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    Published on: April 1, 2022

    APRIL 1, 2022 - Published reports say that there seems to be a coordinated campaign on social media to ban Russian dressing from US shores.

    On numerous platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, users have been saying that ridding US stores and kitchens of Russian dressing would be an effective way of demonstrating national antipathy to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and express solidarity with the Ukrainian people.

    The movement seems to be led by the same people arguing that trucker convoys trying to snarl Washington, DC, traffic to protest pandemic-related mask mandates were effective, even though they started the protest after most mask mandates had been ended.  Some people also have suggested that this is the "Freedom Fries" protest for a new generation.

    A small minority of people have taken to social media to protest the protest, pointing out that Russian dressing actually was invented in New Hampshire, and that its national popularity has waned in recent years in favor of Thousand Island dressing.

    But those points don't appear to be persuading the larger group, which has used social media to say it embraces the term "uninformed mob," and doesn't care that stories about the proposed ban are being circulated on April 1.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    Scott Galloway the other day advanced the somewhat radical notion that the most important money businesses will spend this year won't be on computer systems, supply chain or real estate.  Rather, it'll be on people, many of them recruited from universities and colleges.  And that's where I thought he threw an interesting wrinkle into the traditional recruitment process.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    The latest report from Reuters this morning says that workers at an Amazon warehouse facility in New York City appear to have voted in unionization, while in Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse workers have rejected unionization.

    In New York, the story says, 57 percent of the vote was pro-union.  In Alabama, 53 percent of workers rejected the union.

    Reuters writes that "the Alabama contest could hinge on 416 challenged ballots to be adjudicated in the coming weeks, which are sufficient to change the result, said the U.S. National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is overseeing the election. The situation is far different from last year when workers sided with Amazon by a more than 2-to-1 margin against unionizing.

    "If final results show either location voted for a union, it would be a historic first for the retailing giant in the United States and a milestone for labor advocates, who for years have considered Amazon's labor practices a threat to workers."

    Final vote tallies are scheduled for today, the story says.

    The Washington Post writes:  "The vote in Bessemer, organized by the national RWDSU, is a redo election after the first attempt was overturned last year when federal regulators ruled that Amazon had improperly interfered. The union faced an uphill battle in the region, where jobs at Amazon are still among the best-paying in the industry. But it already had a more favorable outcome for the union than last year, when the vote count swung more than 2-to-1 against unionizing."

    KC's View:

    I think it is important to point out here, in the interest of transparency, that on March 24 I wrote:

    If I had to bet, it would be on a split decision - Amazon could lose in New York and win in Alabama.  But, to be honest, that's just a guess.

    Just a guess … but a wrong one.  It seems to have turned out exactly the opposite, though at least I seem to have gotten the spit-decision part right.

    I think the expectation is that however the final vote tallies turn out, they'll be challenged in the courts.  The stories last night, before I went to bed, were that the two votes were too close to call.  

    But I continue to believe that Amazon is prioritizing the wrong thing, that it ought to be putting its today-is-day-one mentality behind an effort to redefine the management-labor relationship in a way that addresses the issues being raised by workers.  In ways that seem uncharacteristic for Amazon, the company seems to be fighting yesterday's wars when it comes to labor issues, rather than defining the future.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    Just as a matter of context, since we talk about labor ages all the time here on MNB, it might be worth looking at an interactive Oxfam map posted by Axios, which looks at the US states with the highest - and lowest - percentage of workers making under $15 an hour.

    Spoiler alert:  Mississippi has the highest percentage of workers - 45 percent  - making under $15 an hour.

    Washington State has the lowest percentage - 14 percent - making under $15 an hour.  (Washington, DC - not yet a state - comes in at nine percent.)

    You can see and interact with the map here.

    KC's View:

    I'm not arguing for a national minimum wage of $15 here … but I do think this map could serve as an indicator of where worker discontent could be highest.

    On the other hand, maybe not … since New York, where just 25 percent of workers are making under $15 an hour, is where the union movement at Amazon seems to be getting some traction, while Alabama, where 40 percent of workers are making under $15 an hour, is where the union movement is having trouble.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    From NASDAQ, a story about how BJ's Wholesale Club "announced the rollout of Same-Day Select, a membership add-on to BJ’s Same-Day Delivery service. This is an advanced option of an expedited grocery delivery for its members in around two hours. The latest upgrade is designed on the successful testing of the program in the last six months.

    "Members are likely to pay a one-time fee upfront for either unlimited or a certain number of same-day grocery deliveries. They can choose from the two Same-Day Select packages, including Same-Day Select Multipack comprising 12 free deliveries for a year ($55) and Same-Day Select Unlimited consisting of unlimited free deliveries for a year-long period ($100).

