• Updated


(NEW YORK) -- Microsoft Corp. shareholders voted on Tuesday to force the company to more transparently address sexual harassment claims via independent investigations and public reporting.

The proposal, approved during the company's annual shareholder meeting, was brought by Arjuna Capital, an investment firm known for its Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) activism. The vote may be seen by some as a win for activist investors seeking to drive change from the inside out in the private sector.

Under the proposal, Microsoft would have to prepare and release a report "assessing the effectiveness of the company’s workplace sexual harassment policies, including the results of any comprehensive independent audit/investigations, analysis of policies and practices, and commitments to create a safe, inclusive work environment," according to a statement released by the investment firm.

Microsoft's board urged shareholders to strike down the proposal, citing existing policies and mechanisms in place to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace.

Still, some 78% of shareholders voted for the proposal, Arjuna Capital said after the meeting. The firm said that, immediately following the vote, Microsoft committed to a third-party, independent assessment of its sexual harassment processes, in addition to public reporting on them.

"A majority of Microsoft’s investors are now calling on the company to shine a bright light on sexual harassment. The fact that executives responded so quickly following the vote is a sea change from how Microsoft has dealt with this issue in the past," Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital, said in a statement.

Microsoft confirmed the proposal had been approved in a statement following the meeting, adding that, "Microsoft already shares with employees annual data on the volume of sexual harassment concerns raised and the results of harassment investigations and has adopted plans to begin annual public reporting."

During the question-and-answer portion of the shareholder meeting, Microsoft's President and Vice Chair Brad Smith said the issue of sexual harassment is "of enormous importance" to Microsoft.

"There are new steps that we are going to take that we were thinking about, and I think that the resolution and the dialogue we’ve had has helped us advance our decision-making," Smith added. "So for one, we will take new steps to be more transparent as a company. We have been sharing more data internally. We recognize that there are shareholder interest, and so we’ll share more data externally as well. You’ll see us publish more reports, just to reflect where this is going."

Smith also pledged to bring in a third party to do an "independent assessment of all of the work that we do to investigate" sexual harassment cases.

"We’ll share what that independent report says and we will listen," he added. "And if there’s recommendations for change, we will think hard about making them."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more


(NEW YORK) -- In a rare move, the National Labor Relations Board has ordered a union election do-over for Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama.

A date has not yet been determined for the second vote, but the looming new union election comes as the labor movement has gained new steam in recent months, propelled by unique market conditions and increased workplace activism seen in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the initial election in April, Amazon warehouse workers overwhelmingly voted against forming a union at the Bessemer warehouse despite high-profile support for unionization at the time from lawmakers and even President Joe Biden.

The order for a new election stands unless Amazon files a request for review with the NLRB, which the board could reject (allowing the second union election to proceed) or grant (which would reverse the order for a second election). It also has not yet been determined whether the do-over vote will be in-person or by mail.

The re-run decision comes after the objections to the initial vote last April that were filed by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which sought to represent the workers.

At the core of the union's objections was Amazon's installation of a Postal Service box outside the warehouse, which they said was aimed to make voting easier and improve turnout, but the union argued gave the impression that Amazon oversaw the election.

"The Employer's flagrant disregard for the Board's typical mail-ballot procedure compromised the authority of the Board and made a free and fair election impossible," NLRB Regional Director Lisa Henderson wrote in her decision calling for a second election.

"By installing a postal mailbox at the main employee entrance, the Employer essentially hijacked the process and gave a strong impression that it controlled the process," Henderson added. "This dangerous and improper message to employees destroys trust in the Board's processes and in the credibility of the election results."

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU, welcomed the board's decision in a statement, saying it "confirms what we were saying all along -- that Amazon's intimidation and interference prevented workers from having a fair say in whether they wanted a union in their workplace."

"Amazon workers deserve to have a voice at work, which can only come from a union," he added.

Kelly Nantel, an Amazon spokesperson, called the decision "disappointing" in a statement, adding that the company believes in the benefits of direct relationships with employees without a union in the middle.

"Our employees have always had the choice of whether or not to join a union, and they overwhelmingly chose not to join the RWDSU earlier this year. It's disappointing that the NLRB has now decided that those votes shouldn't count," Nantel said. "As a company, we don't think unions are the best answer for our employees. Every day we empower people to find ways to improve their jobs, and when they do that we want to make those changes -- quickly."

