HAILEY, Idaho — Robert Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, flies in a Gulfstream G650. So do Jeff Bezos and Dan Schulman, PayPal’s chief executive. The jets, roughly 470 of which are in operation, retail for about $75 million each.
Most days, those planes are spread out, ferrying captains of industry to meetings around the globe. But for one week in July, some of them converge on a single 100-foot-wide asphalt runway beside the jagged hills of Idaho’s Wood River Valley.
The occasion is the annual Sun Valley conference, a shoulder-rubbing bonanza organized by the secretive investment bank Allen & Company. Known as “summer camp for billionaires,” the conference kicks off this year on Tuesday, and it draws industry titans and their families — some of whom are watched over by local babysitters bound by nondisclosure agreements. In between organized hikes and fly-fishing at past gatherings, there have been sessions on creativity, climate change and immigration reform.
the ninth hole of the golf course, the head of General Electric expressed interest in selling NBC to Comcast. It is where Mr. Bezos met with the owner of The Washington Post before agreeing to buy the paper, and where Disney pursued a plan to purchase ABC — with Warren Buffett at the center of the discussions.
a year-round population of 1,800.
During a 24-hour period last year as the conference began, more than 300 flights passed through Friedman Memorial Airport in Hailey, a small town near Sun Valley, according to data from Flightradar24, an industry data firm. They ranged from tiny propeller planes to long-wing commercial jets. By comparison, two weeks ago, when Mr. Pomeroy gave me a brief tour of the airport, just 44 flights took off or landed there over 24 hours, according to the data firm.
“This is empty right now,” Mr. Pomeroy said, smoothly steering his white 2014 Ford Explorer (what he calls his “mobile command center”) past a swath of freshly paved asphalt. “But in the summer, and during the event in particular, there’s airplanes parked everywhere up here.”
Much like the activities of the conference, elements of the travel there are shrouded in secrecy. Many jets flying in are registered to obscure owners and limited liability companies, some with only winking references to their passengers. The jet that carried Mr. Kraft last year, for example, is registered under “Airkraft One Trust,” according to records from the Federal Aviation Administration. The plane that Mr. Bezos flew in on is registered to Poplar Glen, a Seattle firm.
Representatives for Mr. Kraft and Mr. Bezos declined to comment. Mr. Bezos is not expected to turn up at Sun Valley this year, according to an advance list of guests that was obtained by The New York Times.
Mr. Pomeroy plans well in advance to deal with the intense air traffic generated by the conference, which he refers to obliquely as “the annual fly-in event.” Without proper organization, flocks of private jets could stack up in the airspace around Friedman, creating delays and diversions while pilots burn precious fuel.
That was the case for the 2016 conference, which coincided with Mr. Pomeroy’s first week on the job. That year, some aircraft circled overhead or sat on the tarmac for more than an hour and a half, waiting for the airspace and runway to clear.
“I saw airplanes literally lined up to take off from the north end of the field almost all the way down to the south end of the field,” Mr. Pomeroy said, referring to the 7,550-foot runway. “Tail to nose, all the way up the taxiway.”
After that episode, Mr. Pomeroy enlisted Greg Dyer, a former district manager at the F.A.A., to help unclutter the tarmac. The two coordinated with an F.A.A. hub in Salt Lake City to line up flights, sometimes 300 to 500 miles outside Sun Valley. For some flights, the staging begins before the planes take off.
“Before, it looked like an attack — it was just airplanes coming from all points of the compass, all trying to get here at the same time,” said Mr. Dyer, an airport consultant for Jviation-Woolpert.
Last year, delays were kept to a maximum of 20 minutes, and no commercial travelers missed connecting flights because of air traffic caused by the conference, Mr. Pomeroy said.
When moguls are forced to circle in the air, they often loiter in great style. Buyers willing to shell out tens of millions for a high-end private plane are unlikely to balk at an additional $650,000 to outfit the aircraft with Wi-Fi, said Lee Mindel, one of the founders of SheltonMindel, an architectural firm that has designed the interiors of Gulfstream and Bombardier private jets. Some owners, he said, have opted for bespoke flatware from Muriel Grateau in Paris, V’Soske rugs or other luxe features.
