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    Published on: March 18, 2021

    by Kevin Coupe

    Axios has a story about an enormous change that has taken place during the year of the pandemic, which amounts to the erasure of "decades of workplace progress."

    "In February 2020, right before the start of the pandemic, American women outnumbered men in the labor market," Axios writes.  "Since then, more than 2 million women have dropped out of the workforce, compared with 1.7 million men."

    What's happened, the story says, is that "many women who dropped out of the labor force are mothers, who in general take on a disproportionate portion of child care and household responsibilities.  Once the pandemic hit and children were sent home from school, many left their jobs to manage the chaos at home."

    Even as in-school learning returns, the story suggests, many of these women may have trouble returning to the workforce, and when they do, "their salary offers are on average 7% lower than those of other candidates who haven't interrupted their careers, according to compensation analysis company PayScale."

    The story argues that "this sort of labor force shrinkage is bad news for the U.S. economy, and bringing women back to work - rapidly - will be essential for the post-pandemic recovery."

    It also seems to me that for companies looking to - in the words of new Starbucks chairwoman Mellody Hobson - "slingshot out" of the pandemic, the good news is that these women represent an enormous talent pool from which many organizations can benefit.

    If they choose to.  

    The results could be an Eye-Opener.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    From Bloomberg:

    "A year of Covid-19 has dramatically accelerated the transformation of big-box stores into e-commerce warehouses, causing ripple effects for hourly workers and a struggling real estate sector.

    "Shopping center mainstays Walmart Inc., Best Buy Co. and others are becoming fulfillment centers where workers assemble local deliveries and socially distanced consumers wait in parking spaces for their trunks to be filled. Space once devoted to t-shirts and TVs will now be used to pick and pack online orders or generate revenue by displaying ads for big brands like Samsung.

    "There’s no going back because consumers have embraced the web like never before during the pandemic. Stores will be smaller and integrated with digital operations, or risk becoming irrelevant."

    And now, Bloomberg writes, "as the pandemic recedes, spending will shift back to dining out, travel and other leisure experiences - putting more pressure on chains to keep making shopping easier to meet these new consumer expectations. This next phase of retail could be as agonizing for the industry as the initial boom in e-commerce more than a decade ago that wiped out lots of companies. Much like then, chains that don’t evolve quickly, or have the resources to do so, will struggle to survive."

    You can read the entire story here.

    KC's View:

    There is no question that the big guys have had the resources to adapt to the pandemic world to a degree that a lot of other companies have not been able and there's every reason to believe that many of them will be able to adapt to the after-times as well.

    The  challenge, it seems to me, will be remaining customer-centric in a way that does not put process first … it will be critically important to keep focusing relentlessly on ever-evolving customer desires and to stay connected to them in intimate ways.

    "Fulfillment" ought to be the keyword - in all its permutations.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    The National Grocers Association (NGA) has released a white paper arguing that "big box stores and e-commerce giants have used their influence during the pandemic to further disadvantage independent grocery stores and the communities they serve through economic discrimination.

    Here's how NGA frames the issue:

    "NGA represents more than 1,600 independent grocery retailers who account for nearly 9,000 store fronts across the country, including at least one in every congressional district. These stores and their independent wholesalers play a crucial role in American communities. They compete to offer low prices, higher food quality, better service, more accessible and convenient locations, a greater variety of products, and good jobs. 

    "But independent grocers have watched over the years as dominant chains ignore antitrust law and abuse their buyer power to demand suppliers provide lower prices and more favorable supply terms, special package offerings and product availability, leaving independent grocers to pay the price. 

    "In light of the pandemic’s supply chain disruption, NGA members are feeling the heat more than ever. Walmart alone captures one out of every four dollars Americans spend on groceries. Meanwhile, independent grocers are unable to secure many of the must-have products and face supplier prices up to 53 percent higher than what their larger competitors are selling the product for at retail.

    "This isn’t just bad for independent grocers; it’s bad for their customers, who are often people of color and people living in rural areas who are forced to pay higher prices or travel farther distances to get the staples they need. From 2005 to 2015, the number of independent grocery stores available in rural and minority communities has increased, while access to big chain stores has decreased. "

    "Congress has to stand up for local businesses and consumers to demand an end to these harmful tactics and restore a competitive marketplace that benefits the economy and grocery shoppers alike," argues  Greg Ferrara, NGA's president-CEO.

