Employees at Tesla's solar panel factory in Buffalo are trying to unionize (TSLA)

Tesla Buffalo employeesEmployees at Tesla’s solar panel factory in Buffalo are attempting to unionize.Tesla

  • Tesla employees at the company’s solar panel factory in Buffalo will hold a union organizing drive, the United Steelworkers (USW) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) said on Thursday in a press release.
  • The unionization effort will involve production and maintenance employees.
  • “Ultimately, it’s up to our employees to decide if they want to be unionized. While we will never please everyone outside of Tesla, we have an unwavering commitment to providing a great workplace for our employees,” a Tesla representative said.
  •  Some employees at Tesla’s auto plant in Fremont, California, have also attempted to unionize.

Tesla employees at the company’s solar panel factory in Buffalo will hold a union organizing drive, the United Steelworkers (USW) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) said on Thursday in a press release.

The unionization effort will involve production and maintenance employees, according to the USW and IBEW, which said Tesla employees contacted them about organizing.

The USW said in June 2017 that it was attempting to organize the Buffalo factory.

“Tesla greatly values its employees and the direct relationship it has with them at our Buffalo facility. We offer wages and benefits that exceed those of other comparable manufacturing jobs in the region, and we recently increased our base pay even further,” a Tesla representative said in a statement to Business Insider.

“Ultimately, it’s up to our employees to decide if they want to be unionized. While we will never please everyone outside of Tesla, we have an unwavering commitment to providing a great workplace for our employees.”

Read more: 70-hour weeks and ‘WTF’ emails: 42 employees reveal the frenzy of working at Tesla under the ‘cult’ of Elon Musk

“I wanted to work at Tesla because I wanted a job in green energy, a job that can change the world,” Rob Walsh, a Tesla employee and member of the factory’s organizing committee, said in the press release. “But I also want a fair wage for my work.”

USW had represented workers at the Buffalo factory when it was operated by Republic Steel. Tesla took over the factory, which it operates with Panasonic, in 2016, when it bought the solar panel installation company SolarCity, which had been using the factory before the acquisition. Production at the factory has faced delays, though Tesla says it plans to ramp up production in the first half of 2019.

Some employees at Tesla’s auto plant in Fremont, California, have also attempted to unionize in the midst of reports from Reveal that Tesla has misreported workplace injuries, avoided using safety markings for aesthetic reasons, and failed to give injured employees proper medical treatment.

Tesla has denied that it has misreported workplace injuries and failed to use safety markings for aesthetic reasons. The company did not respond to requests for comment on the allegation that it failed to give injured employees proper medical treatment. 

The National Labor Relations Board is investigating claims that Tesla has violated federal labor laws by interfering with union-organizing activities, retaliating against employees who supported a union, and using an overly broad confidentiality policy.

Tesla has denied those allegations.

You can read Tesla’s full statement below:

Tesla greatly values its employees and the direct relationship it has with them at our Buffalo facility. We offer wages and benefits that exceed those of other comparable manufacturing jobs in the region, and we recently increased our base pay even further. In addition, unlike other manufacturers, every single employee is an owner of Tesla, as everyone receives stock upon hire and for good performance, which results in significantly more compensation beyond our already high wages. 

Other factories are shutting down in the US and we still have a long way to go to make Gigafactory 2 financially sustainable. Nevertheless, we continue to do everything we can to keep exceeding our commitments to jobs and business in Buffalo.

Today’s demonstration consisted almost entirely of groups outside of Tesla, not Tesla employees. And ultimately, it’s up to our employees to decide if they want to be unionized. While we will never please everyone outside of Tesla, we have an unwavering commitment to providing a great workplace for our employees. That’s what matters.

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This 7-year-old company makes beautiful and inexpensive 'skins' for every piece of tech you can think of — take a look

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dbrand Galaxy S9

  • Technology can be incredible, but it doesn’t always feel very personal.
  • Enter Dbrand, a 7-year-old company based in Toronto that makes great-looking customizable skins for your smartphone, computer, or game console, and ships them anywhere in the world.
  • Take a look.

SEE ALSO: 15 mind-blowing announcements Google made at its biggest conference of the year

You can buy Dbrand skins for most consumer tech you can think of, but the most popular devices are phones, of course.

Dbrand uses a high-quality vinyl from 3M that’s guaranteed to come off your device without leaving any kind of residue.