“If you have to ask what it costs, you really can’t afford to do it,” Mr. Mindel said.
During the pandemic, when commercial travel slowed because of restrictions, corporate jaunts increased among a subset of executives who didn’t want to be held back, said David Yermack, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He added that it might be cheaper in the long run to compensate chief executives with jet travel than pay them with cash.
“I think it was Napoleon who said, ‘When I realized people would lay down their lives for little pieces of colored ribbon, I knew I could conquer the world,’” Mr. Yermack said.
The glut of flights certainly raises practical concerns. The residents of Hailey, as well as nearby Ketchum and Sun Valley, have complained in the past about the noise created by the jets zooming into Friedman Memorial Airport.
To deal with the complaints, Mr. Pomeroy and the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority curtailed flights between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. and limited the number of takeoffs and landings from the north, over the little city of Hailey.
Before the conference, Mr. Pomeroy sends a letter to incoming pilots about what to expect, admonishing them to keep the noise to a minimum.
“While the overwhelming majority of users during this event are respectful of our program and community, only a few operators who blatantly disregard our program, or who are negligent in educating themselves about our program, leave a negative impression on all of us,” Mr. Pomeroy wrote this year.
Allen & Company’s stinginess about some conference details extends to the airport. But Mr. Pomeroy and his team get enough information to conclude when the moguls will arrive and are about to leave town.
When the schmoozing is over next week, Mr. Pomeroy will begin the arduous task of ushering the corporate titans out of Idaho. Often that means closing the airport briefly to arrivals while they hustle out departures for an hour.
As the last jets get ready to leave, Mr. Pomeroy said, he and his team breathe a sigh of relief.
“Afterward, I am ready to hit the river for some serious fly-fishing for a day or two,” he said.
When Jack Welch died on March 1, 2020, tributes poured in for the longtime chief executive of General Electric, whom many revered as the greatest chief executive of all time.
David Zaslav, the C.E.O. of Warner Bros. Discovery and a Welch disciple, remembered him as an almost godlike figure. “Jack set the path. He saw the whole world. He was above the whole world,” Mr. Zaslav said. “What he created at G.E. became the way companies now operate.”
Mr. Zaslav’s words were meant as unequivocal praise. During Mr. Welch’s two decades in power — from 1981 to 2001 — he turned G.E. into the most valuable company in the world, groomed a flock of protégés who went on to run major companies of their own, and set the standard by which other C.E.O.s were measured.
Yet a closer examination of the Welch legacy reveals that he was not simply the “Manager of the Century,” as Fortune magazine crowned him upon his retirement.
broken up for good.
the fateful decision to redesign the 737 — a plane introduced in the 1960s — once more, rather than lose out on a crucial order with American Airlines. That decision set in motion the flawed development of the 737 Max, which crashed twice in five months, killing 346 people. And while a number of factors contributed to those tragedies, they were ultimately the product of a corporate culture that cut corners in pursuit of short-term financial gains.
Even today Boeing is run by a Welch disciple. Dave Calhoun, the current C.E.O., was a dark horse candidate to succeed Mr. Welch in 2001, and he was on the Boeing board during the rollout of the Max and the botched response to the crashes.
When Mr. Calhoun took over the company in 2020, he set up his office not in Seattle (Boeing’s spiritual home) or Chicago (its official headquarters), but outside St. Louis at the Boeing Leadership Center, an internal training center explicitly built in the image of Crotonville. He said he hoped to channel Mr. Welch, whom he called his “forever mentor.”
The “Manager of the Century” was unbowed in retirement, barreling through the twilight of his life with the same bombast that defined his tenure as C.E.O.
He refashioned himself as a management guru and created a $50,000 online M.B.A. in an effort to instill his tough-nosed tactics in a new generation of business leaders. (The school boasts that “more than two out of three students receive a raise or promotion while enrolled.”) He cheered on the political rise of Mr. Trump, then advised him when he won the White House.
In his waning days, Mr. Welch emerged as a trafficker of conspiracy theories. He called climate change “mass neurosis” and “the attack on capitalism that socialism couldn’t bring.” He called for President Trump to appoint Rudy Giuliani attorney general and investigate his political enemies.
