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Amazon Workers Demand Day Off to Vote: Live Updates

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Credit…Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Workers at Amazon are calling on groups around the country to help shut down Amazon warehouses temporarily on Halloween if the company does not give all its employees a paid day off to vote.

The move is an escalation of the internal pressure being put on executives at the company, the country’s second-largest private employer.

In the past week, more than 6,500 Amazon corporate and tech workers have supported a proposal for all workers to get a paid day off to vote. Others have written to Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder and chief executive.

The organizing is led by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, which has also mobilized thousands of corporate employees over the past year and a half to push the company to address its climate impact.

“We’ve gotten zero responses… crickets,” the group said about the company’s response to the proposal. The group called for other organizations to help close warehouses for 15 minutes on Halloween by blocking the exits used by Amazon’s trucks and vans.

The group said it had already lined up commitments from 350 Seattle, an environmental organizing group, and the King County Labor Council, a coalition of unions in the Seattle area, to try to shut down some Amazon warehouses in western Washington state.

“It is really to disrupt work for the day, for at least 15 minutes, and to hold space and send a message that this is a very critical election,” said Valerie Costa, the interim executive director of 350 Seattle. “We think it is really important that the country’s second largest employer gives time off to vote given that people are waiting in line for hours to vote.”

Amazon has more than 600,000 workers in the United States. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the call for a temporary shutdown.

Last week, a company spokeswoman, Jaci Anderson, said that in states with in-person voting, workers can request time off at the start or end of their shifts to vote, but how many hours they’re allowed, and whether they’ll be paid, varies based on state law.

Many states require employees to be excused and paid for a few hours if voting conflicts with work schedules. But several battleground states, including Florida and Pennsylvania, do not require employers to provide paid time off for elections.

A growing number of retailers, including Walmart, offer paid time off nationwide, and some, like Best Buy and Patagonia, are closing for a few hours on Election Day, Nov. 3, so employees have time to vote.

Credit…Stefani Reynolds for The New York Times

Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California was noncommittal on Thursday about bringing a stimulus measure to the House floor for a vote before the November election, noting that even though a deal with the Trump administration appeared to be coming together, “it takes time” to transform it into legislation.

At her weekly news conference, Ms. Pelosi said she believed she and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, were “just about there” in their negotiations to reach a compromise, although she said they had yet to agree on the two biggest sticking points. The White House is resisting Democrats’ push for $500 billion for state and local governments, while Democrats have balked at Republicans’ demands for liability protections for schools, hospitals and businesses open during the pandemic.

Even if the pair were to reach agreement on those issues, Ms. Pelosi said there was no guarantee it could be passed before Nov. 3.

“It’s not just a question of us agreeing in a room,” Ms. Pelosi said, noting that the process of writing any deal into legislative language and having the Congressional Budget Office go through it to determine an official cost could be lengthy. “It takes time.”

But ahead of another scheduled phone conversation with Mr. Mnuchin, she continued to maintain public optimism that an agreement could be reached and signed into law. She brushed aside public warnings from Republican senators, who have said they are unlikely to support a bill anywhere near as costly as the emerging compromise, and have suggested that there aren’t even a minimal 13 Republican votes needed to join all Democrats to advance the legislation.

“I do believe that both sides want to reach an agreement,” Ms. Pelosi said. “I can’t answer for the disarray on the Senate side.”

President Trump, who has vacillated between urging Congress “go big” in stimulus talks and shunning a deal, on Wednesday preemptively blamed Democrats for the lack of a deal, suggesting that their push for state and local aid was standing in the way.

“Just don’t see any way Nancy Pelosi and Cryin’ Chuck Schumer will be willing to do what is right for our great American workers, or our wonderful USA itself, on Stimulus,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter. “Their primary focus is BAILING OUT poorly run (and high crime) Democrat cities and states.”

Credit…Sarahbeth Maney for The New York Times

The government reported on Thursday that 757,000 workers filed new claims for state unemployment benefits last week, a drop of 73,000 from the previous week but still a stubbornly high rate as the incipient economic recovery struggles to maintain a foothold.

Another 345,000 new claims were filed under a federal jobless program that provides benefits to freelancers, part-time workers and others during the pandemic. Neither figure is seasonally adjusted.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, new state claims totaled 787,000.

The dip in claims was welcome, but the numbers still eclipse the levels reached in previous recessions. Altogether more than 23 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment relief.

“Some recovery is better than no recovery, but we want this to be stronger,” said Ernie Tedeschi, managing director and policy economist for Evercore ISI. “It’s at risk of getting knocked off its slow momentum if we get another shock, another wave of the virus.”