    NGA is calling for congressional investigations and hearings that would "shine a bright light on anticompetitive practices in the grocery sector - with a particular focus on the discriminatory impacts on rural and urban consumers, producers, and businesses …  Congress should use its inherent oversight and authorization powers to hold antitrust enforcers accountable if they continue to fail to take steps to check retail buyer power and its harmful effects … The antitrust laws provide the tools enforcers need to curb discriminatory practices by dominant retail chains. However, if existing court decisions prove too high a bar to more vigorous enforcement, then Congress should step in to restore the original purposes of the antitrust laws. "

    NGA goes on:  "The FTC, DOJ, and state attorneys general should investigate the arrangements between grocery power buyers and suppliers to determine the extent to which dominant retailer bargaining leverage is imposing discriminatory prices, terms, and supply on independent grocers."

    KC's View:

    If indeed the big box stores have been ignoring and violating antitrust law, then there ought to be enforcement.  But, not being a lawyer, I'm not sure where being able to get better prices and availability through higher volume ends and antitrust begins.

    But … I do find myself wondering how many independent grocers are as hampered as much by lack of vision as by lack of size and resources.  There are a lot of independent grocers that have risen to the occasion during the past year, innovating as never before and charting a new path for themselves that builds on traditional strengths and embraces customers' behavioral shifts.  But there are also some that have not - that yearn for days gone by and a return to the way things were.

    Things never will be as they were.  There is no backward … only forward … on the retailing vehicles that will succeed in the future.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    Bloomberg reports that Visa and Mastercard have agreed to postpone a planned April 2021 increase in "swipe fees" to April 2022.

    Bloomberg reports that "retailers have been asking both networks in recent months to delay hikes in so-called interchange fees, hoping to avoid a jump in costs for accepting cards at a time when consumers are especially reliant on online shopping. The companies’ plans have drawn attention from Senator Dick Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who previously helped limit fees on debit-card transactions."

    The story says that "the networks’ decision was welcomed by the Merchants Payments Coalition - which represents retailers, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and e-commerce providers - but the group still called on Congress and enforcement agencies to investigate the way the two networks set their fees."

    FMI–The Food Industry Association  applauded the decision.

    “At a time when our economy is struggling to recover from the harsh impacts of the pandemic and businesses are fighting to keep their doors open, stores clean and associates safe, major credit card companies made the right decision to call off these harmful and unwarranted fee hikes," said Leslie Sarasin, FMI's president-CEO.  "FMI commends their announcement and hopes Visa and Mastercard decide to make this postponement permanent. We remain committed to advocating for reforms in the credit card market that will bring true competition and transparency to the payments space.” 

    KC's View:

    Yeah, will, as much as I admire Leslie's optimism, I'm guessing that there will be swipe fee increases as soon as Mastercard and Visa think they can get away with them.

    And, if the economy booms in the second half of this year and the first half of next year, as many people expect, we can expect Vis and Mastercard to want to dip their beaks even more.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    The Seattle Times reports that "Amazon will begin offering Amazon Care, a health care service it launched last year as a pilot program for its own Seattle-area employees, to other Washington state employers, the company announced Wednesday. By summer, Amazon Care will expand to Amazon workers and other private employers nationwide.

    "Amazon Care incorporates a telehealth app, prescription delivery and the option to schedule a visit with a physician at patients’ homes and offices. Users pay for consultations and medications via"

    The Times points out that "Amazon has long eyed the $3.8 trillion medical sector, in part to reduce health care costs for its own workforce, which numbers nearly 800,000 in the United States. But entering the lucrative sector, which some say is overdue for digital transformation, could also pay major dividends for Amazon, which has a history of upending established industries."  At the same time, "consumer demand for telehealth options has strengthened since the start of the pandemic. The ballooning popularity of virtual consultations has ushered in a series of recent mergers, acquisitions and new product rollouts in the on-demand health care sector."

    KC's View:

    Once again, Amazon seems perfectly positioned for this moment … it has tested and invested in a number of healthcare initiatives, looking to see what works best and is most disruptive.

    For the moment, at least, it seems to have an answer.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    In Canada, Empire Company Ltd. - parent to Sobeys, Foodland, FreshCo and Farm Boy - said this week that it is acquiring 51 percent of specialty grocery chain Longo's and its Grocery gateway e-commerce business.

    The cost of the acquisition was the equivalent of $287 million (US).

    The deal gives Empire the right to purchase the rest of Longo's at a future date.

