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Inside an alleged Amazon union-busting campaign in Kentucky: 'They want to scare us'

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(HEBRON, Ky.) -- Two months after Rubi Gomez began working at an Amazon facility in Kentucky, she woke up to a barrage of frantic text messages from her coworkers, she said.

"They were the kind of messages you would get if somebody was in a panic," Gomez told ABC News.

Managers had confronted employees as they handed out union materials in a parking lot outside the building, checking the same workers' identification multiple times and alleging that tables set up in the entrance pathway amounted to insubordination, a serious charge that could lead to termination, according to worker testimony and video reviewed by ABC News.

Recounting that hectic day in early November, Gomez said she headed to the scene and took a spot alongside her colleagues, prompting a demand from a manager that she take down the tables. The order frightened Gomez, who said she "wanted to be invisible." Still, she refused.

The tables violated company policy because they obstructed people entering and exiting the facility, Amazon managers told the workers, the video shows. The workers objected to the claim, saying that their efforts qualified as union activity protected by federal labor law.

Workers kept tabling in support of the union on this occasion and others. Within two weeks, 11 workers had received write-ups telling them that they could lose their jobs if they didn't stop.

The warnings marked a flashpoint in an alleged surge of anti-union backlash at the facility in recent weeks, workers told ABC News, describing mandatory meetings in opposition to the union, one-on-one questioning of workers active in the campaign, deployment of union-busting employee relations officers, as well as mass emails and text messages sent to employees.

"It's a massive escalation and it's meant to have a chilling effect on the union and workplace," Griffin Ritze, a worker at the facility involved in labor organizing, told ABC News.

In response to ABC News' request for comment, Amazon Spokesperson Eileen Hards said disciplinary action taken by the company came in response to infractions of company policy.

"These individuals repeatedly refused to follow our policies even after meeting with site managers more than ten times to address the violation and ensure the policies were understood," Hards said. "This has nothing to do with any cause or group they support, but rather like any employer, we take appropriate action when policies are continually disregarded."

"We believe employees should have the right to hear, learn about, and discuss important issues that could affect them and their families -- and that includes union representation," Hards added, noting the company believes it can serve employees best by directly responding in the absence of intervention from a union.

"We favor opportunities for each person to be respected and valued as an individual, and to have their unique voice heard by working directly with our team," Hards said. "The fact is, Amazon already offers what many unions are requesting: industry-leading pay, health benefits on day one, and opportunities for career growth."

The following account of the unrest at the roughly 4,000-worker facility, located near an airport in Northern Kentucky, draws on interviews with five employees involved in union organizing, as well as audio, video, texts, and messages in the workplace app reviewed by ABC News.

The outcome of the clash between workers and management in Kentucky may hold significance as a bellwether of union activity at Amazon in a moment when the nationwide campaign has encountered difficulty.

Last year, a worker-led independent group unionized a 6,000-employee Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York, the first-ever U.S. union at the company in its history.

Since then, however, the Amazon Labor Union, or ALU, has lost two consecutive union elections at other facilities; and certification of the Staten Island victory remains tied up in legal challenges. A breakthrough in the labor-unfriendly South would indicate a significant resurgence for the ALU.

Workers at the facility began signing up colleagues in support of a union in February, Marcio Rodriguez, an employee at the location, told ABC News.

The union drive, Rodriguez said, featured an array of demands: $30 per hour base pay, fixes for faulty equipment, bolstered safety protections, on-site childcare, overtime pay and non-English translations of workplace materials for the facility's sizable immigrant population.

Within a month, Amazon started holding mandatory meetings discouraging workers from joining the union, Rodriguez said. "I was in six or seven of them," he added.

In response to ABC News' request for comment, Amazon Spokesperson Eileen Hards said such meetings allow the company to inform employees about union-related issues.

"Like many companies, we hold meetings where we talk openly, candidly, and respectfully about these topics and encourage employees to learn more -- so they have all the information they need in order to make educated decisions," Hards said.

Workers used a small table as they signed up colleagues and handed out materials near the building's entrance, Rodgriguez said. Once or twice each day, management checked workers' identification badges to ensure that they were employed at the facility and permitted to access the site. But workers were largely left alone, he said.

By October, the union campaign had achieved significant progress, announcing that it had signed up over 1,000 employees, or roughly a quarter of the workforce at the facility.

