The Amazon HQ2 'Competition' Was All For Show

The HQ2 'Competition' Was All For Show — Amazon Itself Is The Real Winner

Amazon's dealing gained them access to just about everything they need to be successful going forward.

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Amazon recently announced their decision to split their second headquarters, HQ2, into two different locations in the D.C. suburbs and in New York City. This was a competition that dragged along for months, with many cities vying for a place in Amazon's upper echelons.

In all honesty, I think we could all classify this "competition" as a spectacle. One could argue this was set up to give the impression of being a competition, while the results were already predetermined.

Why you may ask? Lots of reasons.

Amazon had much reason to select D.C. and NYC as the two main locations from the beginning. For one, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post, the biggest newspaper in D.C., and it would certainly benefit him to be in a position to be in Washington D.C. more frequently to influence the political establishment and Congress to receive benefits, including anything from tax breaks to potentially having money earmarked.

In New York City, there is the obvious incentive of being able to interact with individuals associated with one of the largest sources of financial capital in the world. Being able to interact with the most wealthy individuals on the planet, working together to lobby and cozy up to one another. Relationships are key, and Bezos knows which ones he wants.

Jeff Bezos also had other reasons to make this seem as if it was a competition since Amazon was able to see what lengths cities would go to in order to attract Amazon to their location — including all the tax breaks, resources, access to infrastructure and anything else cities proposed. Atlanta, for example, offered Amazon a personal car on its railway, in addition to a personal space at their airport. Boston offered interest-free housing to new Amazon employees, Columbus offered a crime task force, and nearly every city offered a significant tax break for the company.

What is to stop Amazon from coming back to play these games again and demanding a better package, along with using the knowledge they already gained from previous proposals?

Lastly, I believe a huge opportunity was missed here for many cities struggling financially, as well as with their population decline, at this time. Detroit has lost the majority of its population but has seen a lot of recent investment via Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, as well from Ford, who recently bought the Michigan Central Station. A city with a lot of new investment? Why not there?

Other cities like Cleveland — or cities that are established hubs for some sort of industry — could have used that extra shot in the arm. and a lot of these cities they considered have prestigious universities that, with possible investment into the various tech-oriented departments, could have churned out employees for the company.

This could have trickled down into states, creating something mutually beneficial for both the state and the company, rather than just essentially importing in students from the established schools to established cities.

There are many other potential issues associated with this move, such as rising housing costs, the costs of the tax breaks and other incentives on the two region's existing populations, and more. For the time being, it should be clear that Amazon's competition was just a ruse. Amazon will have the incentive to do this again, and it will most likely happen again.

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5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
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Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

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7 Places That Make 6th Street In Austin, TX The BEST Street In Austin

From live entertainment to the best local brews.

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When you think of Texas, I'm sure you think of cowboy hats and George Bush, but in the bustling city of Austin, it is so much more than that, especially on 6th street.

Voodoo Doughnut 

Are you a big Krispy Kreme fan? Well, you won't be any more after you indulge one of the Voodoo doughnuts from their well-known pink boxes. According to Voodoo Doughnut, "Good things come in pink boxes," especially their Homer and Bacon Maple Bar doughnut. (Based on personal experience)

Buffalo Billiards 

A yee-haw western bar that brings a modern twist into it. Come have fun and play some pool or darts or have some real fun by ordering drinks such as their "Blue Balls," or "Nice Rack."

Green Light Social 

An organic patio bar that is appropriate for just about anyone from young professionals to college students in Austin. Get yourself a nice "adult" Capri Sun, and dance in the radiant green, glowing lights.

The Blind Pig Pub 

A popular roof-top bar that has been located in the middle of 6th street for over 15 years and includes games and live music every single day. This pub has a whopping four bars and two floors dedicated to live music, and a chance to enjoy 16 local beers on tap.

Star Bar 

Another great gem that lights up 6th street with its huge neon sign that greets people from afar. This bar has two patios, one in the front for people watching, and another patio in the back. Along with their 17 rotating taps, they are also home of the best Fried Chicken trailer in Texas.

Voodoo Room 

If you are interested in more than just standing around and casual having a nice cocktail at the bar, I recommend Voodoo Room. Here you have the option to dance the night away with bottle service and drink specials from Thursday-Sunday.

Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar 

A bar that is full of entertainment and piano players. This is the only dueling piano bar in Austin, TX that includes a laugh-along and a sing-along great time for everyone.

This is only a sprinkle of what 6th street is all about. From the east side to the west side of this street is full of never-ending unique fun and food that I believe everyone should experience at least once.

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