Seven months into the pandemic, the nature of the job losses is changing. The hope that business interruptions would be brief and that most laid-off workers would quickly be rehired has faded. Every week, more Americans join the ranks of the long-term unemployed, defined as those out of work for more than 27 weeks.

Workers no longer eligible for state unemployment insurance can still receive 13 weeks of benefits under the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program. As a result, some reductions in state jobless rolls may not mean that people are back at work, but rather that they have shifted to the federal program, Mr. Tedeschi said.

This latest report comes as coronavirus cases are again surging in the United States and as a second round of federal relief faces opposition from Senate Republicans over a possible $2 trillion price tag.

“The claims remain very elevated, and the lack of continuing fiscal aid for the unemployed is going to weigh on consumer attitudes and consumer spending,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics. “It’s a very painful reality for those households who were relying on it.”

Even as President Trump’s overall approval ratings have fallen during the pandemic, voters continue to give him comparatively high marks on the economy. That appears to be true even for people bearing the brunt of the pandemic-induced recession.

Over all, 47 percent of registered voters say they think Mr. Trump would do a better job on the economy than his Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to a survey conducted this month for The New York Times by the online research firm SurveyMonkey. That’s a bit worse than the 49 percent who prefer Mr. Biden on that issue, but much narrower than the 14-point margin by which voters prefer Mr. Biden on the pandemic.

Voters who have lost their jobs during the pandemic rate Mr. Trump a bit worse on the economy, favoring Mr. Biden by 53 percent to 42 percent. (There is little difference in preference between those who have since returned to work and those who remain unemployed.) Voters who never lost their jobs, on the other hand, slightly prefer Mr. Trump on the economy.

But that gap is explained almost entirely by differences in gender, race and other factors. Women, young people and Black and Hispanic people were more likely to lose their jobs in the pandemic and are also more likely to prefer Mr. Biden on a wide range of issues, including the economy.

Job losses may have chipped away slightly at Mr. Trump’s support among one group: Republicans. Among Republicans who have lost their jobs and remain unemployed, 85 percent prefer Mr. Trump on the economy, compared with 96 percent of Republicans who have held on to their jobs throughout the pandemic.

Credit…Stefan Rousseau/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images

The British government on Thursday announced further economic support for businesses and workers, including a more generous wage top-up plan and grants for hospitality businesses and self-employed workers, as a second wave of coronavirus cases takes hold and more areas of the country are put under tighter restrictions.

It’s a sign of how far the government has deviated from its original expectations for managing the pandemic. Less than a month ago, the Treasury introduced a pared-back economic plan to support businesses through the winter amid concerns about rising debt levels. Since then, cases have spread across the country. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has now announced two updates to boost funding this month.

“There are difficult days and weeks ahead but we will get through this together,” Mr. Sunak, the country’s top finance official, told lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday. He added that it was now clear that businesses, particularly in the hospitality industry, that are allowed to stay open are “facing profound economic uncertainty” because of a drop in demand.

Mr. Sunak changed the terms of a new program that would help people working fewer hours when the current furlough program ends this month. Workers could work just one day a week, or 20 percent of their usual hours, and still be eligible for government aid to compensate for their lost wages, and employers would have to pay less to make up the difference, he said. Some critics of the original program warned that the high employer contributions would end up encouraging layoffs. Mr. Sunak also said self-employed workers would be eligible for double the value of the grants from his initial plan.

Under England’s new three-tiered system for curtailing activity in different parts of the country, businesses in the highest tier, which are forced to close, would get grants and a furlough program for their workers that would pay two-thirds of wages, Mr. Sunak said two weeks ago. In the middle tier, businesses are allowed to stay open, but households are barred from mixing indoors, which was predicted to hurt restaurants and pubs. On Thursday, Mr. Sunak introduced support plans for those middle-tier businesses and said the government would give local authorities money to pass onto hospitality and leisure firms, including hotels.

Opposition lawmakers accused Mr. Sunak of not acting fast enough to protect jobs. Data published earlier this month showed the unemployment rate had already climbed to 4.5 percent, the highest in three years, and there was a record jump of layoffs over the summer months.

Credit…Don Emmert/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines said their operating revenues were down about 70 percent in the three months through September compared to the same period last year, as the industry braces for a slow holiday season. American lost $2.4 billion over the quarter, while Southwest lost more than $1.1 billion and Alaska lost more than $430 million.

Air travel has improved somewhat steadily since early summer and reached a symbolic milestone on Sunday, when more than 1 million people were screened at federal airport checkpoints for the first time since March. But passenger volumes across major U.S. airlines are still down about 65 percent from last year, according to the industry group Airlines for America, and are expected to remain deeply depressed for the foreseeable future.