Amazon's alleged fight against the union campaign escalated over the ensuing weeks, five workers said.

One day in early November, workers used two large tables for union sign-ups, hanging a banner across the front of the tables that resembled a mock $10 billion check meant to indicate the amount of profit the company had earned in a recent three-month period.

Passersby were asked to place a red sticker on a nearby display board to vote for which workplace improvement they would most like to receive some of those profits, such as the $30 per hour pay floor or on-site childcare.

The frequent identification checks and warnings of insubordination began that day, eliciting the flurry of text messages that brought Gomez to the site, workers said. A manager acknowledged to a group of workers that he had checked their identification five times that day, a video reviewed by ABC News shows.

The company held one-on-one sessions two weeks later alerting each of the 11 workers of a write-up they had received as a result of tabling and the risk of termination if they continued, workers said. Jordan Quinn, an employee at the facility involved in the union drive, said he was walking to the bathroom when a manager brought him into a meeting and asked him questions about his conduct for roughly a half hour.

"I'm kind of scared I could lose my job," Quinn told ABC News. "That's the whole thing about intimidation. They want to scare us so we back down."

The workers have filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency, alleging that the write-ups violate their rights to organize on the job and amount to intimidation. The NLRB did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Amazon has policies in place that prevent obstruction of access to promote safety and deliver a positive employee experience, the company said.

Federal labor law protects workers' right to solicit union support in the workplace while off the clock, the NLRB says.

Last week, the NLRB issued a decision finding that Amazon had illegally retaliated against union workers at its warehouse in Staten Island, New York over their support for the union or participation in union activity. Illegal tactics undertaken by Amazon included interrogating employees, subjecting them to closer supervision and prohibiting them from handing out union literature.

"We disagree with certain decisions within the ruling, but are glad the judge agreed that the terminated individual should not be reinstated," Amazon spokesperson Mary Kate Paradis told Retail Dive. "We continue to review other parts of the decision and are considering our next steps in light of this ruling."

Kate Bronfenbrenner, a labor relations professor at Cornell University, said current staff at the NLRB have broadly protected union organizing carried out by employees at work while off the clock but it's unclear how the board would rule in the dispute over tabling near the entrance of the Kentucky facility.

The tabling at the heart of the dispute at the Kentucky facility appears to have taken place in a non-work area, affording the workers significant protection under federal law, Bronfenbrenner said. However, Amazon my still be within its rights to prohibit union activity in the area if it has not permitted other third party groups to take part in similar activities at the location, she added.

Zooming out from the specifics of that dispute, Bronfenbrenner said, Amazon's previous posture toward union campaigns leaves little doubt about its approach to the labor drive in Kentucky.

"Amazon is as anti-union as it gets and it has the resources to take it up a notch from everybody else," Bronfenbrenner told ABC News.

Since the write-ups, workers have held two marches into the management office decrying alleged retaliation against the union. "The more we put ourselves into that setting, the more resilient I feel like we are," Marisa Krull, one of the employees who received a written warning, told ABC News.

In recent weeks, the company has resumed mandatory meetings with employees discouraging them from unionizing, workers said. On Friday, Rodriguez and Ritze attempted to speak up for the union at one such meeting but were denied entry by an Amazon employee relations officer, according to audio reviewed by ABC News.

"You'll be eventually asked to come to a meeting but if you haven't been asked to come to this one, you're in the wrong meeting," the officer said, appearing to raise his voice.

"What are you so worked up about?" Ritze asked. In response, the officer said, "You're right -- I'm very worked up."

Management has also held additional one-on-one questioning with Rodriguez and Ritze for an investigation into alleged violation of the company's restrictions for workers while off duty, according to audio reviewed by ABC News.

Further spreading its opposition to the union, the company sent a text message on Monday to employees with a hyperlink to a message on the workplace app entitled, "You have the right to say no," according to a copy of the message.

The message cautioned workers against signing a card in support of the union and urged them to alert human relations if they "ever feel like you are being treated in a rude, disrespectful, harassing bullied or intimidating manner."

For now, the workers have started signing workers up without a table, they said.

Gomez said she just moved to a new, more expensive apartment counting on income from the job at Amazon. If she loses it, her savings won't last long, she said. "I would cry a lot," she added.

