signed a letter urging management to be more open to flexible work arrangements. It was a rare show of dissent from the company’s rank-and-file, who historically have been less willing to openly challenge executives on workplace matters.

But as tech companies grapple with offering employees greater work flexibility, the firms are also scaling back some office perks.

cutting back or eliminating free services like laundry and dry cleaning. Google, like some other companies, has said it approved requests from thousands of employees to work remotely or transfer to a different office. But if employees move to a less expensive location, Google is cutting pay, arguing that it has always factored in where a person was hired in setting compensation.

Clio, a legal software company in Burnaby, British Columbia, won’t force its employees back to the office. But last week, it gave a party at its offices.

There was upbeat music. There was an asymmetrical balloon sculpture in Clio’s signature bright blue, dark blue, coral and white — perfect for selfies. One of Clio’s best-known workers donned a safari costume to give tours of the facility. At 2 p.m., the company held a cupcake social.

To make its work spaces feel more like home, the company moved desks to the perimeter, allowing Clions — what the company calls its employees — to gaze out at the office complex’s cherry blossoms while banging out emails. A foosball table was upgraded to a workstation with chairs on either end, “so you could have a meeting while playing foosball with your laptop on it,” said Natalie Archibald, Clio’s vice president of people.

Clio’s Burnaby office, which employs 350, is open at only half capacity. Spaced-out desks must be reserved, and employees got red, yellow and green lanyards to convey their comfort levels with handshakes.

Only around 60 people came in that Monday. “To be able to have an IRL laugh rather than an emoji response,” Ms. Archibald said. “People are just excited for that.”

Karen Weise contributed reporting.

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Amid Sanctions, Putin Reminds the World of His Own Economic Weapons

LONDON — In the five weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, the United States, the European Union and their allies began an economic counteroffensive that has cut off Russia’s access to hundreds of billions of dollars of its own money and halted a large chunk of its international commerce. More than 1,000 companies, organizations and individuals, including members of President Vladimir V. Putin’s inner circle, have been sanctioned and relegated to a financial limbo.

But Mr. Putin reminded the world this past week that he has economic weapons of his own that he could use to inflict some pain or fend off attacks.

Through a series of aggressive measures taken by the Russian government and its central bank, the ruble, which had lost nearly half of its value, clawed its way back to near where it was before the invasion.

And then there was the threat to stop the flow of gas from Russia to Europe — which was set off by Mr. Putin’s demand that 48 “unfriendly countries” violate their own sanctions and pay for natural gas in rubles. It sent leaders in the capitals of Germany, Italy and other allied nations scrambling and showcased in the most visible way since the war began how much they need Russian energy to power their economies.

Russian oil exports normally represent more than one of every 10 barrels the world consumes.

Europe’s ongoing energy purchases send as much as $850 million each day into Russia’s coffers, according to Bruegel, an economics institute in Brussels. That money helps Russia to fund its war efforts and blunts the impact of sanctions. Because of soaring energy prices, gas export revenues from Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, injected $9.3 billion into the country’s economy in March alone, according an estimate by Oxford Economics, a global advisory firm.

Ursula von der Leyen, said as much when she announced the new energy plan last month: “We simply cannot rely on a supplier who explicitly threatens us.”

Security concerns aren’t the only development that has undermined Russia’s standing as a long-term energy supplier. What seemed surprising to economists, lawyers and policymakers about Mr. Putin’s demand to be paid in rubles was that it would have violated sacrosanct negotiated contracts and revealed Russia’s willingness to be an unreliable business partner.

As he has tried to wield his energy clout externally, Mr. Putin has taken steps to insulate Russia’s economy from the impact of sanctions and to prop up the ruble. Few things can undermine a country as systemically as an abruptly weakened currency.

When the allies froze the assets of the Russian central bank and sent the ruble into a downward spiral, the bank increased the interest rate to 20 percent, while the government mandated that companies convert 80 percent of the dollars, euros and other foreign currencies they earn into rubles to increase demand and drive up the price.

S&P Global survey of purchasing managers at Russian manufacturing companies showed severe declines in production, employment and new orders in March, as well as sharp price increases.

500 foreign companies have pulled up stakes in Russia, scaled back operations and investment, or pledged to do so.