    The CBC writes that "Empire Company Ltd. said the deal adds two high-quality banners to its business and helps it grow in Ontario. Empire said Longo's will be able to benefit from its infrastructure and capabilities in areas such as sourcing, logistics and real estate."

    In a message to suppliers, Michael Medline, Empire's president/CEO, and Anthony Longo, president/CEO of Longo’s, said that Longo's would "continue to be family-run, operating independently of Empire’s other businesses, much like Farm Boy …  Longo’s and Grocery Gateway guests will not experience any changes and will receive the same high-quality experience, exceptional private-label offering and e-commerce services they know and love … We are focused on growth and bringing the Longo’s and Grocery Gateway experience to even more Canadian families. We will be opening new stores, creating opportunities for our teams, and continuing to innovate on how we serve our customers and communities."

    KC's View:

    Longo's is a terrific retailer, and I hope that promises made will be promises kept - that the culture remains intact and it has the ability to continue offering a differentiated level of service and product.

    No surprise that Empire would want Grocery gateway, by the way - it is one of the best proprietary e-grocery systems out there.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    "U.S. retailers and manufacturers slumped in February due to winter storms and supply-chain disruptions, but a broader economic rebound appears poised to accelerate this spring because of the easing pandemic and another round of government stimulus.

    "Retail sales - a measure of purchases at stores, at restaurants and online - fell by 3% in February compared with the prior month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday. The decline followed robust January sales that were propelled by stimulus payments to households from the December pandemic-relief package.

    "January sales advanced a revised 7.6%, up from the earlier estimate of a 5.3% increase."

    February's retail sales were hit by a double whammy - not only is the month generally a soft one for retail sales, but severe winter storms in much of the country created significant problems for many retailers.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    Random and illustrative stories about the global pandemic and how businesses and various business sectors are trying to recover from it, with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  In the United States, there now have been 30,294,798 confirmed cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 550,649 deaths, and 22,447,275 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 121,914,549 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,694,637 resultant fatalities, and 98,255,283 reported recoveries. (Source.)

    •  The Washington Post reports that "at least 73.7 million people have received one or both doses of the vaccine in the U.S.  This includes more than 38.2 million people who have been fully vaccinated … 147.6 million doses have been distributed."

    "Newly reported U.S. coronavirus cases and deaths continue to broadly decline, if more slowly, from a deadly fall surge. But the metrics remain elevated, with the seven-day average of new cases near 55,000, and several states starting to see a slight uptick in infections.

    "Vaccinations, meanwhile, are increasing, with 15.1% of the adult population now fully vaccinated against Covid-19. As the effort gains pace, officials are ramping up strategies for getting doses to hard-to-reach populations. Mobile clinics and veterans are delivering shots from Appalachia to Southwest deserts."

    •  From the New York Times:

    "As Americans celebrate a slowing spread of the coronavirus, including in many former hot spots in the South and Midwest, trends in the Northeast have experts and public officials on edge.

    "In New York and New Jersey, new cases per capita are at least double the national average. New cases rates are raising concern in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut. And as of last week, a virus variant that was first detected in New York City recently made up a growing proportion of new cases there."

    The Times goes on:  "Although the rate of new cases is either plateauing or increasing in several Northeastern states, public officials are moving ahead with plans to ease restrictions.

    "Starting on Friday, Rhode Island will allow restaurants to serve at 75 percent occupancy, up from 25 percent. Indoor dining in New Jersey and New York City will go to 50 percent capacity that day. Outside New York City, indoor dining across the state can expand on Friday as well, to 75 percent, from 50 percent."

    •  Axios elaborates on the numbers:

    "The U.S. is now adding about 55,000 new cases per day.

    "The pace of new infections got better over the past week in 13 states, got worse in another 13, and held steady everywhere else.

    "Michigan saw the biggest jump in new cases, at 53%.

    "The biggest improvements came in Alabama, Arizona, California and Georgia, each of which saw a decline of over 30% in new cases per day.

    "Nationwide, that averaged out to a 5% drop from the week before."

    Axios goes on:  "Containing the spread more tightly in the meantime would help minimize the threat posed by variants of the virus, which likely will keep circulating for years, causing new flare-ups and in some cases requiring vaccine booster shots.  But as long as Americans keep getting vaccinated in large numbers, the end of the pandemic, as we’ve experienced it over the past year, is well within reach."

    •  From the Financial Times:

    "The rapid rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across the US is starting to work, according to a Financial Times analysis of official data that shows the number of deaths and hospital admissions are falling more quickly among older people than in the wider population.