“Until we have widely-available vaccines and achieve herd immunity, we expect passenger traffic and booking trends to remain fragile,” Southwest’s chief executive, Gary C. Kelly, said in a statement. Doug Parker, American’s chief executive, agreed: “We have a long road ahead.”

Southwest also said it would start filling planes to capacity again starting Dec. 1, after capping seats in the spring. Delta Air Lines is expected to stop blocking off middle seats in the first half of next year, its chief executive said last week. United Airlines and American are not limiting seats.

Flights in the United States are carrying an average of about 74 passengers each, down from about 99 last year, according to Airlines for America. Carriers are losing about $200 million per day; those losses are expected to shrink but will continue through the winter and into next year. American said it ended September with nearly $14 billion in cash and other available liquidity, while Southwest had more than $15 billion.

IAG, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, said that its revenue declined by more than 80 percent in the third quarter compared with a year ago and the planes were only about half full. The airline group also said that it would further cut capacity for the rest of the year to just 30 percent of last year’s capacity. United and Delta last week reported large quarterly losses, too, with revenues down nearly 80 percent compared to last year.

Airlines have survived the sustained slowdown by tweaking operations, making last-minute changes to flight schedules to match demand and slashing costs, largely by encouraging tens of thousands of industry workers to take buyouts or pay cuts. This month, United and American furloughed more than 32,000 workers. With hopes of a second federal stimulus seemingly dashed, the industry will have to make do with less as it prepares for what is widely expected to be a dismal winter.

Credit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

John Michael Purdon is temporarily working as a substitute teacher near his home in Barnegat, N.J., but that was not the plan. Mr. Purdon, 22, graduated in April from the University of Pittsburgh and expected to be in a nursing residency at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “but right now, hospitals don’t have the money.”

On June 1, before he found the teaching gig, he applied for unemployment benefits. They didn’t arrive until the end of August, he said.

In his view, the economy is faltering in part because of the government’s mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m a health care professional myself,” he said, and “certain things were overlooked in trying to rush the economy back too quickly.”

Mr. Purdon voted for President Trump in 2016 but said he had already cast a vote for Mr. Trump’s 2020 opponent, Joseph R. Biden Jr.

States around the country, overwhelmed by applications, have struggled to deliver benefits to laid-off workers.

California, which had reported the highest number of claims, stopped accepting new claims for several weeks while it revamped its system to whittle down the backlog and to institute fraud-prevention measures.

The Labor Department’s report on jobless claims, which aims to summarize information provided by the states, is the best official accounting available, but it is a flawed estimate. During California’s hiatus, for example, officials used the last reported figure as a place holder.

States also have different accounting methods, some applicants may be double counted, and there have been reports of widespread fraud — particularly in the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which Congress approved in March for freelancers, the self-employed and others ordinarily ineligible for state benefits.

This week, the Justice Department said it had brought 12 cases of fraud or money laundering related to unemployment insurance. State prosecutors have also brought cases.

People laid off or furloughed because of the pandemic increasingly fall into two categories: those who have returned to their old jobs, and those who doubt they ever will.

Just over half — 53 percent — of those who lost jobs during the coronavirus crisis have returned to work, according to a survey conducted this month for The New York Times by the online research firm SurveyMonkey. That is up from 38 percent in August, and it is consistent with government data showing that the United States has regained a bit more than half the jobs lost last spring.

Among those still out of work, however, just 39 percent say they think they will go back to their old jobs.

The gap between the two groups is stark. People who have returned to work say their finances have held up relatively well, and they are about as optimistic as people who never lost their jobs. Nearly one in four say their finances have improved in the past year, a possible reflection of the stimulus checks and extra unemployment benefits that helped workers early on in the pandemic.

Most who are still out of work, however, say their financial situation is worsening. A third say that their unemployment benefits have expired, or that they tried and failed to get benefits. As a group, the unemployed are pessimistic not just about their finances but about the economy as a whole.

Economists say those workers are right to worry. In a speech on Wednesday, Lael Brainard, a Federal Reserve governor, warned that as more layoffs become permanent, job growth is likely to slow, as it has begun to do.

“The job-finding rate for those who are permanently laid off is less than half the rate of those on temporary layoff,” Ms. Brainard said, “so the speed of labor market improvement is likely to decelerate further if these trends continue.”

  • Wall Street added to its weekly losses on Thursday, as investors awaited more news on a potential economic stimulus package from Washington and considered the still-high weekly unemployment claims.