“Russia does not have the capabilities to replicate domestically the technology that it would otherwise have gained from overseas,” according to an analysis by Capital Economics, a research group based in London. That is not a good sign for increasing productivity, which even before the war, was only 35 to 40 percent of the United States’.

The result is that however the war in Ukraine ends, Russia will be more economically isolated than it has been in decades, diminishing whatever leverage it now has over the global economy as well as its own economic prospects.

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Amazon Workers on Staten Island Vote to Unionize

It was a union organizing campaign that few expected to have a chance. A handful of employees at Amazon’s massive warehouse on Staten Island, operating without support from national labor organizations, took on one of the most powerful companies in the world.

And, somehow, they won.

Workers at the facility voted by a wide margin to form a union, according to results released on Friday, in one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation.

Employees cast 2,654 votes to be represented by Amazon Labor Union and 2,131 against, giving the union a win by more than 10 percentage points, according to the National Labor Relations Board. More than 8,300 workers at the warehouse, which is the only Amazon fulfillment center in New York City, were eligible to vote.

The win on Staten Island comes at a perilous moment for labor unions in the United States, which saw the portion of workers in unions drop last year to 10.3 percent, the lowest rate in decades, despite high demand for workers, pockets of successful labor activity and rising public approval.

including some labor officials — say that traditional unions haven’t spent enough money or shown enough imagination in organizing campaigns and that they have often bet on the wrong fights. Some point to tawdry corruption scandals.

The union victory at Amazon, the first at the company in the United States after years of worker activism there, offers an enormous opportunity to change that trajectory and build on recent wins. Many union leaders regard Amazon as an existential threat to labor standards because it touches so many industries and frequently dominates them.

likely to be a narrow loss by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union at a large Amazon warehouse in Alabama. The vote is close enough that the results will not be known for several weeks as contested ballots are litigated.

The surprising strength shown by unions in both locations most likely means that Amazon will face years of pressure at other company facilities from labor groups and progressive activists working with them. As a recent string of union victories at Starbucks have shown, wins at one location can provide encouragement at others.

Amazon hired voraciously over the past two years and now has 1.6 million employees globally. But it has been plagued by high turnover, and the pandemic gave employees a growing sense of power while fueling worries about workplace safety. The Staten Island warehouse, known as JFK8, was the subject of a New York Times investigation last year, which found that it was emblematic of the stresses — including inadvertent firings and sky-high attrition — on workers caused by Amazon’s employment model.

“The pandemic has fundamentally changed the labor landscape” by giving workers more leverage with their employers, said John Logan, a professor of labor studies at San Francisco State University. “It’s just a question of whether unions can take advantage of the opportunity that transformation has opened up.”

Standing outside the N.L.R.B. office in Brooklyn, where the ballots were tallied, Christian Smalls, a former Amazon employee who started the union, popped a bottle of champagne before a crowd of supporters and press. “To the first Amazon union in American history,” he cheered.

asked a judge to force Amazon to swiftly rectify “flagrant unfair labor practices” it said took place when Amazon fired a worker who became involved with the union. Amazon argued in court that the labor board abandoned “the neutrality of their office” by filing the injunction just before the election.

Amazon would need to prove that any claims of undue influence undermined the so-called laboratory conditions necessary for a fair election, said Wilma B. Liebman, the chair of the N.L.R.B. under President Barack Obama.

President Biden was “glad to see workers ensure their voices are heard” at the Amazon facility, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, told reporters. “He believes firmly that every worker in every state must have a free and fair choice to join a union,” she said.

The near-term question facing the labor movement and other progressive groups is the extent to which they will help the upstart Amazon Labor Union withstand potential challenges to the result and negotiate a first contract, such as by providing resources and legal talent.

“The company will appeal, drag it out — it’s going to be an ongoing fight,” said Gene Bruskin, a longtime organizer who helped notch one of labor’s last victories on this scale, at a Smithfield meat-processing plant in 2008, and has informally advised the Staten Island workers. “The labor movement has to figure out how to support them.”

Sean O’Brien, the new president of the 1.3 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said in an interview on Thursday that the union was prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars unionizing Amazon and to collaborate with a variety of other unions and progressive groups.

said he became alarmed in March 2020 after encountering a co-worker who was clearly ill. He pleaded with management to close the facility for two weeks. The company fired him after he helped lead a walkout over safety conditions in late March that year.