The most telling example of Mr. Welch’s foray into political commentary, and the beliefs it revealed, came in 2012. That’s when he took to Twitter and accused the Obama administration of fabricating the monthly jobs report numbers for political gain. The accusation was rich with irony. After decades during which G.E. massaged its own earnings reports, Mr. Welch was effectively accusing the White House of doing the same thing.
While Mr. Welch’s claim was baseless, conservative pundits picked up on the conspiracy theory and amplified it on cable news and Twitter. Even Mr. Trump, then merely a reality television star, joined the chorus, calling Mr. Welch’s bogus accusation “100 percent correct” and accusing the Obama administration of “monkeying around” with the numbers. It was one of the first lies to go viral on social media, and it had come from one of the most revered figures in the history of business.
When Mr. Welch died, few of his eulogists paused to consider the entirety of his legacy. They didn’t dwell on the downsizing, the manipulated earnings, the Twitter antics.
And there was no consideration of the ways in which the economy had been shaped by Mr. Welch over the previous 40 years, creating a world where manufacturing jobs have evaporated as C.E.O. pay soars, where buybacks and dividends are plentiful as corporate tax rates plunge.
By glossing over this reality, his allies helped perpetuate the myth of his sainthood, adding their own spin on one of the most enduring bits of disinformation of all: the notion that Jack Welch was the greatest C.E.O. of all time.
April 27 (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) unveiled $2.7 billion in charges and added costs across its aircraft portfolio on Wednesday, and expressed doubts over hitting jet delivery targets as technical problems, inflation and supplier risks cloud its path toward recovery.
Shares of the U.S. planemaker fell to a nearly 1-1/2 year low after it posted a quarterly loss and announced it was halting 777X production through 2023 due to a fresh delay in its entry into service after certification problems and weak demand.
“Another dreadful set of results,” Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham said in a client note, adding that a “general sense of disarray continues”.
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On the plus side, Boeing said it submitted a certification plan to U.S. air-safety regulators in a step toward resuming deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner, halted for nearly a year by inspections and repairs in a separate industrial headache costing about $5.5 billion. read more
The twin-aisled Dreamliner, along with its cash cow 737 MAX, are vital to Boeing’s ability to emerge from overlapping coronavirus and jet-safety crises, a path steepened by war in Ukraine.
Boeing did not specify when Boeing would resume Dreamliner deliveries. Reuters reported last week Boeing had advised key airlines and parts suppliers that the deliveries would resume in the second half of this year. read more
Boeing also confirmed a delay in handing over the first 777X jet to 2025, from the previous target of late 2023, but said it remained confident in the program. [nL2N2WK1VK]
“We’ve got to give ourselves the time and freedom to get this right,” Calhoun told analysts.
Calhoun said the halt in 777-9 production – which will add $1.5 billionin fresh costs – was based on a longer safety certification timeline, a risk reported by Reuters in February. read more
He said the production pause would help minimize inventory and the number of jets requiring retrofits, while it adds to freighter capacity with a newly launched cargo spinoff of the 777X, the world’s largest twin-engine passenger plane. read more
“We are concerned that this delay (in 777X delivery) may allow airlines to cancel without penalty,” Citi Research analyst Charles Armitage said.
Boeing is facing an increasingly high-stakes battle to win certification of the largest variant of the 737 MAX before a new safety standard on cockpit alerts takes effect at year-end.
The deadline for changes was introduced as part of broader regulatory reforms at the Federal Aviation Administration following fatal 737 MAX crashes in 2018 and 2019. read more
“The intent of that legislation was never to stop the derivative product line with respect to the MAX,” Calhoun said. “So I believe our chances are good with respect to getting legislative relief. It doesn’t mean we’ll get them. And if we don’t, it’s a problem.”
Boeing reiterated it expects its 737 MAX production rate to reach 31 planes per month in the second quarter, a slight delay from what some analysts expected, though industry sources have not ruled out a slip. It has 320 of the jets in inventory.
Boeing said it was on track to return to positive cash flow in 2022 with no need for an immediate capital raise as it ramps up deliveries of the cash-cow narrow-body, though it faces risks in the crucial China market even as travel rebounds from the pandemic.