"That type of continuous improvement is harder to do quickly and nimbly with unions in the middle. The benefits of direct relationships between managers and employees can't be overstated -- these relationships allow every employee's voice to be heard, not just the voices of a select few," Nantel added. "While we've made great progress in important areas like pay and safety, we know there are plenty of things that we can keep doing better, both in our fulfillment centers and in our corporate offices, and that's our focus -- to work directly with our employees to keep getting better every day."

Union membership has dwindled in recent decades, falling to 10.8% in 2020 among salaried and wage-earning workers in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1983, the first year the BLS collected this data, that figure was 20.1%.

Despite the slumping figures, approval for labor unions in the U.S. is at its highest level since 1965, according to Gallup data. Some 68% of Americans approve of labor unions in 2021, the highest recorded by Gallup since a 71% mark in 1965.

Some labor economists have attributed this gap between support for unions and union membership rates to increased employer resistance to unionization and outdated labor laws that make it difficult to organize in the workplace.


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more

  • Updated


(SAN JOSE, Calif.) -- Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is back on the stand Tuesday, facing questions from prosecutors after she tearfully told the jury Monday about what she described as nearly a decade of mental and physical abuse at the hands of her former romantic partner and company COO, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.

Holmes, 37, said that Balwani, 56, forced her to have sex with him and “prescribed” her a schedule which included who to meet with and what to eat.

"He impacted everything about who I was," said Holmes, who paused before continuing. "And I don't fully understand that."

“He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know that he still loved me,” Holmes also told the court while being questioned on the stand by her lead attorney, Kevin Downey.

Balwani was charged as her co-defendant but was granted a severed trial in March after learning that Holmes’ lawyers might use the abuse claims as part of their defense.

Balwani’s trial is scheduled for early 2022. He denies all allegations.

The former Theranos CEO, who dropped out of college at 19 and went on to launch the once burgeoning biotech start-up that promised to revolutionize blood testing, is charged with nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She could face decades in prison if convicted. She has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Holmes testified that Balwani did not force her to make misleading statements to the press and investors. But the impact of Balwani’s alleged abuse on her was pervasive, she said.

Holmes also testified that before she met Balwani, she was raped by someone else while attending Stanford University, which she said factored into her decision to drop out and “pour” herself into building Theranos.

“I decided I was going to build a life by building this company,” she told jurors.

Holmes was 18 years old when she met Balwani, then 38, overseas in China. She said she understood at the time he was a “really successful business person” and asked his advice on building a company.

The pair dated from 2005 to 2016, a relationship Holmes characterized as persistently abusive.

“He told me that I didn’t know what I was doing in business ... that he was astonished at my mediocrity ... and that I needed to kill the person that I was to become what he would call a new Elizabeth who could be a successful entrepreneur,” Holmes said.

Santa Clara Law professor Ellen Kreitzberg said the bombshell allegations about Balwani could be used by her counsel to argue she had no intent to defraud — a key element of the charges leveled against her.

Prosecutor Robert Leach should be “very focused on her intent to defraud in [his] questions,” she said.

“[His] tone should also be non-confrontational, especially to start since she projected a sympathetic figure yesterday,” Kreitzberg added. “They need to be able to argue that, even if she was influenced by Balwani, she knew information was false, she intentionally gave it to investors, and she did so to get money from them.”


Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more

  • Updated

Sundry Photography/iStock

(NEW YORK) -- As holiday shopping season ramps up, Walmart CEO John Furman addressed the concerns of prices and how long supplies will last.

Furman told Good Morning America that President Joe Biden, who met with retail executives this week, and his administration have "been a great help."

"We're all working together to make sure that customers have what they need over the holiday season and ended our third quarter up in inventory," Furman said. "It took a lot of work on behalf of our team and they're working really hard."

As the calendar dwindles down on 2021, Furman said that "it's always a good idea to shop early" and "just like every year there's something hot, a hot toy -- like game consoles -- but we have a couple things we can help with."

"Last week we had our biggest day ever in terms of delivery," he said of their Walmart Plus membership program. "But there's some categories like Christmas decor -- that are selling quick."

