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Labor Board Accuses Google Contractor of Violating Union Rights

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A federal agency issued a complaint this week against a contractor hired by Google and accused it of violating its employees’ labor rights, marking the latest flash point in a long-running struggle between workers and technology companies.

In the complaint, the National Labor Relations Board asserts that HCL America, a subsidiary of an Indian contracting giant, illegally discouraged workers from belonging to a union, and of failing to bargain with the union in good faith.

HCL and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The case does not accuse Google of wrongdoing.

A group of about 90 HCL employees in Pittsburgh who do work such as data analysis under a contract the company has with Google voted to unionize last fall. They affiliated with the United Steelworkers union.

According to the complaint, managers at the company interrogated workers about the organizing activities of their colleagues, told them that promotions and wages were being delayed because of the union campaign and threatened to enforce work rules more strictly if the union was created, in violation of federal labor law.

After the employees voted to unionize, the labor board asserts, the company began shifting some of the work that they performed to Poland. HCL also limited their ability to participate in training sessions and required employees to take periodic “quick check” quizzes, according to the complaint.

“Sending work out of the country during a pandemic was especially kind of an unconscionable action,” said Joshua Borden, an HCL worker active in the union. “They were trying to take jobs away from us in retaliation for organizing to have a fair workplace.”

HCL also unilaterally altered policies relating to breaks, vacation, family leave, and 401(k) contributions, according to the complaint, even though it is supposed to bargain over them with the union. And it “unreasonably delayed” in providing information about pay and job titles that the union requested to help it bargain, the complaint says.

Last year’s successful union campaign at HCL was widely seen as a significant development in the tech industry, which has aggressively resisted labor organizing. Blue-collar workers in the industry, such as security guards whose employers have contracts with giants like Google and Facebook, have formed unions. But the HCL union was believed to be the first group of white-collar tech employees to organize while doing work for a major company.

The HCL workers, echoing a refrain common among Google’s tens of thousands of temporaries and contractors, complained that while they often sat alongside direct Google employees and worked on projects together, they typically received lower pay, fewer benefits and less job security.

The organizing effort came at a time when employees across the industry, including at Microsoft, Amazon and Google, were protesting over a variety of issues, including trying to discourage their employers from working with certain federal agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security.

Several months after the HCL workers unionized, employees at the crowdfunding site Kickstarter also formed a union, appearing to become the first group of direct employees of a prominent tech company to do so.

Google in particular has been in the spotlight over labor unrest. Its workers have protested the company’s efforts to help the Defense Department identify targets in video footage and have walked out to protest the company’s handling of sexual misconduct.

Last year it abruptly disbanded a team of contractors working on Google Assistant, its voice-activated tool. After employees protested, Google agreed to require firms it contracted with to pay full-time employees at least $15 per hour and provide health insurance.

The company has also brought in a consulting firm known for helping employers fight union campaigns, and last fall it fired several employees who were active in organizing colleagues. Google said it fired the workers because they violated company policies.

The labor board’s case against HCL is scheduled to go before an administrative law judge next February, unless the company settles with the government beforehand.

If the judge were to rule against HCL, he or she would likely order the company to undo all the changes it made unilaterally and bargain over them with the union, said Wilma Liebman, a former chairwoman of the National Labor Relations Board. It could also require HCL to compensate workers for any losses they suffered as a result of those changes.

The labor board issued the complaint on Monday, but the steelworkers union announced it on Thursday, after it had a chance to review it, a union spokesman said.

Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed reporting.

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This 'neo bank' tripled its clients in the pandemic (and without using the Credit Bureau)

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October 22, 2020 8 min read

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

This story originally appeared on Alto Nivel

By Antonio Sandoval

Financial inclusion has become the flag of the Fintech sector in Mexico, which has not only detected a large business niche, but is also aware that the country’s conditions in this area have to change once and for all from the traditional model bank.

With the impulse of technology, the options grow and grow, but in this context there are some cases that are striking for the amount of investments they have made, for a differentiated offer and for the prestige of its world-class business partners .

Klar is a suigéneris case, from its birth it has attracted attention in Mexico and in the world for its business model, which allowed it to raise a very important amount of resources with which it presented a disruptive product to the market, exponentially increasing demand, to also achieve a first round of capitalization in record time.

“The data seems incredible, but 60 percent of the Mexican population does not have access to a bank account in the middle of the year 2020. There are more cell phones than people and a large percentage of the population depends on old practices in terms of credit, the famous usurers. The question is: why don’t people have a bank account? It’s something that doesn’t make any sense, ”said Daniel Autrique, Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Klar, in an interview with High Level.