“Traffic is returning, and it’s returning in a pretty big way,” Calhoun said.
It reported a quarterly core loss per share of $2.75, compared with a loss of $1.53 per share a year ago. Revenue fell to $13.99 billion from $15.22 billion.
Like other aerospace companies, Boeing is grappling with supply chain logjams, inflation and fallout from war in Ukraine.
“Inflation continues to take a hard run at everything we do,” Calhoun told analysts.
It booked a $660 million charge in the quarter on its VC-25B – commonly known as Air Force One – due to higher supplier costs and technical problems and schedule delays.
“Air Force One, I’m just going to call a very unique moment, a very unique negotiation, a very unique set of risks that Boeing probably shouldn’t have taken,” Calhoun said. “But we are where we are, and we’re going to deliver great airplanes. And we’re going to recognize the costs associated with it.”
Boeing also recorded $367 million in charges for its T-7A Red Hawk trainer jet due to inflation, supply chain issues and pandemic impacts.
And it booked pre-tax charges of $212 million due to the war in Ukraine and international sanctions against Russia, which pose risks to materials supply and aircraft orders. read more
Asked whether Boeing would hit a 500-aircraft delivery target for the 737 MAX this year, Chief Financial Officer Brian West said, “we probably won’t get quite all the way there.”
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Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Nishit Jogi from Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Bernadette Baum and Nick Zieminski
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
The critics typically acknowledge that the campaigns helped galvanize support for higher wages even if they fell short of unionizing workers. Defenders say the goal is to have an impact on a company- or industrywide scale rather than a few individual stores. They point to certain developments, like a pending California bill that would regulate fast-food wages and working conditions, as signs of progress.
In other cases, workers themselves have perceived the limitations of established unions and the advantages of going it alone. Joseph Fink, who works at an Amazon Fresh grocery store in Seattle with roughly 150 employees, said the workers there had reached out to a few unions when seeking to organize in the summer but decided that the unions’ focus on winning recognition through National Labor Relations Board elections would delay resolution of their complaints, which included sexual harassment and health and safety threats.
When the workers floated the idea of staging protests or walkouts as an alternative, union officials responded cautiously. “We received the response that if we were to speak up, assert our rights publicly, we’d be terminated,” Mr. Fink said. “It was a self-defeating narrative.”
The workers decided to form a union on their own without the formal blessing of the N.L.R.B., a model known as a “solidarity union,” whose roots precede the modern labor movement.
For workers who do seek N.L.R.B. certification, doing so independent of an established union also has advantages, such as confounding the talking points of employers and consultants, who often paint unions as “third parties” seeking to hoard workers’ dues.
At Amazon, the strategy was akin to sending a conventional army into battle against guerrillas: Organizers said the talking points had fallen flat once co-workers realized that the union consisted of fellow employees rather than outsiders.
“When a worker comes up to me, they look at me, then see I have a badge on and say, ‘You work here?’ They ask it in the most surprising way,” said Angelika Maldonado, an Amazon employee on Staten Island who heads the union’s workers committee. “‘I’m like, ‘Yeah, I work here.’ It makes us relatable from the beginning.”
Delta Air Lines planes are parked at their gates at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
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March 18 (Reuters) – Boeing Co (BA.N) is edging towards a landmark order from Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) for up to 100 of its 737 MAX 10 jets, a model it is battling in separate talks to get approved before year-end rule changes, people familiar with the matter said.
The deal, if confirmed, would be the first order from Delta for Boeing’s best-selling single-aisle airplane family, and the first major Boeing order for the carrier in a decade.
It comes as Delta – the only major U.S. carrier without a 737 MAX on order – reshapes its fleet in anticipation of a swift recovery from the pandemic. read more
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Boeing and Delta, which have had a frayed relationship in past years, are working on details of an order that could consist of 100 aircraft, many or all of which could involve the largest variant, the 737 MAX 10, two of the people said.
If a deal is reached, an announcement could come as soon as next month, one of the people added.
Boeing and Delta declined to comment.