At work, however, she continues to talk about organizing with coworkers and wear a union pin, she said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

DoorDash, delivery apps remove tipping prompt at checkout in NYC

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(NEW YORK) -- DoorDash and Uber Eats issued statements this week announcing changes to their respective tipping policies in response to a new minimum wage increase for app-based food delivery workers in New York City.

Earlier this fall, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that "apps should immediately pay delivery workers the Minimum Pay Rate of at least $17.96 per hour," according to the New York City Department of Consumer Worker Protection.

In a statement in late November, following the state Supreme Court decision, Vilda Vera Mayuga, commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, hailed the ruling, saying, "The minimum pay rate of at least $17.96 per hour will help lift thousands of New Yorkers and their families out of poverty, while still allowing flexibility for both apps and workers ... We thank the court for making the right decision and thank the hundreds of delivery workers who fought for their right to earn a dignified wage."

Maria Torres-Springer, deputy mayor for Housing, Economic Development, and Workforce, added separately, "Delivery workers are a critical part of our city’s workforce and play a critical role in our local economy, yet to date, they have not been able to earn a living wage. We are grateful for the appellate court’s decision today and expect the delivery apps to start implementing the minimum pay rate immediately. When we lift up working New Yorkers, the whole city succeeds."

In what they said was a direct result of that ruling, DoorDash and Uber Eats announced plans on Monday for New York City customers that do away with the formerly standard tipping prompt on the checkout page of the apps and add a new service fee to each transaction. Customers can still choose to include a tip once the delivery has been completed, and both companies assured delivery drivers that they will receive 100% of those tips.

While some consumers unaware of the city's changes may have been caught off guard, DoorDash made an extensive push to explain how its updates would allow it "to better balance the impact of bad policies in NYC for everyone who uses our platform."

"As we have repeatedly made clear in recent months, the ill-conceived, extreme minimum pay rate for food delivery workers in New York City will have significant consequences for everyone who uses our platform," DoorDash said in statement about its New York City customer experience. "Unfortunately, these regulations will significantly increase the costs of facilitating delivery in NYC and force us to make a number of operational changes, which is why we're providing an update on what local consumers and Dashers will be seeing beginning today."

When the earnings standard was announced in June, DoorDash issued a statement saying the outcome would create unpopular consequences for the delivery worker experience.

In order to meet the new minimum pay rate, DoorDash said at the time that its platform and others would "have to increase costs on each order or reduce services in New York City," stating that other impacts of the coming changes could include fewer opportunities for Dashers to work when they choose, customers potentially priced out of orders, and possible jobs lost at local restaurants.

DoorDash, Uber Eats and Grubhub set out on a united front earlier this year to argue against the City Council measure in an effort to block such pay raises, but failed when New York Acting Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Moyne rejected those arguments.

"Policies have consequences, and these changes come as a direct result of the extreme earnings standard imposed in New York City," a DoorDash spokesperson told "Good Morning America" on Thursday. "The City itself acknowledged that platforms could make changes to our tipping structure to help meet the significantly increased costs, which is exactly what we're doing and therefore should come as no surprise."

They added, "We're hopeful that these changes will allow us to better balance the impact across everyone who uses our platform and continue providing the best possible experience as we explore further changes to the platform in the months to come."

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Panera Bread faces second wrongful death suit from caffeinated 'charged lemonade'

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(NEW YORK) -- Panera Bread is at the center of another wrongful death lawsuit after a Florida family claimed the restaurant's caffeinated lemonade drink caused Dennis Brown to go into cardiac arrest.

The popular fast-casual chain issued warnings in late October and added signage on menus for the highly caffeinated "charged lemonade" beverages after a similar lawsuit alleged a woman died after drinking one.

In the wake of that death earlier this year, the restaurant chain at the time advised customers that the drinks contain "about as much caffeine as [Panera's] Dark Roast Coffee," and has cautioned customers to "use in moderation," with disclaimers that it is "not recommended for children, people sensitive to caffeine, pregnant or nursing women."

A standard order of Panera's charged lemonade contains 13 milligrams of caffeine per ounce, but the iced drink did not previously account for possible ice dilution in its original nutrition descriptions on menus. ABC News has learned Panera is undertaking the process of updating its menu materials and information.