The skins don’t add any bulk to your device, but they do bestow some nice benefits, like making them grippier to hold, and preventing scratches and fingerprints.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Amazon asked cities that submitted an HQ2 proposal to provide endless data, including the price of an avocado at Whole Foods and the cost of a Starbucks tall coffee (AMZN)

amazon hq2 licNew York City’s rendering of HQ2 in Long Island City.NYCEDC

  • New York City’s 253-page HQ2 proposal to Amazon — posted online this week — reveals how much data the e-commerce giant requested from states and cities as it searched for the site of its second headquarters.
  • Amazon asked about everything from the cost of a Starbucks coffee to education systems to nearby weekend destinations in a 29-page request for information earlier this year. 
  • This trove of data Amazon collected during its HQ2 hunt could be valuable for the company in the future. 

As cities and states battled to win Amazon’s second headquarters, they provided the e-commerce giant with an overwhelming amount of data.

On Friday, it became clear just how much information Amazon wanted. On Monday, New York City posted its 253-page HQ2 proposal online. The city quickly took down the extensive proposal, but The New York Times downloaded the document before its removal and published it in full on Friday. 

Read more: New York finally revealed the HQ2 rendering that helped it win Amazon over to Long Island City

“After Amazon announced its shortlist in January, it gave cities a 29-page request for information that required far more precision and was more about practicalities than flash,” the Times reports. 

Amazon’s questions, as seen in the proposal, are truly far-reaching. And, New York City willingly provided the information. 

“Specify the cost of a basket of goods in your community,” reads one section. “The basket is from Whole Foods: gallon of 2% milk, loaf of whole wheat bread, and an avocado. Also, the cost of Starbucks tall coffee, movie ticket, monthly gym membership (individual) at a YMCA (if U.S.), dry cleaning of a shirt, and a gallon of gas.” 

New York City dutifully answered the questions — an avocado costs $1.25 whether purchased in Midtown West or in Long Island City, though you can get a slightly better deal on movie tickets at AMC in Manhattan than UA Kaufman in Queens ($16.29 versus $16.40). 

Here are just some of the things Amazon asked about: 

  • Demographics of the city, including professional breakdown, race, and education levels. 
  • “Big ideas” that could lead to partnerships between Amazon and education centers. The State University of New York suggested an “Amazon Scholars Program” to enroll Amazon employees in SUNY programs of their choice.  
  • Detailed information on education systems, from pre-kindergarten through colleges. New York City provided data such as average SAT scores, third graders’ performance levels on mathematics testing, and how close colleges are to proposed HQ2 sites. 
  • “Quality of life” measures including health and fitness opportunities, hate crimes, weekend travel destinations, and the cost of living. The proposal highlights SoulCycle, notes that hate crimes are on the decline, and suggests that Amazon employees can visit Dia: Beacon or Fire Island on the weekend. 
  • Community challenges. New York City’s biggest challenges — according to the proposal — are inequality, transportation, and sustainability. 
  • Extensive real estate and zoning information on potential sites for HQ2. Amazon asked for details down to utility providers, parking options, and nearby restaurants. 
  • Tax policies and government organizations. That includes how taxes will impact employees, with New York City estimating that New York city and state taxes will deduct $9,060 from an Amazon worker earning $100,000 annually. 

The depth of the data requested by Amazon is especially interesting because the company likely collected similarly extensive information on all of its 20 HQ2 finalists. This trove of data could be valuable for the company moving forward. 

“Amazon has a godlike view of what’s happening in digital commerce, and now cities have helped give it an inside look at what’s happening in terms of land use and development across the US,” Stacy Mitchell, a director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a think tank based in Washington, DC, told Business Insider’s Hayley Peterson in November.

“Amazon will put that data to prodigious use in the coming years to expand its empire,” she continued. 

Exclusive FREE Slide Deck: Future of Retail:AI by Business Insider Intelligence

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Facebook quietly killed its Building 8 skunkworks unit as it reshuffles its cutting-edge experiments and hardware (FB)

Facebook has killed off its Building 8 skunkworks lab following a significant reshuffle of its experimental projects and hardware units.

The super-secretive organization was inspired by DARPA, and billed itself as a unit dedicated to building “new, category-defining consumer hardware products.” In its buzzy heyday, it worked on far-out projects like brain-scanning tech and skin sensors. It was a moonshot factory, in other words, in the same vein as Google’s X.