Amazon said at the time that it had taken “extreme measures” to keep workers safe, including deep cleaning and social distancing. It said it had fired Mr. Smalls for violating social distancing guidelines and attending the walkout even though he had been placed in a quarantine.

After workers at Amazon’s warehouse in Bessemer, Ala., overwhelmingly rejected the retail workers union in its first election last spring, Mr. Smalls and Derrick Palmer, an Amazon employee who is his friend, decided to form a new union, called Amazon Labor Union.

While the organizing in Alabama included high-profile tactics, with progressive supporters like Senator Bernie Sanders visiting the area, the organizers at JFK8 benefited from being insiders.

For months, they set up shop at the bus stop outside the warehouse, grilling meat at barbecues and at one point even passing out pot. (The retail workers said they were hamstrung by Covid during their initial election in Alabama.)

nationwide agreement to allow workers more access to organize on-site.

At times the Amazon Labor Union stumbled. The labor board determined this fall that the fledgling union, which spent months collecting signatures from workers requesting a vote, had not demonstrated sufficient support to warrant an election. But the organizers kept trying, and by late January they had finally gathered enough signatures.

Amazon played up its minimum wage of $15 an hour in advertising and other public relations efforts. The company also waged a full-throated campaign against the union, texting employees and mandating attendance at anti-union meetings. It spent $4.3 million on anti-union consultants nationwide last year, according to annual disclosures filed on Thursday with the Labor Department.

In February, Mr. Smalls was arrested at the facility after managers said he was trespassing while delivering food to co-workers and called the police. Two current employees were also arrested during the incident, which appeared to galvanize interest in the union.

The difference in outcomes in Bessemer and Staten Island may reflect a difference in receptiveness toward unions in the two states — roughly 6 percent of workers in Alabama are union members, versus 22 percent in New York — as well as the difference between a mail-in election and one conducted in person.

But it may also suggest the advantages of organizing through an independent, worker-led union. In Alabama, union officials and professional organizers were still barred from the facility under the settlement with the labor board. But at the Staten Island site, a larger portion of the union leadership and organizers were current employees.

“What we were trying to say all along is that having workers on the inside is the most powerful tool,” said Mr. Palmer, who makes $21.50 an hour. “People didn’t believe it, but you can’t beat workers organizing other workers.”

The independence of the Amazon Labor Union also appeared to undermine Amazon’s anti-union talking points, which cast the union as an interloping “third party.”

On March 25, workers at JFK8 started lining up outside a tent in the parking lot to vote. And over five voting days, they cast their ballots to form what could become the first union at Amazon’s operations in the United States.

Another election, brought also by Amazon Labor Union at a neighboring Staten Island facility, is scheduled for late April.

Jodi Kantor contributed reporting.

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WASHINGTON, Feb 25 (Reuters) – The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation rose again in January and a new report from the central bank warned that price pressures could persist unless a shortage of available workers begins to ease.

The new inflation data, alongside the developing sense at the central bank that inflation may prove harder than anticipated to dislodge, will likely firm the central bank’s intent to raise interest rates through the year, beginning with an initial hike in March from the current near zero level.

Policymakers will have to weigh one fresh and unanticipated set of risks in their discussion: The Russian military invasion of Ukraine could roil the economic outlook in unpredictable ways, and potentially undermine global growth and financial markets.

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But Fed officials say that’s unlikely to shift their immediate plans to begin tightening monetary policy in response to inflation that is not only high but continues moving higher.

The personal consumption expenditures price index rose at a 6.1% annual rate through January, its highest since 1982 and more than triple the 2% inflation rate the Fed has set as its target for the U.S. economy. read more

That measure of annual inflation, reported monthly by the government, has been as higher or higher than in the prior month for 14 straight months – a run not seen since the 1970s and a blow to arguments commonly heard at the Fed last year that rising prices would prove “transitory” and disappear as the economy reopened.

The month-to-month change in the same index, watched by some officials as a signal of moderation, showed no sign of easing.

Reuters Graphics

“EXCEEDINGLY HOT?”

The Fed is set to raise interest rates when it meets on March 15-16. Officials have been debating whether the initial “liftoff” should be a standard quarter point increase, or a larger half point hike to demonstrate the Fed’s seriousness in controlling prices.