The 30-ounce large-size charged lemonade was previously listed on Panera's menu as containing 390 milligrams at time of the first lawsuit, which is just 10 milligrams shy of the recommended daily maximum adult consumption amount of caffeine, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Panera menu now states the same drink contains 237 mg of caffeine.

The new lawsuit filed on Monday and obtained by ABC News, alleges that 46-year-old Brown, who was a member of the restaurant's "sip club" that allows customers to order unlimited drinks, had consumed charged lemonades with his dinner at a Panera location near his job in Florida and later died while he was walking home.

The lawsuit states Panera advertised the plant-based "charged lemonades," which come in three flavors, as taking lemonade to the next level with "clean caffeine" as an instant energy drink derived from guarana and green coffee extract.

According to ABC Atlanta affiliate station WSB-TV, Brown had a chromosomal disorder, and those close to him -- including his supportive living coach, Deann Burgess -- said that Brown "did not buy energy drinks or anything like that." Brown's family told WSB that Brown avoided energy drinks due to having high blood pressure.

Brown had been drinking charged lemonades for six days before he died, according to the lawsuit.

The suit further claims that the "unregulated beverage" purchased by Brown was "offered side-by-side with all of the store's non-caffeinated and/or less caffeinated drinks; it was not advertised as an 'energy drink' nor were there any warnings to consumers."

"Accordingly, Dennis consumed the Panera Charged Lemonade, reasonably confident it was a traditional lemonade containing a reasonable amount of caffeine safe for him to drink," the suit declares.

"Upon information and belief, during his ninety-minutes at PBC, Dennis refilled his charged lemonade two additional times. Dennis had a known habit of drinking three beverages in a row," the lawsuit further says.

Brown was found unresponsive on the sidewalk and pronounced dead at the scene on Oct. 9

"Panera expresses our deep sympathy for Mr. Brown's family. Based on our investigation, we believe his unfortunate passing was not caused by one of the company's products," a spokesperson for Panera Bread told ABC News. "We view this lawsuit, which was filed by the same law firm as a previous claim, to be equally without merit. Panera stands firmly by the safety of our products."

The FDA sent a written statement to WSB in Atlanta, writing, "The FDA is saddened to hear of the passing of a consumer and as always, takes seriously reports of illnesses or injury from regulated products."

The agency added that it "generally does not comment on possible, pending or ongoing litigation" and "monitors the marketplace of FDA-regulated products and takes action as appropriate, including collaborating with the Federal Trade Commission regarding marketing claims."

Family of college student sues Panera Bread over charged lemonade

The fast-casual eatery was previously named in a wrongful death lawsuit in Philadelphia in connection with the same caffeinated beverages after the family of University of Penn student Sarah Katz, 21, died of cardiac arrest after drinking charged lemonade from Panera.

"We were saddened to learn last week about the tragic passing of Sarah Katz. While our investigation is ongoing, out of an abundance of caution, we have enhanced our existing caffeine disclosure for these beverages at our bakery cafes, on our website and on the Panera app," a spokesperson for Panera told ABC News then in a statement.

At age 5, Katz was diagnosed with Congenital Long QT Syndrome Type 1, which can result in potentially life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms due to potassium ion channels in the heart not working properly, disrupting the heart's electrical activity.

According to the lawsuit, obtained by ABC News, at the time Katz drank the charged lemonade, it was not advertised by Panera as an "energy drink."

"She was very aware of her health," Katz's roommate and friend Victoria Conway told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB. "She was very vigilant to avoid caffeine. She never drank coffee."

A regular 20-ounce serving size of the charged lemonade contained 260 milligrams of caffeine, and the large 30-ounce size contained 390 milligrams.

"Generally at lower doses, caffeine is not harmful, but at higher doses we begin to discuss the negative effects they can have on our body," ABC News medical contributor Dr. Darien Sutton said. "The FDA recommends that the average adult drinks no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day."

That amount, 400 milligrams a day -- which is approximately four or five cups of coffee -- is "not generally associated with dangerous, negative effects" for healthy adults, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA notes that there is a "wide variation in both how sensitive people are to the effects of caffeine and how fast they metabolize it," especially for certain conditions and some medications, which the FDA says "can make people more sensitive to caffeine's effects."

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SAG-AFTRA members vote to ratify three-year contract with studios

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(LOS ANGELES) -- SAG-AFTRA members voted to ratify the deal that successfully ended the historic 118-day strike, the union announced on Tuesday.