Industry sources cautioned negotiations typically go down to the wire and no final decision had been taken. There has been speculation about a MAX order from Delta in the past, without a deal coming to fruition.
The MAX 10 competes with Airbus’ strongest-selling model, the A321neo. Both planes are aimed at the fast-growing segment of the market just above 200 seats.
The A321neo, which leasing company Air Lease (AL.N) described on Wednesday as the “hottest airplanes in the market”, has a commanding lead in sales, but Boeing has scored a series of contract wins in the past year.
Airbus also declined to comment.
In September, Airline Weekly quoted Delta Chief Executive Ed Bastian as saying there was a place for the MAX at Delta if the carrier could figure out how to bring them in. read more
Asked about the MAX in London earlier this month, he told reporters Delta was always looking at all airplane models.
For Boeing, which is entrenched in broader certification and industrial headaches, the deal would cement a major new customer for its cash-cow narrowbody. read more
The planemaker is facing a separate but increasingly high-stakes battle to win certification of the MAX 10 before a new safety standard on cockpit alerts takes effect at year-end.
The deadline for changes was introduced as part of broader regulatory reforms at the Federal Aviation Administration following fatal crashes of a smaller MAX model in 2018 and 2019.
Boeing has held talks with some lawmakers about the potential of asking for more time, but has not formally sought an extension to address a flight deck issue, the people said.
Asked about the possibility, an FAA spokesperson said, “safety dictates the timeline of certification projects”.
Only Congress can extend the deadline if the FAA does not certify the MAX before end-year.
Boeing has raised with some lawmakers the potential impact on jobs and production if the 737 MAX 10 is not approved, the people said.
“We continue to work transparently with the FAA to provide the information they need, and we are committed to meeting their expectations to achieve 737-10 certification,” Boeing said in an emailed statement.
It did not comment directly on any talks with lawmakers but said the jet would support “tens of thousands of jobs at Boeing and across our supply chain, including in Washington state”.
The issue is also likely to get entangled in the confirmation hearings of the next FAA administrator. Current FAA Administrator Steve Dickson is set to step down March 31.
The Seattle Times this month cited an earlier Boeing submission to the FAA citing an estimated cost of full compliance for the MAX at “more than $10 billion”.
(This story refiles to amend dateline to March 18)
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Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, David Shepardson in Washington, and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Editing by Tim Hepher and Jan Harvey
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Mr. Silbar, the real estate agent, has sold it twice in the past three years. The first time, in November 2019, he represented a buyer who offered $168,000 and got it with zero drama. This year it went back on the market, and Mr. Silbar listed it for $250,000. Fourteen offers and a bidding war later, it closed at $300,000.
When Mr. Silbar got into the business, he said, his clients were “nurses and teachers,” and now they’re corporate managers, engineers and other professionals. “What you can afford in Spokane has completely changed,” he said.
The typical home in the Spokane area is worth $411,000, according to Zillow. That’s still vastly less expensive than markets like the San Francisco Bay Area ($1.4 million), Los Angeles ($878,000), Seattle ($734,000) and Portland ($550,000). But it’s dizzying (and enraging) to long-term residents.
Five years ago, a little over half the homes in the Spokane area sold for less than $200,000, and about 70 percent of its employed population could afford to buy a home, according to a recent report commissioned by the Spokane Association of Realtors. Now fewer than 5 percent of homes — a few dozen a month — sell for less than $200,000, and less than 15 percent of the area’s employed population can afford a home. A recent survey by Redfin, the real estate brokerage, showed that home buyers moving to Spokane in 2021 had a budget 23 percent higher than what locals had.
One of Mr. Silbar’s clients, Lindsey Simler, a 38-year-old nurse who grew up in Spokane, wants to buy a home in the $300,000 range but keeps losing out because she doesn’t have enough cash to compete. Spokane isn’t so competitive that it’s awash in all-cash offers, as some higher-priced markets are. But prices have shot up so fast that many homes are appraising for less than their sale price, forcing buyers to put up higher down payments to cover the difference.
A dozen failed offers later, Ms. Simler has decided to sit out the market for a while because the constant losing is so demoralizing. If prices don’t calm down, she said, she’s thinking about becoming a travel nurse. With the health care work force so depleted by Covid-19, travel nursing pays much better and, hopefully, will allow her to save more for a down payment.