    "Here, members can get delivered all the grocery items, including fresh foods and everyday household essentials. Also, members availing Same-Day Select will receive in-club pricing as well as make savings and earn rewards. They have to make a minimum order of $60 to qualify for the Same-Day Select delivery."

    KC's View:

    To the extent that BJ's is successful at marketing this add-on option to its members, this could be a smart move.  Once you've paid the fee, you'd want to use the option to justify the payment.  Use it once, and it is the most expensive shipping fee you've ever paid … use it 100 times, and it is the cheapest.

    It is the Amazon Prime model, and I think it is safe to say that Amazon has made it work.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    Bloomberg reports that "Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s Chief Executive Officer Rosalind Brewer hinted at making a decision on whether to continue selling cigarettes in stores, potentially adding another large retailer to those abandoning the products."

    “It is something that you’ll hear us talk about and make some announcements about in short order,” she said in an interview.

    Walgreens' chief rival, CVS, stopped selling tobacco in 2014 as it started laying the foundation for a stronger positioning in the healthcare business;  Walmart has just announced its plans to stop selling tobacco in some of its stores.

    The story notes that "cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability and death in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accounting for more than 480,000 annual deaths."  In addition, retailers are facing the fact that tobacco is a category in decline that requires far more attention that its volume and profit would seem to warrant.

    KC's View:

    Good.

    We may not be able to completely ban the sale of a product that remains legal, but we can make it rare and expensive … which makes sense because a) it is engineered to addict and kill people, and b) the people dealing with its effects continue to put a stress on the healthcare system.

    I recognize and acknowledge my bias here.  For newer MNB readers, I have long conceded that I have no patience with those who peddle tobacco, and that I think there is a special circle of hell reserved for them.  My mom was a two-pack-a-day smoker for close to four decades, who struggled for years to quit.  She finally did, but too late - she was diagnosed with lung cancer that metastasized to her brain.  She was tough, and fought it for four years, but died on March 2, 1998, at the age of 67.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    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 81,780,503 total cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, resulting in 1,007,320 deaths and 65,236,840 reported recoveries.

    Globally, there have been 488,810,679 total cases, with 6,168,172 resultant fatalities and 423,920,807 reported recoveries.   (Source.)



    •  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that 77 percent of the total US population has received at least one dose of vaccine … 65.6 percent are fully vaccinated … and 44.9 percent have received a vaccine booster dose.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    •  From The Verge:

    "Schlage’s Encode Plus is one of the first smart locks to support Apple’s Home Key.

    Smart locks have allowed us to ditch the keys and unlock our front doors via our phones for years. But while smart locks can be quite convenient, especially if they have pin pads or fingerprint scanners, using your phone to unlock the door can be as cumbersome as fumbling for the right key in the dark. You have to pull out your phone, unlock it, find the right app, tap the unlock button, and wait for the lock to respond.

    "Schlage’s new $299.99 Encode Plus, which was announced earlier this year and is now available for purchase, simplifies that greatly. As one of the first smart locks to take advantage of Apple’s Home Key standard announced at WWDC 2021, unlocking the Encode Plus is as simple as tapping your phone or watch against the keypad and waiting a moment for the green light. You don’t have to open an app, tap a button, or even unlock your phone. The whole process is similar to, but even simpler than, buying something with Apple Pay."

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    With brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

    •  From the Wall Street Journal:

    "U.S. job growth continued at a robust pace in March while the unemployment rate fell, as the Covid-19 pandemic’s grip on the labor market recedes and more workers return to the labor force.

    "Employers added 431,000 jobs in March, and employment in January and February combined was 95,000 higher than previously reported, the Labor Department said Friday. The report marked the 11th straight month of job gains above 400,000, the longest such stretch of growth in records dating back to 1939.

    "The unemployment rate fell to 3.6% in March from 3.8% a month earlier, quickly approaching the February 2020 prepandemic rate of 3.5%, a 50-year low."

    The Journal writes that "new applications for U.S. unemployment benefits rose slightly last week, indicating a strong labor market in which employers are holding on to their workers amid high demand.

    "Initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, rose by 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 202,000 last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, up from the week before when they reached a revised 188,000, matching the lowest level in more than 52 years reached back in December. The four-week moving average, which smooths out volatility, decreased to 208,500 from a revised 212,000."



    •  Business Insider reports that "eating two or more servings of avocado weekly was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, and substituting avocado for certain fat-containing foods like butter, cheese or processed meats was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease events, according to new research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association, an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association.

