The Week in Business: The Fight Over Inflammatory Language
The coronavirus and its economic fallout has been particularly debilitating for black Americans. They have been more likely to fall ill and lose jobs or income since the pandemic began, an ugly disparity that added to the racial strife that boiled over. Here’s what you need to know in business and tech for the week ahead. Stay safe out there.
What’s Up? (May 31-June 6)
Accountability at Facebook
As millions of people flooded streets across the country to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody on May 25, Facebook got caught up in the furor. Hundreds of employees staged a virtual “walkout” after the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, said that the platform would not do anything about inflammatory messages that President Trump had posted about the demonstrators. Then, nearly three dozen former company executives wrote an open letter denouncing Mr. Zuckerberg’s hands-off stance. Facebook’s approach is increasingly different from that of other social media giants. The week before, Twitter added warning labels to some of Mr. Trump’s tweets, stating that they glorified violence and contained misinformation. And Snap said it would no longer promote Mr. Trump’s account.
Speaking of Social Media
As you might recall, Mr. Trump was none too pleased with Twitter’s labels on his recent tweets, and issued an executive order to crack down on social media companies’ control over the content on their platforms. But his move has already been challenged by a technology policy nonprofit group. The Center for Democracy and Technology filed a lawsuit last Tuesday stating that Mr. Trump’s order was retaliatory and violated the right to free speech. Which is funny, because that’s just what Mr. Trump said about Twitter’s treatment of his posts.
The Chicken Conspiracy
Adding to the long list of news to shake your head about this past week: Four chicken company executives were charged with price fixing. Federal investigators allege that several of the country’s largest chicken suppliers, including Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry Farms, conspired to raise the price of chicken meat sold to major supermarkets and restaurant chains, including Chick-fil-A, KFC and Costco. And the Justice Department is still investigating more gruesome accusations that some chicken producers destroyed hens to inflate the value of chicken meat.
What’s Next? (June 7-13)
A Child Care Crisis
As pandemic restrictions ease, more workplaces are reopening, but day care facilities and summer camps can’t keep up with the resulting demand for child care while enforcing social distancing rules. So who will watch children when their parents are summoned back to the office? For parents who have so far managed to juggle child care with working from home, a return to “normalcy” at the workplace could make that balance untenable, and many economists predict that the burden will disproportionately hurt working mothers. Women have already lost their jobs at higher rates than men during the pandemic, and research has shown that the longer they stay out of the work force, the harder it is to get back in.
Is the Worst Over?
Even as another 1.9 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the May jobs report was much better than expected — the economy actually added 2.5 million jobs last month. And surprisingly, the unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent, down from 14.7 percent in April, the worst since World War II. Many analysts were predicting the May unemployment number would go in the other direction (as high as 20 percent). So this is welcome news, and gives hope that the economy could bounce back from the pandemic-induced crisis faster than forecast. Another thing that will help: Congress relaxed rules and timelines for how small businesses can use aid money from the Payroll Protection Program to get back on their feet.
Back on the Fund-Raising Train
The cost of Mr. Trump’s first in-person fund-raiser since the pandemic lockdowns began? $580,600 per couple. The event will be held at a private home in Dallas this coming Thursday, and the 25 or so attendees will be required to test negative for the coronavirus that same day. The Republican National Committee said that Trump Victory, the joint fund-raising committee for the R.N.C., Mr. Trump and 22 state Republican parties, will cover the cost of rapid testing for the event’s guests.
Stores in New York can reopen for curbside pickup this Monday, but for many of them, it’s not a viable business option. Meanwhile, the former president of the United Automobile Workers union, Gary Jones, pleaded guilty to using more than $1 million in union funds for vacation rentals, golf outings, clothing, liquor, fine dining and cigars. On a similar note, a judge has denied Bernie Madoff’s request for early release.
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