“I’m not at the point where I want to give up on living in Spokane, because I have family here and it feels like home,” she said. “But travel nursing is going to be my next step if I haven’t been able to land a house.”
The pandemic’s grip on the economy appears to be loosening. Job growth and retail spending were strong in January, even as coronavirus cases hit a record. New York, Massachusetts and other states have begun to lift indoor mask mandates. California on Thursday unveiled a public health approach that will treat the coronavirus as a manageable long-term risk.
Yet the economy remains far from normal. Patterns of work, socializing and spending, disrupted by the pandemic, have been slow to readjust. Prices are rising at their fastest pace in four decades, and there are signs that inflation is creeping into a broader range of products and services. In surveys, Americans report feeling gloomier about the economy now than at the height of the lockdowns and job losses in the first weeks of the crisis.
In other words, it may no longer be that “the virus is the boss” — as Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist, has put it. But the changes that it set in motion have proved both more persistent and more pervasive than economists once expected.
“I — totally naïvely — thought that once a vaccine was available, that we were six months away from a complete re-evaluation of the economy, and instead we’re just grinding it out,” said Wendy Edelberg, director of the Hamilton Project, an economic policy arm of the Brookings Institution. “A switch didn’t get flipped, and I thought it was going to.”
computer chips, lumber and even garage doors have held up production of items from cars to houses, while a lack of shipping containers has led to delays in almost anything transported from overseas. Some bottlenecks have let up in recent months, but logistics experts expect it to take months if not years for supply chains to run smoothly again.
disproportionate share of them women — have not.
Diahann Thomas was at work at a Brooklyn call center in January when she got a call from her son’s school: Her 11-year-old had been exposed to a classmate who had tested positive for Covid-19, and she needed to pick him up.
The Coronavirus Pandemic: Key Things to Know
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In New York. The New York health commissioner announced that the state would not enforce a booster-shot requirement for health care workers set to take effect on Feb. 21. Too many workers were refusing to comply, leading to worries that the health care system would be disrupted with a mandate in place.
“There are all these moving parts now with Covid — one moment, they’re at school, the next moment they’re at home,” she said.
Ms. Thomas, 50, said her employer declined to provide flexibility while her son was in quarantine. So she quit — a decision she said was made easier by the knowledge that employers are eager to hire.
“It did boost my confidence to know that at the end of this, it’s not going to be difficult for me to pick up the pieces, and I have more bargaining power now,” she said. “There is this whole entire shift in terms of employee-employer relationship.”
Ms. Thomas expects to return to work once school schedules become more reliable. But the pandemic has shown her the value of being at home with her three children, she said, and she wants a job where she can work from home.
Whether and how people like Ms. Thomas return to work will be crucial to the economy’s path in coming months. If workers flood back to the job market as school and child care becomes more dependable and health risks recede, it will be easier for manufacturers and shipping companies to ramp up production and deliveries, giving supply a chance to catch up to demand. That in turn could allow inflation to cool without losing the economy’s progress over the past year.
care for children may not go back to work right away, or may choose to work part time. And other changes may be similarly slow to reverse: Companies that were burned by shortages may maintain larger inventories or rely on shorter supply chains, driving up costs. Workers who enjoyed flexibility from employers during the pandemic may demand it in the future. Rates of entrepreneurship, automation and, of course, remote work all increased during the pandemic, perhaps permanently.
Some of those changes could lead to higher inflation or slower growth. Others could make the economy more dynamic and productive. All make it harder for forecasters and policymakers to get a clear picture of the postpandemic economy.
“In almost every respect, economic ripple effects that we might have expected to be temporary or short-lived are proving to be more long-lasting,” said Luke Pardue, an economist for Gusto, a payroll platform for small businesses. “The new normal is looking a lot different.”
Mr. Zuckerberg has since turned to Mr. Bosworth for major initiatives. In 2012, Mr. Bosworth was given the task of building out Facebook’s mobile advertising products. After management issues at the Oculus virtual reality division, Mr. Zuckerberg dispatched Mr. Bosworth in August 2017 to take over the initiative. The virtual reality business was later rebranded Reality Labs.