    "Avocados contain dietary fiber, unsaturated fats especially monounsaturated fat (healthy fats) and other favorable components that have been associated with good cardiovascular health. Clinical trials have previously found avocados have a positive impact on cardiovascular risk factors including high cholesterol.

    "Researchers believe this is the first, large, prospective study to support the positive association between higher avocado consumption and lower cardiovascular events, such as coronary heart disease and stroke."

    Sounds like the best argument for guacamole that I can imagine …

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    •  Big Y Foods Inc. announced that Sarah Steven, the company's senior director of marketing, has been promoted to vice president of marketing.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    On the subject of worker wages, one MNB reader wrote:

    KC,  I wrote a letter to you recently about how the company I work for gives an annual wage adjustment that doesn't even cover the average annual inflation rate of just over two percent.  This year my coworkers and I believed we would see an increase in the wage adjustment due to skyrocketing fuel and food prices and inflation being close to eight percent.  Employees here are most definitely viewed as an expense for the bottom line as this year's adjustment did not increase.

    My decision now is where to allocate that extra $16 (before taxes) into my budget.  Oh wait!  I can use that increase to buy an extra three gallons of gasoline.  Thank you for valuing us so much.  Gives credence to Tennessee Ernie Ford's song "Sixteen Tons."

    Your other decision should be where to send your résumé.



    On the related subject of whether current economic realities will allow some businesses to actually pay workers less, one MNB reader wrote:

    From what I can see, if anyone is desperate, it’s the retail and food service companies.  I continue to see help wanted signs posted in many stores.  My daughter works at Applebee’s and reports that they are continuously understaffed because they can’t hire enough workers.  The individuals that they do hire are allowed to have very poor work ethic (showing up late, standing around looking at their phones, etc.) because management isn’t in a position to fire people and be down additional headcount.  My daughter took advantage of this and texted (yes texted) her store’s District Manager to ask for a $2/hour raise.  Within 5 minutes, he replied back “You got it”.  Companies need to focus more on retention and saving money in the long-run, rather than the short-term.



    Got the following email from MNB reader Dale Tillotson:

    While the MNB Covid updates have shrunken in size and info lately, the virus is again on the rise. I live 70 miles from the Quebec border and follow Quebec closely because often what happens in Quebec happens in the Northeast United States. Quebec has announced they are now in the 6th wave of Covid and do not plan to again shut down like they have in the past and are encouraging all to evaluate your own personal situation and to remain alert to your  surroundings.

    The interim public health minister of Quebec indicates cases are rising rapidly, medical personnel are again under the gun with a great many out of service due to infection.

    Real scary part is that they estimate with so much at home testing and so less professional testing that there alarmingly climbing rate is probably 10 times the announced daily number of positive tests. Be careful out there this weekend, be aware of your location have a mask ready and please give retail workers 6 social feet of distancing as well as others you are around. Somebody said it aint over till its over and I say it aint over. Be smart be safe.

    I'm with you.



    Yesterday I wrote:

    There's a line quoted in "The Godfather" that goes, "Behind every great fortune there is a crime."

    MNB reader Bob Thomas wrote:

    “Behind every great fortune there is a crime” actually was the epigraph of “The Godfather” and Mario Puzo attributed the quote to Balzac.

    Published on: April 1, 2022

    I did something yesterday that I haven't done for something like 25 years - I spent the day alone with a 6-month old.

    The baby in question is our great-niece, and the parents had a one-day babysitting emergency.  Mrs. Content Guy originally was going to do it, but then she accepted a substitute teaching gig;  I volunteered to take her place.  How hard could it be?

    Well, it wasn't hard … but it was exhausting.  She is a really good baby, but I forgot the degree to which babies need constant entertainment.  We discovered that she likes both the Dixie Chicks and Jimmy Buffett, but man, she wore me out.  I figured out how to put on one of those baby carriers, and we went for a long walk … but she slept through it, and I needed a nap when we got back.

    It was lots of fun, but last night, I hit the sack at 9 pm.  I think I was asleep by 9:02 pm. And overslept this morning.

    If the time ever comes that I become a grandfather, I'm going to have to go into training.  And maybe carbo-load.



    The other day I made a fresh bolognese sauce, which is one of my favorite things to make - not only does it taste great, but the aromas waft through the house for hours.  It was, if I do say so myself, fabulous … and made even more so by the wine I served with it.

    We had a bottle of 2015 Bonacchi Chianti Riserva … which complemented the dish perfectly.  Rich and tasty and mouth-filling.  And cheap.

    Squisito!



    That's it for this week.  Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.

    Sláinte!!