    "The US has overseen one of the fastest vaccination programmes in the world, administering more doses than any other country and vaccinating a large proportion of its population. Older people and those in nursing homes were first in line for vaccinations, resulting in a rapid decline in Covid-19 hospitalisations and deaths among these groups in the past few weeks. The declines in these groups has been faster than in the rest of the population, which has also seen a broad-based reduction since the winter peak.

    "Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said: 'Vaccines are already saving thousands of lives in the United States. Rapid declines in the number and proportion of deaths among nursing home residents are the direct result of vaccines saving lives'."

    •  The Washington Post reports that a new Danish study suggests that while unvaccinated people who get Covid-19 seem to be protected from reinfection for at least 12 months, that immunity may be significantly less the older you get.

    The story says that "researchers found that natural infection reduced the chances of getting the virus again by about 80 percent, but offered just 47 percent protection against repeat infection among those over 65."

    British immunologists commenting on the study tell the Post that the results illustrate why natural/herd immunity may not be achievable, and why an effective global vaccination program is, quite literally, the best medicine.

    And, of course, while vaccination programs roll out, continued emphasis on responsible behavior - physical distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing.

    •  The New York Times reports that Moderna, which created one of ther vaccine programs being implemented around the country, "has begun a study that will test its COVID vaccine in children younger than 12, including babies as young as 6 months."

    And, the story says, "in a separate study, Moderna is testing its vaccine in 3,000 children ages 12-17.  Many parents want protection for their children, and vaccinating children should help to produce the herd immunity considered crucial to stopping the pandemic. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for expansion of vaccine trials to include children."

    •  The New York Times reports that Walmart has "signed on to an international effort to provide standardized digital vaccination credentials to people. The company joins a push already backed by major health centers and tech companies including Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, Cerner, Epic Systems, the Mitre Corporation and the Mayo Clinic."

    These credentials will allow people "to verify their vaccination status at airports, schools and other locations using a health passport app on their smartphones."

    “Walmart is the first huge-scale administrator of vaccines that is committing to giving people a secure, verifiable record of their vaccinations,” Paul Meyer, CEO of the Commons Project Foundation, a nonprofit in Geneva that has developed health passport apps, tells the Times.  “We think many others will follow.”

    •  From the BBC:

    "A digital certificate to kick-start foreign travel should be given to citizens across the EU "without discrimination", officials say.

    "The aim is to enable anyone vaccinated against Covid-19, or who has tested negative or recently recovered from the virus to travel within the EU.

    "The 27 member states will decide how to use the new digital certificate."

    And, the BBC writes, "Ahead of the EU's announcement, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that it was working to 'create an international trusted framework' for safe travel, but that vaccinations should not be a condition."

    •  The Wall Street Journal has a story this morning about how H-E-B has been "caught in the middle" of the "mask divide" in Texas, hung out to dry by Gov. Greg Abbot's decision to lift a statewide mask mandate and leave it up to people whether to wear them or not as he opened up the state "100 percent," allowing businesses to operate in pre-pandemic fashion.

    H-E-B President Scott McClelland said that the decision "stripped stores of the 'backstop' that the threat of a fine provided."  When the change in state policy was first announced, H-E-B dithered uncharacteristically - it first said it would not require masks in its stores, then said it would but would not enforce the rule because of concerns that this approach would escalate confrontations between customers and employees.

    The Journal writes that "H-E-B said it expects shoppers to continue wearing masks in its stores and that it has increased security at many of its locations. 'The ending of mask ordinances puts real pressure on retailers to enforce an emotional policy for many and we will not ask our Partners to put themselves in harm’s way,” the company said in a written statement."

    The "middle" in which H-E-B finds itself is not a comfortable place to be.  Many retailers operating stores in Texas said immediately that they would continue to enforce a mask mandate, no matter what the state government says.  But, at the same time, many businesses - especially in the restaurant business - cheered the change.

    As all this has happened, the Journal writes, H-E-B saw its image tarnished, as customers who were concerned about their health were put off by the dithering.

    It is a measure of exactly how divisive mask mandates continue to be that a retailer as surefooted as H-E-B finds itself at odds with some customers.  The shame of it is that public health experts seem fairly unanimous in their belief that just a few more months of conscientious mask wearing will be an enormous factor in arresting the pandemic, and Texas has decided that there are other, more important priorities.