“We are a 100 percent digital alternative, we realized that the traditional operating model of a bank makes it very difficult to include certain sectors of the population and historically they choose to leave them out of the financial system; In addition, there is a significant phenomenon , people are already digitizing in their daily lives, but they need to digitize in their financial life, that leads us to several paradoxes because, for example, if someone deserves credit, it turns out that many times they cannot obtain it because it has no financial history, so that many are excluded for life from the system for this simple fact. This has to change, ”explained Autrique.

Faced with a scenario like the previous one, Klar was born as a real alternative for financial inclusion with 100 percent digital operation through an application through which a debit account can be initially opened, which will serve as a reference for a subsequent line of credit .

Klar’s business quickly found an echo in the Mexican Fintech ecosystem and in the increasingly digitized financial services clientele; The company started operations just last year and in less than 12 months it already has just over 200 thousand clients and managed to place more than 25 thousand lines of credit .

As we noted, their operations are not traditional. In fact, in Klar they bet on new methods for evaluating clients, this includes putting aside what they call “archaic schemes”, such as the Credit Bureau.

Credit profile with new standards

When a customer decides to purchase the Klar debit card, the first thing they find out is that the plastic is priceless and that there is no hidden additional cost, plus each month they receive between 1 and up to 5 percent of their total shopping, that’s the first step.

Your behavior with the debit card is decisive for the next disruptive product that Klar offers: credit.

“Based on the history of your debit card, we detect that, if you have certain spending behaviors, you are a person who can pay us a credit ; this is very different from the way traditional banks evaluate the customer for lending. We consider that the credit analysis based on the bureau shows us a photograph of the past that is not always reliable and leaves out many aspects of the client that serve to evaluate their current financial situation, that is why we, to grant credits, neither We even consider consulting the Credit Bureau, it is not decisive ”, says Daniel Autrique.

These innovative criteria, which have also been successful because despite the context of recent months in the country, Klar tripled its client base in the pandemic and its delinquency rates are practically non-existent, they drew the attention of investment funds from a start.

Successful capitalization round

At its birth, Klar achieved an unusual initial figure of 57 million dollars (More than 1,100 million pesos), in an initial round of capitalization (seed capital), led by Quona Capital, with the participation of Santander Innoventures and other multinational investors.

Such is the success and confidence in the business model that the company recently concluded an additional round of investment called series A , through which it managed to raise $ 15 million , in a process led by Prosus (formerly known as Naspers Ventures ), one of the largest investment funds in the startups and technology sector in the world, it is also the first time that this fund has invested in a Mexican startup and in general in any sector . In total, since it began operations a little less than a year ago, it has raised $ 72 million in debt and equity.

The resources of the series A investment will serve to consolidate its technological operation because Klar is different even in that, “we have a solid team of more than 60 top-level engineers, of different nationalities, whose headquarters are in Berlin. The capital of Germany is currently considered the Silicon Valley of the Fintech sector in the world, to a large extent we carry out our technological development there due to its high standards and constant innovations “, says the company’s CFO.

Another part of the resources will be invested in the operation of the company in Mexico, the only country in which they have operations to date and in which they will remain concentrated for a long time, market size and opportunities, we have work for a while, for the moment it is and will be our project ”, explains Daniel Autrique.

And it is that Mexico represents so many opportunities for the sector that startups from other latitudes have already landed in the country to obtain a piece of the market. At the end of September, the Argentine digital banking startup Ualá announced the expansion of its operations in Mexico, after announcing last year that it planned to double its size after receiving millionaire new investments from Tencent Holdings and SoftBank Group Corp, the Japanese giant investment in technology.

Ualá will offer in Mexico a Mastercard for physical and online purchases, cash withdrawals at ATMs and the sending and receiving of payments, the company reported.

To undertake and innovate it is necessary to know the market in which the project or projects are to be developed, Autrique has extensive experience in transnational companies in the financial sector, these experiences resulted in Klar, whose main objective is to bring the benefits of the banking system to millions of Mexicans who have traditionally been excluded, in that short time it was possible to consolidate a world-class neobank concentrated in the mass of the population of Mexico, 100 percent digital, with a credit offer totally different from traditional banking and to which any person living in Mexico, a financial inclusion effort with results.

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Free Webinar | Nov. 23: Adapting to the Unexpected – Preparing your Business and Pivoting in Real-Time

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Spartan Race founder Joe De Sena discusses what it takes to pivot in real-time and make fast decisions that can mean the difference between standing strong or shutting down.

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October 22, 2020 2 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When the pandemic hit and the world went into lockdown, businesses had to act fast and pivot to keep the lights on. 

Innovations like contactless deliveries helped e-commerce and the restaurant industry continue to operate and even thrive, but what do you do if your business relies on thousands of people gathering together to run, climb and push their bodies to their physical limits within inches of one another?