  • Trading was turbulent. After an early gain, the S&P 500 changed course and fell. Stocks in Europe were modestly lower.

  • Sentiment on Wall Street this week has been dominated by the agonizingly slow progress toward a spending deal between Democrats and the White House. On Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, raised hopes that an agreement might be reached, before President Trump seemed to dismiss the prospects for a deal on Twitter.

  • Then on Thursday, Ms. Pelosi again signaled progress. “We’re still not there, but we can be,” Ms. Pelosi said on MSNBC. Later, at a news conference, she said she believes both sides want to reach an agreement.

  • The constantly shifting prospects for a deal have made for unsteady trading all week, with stocks swinging from gains to losses and back. But broadly, the S&P 500 is set for its first weekly decline in a month.

  • Concern about the coming election in the United States is also adding to volatility in financial markets, Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, wrote in a note to clients on Thursday.

  • “Given the ebb and flow of the news headlines, we expect markets to remain more volatile than normal,” he wrote.

  • On Thursday, unemployment claims data highlighted the urgency of another stimulus plan. New weekly claims dipped, but at 757,000 they are still staggeringly high and a sign that the economy is struggling.

  • Tesla rose about 3 percent after the electric car company reported a profit on Wednesday for the fifth consecutive quarter, putting it on track to report its first annual profit ever.

  • European government bonds fell and their yields rose on Thursday, after the first sale of the bloc’s new bonds that will be used to fund pandemic economic relief. The European Commission sold 17 billion euros ($20 billion) in 10-year and 20-year bonds, the first of a series of issues that will raise a total of €900 billion during the next five years.

Credit…Etienne Laurent/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • 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, despite raising a combined $1.75 billion in cash from Hollywood studios, the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and other investors. Ms. Whitman said 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.”

  • Tesla on Wednesday reported a profit for the fifth consecutive quarter, putting it on track to report its only annual profit since its founding in 2003. Tesla said it made $331 million, or 27 cents per share, in the three months that ended in September. The company delivered 139,600 cars in the third quarter. That was a roughly 50 percent increase from the second quarter, when sales and production were severely hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. It produced 145,000 vehicles, and had revenue of $8.7 billion.

Credit…Jeenah Moon for The New York Times

A former City Hall reporter for the New York Daily News has sued the paper, its top editor and its parent company, Tribune Publishing, for wrongful termination, saying she was fired after questioning why she was paid less than a male colleague who had the same job.

A complaint filed Thursday in the New York State Supreme Court said that the reporter, Anna Sanders, discussed the gap in salary with Robert York, the editor in chief, and a human resources representative in April, but no action was taken.

In June, Mr. York told Ms. Sanders, 29, that she was being fired because she had revealed “personnel information involving another employee,” the complaint said. Ms. Sanders, who had worked at the paper since April 2019, was offered severance if she agreed not to speak about her firing, according to the complaint.

Ms. Sanders said in an interview that she had raised the issue after learning that her colleague made $80,000, while she was making $78,000. “I had been covering City Hall a lot longer than him and had built up sources at that point, and had already done the job by myself for four months,” Ms. Sanders said.

Tribune Publishing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Ms. Sanders had covered City Hall for The Staten Island Advance and had reported on city politics for The New York Post and Metro New York, which merged with amNewYork this year (Metro is not defunct, as was earlier reported here). One of her Daily News articles was a front-page article about the disparity in pay between men and women in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office.

“They allowed me to write a front-page story about the gender pay gap, so it was shocking to be fired for talking about my salary as it compares to a man and my concerns about whether or not that was fair,” she said.

Ms. Sanders is now a senior reporter for the legal news site Law360.

Credit…Erin Scott/Reuters

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved subpoenas of the chief executives of Twitter and Facebook to appear before Congress to defend their content moderation practices.

Democrats did not attend the vote because of a boycott over a separate vote to bring the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the floor early next week. Lindsey Graham, the committee chairman and Republican from South Carolina, proceeded with the subpoena vote, noting there is bipartisan concern over Big Tech companies.

The vote puts Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in the hot seat over recent decisions to slow, label and take down posts. Many conservatives, including President Trump, have accused the companies of censoring conservative voices on their platforms. The subpoenas were proposed by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, who has criticized the decision by Twitter and Facebook to limit the spread of an article by The New York Post that suggested Joseph R. Biden Jr., the former vice president and Democratic presidential candidate, had used his position to enrich his son Hunter.

It’s unclear if a hearing before the Judiciary Committee would come before the election. Next week, Mr. Dorsey, Mr. Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google, will appear before the Senate Commerce Committee to also defend their moderation of content.

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