On Thursday, Fed Governor Christopher Waller flagged Friday’s PCE inflation report as one to watch, saying if it shows “the economy is still running exceedingly hot, a strong case can be made for a 50-basis-point hike in March.” read more

For now at least the data are not only hot but getting hotter: Since September the PCE index has jumped in steady increments from 4.4% to 6.1%, and has either risen or held level with the prior month in each report since November 2020.

An eagle tops the U.S. Federal Reserve building’s facade in Washington, July 31, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

In the Fed’s latest monetary policy report to Congress, issued twice a year, central bank officials acknowledged that inflation had not eased as they expected, but in fact had broadened through the economy.

The “extraordinary circumstances” which the Fed had said last July were driving higher prices had given way to other dynamics, the report said, particularly a workforce falling far short of the numbers demanded by businesses to fill open positions.

“In the period ahead, the large price changes in goods may ease once supply chain disruptions finally resolve,” the Fed report stated. “But, if labor shortages continue and wages rise faster than productivity in a broad-based way, inflation pressures may persist and continue to broaden.”

Fed officials have largely downplayed the risk of a durable “wage price spiral.”

But they’ve also been surprised by much of what’s happened during the reopening from the pandemic.

The rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant was expected to slow hiring and spending through the winter. It didn’t happen. Job growth continued, and new spending data released on Friday showed consumer spending exceeded expectations.

Now the virus is fading and Fed officials anticipate a renewed sense of reopening in society and the economy will keep growth strong.

Trading in futures contracts based on expectations of Fed policy show investors downplaying the chance now of a half-point increase.

But the PCE report is still moving in the wrong direction for Fed officials hoping to avoid the most aggressive measures to control inflation.

“Though diminished, the chance of a 50bp move is still intact,” wrote III Capital Chief Economist Karim Basta. Inflation at 6% “would definitely qualify as hot.”

The main factor tempering arguments for a faster move by the Fed is the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That could for a variety of reasons drive prices higher; it could also pose risks to global economic growth, or rattle financial markets in a way that could make the Fed less inclined to raise rates as fast as it would otherwise.

With the incursions less than 48 hours old that analysis was just beginning.

“In theory, the war has two contrasting effects on Fed policy: It could stoke inflation…and it could slow economic growth,” wrote Piper Sandler macro analysts Roberto Perli and Benson Durham. “The Fed is likely to be more concerned about the latter than the former…The war will not delay liftoff…But it could well result in fewer rate hikes this year than the market is currently pricing.”

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Reporting by Howard Schneider;
Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Amazon Warehouse in Alabama Set to Begin Second Union Election

During the first union election at Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., warehouse, early last year, organizers largely avoided visiting workers at home because Covid was raging and few Americans were vaccinated.

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union believed the precaution was prudent even if it made persuading workers harder and may have contributed to the union’s lopsided defeat.

On Friday, the National Labor Relations Board will mail out ballots to workers at the same warehouse in a so-called re-run election, which the agency ordered after finding that Amazon behaved improperly during the last campaign.

But for this election, which runs through March 25, the labor movement is pulling few punches. Several national unions have collectively sent dozens of organizers to Bessemer to help rally workers. And organizers and workers have spent the past several months going door-to-door to build support for the union.

far more than half of all elections during that time, according to data from the National Labor Relations Board.

“In cases where the margin of victory is pretty significant one way or the other, the outcome often doesn’t change the second time,” said David Pryzbylski, a management-side lawyer at Barnes & Thornburg.

Those odds may be longer still at a company like Amazon, which has the resources to hire consultants and saturate workers with anti-union messages, as it did during the last election.

Turnover at Amazon is high — over 150 percent a year even before a recent surge of quitting nationwide — and could introduce uncertainty because it’s unclear how new workers will respond to arguments on either side.

previously said that its performance targets take into account safety and employees’ experience.

For Amazon, which is facing challenges to its labor model on multiple fronts, there is little incentive to ease its resistance to the union. Last year, California approved a law that would restrict the company’s use of productivity targets, and the roughly 1.4 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters elected a new president who promised a large investment in unionizing the company.

determined that organizers at JFK8, a massive warehouse on Staten Island, had submitted enough signatures to warrant a vote. The organizers are trying to form a new union, called Amazon Labor Union, rather than working with established groups. The labor board will hold a hearing in mid-February to determine how many workers could be eligible to vote, as well as the timing and terms of the election.