The contract was approved with 78% voting in favor of the deal. SAG-AFTRA didn't reveal the exact number of members who voted but said it was 38.15% of the union.

The union, which represents approximately 160,000 Hollywood performers, cleared members to return to work on Nov. 9 after SAG-AFTRA board members approved the then-tentative deal.

The three-year agreement is effective retroactively to Nov. 9, and expires June 30, 2026, the union said in a press release.

The union released the entire 128-page contract after Thanksgiving, valuing the deal at "more than $1 billion in new compensation and benefit plan funding."

The deal provides a 7% increase in minimum rates in the first year and the first-ever protections against the use of artificial intelligence to replicate performances, requiring compensation and consent guardrails to protect performers from generative AI technology.

As part of the new deal, streaming services will pay bonuses to shows that reach a certain level of success, bonuses that the union estimates will be about $40 million per year.

"This contract is an enormous victory for working performers, and it marks the dawning of a new era for the industry. Getting to this point was truly a collective effort," union president Fran Drescher and national executive director and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said in a joint statement Tuesday night.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios, congratulated the union shortly after the announcement: "The AMPTP member companies congratulate SAG-AFTRA on the ratification of its new contract, which represents historic gains and protections for performers. With this vote, the industry and the jobs it supports will be able to return in full force."

Actors began striking on July 14, joining the picket line alongside writers who went on strike on May 2, effectively leaving most of Hollywood at a standstill all summer.

The writers' union, the Writers Guild of America, successfully ended its 148-day strike on Sept. 27, after reaching a tentative deal with the studios. That agreement was ratified by WGA membership on Oct. 9.

Final negotiations between SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP, the group negotiating on behalf of the studios, began on Oct. 2 and continued throughout the month and into early November. Disney, one of the studios represented by AMPTP, is the parent company of ABC News.

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What to know about McDonald's new changes to classic menu items

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(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's burgers have been an American classic since 1955, but the iconic fast food chain has some changes planned to improve its buns, cheese and even how to cook its quintessential burgers.

McDonald's first announced in April that its signature Big Mac, McDouble, cheeseburger and hamburger would be made with softer buns, caramelized patties cooked with white onions on the grill, cheese slices that melt more and even an extra special sauce.

Chris Young, senior director of global menu strategy, told The Wall Street Journal in late November that McDonald's current menu is "quick, fast and safe, but it doesn’t necessarily taste great. So, we want to incorporate quality into where we’re at."

As The Wall Street Journal first reported, there will be more than 50 tweaks to improve the new burgers that have been tested at the company's Chicago headquarters.

Chef Chad Schafer revealed that the new burger is cooked with onions on top of the beef patty, before a layer of room-temperature cheese is added for faster melting, and all held together with a softer, glossy brioche-style sesame seed bun.

In addition to the new buns with a thicker base to help preserve heat, McDonald's will use dehydrated onions that rehydrate as they cook on the burgers. Lettuce and pickles will be stored in smaller containers so that restaurant crews will be required to replenish the supply more often from the cooler.

According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald's also discovered that cooking six burgers at once, instead of eight as they do now, "improved consistency and delivered fresher patties."

For fans of the special sauce on a Big Mac, McDonald's said it plans to increase the condiment usage to half an ounce, so that it can drip out onto the wrapper.

McDonald's claims the improvements are so good even the Hamburgler is coming out of retirement to steal a bite.

The updated menu items have already been rolling out in restaurants along the West Coast, according to McDonald's, and a few lucky ABC staffers and their families stopped by the Golden Arches in Los Angeles for a taste test.

Staffers agreed the food was indeed "very saucy" and "very cheesy" and one staffer's young daughter added, "Yeah, very good!"

The McDonald's changes are coming at a time when the burger business is heating up and McDonald's continues to hang on to its market shares amid competition from other popular chains like Shake Shack, In-N-Out Burger and Five Guys.

Business experts like strategist Kathleen Griffith said these tweaks may help McDonald's keep up with its rivals.

"Being that burger that people know, pulling out the original mascots, that sort of strategy is never going to get you into trouble when you work on driving a consistent customer experience. It's a good recipe," Griffith said.

