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Politicians have been warning Amazon for some time its days of union-busting and exploiting tax loopholes are over in the US. Today, its workers have been having their say.

A postal vote on whether to unionise an Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, where around 6,000 people work, concludes on Monday, with the result expected in the next few days. If the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union reports a majority in favour, it would be a staggering achievement, observers say, making Bessemer the first unionised Amazon facility in the US.

Today’s Big Read points out how a victory for the union would also be symbolic of the leftward shift in American politics in the wake of the pandemic. Within weeks of entering the White House, Joe Biden gave a resoundingly pro-union statement, urging workers to “make your voice heard”.

Line chart tracking the opinion on US labour unions

Jeff Bezos has apparently been telling his executives to make their voices heard as well. Recode reports the Amazon CEO expressed dissatisfaction in recent weeks that company officials weren’t more aggressive in how they pushed back against criticisms of the company that he and other leaders see as inaccurate or misleading.

That has led to a series of tweets targeting politicians such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, prompting her to respond on Friday with a tweet saying: “You bet I’ll fight to make you pay your fair share. And fight your union-busting. And fight to break up Big Tech so you’re not powerful enough to heckle senators with snotty tweets.”

From political lobbying to labour relations, Amazon appears to have a major fight on its hands.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. Deliveroo IPO hopes bottom out
Deliveroo will price its highly anticipated initial public offering towards the bottom of its intended range because of what it called “volatile” market conditions, despite seeing “very significant demand” from investors. Last week, a backlash erupted among some of the UK’s largest asset managers over Deliveroo’s business model, working practices and regulatory risk. In Asia, tech groups have raised record funds from equity markets in the first quarter.

2. Cazoo’s Spac listing, Uber’s electric choice
Cazoo, the UK-based online retailer of used cars, is set to go public in the US at an $8.1bn valuation, in the latest blank-cheque deal targeting high-growth companies. Meanwhile, Uber passengers in central London can now request a driver with an all-electric vehicle, as part of the company’s mission to become a “fully zero-emission platform” by 2040.

3. Facebook’s Indonesian connections
Facebook will lay two submarine cables connecting the US with Indonesia for the first time as the Silicon Valley group boosts its focus on the world’s fastest-growing population of smartphone users. Google will also own a stake in the project.

4. Groq’s crock of gold
Semiconductor start-up Groq is in talks with investors about a $300m funding round that would make it one of the most well-capitalised challengers to specialised artificial intelligence chipmakers such as Nvidia. Meanwhile, the current chip shortage has brought home to automakers the vulnerability of their supply chain.

Chart showing that automotive accounts for a small proportion of chips sales

5. Ransomware ‘spiralling out of control’
The UK government has been urged to stop criminals from carrying out malicious software attacks with “impunity” after research revealed that hacks using a new and aggressive form of ransomware increased 200 per cent last year. Meanwhile, the Bank of England’s governor has joined calls for the government to take a tougher stand against big technology companies putting consumers at risk by hosting scam financial promotions on their online services.

Tech week ahead

Tuesday: Demand for computers and cloud computing equipment is expected to drive up net profits for Apple supplier Foxconn when it reports annual earnings. Since the start of the pandemic, working from home equipment has offset sluggish smartphone sales for the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer. The expected boost to profitability “reflects a reorientation towards higher-margin component business and a reduced weight of our traditional final assembly business,” said Liu Young-way, Foxconn’s chair. Automotive-focused Japanese chipmaker Renesas Electronics will update on the outlook for reopening its factory in Hitachinaka where it was forced to halt production after a fire. The company has said production may take up to a month to resume, adding fresh concerns over a global chip crunch affecting carmakers. Cisco will hold its Cisco Live event, taking place virtually today and Wednesday.

Wednesday: Memory chipmaker Micron Technology will report earnings for its second quarter after the market close. Compass, the real estate brokerage backed by SoftBank, is pricing its IPO on Wednesday and listing on Thursday. China's embattled Huawei will host a media event to share its 2020 earnings performance.

Tech tools — Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

China’s leading phonemaker is piling on the products. After launching its Mi 11 flagship 5G smartphone in February and Redmi Note 10 Pro mid-range phone three weeks ago, Xiaomi today unveiled three new handsets as well as a smartband and projector. The Mi 11 Ultra is the standout phone, with a ceramic body, the largest camera sensor of any smartphone and an unusual Amoled display on the back that allows notifications and selfie previews from its powerful rear lenses.

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