To Legal Complaint

According to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), Google violated US labor laws when it surveilled and fired workers who were involved in organizing employee protests. The complaint was filed this past Wednesday after a year-long investigation launched in 2019 by two fired employees who filed a petition with NLRB. 

This initial petition filing occurred after hundreds of Google employees carried out internal protests and public demonstrations against Google’s work with US Customs and Border Protection. In 2018, however, is when one of the larger initial employee walkouts occurred and that was in relation to the company’s mishandling of multiple sexual harassment allegations. 

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The recent complaint filed by the NLRB absolved the two terminated employees of any wrongdoing and found that “Google repeatedly violated US labor law by using terminations and intimidation in order to quell workplace activism.” Part of the complaint also found that Google was unlawfully spying on its employees by accessing their personal calendars and other internal documents that they shouldn’t be granted access to without at least asking the employee. 

Laurence Berland is one of the fired workers involved in the complaint who recently spoke with the press about how it’s important that these major tech companies that run the world be held accountable for the way they treat their employees. 

“The NLRB’s move is significant at a time when we’re seeing the power of a handful of tech billionaires consolidate control over our lives and our society.”

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Berland specifically was fired while organizing a protest that would expose Goggle for their continuous effort to work alongside IRI Consultants, a firm that is known for union-busting. “Google’s hiring of IRI is an unambiguous declaration that management will no longer tolerate worker organizing. Management and their union-busting cronies wanted to send that message, and the NLRB is now sending their own message: worker organizing is protected by law,” said Berland.

Kathryn Spiers is the other employee who was named in the complaint, and she was terminated after creating a pop-up message that informed Google employees that they had a right to protest whenever they visited the IRI website. Google surprisingly was public about their accusation against Spiers of violating security policies; a statement which she claims is now hurting her reputation in the tech community. The NLRB agrees with Spiers and has found Google’s firing of her unlawful. 

“This week the NLRB issued a complaint on my behalf. They found that I was illegally terminated for trying to help my colleagues. Colleagues and strangers believe I abused my role because of lies told by Google management while they were retaliating against me. The NLRB can order Google to reinstate me, but it cannot reverse the harm done to my credibility,” Spiers said, continuing on to claim that these massive tech companies with billions of dollars never realize the actual damage they’re inflicting on the workers that keep their platforms afloat. 

The case itself is expected to be heard and decided by an administrative law judge within the next couple of months. The NLRB and Google have both remained relatively quiet regarding the case since it’s ongoing, however, Berland claims that he and his former colleagues will be appealing regardless because the board neglected to add several other worker allegations made within the past year in its filed complaint.

Black Friday Sale

Best Black Friday Deals You Can Find On Amazon Right Now

Now that Black Friday is finally here, shoppers are logging into as many online retailers as possible to avoid the crowds at the malls or stores, and shop safer this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the most popular retailers is of course Amazon, and this year they’re offering a multitude of deals on some of their most well-known products. 

Echo Flex: The Echo Flex is a small smart speaker that simply plugs into any outlet and will turn any room into a melodic space filled with your favorite tunes. The Flex is currently on sale for $9.99, originally $24.99.

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Echo Dot: The fourth-generation Echo Dot is Amazon’s latest Dot model and features a new sleek spherical shape. The Echo Dot is on sale for the first time this Black Friday for just $28.99 for the base model, or for $10 more you could get the Echo Dot with Clock or the Kids Edition.

Ring Video Doorbells: Ring Video doorbells are some of the most popular video-security devices on the market now. The sleek design comes in both silver and bronze to match any homes aesthetic, and is now on sale for pricing starting at $70. The doorbells feature 1080p HD video and are super easy to install.

Echo Show 8: Originally $130 the Echo Show 8 is now on sale for the low price of $65! The smart display is now available at its lowest price ever and comes in both charcoal and sandstone color schemes. 

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Kindle Paperwhite: The Kindle Paperwhite is one of the most popular e-readers on the market currently. Starting at just $85 this Black Friday, the paperwhite is the perfect gift for any reader in your life. It’s the thinnest model Amazon’s ever released, and it’s waterproof in case you accidentally spill anything on it.

Fire HD Tablet 8 Plus: Originally $110 the Fire HD Tablet 8 Plus is now on sale for just $75! This is also CNN’s budget pick for best tablet of the holiday season.

Fire TV Recast: On sale for $180, the Fire TV Recast is the perfect DVR device for any cable lover in your life. The Recast gives you the ability to watch and record over-the-air TV at home with your Fire TV or Echo Show! You can also record on-the-go with the mobile app. 

Echo Buds: Originally $130 the Echo Buds are now on sale for $80. These wireless earbuds bring Alexa on-the-go with you and offer an immersive sound experience, and a battery-life lasting up to 5 hours of continuous audio.  

Fire TV Cube: On sale for $80, the Fire TV Cube is Amazon’s most powerful Fire TV device that allows for easy Alexa-enabled entertainment. The Cube can also control any other Amazon smart home devices you have in the home.