Other trends that Furman said Walmart has seen and prepared for, are people "spending a lot more time together in groups."

For Thanksgiving alone, he said "we sold over 10 million turkeys, which is about 2 million more than last year, so it tells you a bit about how many families are getting together and spending time together."

The Federal Trade Comission has launched a probe into the supply chain issues, which Furman said Walmart just learned about, and said he is optimistic about the company's position in the market.

"A lot of what you see in stores and online, all the products and what's available, these are the results of plans, in most cases, that started over a year ago. Our merchants work about 12 months out to determine what they think the trends are, what people will be looking for," he said. "And we're proud of our inventory position at this point."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more


(NEW YORK) -- Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Travel Tuesday? Tuesday marks a potentially big day for saving if you're looking to snag a deal on a trip in 2022.

"A lot of folks in the travel industry are trying to encourage people to not just buy things over the holiday weekend, but buy experiences as well," Scott Keyes, Scott's Cheap Flights founder and author of Take More Vacations, said. "Buy travel and treat yourself to that gift of those lifetime memories from trips you take."

Paul Couch, a city surveyor from Akron, Ohio, is looking to do just that. He will be scouring the airlines' websites for a reasonably-priced getaway this travel holiday.

"I'm hoping for the best," he said. "Just kind of checking the different locations out and if something strikes my eye, you know a place I haven't been to, then I'll look for travel dates and book a flight and hotel and all that."

In 2019, before the pandemic, online booking platform Hopper said it saw more flights discounted on Travel Tuesday than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

"We typically see about 34 deals per second here at Hopper," Hopper economist Adit Damodaran told ABC News. "That's 30% more than we usually see on any other day throughout the year. So, that's really a great time to be booking those flights for 2022."

Several airlines have announced promotional discounts over the last few days: JetBlue is offering $50 off one-way and $100 off round trip tickets; Aer Lingus is offering up to $200 off economy fares and up to $300 off business class fares from the U.S.; Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, and many more are offering discounts for certain destinations.

But Keyes says the real "hidden secret of the travel world" is that the best deals actually come from un-advertised sales.

"Just in the past two or three days alone, we've seen flights nonstop to Hawaii for $158 round trip nonstop, to Costa Rica for $176 round trip nonstop, down to Aruba for $226 round trip," he said. "These are fares that have been popping up that are not getting any advertising dollars behind them. You're not going to see them in your inbox from the airlines promoting them, but they're quietly offering these fares, and so the key is to be able to find out about them before they disappear."

If you're looking for a deal tomorrow, Keyes recommends looking at the fine print.

"You're going to see a lot of airlines say '25% off,' '50% off,' 'This is one of our biggest sales of the year,'" he warned. "But oftentimes, that doesn't include taxes and fees, all of these types of things that oftentimes can make up the majority of what a ticket costs. So, seeing what the actual price looks like, and then trying to compare it to well, is this a good deal? Is this significantly cheaper than what I might have expected to pay last week or what I might expect to see next week?"

And don't worry if you can't find that perfect price, Keyes says, you still have plenty of time.

"Cheap flights are constantly popping up throughout the year, and so don't put extra pressure on yourself to book something on Travel Tuesday," he said. "If it just seems like an OK deal you can rest assured that constantly deals are going to continue to pop up throughout the rest of this year and certainly into next year."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more


(NEW YORK) -- The holiday season is in full swing and tree farmers across the country are preparing for the Christmas crowds.

At Boyd Mountain Christmas Tree Farm in Waynesville, North Carolina, customers can cut down their own Christmas tree. Darren Nicholson, who works at the farm, said he is grateful to see people "coming out in record numbers to get the perfect Christmas tree."

Across the country, wholesale tree grower The Jonsteen Company packages live tree saplings and seed growing kits. The California-based company specializes in Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwoods but offers a variety of different trees, including evergreens, giving customers a chance to plant their own Christmas tree and watch it grow over the years.

One Jonsteen customer, Martin Harmon, and his family, who live south of Atlanta, planted their Christmas tree years ago and now it's a full-grown evergreen.

The Fowler family from Lexington, Kentucky, planted their Jonsteen tree in their front yard and have already decorated it with lights.