    • The Boston Globe reports that "public-facing workers such as grocery store employees and transit and sanitation workers, as well as residents aged 60 and over, will be eligible to book COVID-19 vaccination appointments starting Monday in Massachusetts, and the general public aged 16 and older will be eligible starting April 19, officials said Wednesday … Under the timeline, essential workers and residents 60-plus who become eligible Monday will be followed by people aged 55 and over and those with one comorbidity, who are slated for eligibility April 5. Then the rest of the 16 and over public gains access starting April 19, at which point officials estimate 2.5 million people will be newly eligible."

    •  SaveMart Companies this week marked the one-year anniversary of its recognition and compensation of "its frontline store and distribution center employees with weekly hazard pay and other COVID-19 related benefits without interruption, continuing its 'Employees First' commitment and prioritizing their safety and well-being.

    "Starting in March 2020, The Save Mart Companies began providing weekly hazard pay for all hourly frontline employees across all three banners – Lucky/Lucky California, FoodMaxx and Save Mart -- and at their distribution centers, encompassing approximately 16,000 workers in California and Northern Nevada.  It is the only grocery chain that has provided uninterrupted hazard pay and other COVID-19 related benefits since the pandemic onset. "

    Which is why government-mandated hazard pay is both a bad idea and unnecessary - companies like Save Mart can differentiate themselves and distinguish themselves through the treatment of employees … and, at the same time, Save Mart ought not be forced to offer even more hazard pay when it already has been doing so.

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Boston Globe has a story about how, "in an ever-escalating race to get packages to your door faster, Amazon is opening shipping centers at a rapid clip in suburban towns all over Greater Boston — more rapidly, in fact, than those towns can figure out how to regulate them.

    "Now some of those suburbs are joining forces, trying to devise a regional approach to managing traffic and other issues related to all these warehouses, and to make sense of a segment of the retail industry that has grown rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic and shows no signs of slowing."

    Amazon's presence is significant:  20 warehouses in Massachusetts, 10 of them opened since January 2020, and 14 more in planning stages.  Before long, Amazon will have more than twelve million square feet of space just in Massachusetts.

    "Even at its current size, neighbors say, traffic generated by the busy warehouse clogs nearby streets with hundreds of vehicles a day," the Globe writes.  "Residents are often roused from their sleep in the wee hours by the rumble of 16-wheelers. Some residents are pressuring the planning board to rein in Amazon’s expansion plans, and the project has been stalled for months as the debate continues."

    The problem, the Globe points out, is that there is an inherent conflict - people don't want all the trucks, but they want fast deliveries.  These are the choices with which many towns and their residents will find themselves wrestling in coming months and years.

    •  CNBC writes that "Amazon has surpassed Walmart as the No. 1 apparel retailer in the U.S. thanks in large part to the pandemic-fueled e-commerce boom, according to Wells Fargo research released Wednesday.

    "Wells Fargo estimates that Amazon’s apparel and footwear sales in the U.S. grew by roughly 15% in 2020 to more than $41 billion, which is 20% to 25% above rival Walmart."

    The story notes that "for years, Wall Street analysts have predicted Amazon will leapfrog Walmart to claim the top spot in the U.S. apparel market. Amazon found early success by offering a wide range of basics, but it has since expanded its fashion business. It now features a growing slate of name brands. The company also launched online luxury fashion shops last fall."

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that "two employees were killed at a Roundy's warehouse in Oconomowoc Tuesday night, while the suspect is also dead after a crash in Milwaukee Wednesday morning.

    "Police have so far released a basic timeline of events, but it is still unclear what exactly happened inside the warehouse and who was involved. Police have not confirmed that the incident was a shooting, though city officials and others have referred to it that way."

    The story says that the "victims were 'normal working people trying to make a living'  The two men killed inside Roundy's Distribution Center in Oconomowoc were Kevin Kloth, 50, of Germantown, and Kevin W. Schneider, 39, of West Allis.  They had worked there for at least 20 years, according to a union official."

    •  From the Washington Post:

    "Cigarette use in a number of developing countries may fall to zero in the next three decades as smokers quit or switch to alternative products, according to a new report.

    "Smoking will disappear by 2050 from the U.S., parts of Europe, Australia and large chunks of Latin America if the declining trend seen in the last decades continues, Adam Spielman, analyst at Citigroup, wrote in a note published Tuesday."

    Of course, the problem is that this trend means that the purveyors of addiction and death will invest even more time and money in smoking alternatives … we can only hope that next generations are smart enough not to take the lures and fall for the lies.  (Not that I feel strongly about this stuff…)

    Published on: March 18, 2021

    We had a piece the other day about Amazon underwriting a survey saying that a majority of Americans support an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour;  eight in ten Americans (80%) said the federal minimum wage is too low. This consensus was seen across all genders, generations, education levels, races, income levels, and regions of the country.

