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Amazon could face a new union push and antitrust scrutiny under the Biden administration

Amazon could face a new union push and antitrust scrutiny under the Biden administration

US President Joe Biden speaks about the Covid-19 response as US Vice President Kamala Harris (L) seems on earlier than signing govt orders in the State Eating Room of the White Dwelling in Washington, DC, on January 21, 2021.

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Like many in the tech industry, Amazon has cozied as a lot as the Democratic Party. Its political action committee and company executives are among individuals that threw their money in the back of President Joe Biden on the campaign trail, while Amazon’s high spokesperson, Jay Carney, has longstanding ties to Biden.

But that would not guarantee the next four years of the Biden administration shall be comfortable sailing for the online retail giant. Antitrust reform, stronger privacy standards and a renewed push for workers’ rights are factual a few of the considerations that could be on the new administration’s agenda.

That is what’s at stake for Amazon in the Biden administration: 

New union push

After a rocky relationship with Trump’s administration, organized labor is hopeful that Biden will make factual on his promises to be “the most professional-union president.” Amazon is more seemingly to maintain a shut note on the new administration’s strikes on the labor entrance, as it faces a renewed push from unions to organize its warehouse workers.

Biden has made empowering workers a key tenet of his labor agenda, which also proposes various reforms to labor laws and expanding employee protections. His plan contains policies that would have in mind a company’s labor document when awarding federal contracts and codify into law an Obama-era change to National Labor Relations Board guidelines aimed at speeding up union election campaigns. 

Biden has also voiced lend a hand for the Holding the Legal to Organize Act, which passed the Dwelling last February and would levy fines against companies that interfere with workers’ organizing efforts. Whereas the invoice is unlikely to pass in the Senate, it could generate new scrutiny of Amazon’s efforts to track workplace unrest, as successfully as its labor practices.

Aged Vice President Joe Biden speaks at a rally organized by UFCW Union participants to lend a hand Pause and Shop workers on strike in the course of the living at the Pause and Shop in Dorchester, Massachusetts on April 18, 2019.

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“I would say [the PRO Act] has very little chance of passing,” said Gordon Lafer, a labor research professor at the College of Oregon and a research associate at the Economic Policy Institute. “So other than that, the request of is what could the Biden-appointed Labor Board enact unilaterally without wanting legislation? There is a lot they could enact that can be significant.”

From a excessive stage, Biden’s lend a hand of the labor movement has the potential to reignite union membership after years of steady declines. This could pose a threat to Amazon, which has staunchly opposed unions in its team. Amazon’s appetite for unions is at the second being tested in Alabama, where workers at its Bessemer warehouse are living to vote next month on whether to affix the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. 

Whereas Biden and Amazon may no longer survey note to note on unions, the company is in agreement with Biden on one challenge: raising the minimal wage to $15 an hour. In a tweet replying to Biden last week, Amazon touted its $15 minimal wage and said it hopes to work with the administration on making it the national standard.

An Amazon spokesperson did not respond to questions in quest of clarity on the way it will work with the Biden administration on minimal wage considerations. 

Greater OSHA oversight

Biden has also telegraphed plans to expand workplace protections by restoring some Obama-era reforms to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, that have been rolled back by the Trump administration. Biden plans to increase the desire of OSHA investigators and require companies to electronically chronicle their workplace accidents, among other changes.

This could mean that Amazon and other companies face stricter enforcement of OSHA standards. With more investigators on staff, the agency may be more more seemingly to take up OSHA complaints filed by workers and contemplate facilities, as successfully as levy fines against companies that are came upon to be in violation of OSHA guidelines, said Debbie Berkowitz, a traditional OSHA official who now works for the National Employment Law Project.

“The enforcement switch at OSHA has been became off, but it without a doubt’ll catch became back on,” Berkowitz said. “OSHA will again respond to complaints with inspections and there shall be a willingness to put into effect the law to guard workers.”

Amazon’s workplace safety document remains to be a matter of controversy, together with in the course of the coronavirus pandemic. California’s attorney general is investigating working stipulations at Amazon’s California warehouses in the course of the pandemic, while some lawmakers have scrutinized the company’s response to the coronavirus disaster.

Amazon workers at Amazon’s Staten Island warehouse strike in demand that the facility be shut down and cleaned after one staffer tested obvious for the coronavirus on March 30, 2020 in New York.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

The company has previously said it continues to put money into creating a safer work atmosphere at its facilities.

Amazon has bolstered its workplace safety team with a desire of individuals that have ties to OSHA and employment litigation as scrutiny of its warehouse working stipulations continues to grow. The company added another staffer from the agency to the workplace safety team this month when it triggered Madeleine T. Le, a traditional OSHA lawyer, as senior governance and compliance manager.

“Amazon has lawyered up for this,” Berkowitz said. “They are lawyering as a lot as start fighting OSHA inspections.”

Amazon spokeswoman Rachael Lighty said the company has expanded its workplace health and safety team as part of its efforts to make obvious that its workplaces are “leading in state-of-the-art safety investments, training and education, and safety programs.”