This week, the same union filed a petition for an election at a neighboring Amazon facility on Staten Island.

pressed for in-person voting, albeit at an off-site location in the union’s case, the labor board decided to run another mail-in election because of the pandemic.

Variations on practices that the labor board cited when invalidating the last election also remain in place, prompting the union to urge changes to the way the new election will be conducted. Not least is a so-called collection box that Amazon lobbied the U.S. Postal Service to install last year near the warehouse entrance, where workers were urged to deposit their ballots.

Amazon has said it sought the collection box to help workers vote safely, and that it did not have access to ballots deposited inside of it. But a regional director of the labor board found that Amazon had “essentially hijacked the process” by procuring the box. “This dangerous and improper message to employees destroys trust in the board’s processes and in the credibility of the election results,” the regional director wrote.

Yet in the run-up to the revote, the regional director allowed the Postal Service merely to move the box to a “neutral location” at the warehouse, rather than remove it entirely. The union argued in a request for an appeal that there is no neutral location on the site, and that the new location is still in view of Amazon’s surveillance cameras. A decision on the appeal could come during or after the election.

Some employees also say that despite reaching a nationwide settlement with the labor board in December to give union supporters more access to colleagues while at work, Amazon is still making it difficult for them to plead their case where they work.

Isaiah Thomas, a ship dock worker at the warehouse, recently received a letter from management saying he had violated the company policy against solicitation by talking to co-workers about the union during his break, though the company did not officially discipline him over the alleged violation.

“You were interfering with fellow associates during their working time, in their work areas,” the letter said. The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge arguing that the letter violates the company’s settlement with the labor board.

Yet the circumstances of the second election do appear to differ from those of the first election in some key respects. There is, for one thing, the fact of the finding by the labor board that Amazon violated union election rules, which organizers say comes up regularly in conversations with workers.

Mr. Appelbaum, the union president, said the on-the-ground presence of other unions was substantially higher than last year, thanks partly to the urging of Liz Shuler, the president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., of which the retail workers union is a part.

Even non-A.F.L. unions like the Service Employees International Union and the Teamsters have dispatched organizers to Alabama, underscoring the high stakes for labor.

“I think there’s a recognition of the importance and transcendent nature of this fight,” Mr. Appelbaum said. “People throughout the labor movement understand that we cannot let Amazon go unchallenged or else it’s going to set the model for what the future of work is going to look like.”

He said that workers felt less intimidated by Amazon this time, with more of them speaking up during mandatory anti-union meetings. Pro-union workers also now wear T-shirts advertising their support for the union twice each week in a show of solidarity.

One group of workers recently delivered a petition with over 100 signatures to managers complaining of undignified treatment, low pay and insufficient breaks and break room equipment. Ms. Agrait, the Amazon spokeswoman, said the company encouraged constant communication between workers and managers.

Mr. Thomas, the ship dock worker, spends two days each week knocking on the doors of colleagues and said in an interview that many workers who voted against the union last year say they are supportive this time because the company hasn’t followed through on promises to act on their feedback.

“A lot of folks said they wanted to try to give Amazon a chance, but they didn’t meet their end of bargain,” he said. “Now they actually want to help form this union.”

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Wages Rise at Fastest Pace Since 2002 as Inflation Continues to Run Hot

Inflation came in strong and wage growth remained elevated at the end of 2021, setting the stage for a challenging economic year in which the Federal Reserve and White House will try to maintain momentum in the job market while wrestling price gains under control.

The Personal Consumption Expenditures index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, came in at 5.8 percent in December, up from 5.7 percent the prior month. That beat out the prior month to become the fastest pace since 1982.

climbed 4 percent in the year through the fourth quarter, with its wages and salaries measure picking up by 4.5 percent.

That marked the fastest pace of increase for both the overall compensation and the wages and salaries measure since the data series started two decades ago.

taken steps aimed at relieving pressure on choked supply chains, the job of slowing down demand to bring prices under control rests primarily with the Fed.

produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that incorporates backlogs, delivery times and inventories.

Inflation sped up starting last year as people bought more goods, aided by repeated government relief checks and other federal benefits. The world’s factories and shipping lines have struggled to keep up with demand, resulting in rising prices for cars, lumber and clothing. While spending has moderated somewhat recently — it fell in December as Omicron spread, as goods consumption declined — it is unclear whether that is a blip caused by the pandemic or a lasting pullback.

