Axios Closer

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February 15, 2024

Thursday ✅.

Today's newsletter is 689 words, a 2½-minute read.

🔔 The dashboard: The S&P 500 closed up 0.6%.

  • Biggest gainer? Zebra Technologies (+12.2%), a maker of data capture products like barcode scanners and RFID readers, reported strong earnings and better-than-expected guidance.
  • Biggest decliner? West Pharmaceutical Services (-14.1%), the contract manufacturer, provided investors with a cautious 2024 outlook based on near-term headwinds.

1 big thing: The UAW's Southern showdown

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Volkswagen plans to speak up when it spots "misinformation" in the UAW's campaign to organize the company's plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Why it matters: The two sides are barreling toward a showdown over whether the factory should be unionized, marking the third such collision in the last decade, Nathan writes.

  • It would be the first unionized automotive assembly plant in the U.S. not owned by the traditional Detroit Three automakers: General Motors, Ford and Stellantis.

Driving the news: The automaker plans to remain "neutral" in the UAW's organizing campaign, a Volkswagen official said — with notable caveats.

  • "Neutral doesn't mean silent. Neutral means we're impartial to what the employees decide," the official said. But "we'll continue to express our voice directly" and call out any "misinformation" in the UAW's campaign.

The intrigue: The official — who was not authorized to be identified publicly — said the company wants a vote by workers before it would recognize a union.

Context: The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an anti-union group, says a 2023 decision by the National Labor Relations Board could open the door for the UAW to avoid an official election if it secures signed cards from a majority of workers.

  • The UAW, meanwhile, said last week that it had already surpassed the 50% mark in its card signing campaign at the Chattanooga plant, where about 4,100 employees are eligible to join.

What we're watching: "We would like a vote," the VW official said.

Go deeper

2. Charted: Driven to strike

Data: Cornell ILR; Note: Stoppages include lockouts; Chart: Axios Visuals

Pay drove the most work stoppages in 2023, while health and safety issues were the second most popular cause, according to a new report by Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

Why it matters: Unions have been emboldened by 2023's uptick in strikes, including the UAW strike and the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, Nathan writes.

The big picture: The number of workers who walked off the job surged by 141% in 2023, as Emily Peck reported this morning in our sibling newsletter, Axios Markets.

  • Some 539,000 workers walked off the job last year.

3. What's happening

📹 OpenAI teased a new generative AI tool that will allow users to create video with text commands. (Bloomberg)

💸 Regulators released Wells Fargo from the 2016 consent order implemented after its fake accounts scandal. (Reuters)

📺 Walmart is reportedly in talks to buy smart TV maker Vizio. (Axios)

4. A bit of truth

Data: Yahoo Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

Digital World Acquisition Corp. got the green light from the SEC this morning to merge with Donald Trump's social media company, Truth Social.

The big picture: This is a giant step forward for the beleaguered deal to take Truth Social public, but comes one day after a giant step backward, Axios' Dan Primack writes.

Zoom in: DWAC disclosed earlier in the week that director Patrick Orlando has "expressed a desire for additional compensation ... which we believe presents a risk to our ability to consummate the [Truth Social merger] on a timely basis (or at all)."

  • Orlando owns 14.8% of DWAC's outstanding shares and holds a controlling interest in its founder shares. Were he to oppose the merger, or even just object to amendments, he could scuttle the deal.

Market impact: DWAC shares closed up 16.1% today but are still down 48% from their high in March 2022.

What's next: A shareholder vote on the deal will be scheduled in the next couple of days.

5. Yogurt cravings

Brands like Chobani have been adding new low-sugar and zero-sugar options. Photo: Kelly Tyko/Axios

Americans' appetite for low-sugar and zero-sugar Greek yogurt is growing, Axios' Kelly Tyko reports from data shared exclusively with Axios.

Why it matters: 72% of consumers are trying to limit or avoid sugar entirely, the International Food Information Council's April 2023 survey of 1,022 adults found.

The big picture: The low-sugar yogurt segment grew 17.9% year over year and sales increased from $1.88 billion to $2.2 billion, Chobani shared with Axios, citing Nielsen data.

  • Chobani and competitors like Danone North America have been adding new products, including zero- and low-sugar drinkable yogurt, as consumers become more conscious of their sugar intake.

Go deeper

6. What they're saying

"I can make almost anything go viral."
— Content creator Jimmy Donaldson, better known as Mr. Beast, to Time, which called him "the most watched person on earth."

Today's newsletter was edited by Pete Gannon and copy edited by Sheryl Miller.

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