Jul 8, 2021

Axios Login

Congrats to the Tampa Bay Lightning for again hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup. (For my editor: That's another one of those sports things.)

Situational awareness: The stresses of the Trump era opened a rift between Facebook leaders Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, according to a New York Times report based on a new book by two of its reporters.

Today's newsletter is 1,371 words, or a 5-minute read.

1 big thing: Union flexes muscle for internet funding

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The union workers who build the nation's internet networks have a huge stake in how Congress decides to divvy up infrastructure funding— and they want strings attached to make sure they're not left on the sidelines, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.

Why it matters: The telecom workers' union sees an ally in President Biden for its pressure campaign to ensure union members will play a role in infrastructure-funded jobs.

Driving the news: The Communications Workers of America, which counts 300,000 members in the broadband industry, is launching a new lobbying campaign Thursday — the Build Broadband Better campaign — to secure three key requirements in the broadband portion of the infrastructure package.

  1. Prohibit companies that receive federal funding for broadband from interfering with union organizing.
  2. Ban companies from using federal funds to hire subcontractors for broadband buildout as a way of avoiding collective bargaining.
  3. Require that the companies pay the prevailing wage.

What they're saying: "You've got to make sure that when you're doing this, you're using the right folks to put it in," CWA president Chris Shelton told Axios. "And by the right folks, I mean unionized, qualified folks that know how to do this."

Flashback: The campaign builds on lessons learned from the economic recovery in the Obama administration.

  • "One thing we've experienced through the Recovery Act in the Obama administration is that you really need strings attached to this money for it to get the outcome that we want, if we're going to be investing tens of billions of dollars," CWA government affairs director Dan Mauer told Axios.
  • CWA members in some cases helped companies secure funding, only for their employers to hire non-CWA members to do the work, he said.

The big picture: Across the economy, the labor market is facing an unusual moment where employees seem to have more power and employers are struggling to fill jobs.

  • Tilson Technology Management, a Portland, Maine-based company that builds fiber, towers and other infrastructure, has about 140 open positions and has increased its rate for entry-level tower climbers from $17 an hour to $20 to $21 an hour.
  • "In this type of environment, the labor shortage itself is preventing us from actually taking on more work and work that is available," Tilson executive vice president of workforce Adria Horn told Axios.

What's next: Telecom trade groups, including the Wireless Infrastructure Association, have called for Congress to expand support for a registered apprentice initiative in the broadband industry to address labor shortages.

Yes, but: Shelton says major telecom companies have laid off roughly 45,000 CWA members in the last four years that he says could do the work necessary for broadband deployment.

  • CWA does not represent tower climbers, Shelton said, and an Economic Policy Institute report from October found that the share of telecom workers represented by a union has fallen from 60% in the 1970s to about 16%.

Meanwhile, Shelton said he's hopeful his union's requests will be included in the infrastructure package.

  • "Biden is pro, pro union and also is pro, pro getting this done, because he understands broadband is like water or electricity — it has to be done," Shelton said. "And the way to do it — the fastest and the best way — is using union people to do it."
2. States hit Google with new suit over app store

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

The attorneys general for 36 states and Washington, D.C., sued Google on Wednesday, alleging its Google Play Store engages in anticompetitive conduct that harms both consumers and app developers, Margaret reports.

Why it matters: This latest lawsuit opens up yet another front in Google's antitrust battles. The giant already faces legal actions in the U.S. over its search and advertising practices.

Driving the news: In a complaint filed Wednesday in a California federal court, the states argue Google launched its Android mobile operating system as an open source platform, but effectively closed the ecosystem to competition by requiring equipment makers like Samsung and network operators like Verizon to enter into exclusive contracts.

  • The contracts require Google's apps to be pre-loaded on devices that run on Android, and that they be given the most prominent placement on home screens, the attorneys general allege.
  • Google "buys off" potential competition in the market for app distribution by sharing profits with device makers and network operators that don't compete with the Play Store.
  • Google also extracts an "exorbitant processing fee" to take payments for purchases of digital content made in apps obtained through the Google Play Store, the suit says.

Flashback: More than 30 states sued Google in December, alleging it abuses a search monopoly. That action came after an October lawsuit by the Justice Department over parallel charges.

What they're saying: "It's strange that a group of state attorneys general chose to file a lawsuit attacking a system that provides more openness and choice than others," Google said in a blog post.

3. Experts: Trump social media suits likely doomed

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Legal experts and First Amendment scholars say former President Trump's class-action lawsuits announced Wednesday against Facebook, Twitter, Google, and their CEOs are unlikely to go far, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

The big picture: That, according to some of these experts, suggests Trump's team's chief aim is to fire up his supporters and fundraise off of their anger over what they see as censorship by Big Tech.

"This is not a lawsuit. It's a fundraising grift," said Evan Greer, director of Fight for the Future, a progressive advocacy group that often targets Big Tech.

  • "There is no chance Trump's lawsuits will do any better than the dozens that have preceded it, and Trump and his lawyers surely know that," said Eric Goldman, associate dean and professor at Santa Clara University School of Law.

The Trump campaign did immediately start reaching out to supporters for fundraising after the former president revealed the lawsuits in a press conference Wednesday morning.

Details: The central argument made by the plaintiff is that social media platforms are "state actors," and thus should be bound by the First Amendment's free speech protections. First Amendment experts quickly dismissed the claim as destined to fail.

  • "The First Amendment simply protects citizens from government censorship," said Syracuse University associate professor Roy Gutterman. "Social media platforms exercise great power, but they are not a branch of government."

The big picture: As Axios has previously noted, Trump has filed many lawsuits throughout his career, but he has rarely taken cases all the way to court, and hasn't won many of the cases that he has.

  • In fact, some of his lawsuits have actually led to historic legal precedents set by courts that create stronger First Amendment protections long-term.
4. TikTok wants to help its users find jobs

Watch out, LinkedIn: TikTok is coming for your job. The short-video app announced a pilot program Wednesday for users in the U.S. to apply for jobs using a video resumé.

Why it matters: The move could appeal to companies that want to reach younger workers where they spend their time.

Details:

  • TikTok said the test is being done only in the U.S. and is for both entry-level positions as well as those requiring more experience.
  • Among the companies taking part are Chipotle, Target, WWE, Alo Yoga and Shopify.
  • Those interested are "encouraged to creatively and authentically showcase their skillsets and experiences," and post their video with #TikTokResumes in their caption.
5. Take note

Trading Places

  • Irish AI firm Altada named Máire P. Walsh as chief commercial officer. Walsh, who will continue to be based in San Francisco, previously served as a senior VP of digital technologies for Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government's VC and trade arm.
  • Amazon's new CEO, Andy Jassy, has promoted two executives to the company's senior leadership team: Longtime communications head Drew Herdener and AWS executive James Hamilton.

ICYMI

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Question: Who needs to see a video of a raccoon cooling off on top of an air conditioner on a hot day?

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