Fed officials have been watching for signs that inflation, which they have projected will ease to less than 3 percent by the end of the year, might instead linger.

“We are attentive to the risks that persistent real wage growth in excess of productivity could put upward pressure on inflation,” Jerome H. Powell, the Fed’s chair, said during a news conference on Wednesday. Friday’s data could offer officials some slight reprieve.

Mr. Powell had in December specifically cited the previously Employment Cost Index reading — which came in high during the third quarter — as one reason that the Fed had decided to shift from stoking growth to preparing to fight back if inflation becomes long-lasting.

The fact that the measure did not pick up as sharply as expected in the final quarter of the year could give investors some confidence that the central bank’s policy-setting group, the Federal Open Market Committee, will not further speed up its plans to withdraw economic help.

University of Michigan survey has shown sentiment faltering as prices have risen, and the Conference Board’s index ticked down in January.

“You have very high inflation, so people are seeing an erosion of their purchasing power,” said Dana M. Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, noting that the resurgent virus is also to blame. “People will have higher confidence once we’re beyond Omicron.”

For now, it is a moment of pronounced economic uncertainty.

Ashley Fahr, the owner of the culinary company and event space La Cuisine in Venice, Calif., said rising grocery costs began to bite at a difficult moment — just before Omicron began to surge, causing people to pull back from activities like the cooking classes and catering events she offers.

She noticed in December that her food bill had gone up by about 15 percent, chipping away at her margins, and passed about 5 percent of that on to customers while absorbing the rest of the increase.

“I didn’t want to quote a number people would balk at,” she said.

Ms. Fahr said she pays her workers — most of whom are independent contractors — competitive wages and that it’s hard to keep up with rising prices and still turn a profit. She is watching to see what other local caterers and cooking classes do with their pricing — and whether they begin to pass on the full increase to customers.

“If everyone else does it, I’ll do it too,” Ms. Fahr said.

That sort of logic is what economic officials worry about. If businesses and consumers begin to expect prices to steadily rise, they may begin to accept instead of resisting them — and when inflation gets baked into expectations, it might spiral upward year after year, economists worry.

“What we’re trying to do is get inflation, keep inflation expectations well anchored at 2 percent,” Mr. Powell, the Fed chair, said at his news conference this week. “That’s always the ultimate goal.”

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Newly Formed Impact Housing to Fill Void in Home Ownership Market with Attainable Solutions for Working Families

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Atlanta-based EcoVest Capital and Place Properties announce the formation of Impact Housing Group. Impact Housing is the country’s first fully integrated, volumetric modular company. Its mission is to provide a solution for affordable homes for America’s working families.

Among the most pressing social needs in the country is to provide attainable housing close to where people work and want to live. As a critical step toward that goal, Impact Housing has acquired a facility in Baxley, Georgia. This facility will be able to assemble 50+ affordable single-family homes per month. At that level of production, the plant will generate 170 new, living-wage jobs. The location of the facility allows Impact Housing to serve the southeastern market. In addition, Impact Housing is under contract to build another volumetric modular plant in Oconee, South Carolina, with plans to build a third plant, beginning in Q4 of 2022.

Cecil Phillips, former executive assistant to the governor of Georgia and past chair of Atlanta Housing, has been named president and CEO of Impact Housing. Phillips has a highly successful track record providing affordable housing for students, armed forces, and working families. According to Phillips, “Beginning in the Southeast and expanding throughout the country, Impact Housing will provide top-rated, quality-engineered and designed housing to serve communities which are frustrated by the deficit of affordable housing for working families. We will provide affordable housing to these markets by developing communities, as well as by selling homes to third-party owners and developers.”

Alan Solon is Chairman and CEO of EcoVest Capital, Inc., an Atlanta-based real estate investment management company and serves as chairman of Impact Housing Group. As CEO of EcoVest, Solon is focused on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) pertaining to sound real estate investment and development ventures. “For many working-class families,” says Solon, “inventory is extremely limited for new, affordable, high-quality homes for purchase in the neighborhoods where they work and live. The goal of Impact Housing is to provide an answer to the largest problem in this sector, making attractive, well-constructed homes attainable for these families.”