But things have now changed. Some of its most experimental projects have been shunted over to a new division, the Facebook Reality Labs, and its hardware segment has been rebranded as Portal following the launch of Facebook’s home video-chat device.

The Building 8 brand, meanwhile, has quietly been killed off completely, a spokesperson told Business Insider.

Building 8 was first announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg back in 2016. He billed it as a bold bet on hardware for Facebook, which has never managed to parlay its success in the software space into physical consumer goods like Apple and Google. It was led by Regina Dugan, a former DARPA director and Google exec, who then left Facebook after 18 months at the start of 2018.

“I’m excited to announce that we’ve started a new group at Facebook called Building 8 focused on building new hardware products to advance our mission of connecting the world,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post when it launched.

“We’ll be investing hundreds of people and hundreds of millions of dollars into this effort over the next few years. I’m excited to see breakthroughs on our 10 year roadmap in augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, connectivity and other important areas.”

In October 2018, those ambitions finally came to fruition with the launch of Portal— a touchscreen home video-chat device that lets users them call their friends and consume media using Facebook’s software.

With the launch, Building 8’s executives and hardware-focused teams transferred to a newly formed Portal team — and Building 8 was shuttered, a previously unreported development.

Rafa Carmago, who was made the head of Building 8 when Dugan left, was appointed VP of Portal when it officially launched. Head of product Ital Vonshak, director of marketing Nick Fell, and head of device software Viresh Rustagi also all made the shift.

Goodbye Building 8, Hello Portal

Some employees do still advertise themselves on LinkedIn as working for Building 8, and there are still some open job advertisements for positions at Building 8 — but this is because they haven’t been updated yet, a spokesperson said.

Other signs of the unit’s newness abound. Building 8’s official Careers page on Facebook’s website has been killed — but Portal’s jobs page uses all its old photos.

The Facebook Careers page for Building 8 has vanished — but Portal’s page uses the same photos it used to.
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Any other, unannounced hardware projects being developed by Facebook now live under the Portal organization — excluding virtual or augmented reality efforts that would be part of Oculus, the company’s AR/VR unit.

With Building 8’s dissolution, its more experimental efforts have been spun out into another new group: Facebook Reality Labs (FRL).

FRL was formed in May 2018, prior to the launch of Portal, though at the time it was just viewed as a just rebranded Oculus Labs (Facebook’s earlier AR/VR research efforts). It now holds tentpole Building 8 projects like the Brain Computer Interface team, which attempts to build computers that can meld with human minds. It’s being led by Michael Abrash, a games industry veteran and legendary programmer.

The haptics team, which is working on tech to help people “hear” through their skin, has also been transferred, according to its members’ LinkedIn profiles, and healthcare projects that were once part of Building 8 have also been moved out.

Some of Facebook’s other experimental research, like its work on biologically-inspired “soft robotics,” is also part of Facebook Reality Labs.

Facebook says it is still working on many of the same projects, albeit with a different structure. In an email, Facebook spokesperson Lisa Auslen said: “Building 8 was the early name of the team building consumer hardware at Facebook. Building 8 is part of Facebook’s AR/VR organization. Now that we’re shipping, it’s the Portal team. And Rafa Camargo is still leading the team; that has not changed.”

“We also unified research looking at longer terms projects under one team, which became Facebook Reality Labs, which is also part of our AR/VR organization. This includes research projects like the Brain Computer Interface.” She said that the restructuring did not entail any layoffs.

Zuckerberg’s vision may still be in place — but the reshuffle means it’s taking place in a very different way.


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30 last-minute tech gifts that are Amazon Prime-eligible and guaranteed to arrive by Christmas

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

Amazon

Nobody plans ahead to be behind on their holiday shopping, but it happens to the best of us year after year, despite always planning to do better. Thankfully, Amazon Prime offers free two-day shipping on millions of items, so nobody has to know you waited until the last minute to purchase their gift, again.

If you’re shopping for last-minute tech gifts, you’re in luck. There are still tons of great presents you can buy before Christmas, from noise-cancelling headphones to instant cameras to Amazon Echos.

We rounded up 30 of the best last-minute tech gifts we could find on Amazon, all of which are eligible for Prime shipping. That said, only Amazon Prime members can take advantage of Amazon’s free two-day shipping perk (and dozens of others). So if you’re not a member and want to try it out for a month for free, you can sign up for a 30-day trial.

Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks’ holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

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