In October, the company said it would create 10,000 metaverse-related jobs in the European Union over the next five years. That same month, Mr. Zuckerberg announced he was changing Facebook’s name to Meta and pledged billions of dollars to the effort.
Reality Labs is now at the forefront of the company’s shift to the metaverse, employees said. Workers in products, engineering and research have been encouraged to apply to new roles there, they said, while others have been elevated from their jobs in social networking divisions to lead the same functions with a metaverse emphasis.
Of the more than 3,000 open jobs listed on Meta’s website, more than 24 percent are now for roles in augmented or virtual reality. The jobs are in cities including Seattle, Shanghai and Zurich. One job listing for a “gameplay engineering manager” for Horizon, the company’s free virtual reality game, said the candidate’s responsibilities would include imagining new ways to experience concerts and conventions.
Internal recruitment for the metaverse ramped up late last year, three Meta engineers said, with their managers mentioning job openings on metaverse-related teams in December and January. Others who didn’t get on board with the new mission left. One former employee said he resigned after feeling like his work on Instagram would no longer be of value to the company; another said they did not think Meta was best placed for creating the metaverse and was searching for a job at a competitor.
What Is the Metaverse, and Why Does It Matter?
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The origins. The word “metaverse” describes a fully realized digital world that exists beyond the one in which we live. It was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel “Snow Crash,” and the concept was further explored by Ernest Cline in his novel “Ready Player One.”
The future. Many people in tech believe the metaverse will herald an era in which our virtual lives will play as important a role as our physical realities. Some experts warn that it could still turn out to be a fad or even dangerous.
Meta also lured away dozens of employees from companies like Microsoft and Apple, two people with knowledge of the moves said. In particular, Meta hired from those companies’ divisions that worked on augmented reality products, like Microsoft’s Hololens and Apple’s secretive augmented reality glasses project.
Representatives for Microsoft and Apple declined to comment. Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal previously reported on some of the personnel moves.
Starbucks allows employees who work at least 20 hours a week to obtain health coverage, more generous than most competitors, and has said it will increase average pay for hourly employees to nearly $17 an hour by this summer, well above the industry norm. The company also offers to pay the tuition of employees admitted to pursue an online bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University, helping it attract workers with college aspirations.
The Status of U.S. Jobs
Such people, in turn, tend to be sympathetic to unions and a variety of social activism. A recent Gallup poll found that people under 35 or who are liberal are substantially more likely than others to support unions.
Several Starbucks workers seeking to organize unions in Buffalo; Boston; Chicago; Seattle; Knoxville, Tenn.; Tallahassee, Fla.; and the Denver area appeared to fit this profile, saying they were either strong supporters of Mr. Sanders and other progressive politicians, had attended college or both. Most were under 30.
“I’ve been involved in political organizing, the Bernie Sanders campaign,” said Brick Zurek, a leader of a union campaign at a Starbucks in Chicago. “That gave me a lot of skill.” Mx. Zurek, who uses gender-neutral courtesy titles and pronouns, also said they had a bachelor’s degree.
Len Harris, who has helped lead a campaign at a Starbucks near Denver, said that “I admire the progressivism, the sense of community” of politicians like Mr. Sanders and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat of New York. She said that she had graduated from college and that she was awaiting admissions decisions for graduate school.
And most union supporters have drawn inspiration from their colleagues in Buffalo. Sydney Durkin and Rachel Ybarra, who are helping to organize a Starbucks in Seattle, said workers at their store discussed the Buffalo campaign almost daily as it unfolded and that one reached out to the union after the National Labor Relations Board announced the initial results of the Buffalo elections in December. (The union’s second victory was announced Monday, after the labor board resolved ballot challenges.)
Ms. Ybarra said the victory showed workers it was possible to unionize despite company opposition. “The Buffalo folks became superheroes,” she said. “A lot of us spent so much time being afraid of retaliation — none of us could afford to lose our jobs, have our hours cut.”
Long checkout lines. Closed fitting rooms. Empty shelves. Shortened store hours.
Plus the dread of contracting the coronavirus and yet another season of skirmishes with customers who refuse to wear masks.