It’s Phillips’ and Solon’s shared belief that attainable housing can become a reality in the Missing Middle by revolutionizing volumetric modular housing into modern day solutions that families will be proud to live in and call home. Phillips and Solon also believe that you don’t have to sacrifice design and quality for profit. Impact Housing’s manufactured homes are assembled inside the plant then delivered to the site, reducing the time and costs of each home. With no major improvements in efficiency, productivity, or costs in the housing industry in more than 50 years, Phillips and Solon decided to launch Impact Housing where their experience and expertise will yield a viable solution to the housing crisis in the U.S.

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The End of a Return-to-Office Date

“We decided as a leadership team, ‘what was magical about these dates?’” Ms. Anas said. “It was extremely liberating saying, ‘We’re going to see how this nets out and we’re not solving for a date.’”

She is unsettled by the possibility that they will still be working from home in March, two years since they first packed up their desks. But with coronavirus infections spiking, Ms. Anas is relieved that the company doesn’t have to weigh the merits of an early 2022 return, leaving workers to wait worriedly for updates.

“If we had kicked the can to January, they’d be fixated on that,” she said. “We keep focused on the work. This is just a distraction.”

For many organizational leaders, addressing the anxieties of their work force has been the only constant in the R.T.O. process.

With the spread of Delta, Jessica Saranich, who runs U.S. operations at the productivity software company Monday.com, got a flurry of notes from colleagues: Will we really go back to the office in August? Last month brought the news of Omicron, with a fresh set of questions: What does this mean for the January off-site gathering, with its promise of free food, partying and a Miami D.J.? Ms. Saranich’s team has delayed its return to office date three times, which has left some employees pleading for more permanence in the company’s policies.

“Sometimes our team will say please just make a decision, pick something, make us come back to the office or make us be remote,” Ms. Saranich said. “But it’s not something that we want to rush. To be able to lean into the discomfort and say we don’t know is a great gift that we can give to our team.”

Still, plenty of organizations aiming for an early 2022 return haven’t budged.

Express Employment Professionals, a staffing provider in Oklahoma City, aims to bring half of its 300 workers back to their newly remodeled headquarters on Jan. 15. The company had originally reopened its office in July in a phased re-entry plan, which was temporarily scaled back in September. Keith McFall, chief operating officer, feels that clear R.T.O. dates serve as a force of stability for workers navigating months of tumult.

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How Amazon Mishandled Paying Dozens of Workers on Leave

In internal correspondence, company administrators warned of “inadequate service levels,” “deficient processes” and systems that are “prone to delay and error.”

The extent of the problem puts in stark relief how Amazon’s workers routinely took a back seat to customers during the company’s meteoric rise to retail dominance. Amazon built cutting-edge package processing facilities to cater to shoppers’ appetite for fast delivery, far outpacing competitors. But the business did not devote enough resources and attention to how it served employees, according to many longtime workers.

“A lot of times, because we’ve optimized for the customer experience, we’ve been focused on that,” Bethany Reyes, who was recently put in charge of fixing the leave system, said in an interview. She stressed that the company was working hard to rebalance those priorities.

The company’s treatment of its huge work force — now more than 1.3 million people and expanding rapidly — faces mounting scrutiny. Labor activists and some lawmakers say that the company does not adequately protect the safety of warehouse employees, and that it unfairly punishes internal critics. This year, workers in Alabama, upset about the company’s minute-by-minute monitoring of their productivity, organized a serious, though ultimately failed, unionization threat against the company.

In June, a Times investigation detailed how badly the leave process jammed during the pandemic, finding that it was one of many employment lapses during the company’s greatest moment of financial success. Since then, Amazon has emphasized a pledge to become “Earth’s best employer.” Andy Jassy, who replaced Mr. Bezos as chief executive in July, recently singled out the leave system as a place where it can demonstrate its commitment to improve. The process “didn’t work the way we wanted it to work,” he said at an event this month.

In response to the more recent findings on the troubles in its leave program, Amazon elaborated on its efforts to fix the system’s “pain points” and “pay issues,” as Ms. Reyes put it in the interview. She called the erroneous terminations “the most dire issue that you could have.” The company is hiring hundreds of employees, streamlining and connecting systems, clarifying its communications and training human resources staff members to be more empathetic.

But many issues persist, causing breakdowns that have proved devastating. This spring, a Tennessee warehouse worker abruptly stopped receiving disability payments, leaving his family struggling to pay for food, transportation or medical care.

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