The rolling launch is anticipated to be completed by 2024 and while McDonald's is not planning to increase prices for these burgers, prices can vary by individual franchises.

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Spotify to cut 17% of workforce, CEO says

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(NEW YORK) -- Spotify plans to cut about 17% of its staff, CEO Daniel Ek said Monday.

"To be blunt, many smart, talented and hard-working people will be departing us," Ek said in a note to staff posted on the company's website.

The layoffs at the Stockholm-based music streaming service, which employs about 9,200 people, follow two rounds of cuts announced earlier this year.

The company said in June that 2% would be cut, following a 6% cut announced in January, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"Economic growth has slowed dramatically and capital has become more expensive," Ek said on Monday. "Spotify is not an exception to these realities."

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Alaska Airlines to acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion

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(NEW YORK) -- Alaska Airlines will acquire Hawaiian Airlines for $1.9 billion, their CEOs announced.

Although the two companies will be merged, they will continue to operate under their current names indefinitely.

As a combined airline, Alaska Airlines will serve 138 destinations, expanding "access throughout the Pacific region, Continental United States and globally," the companies said.

Honolulu, Hawaii, will become a key hub city for Alaska Airlines, the companies said, "enabling greater international connectivity for West Coast travelers throughout the Asia-Pacific region with one-stop service through Hawai‘i."

Hawaiian frequent fliers will now join the oneworld Alliance network of airlines, which includes Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and British Airways.

"This combination is an exciting next step in our collective journey to provide a better travel experience for our guests and expand options for West Coast and Hawai‘i travelers," Ben Minicucci, Alaska Airlines CEO, said.

Peter Ingram, Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO, also spoke about the billion-dollar merger. "Since 1929, Hawaiian Airlines has been an integral part of life in Hawai‘i, and together with Alaska Airlines we will be able to deliver more for our guests, employees and the communities that we serve," he said.

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Google begins process of deleting inactive Gmail accounts

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(NEW YORK) -- If you have a Gmail account you haven’t used in a while – it could be deleted as soon as today.

Starting Dec. 1, Google will begin purging accounts that have not been used or signed into for at least two years. That means emails, Google Drive, Google Docs, calendar entries and photos will all be erased from these dormant accounts.

The company announced the move in May as part of an effort to protect users from security threats. Google says forgotten accounts often rely on old or reused passwords that could have been compromised. These accounts are 10 times less likely to have 2-step verification set up, increasing the likelihood of identity theft and spam.

If Gmail users have an old account that they want to preserve – all they need to do is sign in once every two years. Google says any of the following actions will also prevent an account from getting deleted once you’re signed in: read/send an email, use Google Drive, watch a YouTube video, download an app on the Google Play store or use Google Search.

Google says the policy only applies to personal accounts, not to organizations like schools or businesses. Accounts with YouTube videos are also exempt.

The first accounts to be deleted will be those that were created and never used again. Users who are affected should have received multiple notifications to the account email and recovery email address.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Cyberattack caused 'temporary disruption' to Staples online ordering

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(NEW YORK) -- Office retail company Staples was hit with a cyberattack, the company announced in a post on their website Thursday.

The cyberattack "caused temporary disruption to the processing and delivering capabilities, as well as to our communications channels and customer service lines," the company said in a statement.

Staples said its systems were disrupted because of the "proactive steps" it took to "mitigate the impact and protect customer data."

"All of our systems are in the process of coming back online and we expect to return to normal functionality in short order," a company spokesperson told ABC News. "We may experience slight delays in the interim but expect to ship all orders that have been placed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused for our valued customers. While it is too early to make any definitive statements, we are optimistic that our quick action helped avert more serious consequences. We take seriously our responsibility to protect all of our data."

Staples stores remain open and are operating normally, according to a Staples spokesperson.

It is unclear what type of cyberattack occurred.

"Staples stores remain open and are operating normally," the company said in its statement.

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Elon Musk apologizes for antisemitic tweet but crudely attacks advertisers

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(NEW YORK) -- Elon Musk apologized for a recent antisemitic post on X while speaking at a conference on Wednesday night, but added a crude denunciation of advertisers that have since withdrawn from the platform.

The advertising exodus this month amounts to "blackmail," Musk said, warning that the loss of ad revenue would ultimately result in the closure of X, formerly known as Twitter.

