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Amazon, Union Group Said to Face Off in a Rematch Election in New York

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Amazon and the nascent group that successfully organised the company’s first-ever US union are headed for a rematch Monday, when a federal labor board will tally votes cast by warehouse workers in yet another election on Staten Island.

A second win could give workers in other Amazon facilities — and at other companies — the motivation they need to launch similar efforts. It could also cement the power and influence of the Amazon Labor Union, the grassroots group of former and current workers that secured last month’s historic victory.

But a union loss could mute some of the labor celebration and raise questions about whether the first victory was just a fluke.

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The results of the election are expected to be announced early Monday evening by the National Labor Relations Board, which is overseeing the process. Meanwhile, the agency must still decide whether to certify the first win, which has been disputed by Amazon.

There are far fewer workers eligible to vote in this latest election versus last month’s — about 1,500 compared with 8,300 at the neighboring Staten Island facility. There are fewer organizers, too — roughly 10 compared with roughly 30.

“It’s a much more personal, aggressive fight over here,” said Connor Spence, an Amazon employee who works as the union’s vice president of membership.

Spence said there was more support for the organizing efforts earlier this year when the ALU filed for an election. But that was quickly overshadowed by the bigger facility across the street, where organizers were directing more of their energy.

Meanwhile, Amazon continued holding mandatory meetings to persuade its workers to reject the union effort, posting anti-union flyers and launching a website urging workers to “vote NO.”

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Amazon spokesperson Kelly Nantel said in a statement that it is up to employees whether or not they want to join a union. But “as a company, we don’t think unions are the best answer for our employees,” Nantel said. “Our focus remains on working directly with our team to continue making Amazon a great place to work.”

Experts say the scrappy union is disadvantaged by the low number of organisers but that might not spell trouble since the ALU’s legitimacy has been bolstered by last month’s unexpected win. It has also gotten support from top union leaders and high-profile progressive lawmakers. At a rally held outside the warehouse a day before voting began last week, US Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke in support of organisers spearheading the union drive.

“This is certainly about ALU, but it’s also about the broader desire for organizing right now,” said Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, who also attended the rally. “And we have to run as fast as we possibly can in this environment to organise millions of people if we’re going to change the power structure in this country and actually give working people a fair shot.”

After their first Staten Island win, ALU organisers reoriented their attention to the smaller warehouse and reiterated their vision to workers — longer breaks, better job protection and a higher hourly wage of $30 (roughly Rs. 2,300), up from the minimum of just over $18 (roughly Rs. 1,400) currently offered on Staten Island.

Spence said they also tailored their pitch to part-time workers, whom the facility depends on heavily and who have been waiting on their requests to transfer to full-time work at the company. By the time votes were cast, he believed the union had regained its momentum.

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“We had to claw it back,” he said.

Even with one victory under its belt, progress has been slow for the ALU. Last month, Amazon filed objections over the successful union drive, arguing in a filing with the NLRB that the vote was tainted by organisers and by the board’s regional office in Brooklyn that oversaw the election. The company says it wants a redo election, but pro-union experts believe it’s an effort to delay contract negotiations and potentially blunt some of the organising momentum.

Despite the setbacks, the ALU has realised progress in other ways, shining a spotlight on Amazon’s anti-union tactics as well as highlighting concerns about its workplace conditions. That in turn has rallied others into taking action.

On Tuesday, Sanders sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to sign an executive order that cuts off Amazon’s contracts with the government until the retailer stops what Sanders calls its “illegal anti-union activity.” Organisers believe such a move would fulfill the president’s campaign promise to “ensure federal contracts only go to employers who sign neutrality agreements committing not to run anti-union campaigns.”

In New York, two state lawmakers introduced a bill to regulate warehouse productivity quotas, aiming to curtail workplace injuries at facilities operated by Amazon and other companies. The bill’s sponsors said they were motivated by ALU’s impending contract negotiations with the company, which has been criticized for its high warehouse injury rates.

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Separately, the ALU, along with American Federation of Teachers and New York State United Teachers, is calling on New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate Amazon’s eligibility for tax credits under a state programme designed to draw business to New York. In a letter sent to James, Seth Goldstein, a union attorney who offers pro-bono legal help to the ALU, contends Amazon has committed “flagrant unfair labor practices” during the union drives that violated the worker protector provisions of the program. A spokesperson for Amazon declined to comment.

Back on Staten Island, some workers at the warehouse voted against unionizing, saying they already feel taken care of by the company and would rather wait and see how the contract negotiations go at the other facility before they join the union effort. There’s also doubts the ALU can accomplish what it sets out to do.

Alexander Campbell, a 25-year-old warehouse worker, voted against the union, saying he read some things online that convinced him his wages might go down if the warehouse unionized.

But others are lending their support. Michael Aguilar, a part-time warehouse employee turned ALU organizer, said he put in a request with Amazon about two months ago to switch to full-time work. He says that request hasn’t been granted but the company continues to bring in new hires. When one of the organizers invited him to a union-organizing call, he attended and eventually decided to join the union drive.

“Everything they were fighting for aligned with everything I experienced,” he said. “Once I found that out, I jumped on board.”


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Paytm Shares Jump to Six-Month High on Increased Monthly Users, More Payment Devices, Surge in Revenue

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Shares of Indian digital payments firm Paytm jumped more than 6 percent on Monday to their highest levels in nearly six months, after the company’s parent firm One 97 Communications Ltd posted an 89 percent surge in its quarterly revenue.