That’s the situation that Joe De Sena and his company Spartan Race faced and continues to face during these unprecedented times. But rather than call it quits in the face of a seemingly impossible situation, Joe and his team went to work to find solutions to keep customers engaged, revenue coming in and the company alive.

In this lively, no-holds-barred discussion with the fearless CEO, learn what it takes to pivot in real-time and make fast decisions that can mean the difference between standing strong or shutting down.

Key Takeaways:

  • Critical cash-saving strategies
  • Being productive during forced downtime  
  • Keeping your staff motivated and engaged
  • Expanding your digital offering
  • E-commerce strategies
  • Finding new revenue streams

Register Now

Joe De Sena is the founder and CEO of Spartan Race, Inc. De Sena has been an entrepreneur since his pre-teens. From selling fireworks at age 8, to starting a t-shirt business in high school, to building a multimillion-dollar pool business in college, to creating a Wall Street trading firm, De Sena is a living definition of “entrepreneur.” De Sena is the New York Times bestselling author of SPARTAN UP! A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life and SPARTAN FIT! 30 Days. Transform Your Mind. Transform Your Body. Commit to Grit.

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Quibi, Short-Form Streaming Service, Quickly Shuts Down

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Quibi, the beleaguered short-form content company started by Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, announced on Wednesday that it was shutting down just six months after the app became available. The mobile streaming service offered entertainment and news programs in five- to 10-minute chunks intended to be watched on phones by people on the go, but it struggled to find an audience with everyone stuck inside their homes during the pandemic.

Despite raising a combined $1.75 billion in cash from each of the Hollywood studios, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and other investors, Quibi will wind down its operations and begin selling off its assets. It had searched for a buyer for the company but found no takers.

“Quibi is going to go down as a case study at Harvard Business School on what not to do when launching a streaming service,” Stephen Beck, the founder and managing partner of the management consultancy cg42, said in an interview.

The news of Quibi’s shutdown was first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Mr. Katzenberg announced the news to his 200-person staff on Wednesday afternoon. Quibi did not give an exact date for when the app would no longer be available.

“The world has changed dramatically since Quibi launched and our stand-alone business model is no longer viable,” Mr. Katzenberg said in a statement.

Ms. Whitman added that while the company had “enough capital to continue operating for a significant period of time, we made the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders and say goodbye to our talented colleagues with grace.”

Quibi produced more than 100 original series, along with offerings like news from NBC and CBS, and sports programming from ESPN. Marquee names like Steven Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Antoine Fuqua, Jennifer Lopez and Chrissy Teigen were involved. But it struggled to attract subscribers from the start and those who did tune in groused that Quibi wasn’t giving them what they wanted. Consumers complained that the programming couldn’t be watched on television sets (something that became more important with people stuck at home) and they criticized the app’s inability to allow them to share content on social media, a feature that could have helped generate word-of-mouth excitement.

Quibi is also embroiled in a lawsuit with Eko, a tech company that accused Quibi of misappropriating trade secrets and infringing on a patent for the technology that allows viewers to shift seamlessly between horizontal and vertical viewing on a phone. The activist hedge fund Elliott Management has committed to funding the lawsuit.

And as the pandemic continued for months, the company’s backers began looking for a return on their investment.

One major challenge in trying to orchestrate a sale was the fact that Quibi doesn’t own any of its content. In an attempt to lure the brightest lights in Hollywood, Quibi offered each of its partners sweetheart deals where Quibi would pay both to produce the content and then to license the programming for an exclusive two-year period. After that two-year term ended, Quibi would still be able to show the programming on its app, but the content creator would be allowed to stitch together the short episodes into a television show or a film and resell it to another buyer.

“Katzenberg created something that was beneficial to content creators,” said Michael Goodman, an analyst with Strategy Analytics. “But when push came to shove, the market spoke that chunking up premium content is not what consumers want. They like short-form video: news clips, sports clips, beauty. There is a market for that. It’s just not a premium market. It’s not a new lesson but a lesson that has to be continually taught over and over again.”

Despite its shortcomings, Quibi did win two Emmy Awards last month, for the actors Laurence Fishburne and Jasmine Cephas Jones in the series “#FreeRayshawn” from Mr. Fuqua. Two of the company’s other shows also scored nominations: “Most Dangerous Game” starring Christoph Waltz and Liam Hemsworth, and a reboot of the comedy “Reno 911!”

“We continue to believe that there is an attractive market for premium, short-form content,” Ms. Whitman said in the statement. “Over the coming months we will be working hard to find buyers for these valuable assets who can leverage them to their full potential.”

Hollywood is marveling at the pace of Quibi’s demise. The company’s advertising campaign for its April introduction included a series of commercials featuring characters facing imminent death, whether by quicksand or from a zombie bite. They all had about “a Quibi” before disaster struck. In the end, the company’s life cycle didn’t last much longer.

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