Other small businesses all over the country are gearing up for the holiday rush, like Authenticity50. The California-based bedding and home goods company was co-founded by husband and wife Jimmy and Steph McDonald.

Last year, they started using their materials to sew masks in the middle of the pandemic.

All of their products are 100% American made. The McDonalds said the cotton is from California, the yarn is spun in Georgia, the sheets they sell are cut and sewn in South Carolina, their button are from Connecticut and their packaging is made in Illinois.

The McDonalds said the advantage of having their products made in the U.S. is that they are fully stocked during ongoing supply chain shortages.

"We haven't had to deal with container ships stuck at port," said Jimmy McDonald.

"Buying local helps us sustain our small business and 1,000 local jobs from coast to coast," added Steph McDonald.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more

  • Updated


(NEW YORK) -- Japanese car giant Nissan Motor Co. said it plans to invest $17.6 billion to accelerate its electrification plans, as the industry as a whole pivots away from gas-powered autos.

Nissan said it will invest 2 trillion Japanese yen over the next five years (just under $17.6 billion) and will launch 23 new electrified models, including 15 new electric vehicles.

The company said it is aiming to have a 50% electrification lineup by 2030 as part of its "Nissan Ambition 2030" initiative, which will put electrification at the center of its long-term strategy.

"The role of companies to address societal needs is increasingly heightened," Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida said in a statement. "With Nissan Ambition 2030, we will drive the new age of electrification, advance technologies to reduce carbon footprint and pursue new business opportunities."

"We want to transform Nissan to become a sustainable company that is truly needed by customers and society," Uchida added.

Nissan wants to launch an electric vehicle with its proprietary all-solid-state batteries by fiscal year 2028 and prepare a pilot plant for EVs in Yokohama, Japan, as early as fiscal year 2024. The company promises that its all-solid-state batteries will significantly reduce charging time and make electric vehicles more efficient and accessible.

Nissan was among the original pioneers of mainstream electric vehicles with its battery-powered Leaf, which first launched in 2010. A growing number of major carmakers, from Ford to General Motors, have similarly announced recent plans to invest heavily in electrification.

“We are proud of our long track record of innovation, and of our role in delivering the EV revolution. With our new ambition, we continue to take the lead in accelerating the natural shift to EVs by creating customer pull through an attractive proposition by driving excitement, enabling adoption and creating a cleaner world," Nissan COO Ashwani Gupta said in a statement Monday.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced a set of actions aimed to cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks and signed an executive order that set a goal of having half of all new vehicles sold by 2030 be zero emissions vehicles.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more

  • Updated


(NEW YORK) -- Jack Dorsey is resigning from his role as CEO of Twitter, the social media platform he co-founded in 2006, he announced in a tweet on Monday.

"After almost 16 years of having a role at our company...from co-founder to CEO to Chair to Exec Chair to interim-CEO to CEO...I decided its finally time for me to leave," Dorsey wrote. "Why? There's a lot of talk about the importance of a company being 'founder-led.' Ultimately I believe that's severely limiting and a single point of failure. I've worked hard to ensure this company can break away from its founding and founders."

He said that Twitter's chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will replace him as CEO, effective on Monday. Agrawal has been with Twitter for more than 10 years and has been in his role as CTO since 2017.

"My trust in him as our CEO is bone deep," Dorsey wrote.

Agrawal thanked the board and Dorsey in a separate statement Monday.

"I look forward to building on everything we have accomplished under Jack's leadership and I am incredibly energized by the opportunities ahead," Agrawal said. "By continuing to improve our execution, we will deliver tremendous value for our customers and shareholders as we reshape the future of public conversation."

Dorsey added that current board member and Salesforce veteran Bret Taylor would take over his role as chair of the board.

In a statement released by Twitter, Taylor thanked Dorsey on behalf of the board for his "visionary leadership and unrelenting dedication to Twitter since its founding."

"Jack returned to Twitter and turned the Company around at the most critical time. The progress since then has been nothing short of incredible. Jack has given the world something invaluable and we will continue to carry it forward," Taylor added. "Parag understands Twitter and appreciates the Company's unique potential. He has been instrumental in tackling our most important priorities, including accelerating our development velocity, and I know he'll hit the ground running to strengthen execution and deliver results."