A weary retail work force is experiencing the fallout from the latest wave of the pandemic, with a rapidly spreading variant cutting into staffing.
While data shows that people infected with the Omicron variant are far less likely to be hospitalized than those with the Delta variant, especially if they are vaccinated, many store workers are dealing with a new jump in illness and exposures, grappling with shifting guidelines around isolation and juggling child care. At the same time, retailers are generally not extending hazard pay as they did earlier in the pandemic and have been loath to adopt vaccine or testing mandates.
“We had gotten to a point here where we were comfortable, it wasn’t too bad, and then all of a sudden this new variant came and everybody got sick,” said Artavia Milliam, who works at H&M in Hudson Yards in Manhattan, which is popular with tourists. “It’s been overwhelming, just having to deal with not having enough staff and then twice as many people in the store.”
said last week that it would shorten store hours nationally on Mondays through Thursdays for the rest of the month. At least 20 Apple Stores have had to close in recent weeks because so many employees had contracted Covid-19 or been exposed to someone who had, and others have curtailed hours or limited in-store access.
At a Macy’s in Lynnwood, Wash., Liisa Luick, a longtime sales associate in the men’s department, said, “Every day, we have call-outs, and we have a lot of them.” She said the store had already reduced staff to cut costs in 2020. Now, she is often unable to take breaks and has fielded complaints from customers about a lack of sales help and unstaffed registers.
“Morale could not be lower,” said Ms. Luick, who is a steward for the local unit of the United Food and Commercial Workers union. Even though Washington has a mask mandate for indoor public spaces, “we get a lot of pushback, so morale is even lower because there’s so many people who, there’s no easy way to say this, just don’t believe in masking,” she added.
Store workers are navigating the changing nature of the virus and trying their best to gauge new risks. Many say that with vaccinations and boosters, they are less fearful for their lives than they were in 2020 — the United Food and Commercial Workers union has tracked more than 200 retail worker deaths since the start of the pandemic — but they remain nervous about catching and spreading the virus.
More broadly, the staffing shortages have put a new spotlight on a potential vaccine-or-testing mandate from the Biden administration, which major retailers have been resisting. The fear of losing workers appears to be looming large, especially now.
While the retail industry initially cited the holiday season rush for its resistance to such rules, it has more recently pointed to the burden of testing unvaccinated workers. After oral arguments in the case on Friday, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority expressed skepticism about whether the Biden administration had legal authority to mandate that large employers require workers to be vaccinated.
The National Retail Federation, a major industry lobbying group, said in a statement last week that it “continues to believe that OSHA exceeded its authority in promulgating its vaccine mandate.” The group estimated that the order would require 20 million tests a week nationally, based on external data on unvaccinated workers, and that “such testing capacity currently does not exist.”
When the top managers at Mr. Waugh’s Stop & Shop store began asking employees whether they were vaccinated in preparation for the federal vaccine mandates that could soon take effect, he said, a large number expressed concern to him about being asked to disclose that information.
“It was concerning to see that so many people were distressed,” he said, though all of the employees complied.
Ms. Luick of Macy’s near Seattle said that she worked with several vocal opponents of the Covid-19 vaccines and that she anticipated that at least some of her colleagues would resign if they were asked to provide vaccination status or proof of negative tests.
Still, Macy’s was among major employers that started asking employees for their vaccination status last week ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on Friday and said it might require proof of negative tests beginning on Feb. 16.
“Our primary focus at this stage is preparing our members for an eventual mandate to ensure they have the information and tools they need to manage their work force and meet the needs of their customers,” said Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which includes companies like Macy’s, Target, Home Depot, Gap and Walmart.
As seasonal Covid-19 surges become the norm, unions and companies are looking for consistent policies. Jim Araby, director of strategic campaigns for the food and commercial workers union in Northern California, said the retail industry needed to put in place more sustainable supports for workers who got ill.
For example, he said, a trust fund jointly administered by the union and several employers could no longer offer Covid-related sick days for union members.
“We have to start treating this as endemic,” Mr. Araby said. “And figuring out what are the structural issues we have to put forward to deal with this.”