Higher number of monthly users, additional payment devices, and more disbursal of loans lifted the company’s revenue to Rs 1,680 crore, from Rs. 891 crore last year.

Investors appeared to show scant response to the company’s wider loss of Rs. 644 crore posted in its quarterly update after market close on Friday.

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Paytm, which competes with Google‘s payment app and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s digital payments market, said it is on track to achieve operational profitability by September 2023.

“The notable print in the results was a sharply increased gross margin print in payments business resulting in expansion in contribution margins to 13bps,” JP Morgan analysts said in a note on Monday.

Processing charges of the company, backed by China’s Ant Group and Japan’s SoftBank Group, fell 10.4 percent to Rs. 694 crore sequentially.

“The management clarified that it could negotiate better deals with their bank partners, and rationalised certain low margin online merchant accounts that resulted in lower payment processing charges,” Macquarie analysts said in a note.

Shares of the company were up 6 percent at Rs. 830, as of 06:48am GMT (12:18pm IST).

“Earlier this year, we had shared that we would achieve operating profitability by September 2023, driven by better monetisation, as well as moderating growth in costs. The first quarter of the financial year 2023 results exhibit our strategy is well-in-place, with focused improvement on unit economics, better expense management and an increasing mix of higher margin businesses (such as financial services and commerce) steering us on the path to profitability,” the firm stated on Friday.


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Hackers Plant Chinese Flag on Taiwan Government Websites Over Nancy Pelosi Visit

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In response to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, Chinese hackers planted the flag of China on the websites of several local government agencies across Taiwan. While China’s live-fire drills encircling Taiwan were taking place from Thursday, Chinese hackers covered a Kaohsiung government website with a China flag picture for over 10 hours from late Friday to Saturday morning, reported Taiwan News.

On Friday morning, it was admitted that the website of Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs crashed for a few hours on Aug 2, 4, and 5.

The ministry explained there was a brute force attempt to crash the server, with up to 17 million times per minute access attempts from numerous Chinese and Russian IP addresses, reported Taiwan News.

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As a result, central government agencies were told to stay on high alert for malicious internet activities.

People familiar with the matter told Taiwan News that central government agencies have been ordered to keep tabs on websites and report problems up the chain of command to the Cabinet, every hour from Friday to noon on Monday (August 8).

Emergency response guidelines issued by the Cabinet on Friday say a website has to be taken down immediately if it has been hacked.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education informed schools nationwide of its own emergency response guidelines to ensure cybersecurity, in which 24-hour security monitoring of each school website and an hourly update is required until next Monday, reported Taiwan News.

As the tensions in the Taiwan strait heightened soon with US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, China has been increasing its military activities.

Multiple Chinese planes and ships were detected around Taiwan Strait, simulating an attack on its main island, the Defence Ministry said on Saturday adding that some of them have crossed the median line.

According to the Ministry of National Defense, the armed forces responded to such a situation accordingly with surveillance systems, CAP aircraft, naval vessels and missile systems.

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“Multiple PLA craft were detected around Taiwan Strait, some have crossed the median line. Possible simulated attack against HVA. #ROCArmedForces have utilized alert broadcast, aircraft in CAP, patrolling naval vessels, and land-based missile systems in response to this situation,” Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defence tweeted today.

Yesterday, Taiwan’s Defence Ministry said that 68 Chinese military planes and 13 warships crossed over the median line to participate in drills.

Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang blasted what he called “the evil neighbour” after China encircled the self-ruled island with a series of huge military drills that were condemned by the United States and other Western allies.

China is holding threatening military exercises in six zones off Taiwan’s coasts that it says will run through Sunday. Missiles have also been fired over Taiwan, defence officials told state media. The speaker is the highest-ranking US politician to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

China opposes the self-governing island having its own contacts with foreign governments, but its response to the Pelosi visit has been unusually vociferous.

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Provident Fund Data of 28 Crore Indians Leaked By Hackers, Claims Ukraine Based Researcher

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Provident Fund (PF) data of about 28 crore Indians was found to have been leaked by hackers earlier this month. A cybersecurity researcher from Ukraine, Bob Diachenko, made the discovery on August 1 and found that details such as Universal Account Number (UANs), names, marital status, Aadhaar details, gender, and bank account details were exposed online. According to Diachenko, he found two different internet protocol (IP) addresses hosting two clusters of leaked data. Both of these IPs were hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud storage service.

Cybersecurity researcher Bob Diachenko detailed the leak in a post on LinkedIn. On August 2, Diachenko discovered two separate IP clusters of data that contained indices called UAN. Upon reviewing the clusters, he found that the first cluster contained 280,472,941 records, whereas the second IP contained 8,390,524 records.

“After quick review of the samples (using a simple browser), I was sure that I am looking at something big and important”, Diachenko said in his post. However, he was not able to find who owned the data. Both the IP addresses were hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform and were India-based. He wasn’t able to obtain other information via a reverse DNS analysis.

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The Shodan and Censys search engines from Diachenko’s SecurityDiscovery firm found these clusters on August 1. However, it is not clear how long the information was available online. The data could’ve been misused by hackers to gain access to the PF account. Data such as name, gender, Aadhaar details, could also be used to create fake identities and documents.

The researcher tagged the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) in a tweet informing them about the leak. The CERT-In replied to his tweet asking him to provide a report of the hack in an email. Both IP addresses were taken down within 12 hours after his tweet. Diachenko says that since August 3, no company or agency has come forward to take responsibility for the hack

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