The Twitter co-founder will serve on the board through "May-ish" to help with the transition, he said in his tweet. He said he will then leave the board because he believes "it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction."

Finally, Dorsey said the decision to resign was his own.

Dorsey has been in his most recent role as CEO since September 2015. The eccentric tech chief has led Twitter to become the behemoth it now is and helped him become a billionaire. Dorsey recently sold the first-ever Tweet, which he penned in March 2006 and states, "just setting up my twttr," as an NFT for some $2.9 million.

Dorsey's previous Tweet on Sunday, before the announcement on Monday, stated: "I love twitter."

Twitter shares surged early Monday after a CNBC report that said Dorsey was stepping down. By around 11:15 a.m. ET, Twitter shares were up some 5% for the day.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more

Courtesy Michael DiBenigno and Kristen Cuneo

(SAN FRANCISCO) -- For any mom who's ever been asked if they "enjoyed their vacation" during maternity leave, Kristen Cuneo has the perfect reply.

Cuneo, who works for a technology company in the San Francisco Bay area, created a data visualization showing as data points every bottle feed, breastfeed and diaper change she completed in the first seven weeks after giving birth to her daughter, Autumn, in January.

Just a few seconds into the visualization, the data points take up an entire screen.

"Objectively, it's a lot, and every data point took time, ranging from five minutes for a diaper change to 30 minutes for a feeding, on average," said Cuneo, presenting the data to coworkers. "The real kicker is when it happens, 24 hours a day."

Cuneo's presentation was shared on TikTok by her husband, Michael DiBenigno, co-founder of Flow Immersive, a California-based company that focuses on data storytelling.

It quickly went viral, with hundreds of thousands of likes and over 2,000 comments.

"And that does not include laundry, bathing, well baby checkups, getting baby to sleep, fussy baby or the fact that baby needs to be held constantly," wrote one commenter.

"All while recovering from a major medical procedure! Moms of newborns are absolutely amazing," wrote another commenter.

Another commenter alluded to the fact that there is currently no federal paid leave in the United States, writing, "This woman needs to be in front of Congress."

Only 27% of private industry workers currently have access to paid family leave, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cuneo told "Good Morning America" she considers herself lucky to have had a "very generous" five months of maternity leave.

She said she also feels grateful that her presentation has helped so many people "feel so seen and heard."

"It is a shared experience, even though it is hard," Cuneo said of being a new parent. "The response that we've gotten has been completely mind-boggling, that so many people can have this experience, and yet something like this could resonate so powerfully for them whether or not they're currently raising a child or maybe they did 20 years ago."

Cuneo and DiBenigno created the presentation by using data compiled in a baby habit-tracking app they started using when Autumn was a newborn.

"We had heard over and over that being a new parent, you never sleep, but it's hard to understand what that really felt like," said DiBenigno. "It wasn't until we saw the data points and put together this visualization that we were like, 'Wow, you see that continual, never-ending cycle of the mundane, routine labor of all these things that are just necessary.'"

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more


(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 900 points on Friday over concerns about the spread of the new COVID-19 variant detected in South Africa.

Anxiety among investors grew as countries ramped up responses to the variant, called B.1.1.529, first detected in Botswana. The United Kingdom and European Union quickly moved to propose travel restrictions to southern Africa, while new cases of the variant were found as far away as Hong Kong, Belgium and Israel.

The Dow fell 2.53%, to 34,899, while the Nasdaq fell 2.23%, to 15,492, and the S&P tumbled 2.27% to 4,595.

Trading ends early on Black Friday, often the slowest day of the year. Fewer trades can mean increased volatility, and at one point the Dow had fallen more than 1,000 points.

Global health authorities have now confirmed 87 cases -- 77 in South Africa, six in Botswana, two in Hong Kong and one each in Israel and Belgium -- and said they're expecting hundreds more diagnoses.

Over the summer, markets tumbled as the delta variant spread throughout the U.S.

"Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known," Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda, a foreign trading company, wrote in a report, according to The Associated Press.

Investors are worried that supply chains already stretched thin may suffer further as the new variant spreads, potentially threatening more labor shortages, according to the AP. The variant also is putting pressure on central banks, which are contemplating whether to raise interest rates to stave off rising inflation.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved. Read more