“Today, our global workplace health and safety team is created from more than 5,000 workers who exercise Amazon’s innovation, skills and data insights, mixed with exceptional journey and leadership in the safety industry, to make obvious that the top seemingly standards to maintain our workers safe,” Lighty said.

Breaking up Spacious Tech

Biden has supplied few hints on how he would approach antitrust considerations, beyond expressing pain over the energy Silicon Valley giants wield in tech and other industries. But there are signs he’ll take a more challenging stance on reining in Spacious Tech than the Obama administration, which has been criticized for its shut ties to tech companies. 

Whereas Google and Facebook are at the second the focal level of investigations on the federal stage, Amazon is unlikely to escape antitrust scrutiny with Biden in the Oval Place of job. 

Amazon is already being probed by Federal Trade Commission officials over its trade practices in retail and cloud computing, according to stories from several retail outlets. Last year, the Dwelling Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust came upon that Amazon has monopoly energy over third-party sellers. Amazon and its rivals, together with Facebook, Google and Apple, also face a separate probe from the Justice Department.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos testifies earlier than the Dwelling Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law hearing on “Online Platforms and Market Energy” in the Rayburn Dwelling administrative center Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on July 29, 2020.

Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

Groups that are critical of Amazon’s energy are carefully watching who Biden appoints to key posts handling tech policy matters, fearing that any impact from Silicon Valley could derail antitrust investigations or diminish scrutiny. Alex Harman, rivals policy advocate at advocacy team Public Citizen, said he expressed those considerations in meetings with Biden’s agency overview teams last November. 

“This was a challenge in the Obama administration that I was part of,” Harman said. “There was a flavor of ‘Google is great and a Google revolving door is a obvious factor.’ That will not be any longer any longer OK.”

Part 230 under attack

Another tech policy that’s more seemingly to be in focal level in the new administration is Part 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields tech companies from being liable for what customers post on their platforms. 

Talks of Part 230 reform are normally targeted toward social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google‘s YouTube. But the law affords Amazon and other e-commerce companies some protections as successfully. 

Similar to social media companies, the law protects e-commerce sites from being held liable for any user-generated hiss material on their platforms, like product descriptions or customer evaluations. 

Amazon has invoked Part 230 as a protection in some product liability lawsuits bearing on faulty products supplied on its internet living, arguing that it merely affords the platform for third-party merchants to hawk their wares, so it’s no longer actually the vendor. 

The company also pointed to Part 230 in defending its decision to fall Parler, a social media living popular with Trump supporters, from its cloud-computing platform in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6.

Biden has called for Part 230 to be revoked, arguing that companies have to be held accountable for internet hosting hiss material they know to be false. 

It be unclear how the Biden administration may survey to reform Part 230. Democrats and Republicans agree there are considerations with the law, but they’re divided on why it merits a overview. Generally, Democrats hope to maintain platforms more answerable for policing false speech and calls to violence, while Republicans fear about inconsistent moderation practices that censor politically conservative viewpoints.

Privacy and facial recognition

With Democrats as a lot as hasten of Congress, lawmakers could revive attempts to regulate facial recognition skills and establish a federal privacy law.

Amazon has previously near under fireplace from advocacy groups, politicians and workers who have pressured the company to stay selling its facial recognition software to authorities agencies. Last June, Amazon imposed a one-year moratorium on facial recognition software contracts with police, but it without a doubt did not say if the ban applied to federal agencies.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris diagnosed the want for changes to privacy and facial recognition laws earlier than they entered the White Dwelling. Biden said in an interview with The New York Times last year that the U.S. “have to be setting standards no longer unlike the Europeans are doing relative to privacy.”

Last year, two partisan privacy payments had been launched by Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, R-Pass over., and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. Whereas lawmakers agree on the want for a federal privacy law, they continue to disagree on whether the national law must calm preempt state payments and if individuals have to be allowed to sue companies over privacy violations.

Lawmakers are already examining the data Amazon collects from patrons. Last month, the Federal Trade Commission sent letters to Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and several other tech companies requiring them to hand over information about how they accumulate and exercise data.

In 2019, Amazon and other participants of the Trade Roundtable wrote to congressional leaders saying the lend a hand the creation of a user data privacy law.

By way of facial recognition, as a U.S. Senator for California, Harris expressed skepticism around facial recognition skills. Harris in 2018 wrote to a few federal agencies to focus on research showing how facial recognition can form or pork up racial and gender bias.

Amazon can be impacted by any federal limits on facial recognition skills, such as those proposed in the Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act, a invoice that seeks to ban federal law enforcement exercise of the skills.

Groups that advocate for racial justice and privacy rights are hoping the Biden administration will take up the call to preserve the skills out of the hands of law enforcement permanently.

“Amazon, along with other Silicon Valley companies, are raking in billions of dollars by selling this really dangerous instrument to law enforcement,” said Myaisha Hayes, campaign strategies director at advocacy team Media Justice. “We’re hoping that with this administration we can persuade more participants of Congress to take police tech surveillance really significantly.”

Amazon could face a new union push and antitrust scrutiny under the Biden administration