    I commented:

    Commissioning this survey is a little self-serving, since not only is Amazon already doing it, but it can afford to do it.  Forcing much smaller competitors with far fewer resources to do the same could have the effect of putting them in a very difficult, potentially untenable position.

    I do think that $7.25 an hour is absurd anywhere in America, but I'm more intrigued by an increase that might go to $11 or $12 an hour, and then maybe index future increases to things like consume prices and maybe other relevant statistics.

    One MNB reader responded:

    I think that this is self-serving of Amazon.  Somewhere in a back room they say, “Hey, let’s do a survey showing how American’s support $15per hr mw.”  Then publish the vast majority favorability.  Then let’s push that agenda politically and all of a sudden, Amazon is more competitive and has forced out some competition in the interim. 

    To be fair, this hardly makes Amazon unique in the business community.

    Another MNB reader wrote:

    What we have known since 1776 and Smith’s writing of Wealth of Nations is that at the end of the day, market forces prevail.

    And to your point, market forces vary by industry, size of company, geography, etc.  That is why centralized economic policies generally fail.  The downfall of the USSR is the classic case study and proved that blanket dictates were not going to work long term.  That is the Achilles heel of the Democratic Party.  Well intentioned promises that eventually fall flat.

    A centralized economic policy like minimum wages, you mean?  A federal minimum was established in 1938 … and the country seems to have survived to this point.

    And from MNB reader Carla Dieffenbach:

    My view is that raising the minimum wage for all states would be like saying all gas prices, rent, housing etc. should be the same in each state. You really can’t say someone living in Oklahoma should have to pay the same wages as someone in California. It’s a great way to put small businesses out of business.

    From MNB reader Terry Marshall:

    Definitely agree with you.  $7.25 is way to low and we all want people to earn more and have a better life.  I think some people don’t realize is to what cost will this be at?  Do we expect corporations to just absorb these higher wages, especially since their tax rates are going to go up?  That is a false reality if we think that is going to happen.  A knee jerk or “popular” reaction, is not going to solve the issue.  Developing people to the skills to get those jobs that are paying $15.00 and up, seems to me to be something we should be including in the conversation.  If we don’t, the outcome might cause greater issues to resolve.  Everyone has to work together for a solution.  Just my two cents worth.

    From MNB reader Mark A. Boyer

    It would be illustrative to see how the same respondents might answer the following question:

    What impact do you think raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15.00 would have on the prices you pay for goods?

    There is no free lunch.

    For our company $12.00/hour is where we like to start new team members, but we are having difficulty finding anyone at that wage. Plus, the recently passed stimulus bill does not seem ideally suited to get people back to work. The extended benefits only make it more attractive to collect unemployment for an extended period. We will be closer to $15/hour, with or without legislation, just to find people willing to work.

    Also got a number of emails about Amazon's anti-union efforts in Alabama and elsewhere.

    MNB reader Bob D’Amato wrote:

    Ratifying a union in Alabama will only accelerate the installation and implementation of completely mechanized and automated warehouses by Amazon.  I guess the workers can unionize if they want to but the benefits will be short-lived. And unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for union management and workers in supply chain or manufacturing industries. Most unions will become (are becoming?) dinosaurs-the management and members just can’t see it yet. Artificial Intelligence systems, robots, and autonomous vehicles and warehouse systems, are coming sooner rather than later.

    I don’t have inside information, but you would have to think that Amazon already has a tech group designing a fully autonomous DC. No 6000 workers, their management, associated benefits, sick days, slowdowns, strikes, hiring, training, firing. It all comes down to cost per case…    

    And from another reader:

    I am not a union fan.  I find it interesting that the Times only reports on the push back that Amazon has done over the years.  It is typical of stories like this, that only show one side.  The flip on this is, and what is never reported, is how the unions provide false information, lie about what they can and can not do and basically, in my opinion, deceive workers into thinking that the “Union will provide”.  All while the employer has little to no recourse to dispute their claims because THAT is unlawful.  Unions are losing their power. 

    Government push, for which the unions have poured tons of support to, are now pushing the wages up which reduces the effectiveness of union organizations.  I feel competition is far more beneficial … and provides far greater benefits than any union can.  It is time to stop trying to resurrect Jimmy Hoffa.