Musk used an expletive while addressing companies that removed advertisements from the social media platform.

"I don't want them to advertise," Musk said at The New York Times DealBook Summit in New York. "If someone is going to blackmail me with advertising money, go f--- yourself."

"What the advertising boycott is going to do is it's going to kill the company," Musk added. "The whole world will know that those advertisers killed the company and we will document it in great detail. Let's see how Earth responds."

X did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The recent wave of advertising exits from X included Comcast, IBM, Warner Bros. Discovery and Disney, the parent company of ABC News.

"Hey Bob, if you're in the audience, that's how I feel," Musk said, addressing Disney CEO Bob Iger, who spoke at the conference earlier in the day.

Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

X CEO Linda Yaccarino, who most recently served as the ad sales chief at NBCUniversal, sat in the audience during Musk's remarks.

Prior to his criticism of advertisers, Musk expressed remorse for a post on X earlier this month that was widely condemned as antisemitic.

"I'm sorry for that post," Musk said. "It was foolish of me. Of the 30,000 it might be literally the worst and dumbest post I've ever done. And I've tried my best to clarify six ways from Sunday, but you know at least I think it'll be obvious that in fact I'm far from being antisemitic."

Since Musk acquired the company last year, advertising revenue has fallen about 50%, Musk said in a post on X in July.

Before the acquisition, advertising sales made up the vast majority of the company's income, earnings reports showed.


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Autoworkers at Tesla, BMW and more move to join UAW, union says

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(NEW YORK) -- Thousands of employees at 13 non-union automakers -- including Tesla, Toyota, BMW and Nissan -- have moved to join the United Auto Workers, according to the union.

Autoworkers are signing union cards online at the UAW's website as part of simultaneous campaigns across the 13 automakers, the union said Wednesday, calling it an "unprecedented move."

"To all the autoworkers out there working without the benefits of a union: Now it's your turn," UAW President Shawn Fain said in a video statement.

The drive encompasses nearly 150,000 autoworkers across BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Lucid, Mazda, Mercedes, Nissan, Rivian, Subaru, Tesla, Toyota, Volkswagen and Volvo, according to the union.

The push comes after UAW's weekslong labor dispute with the Big 3 U.S. automakers -- General Motors, Stellantis and Ford -- which brought tens of thousands of its union members to picket lines.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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What to know about the Tesla Cybertruck ahead of its delivery event

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(NEW YORK) -- Since Tesla unveiled a prototype of its Cybertruck four years ago, the electric pickup truck has remained in the realm of preorders and earnings-call updates -- until this week.

On Thursday, the company will make its first deliveries of the Cybertruck at a high-profile event sure to be closely watched by consumers and Wall Street investors alike.

Encased in stainless steel, the Cybertruck boasts a payload and tow capacity that rival some other pickup trucks on the market.

But the ramp-up to full production will likely stretch into 2025, well-behind an initial rollout goal, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on an earnings call last month.

Here's what to know about the Tesla Cybertruck, the delivery event on Thursday and when the car will be made widely available for purchase:

What do we know so far about the Cybertruck?

The Cybertruck made headlines for a miscue at a prototype-reveal event in 2019, when Musk touted its "armored" glass but a window unexpectedly shattered seconds later during a demo.

The signature feature of the Cybertruck, meanwhile, may be its stainless steel frame. The steel resists dents, allows customers to forego a paint job and is "literally bulletproof," according to Musk.

The Cybertruck has a 3,500-pound payload capacity and 100 cubic feet of storage space, Musk said. The vehicle has room to seat six adults, the company says.

A 17-inch touchscreen rests atop the center of the dashboard, alongside an otherwise spare interior. Drivers can raise or lower the suspension 4 inches, Tesla says.

Tesla will offer three versions of the vehicle, ranging in price from $39,000 to $69,000, according to the release event in 2019. The lowest-cost option will offer a 250-mile range while the most expensive option will provide a 500-mile range, Musk said.

Those prices no longer appear on the Tesla website, however, leaving open the possibility of changes before the Cybertruck is made widely available.

More than one million people have pre-ordered the Cybertruck, Musk said last month.

What will happen at the Cybertruck delivery event?

On Thursday, Tesla will announce the delivery of an initial batch of Cybertrucks at an event in Austin, Texas, the company says.

The event, hosted at a manufacturing plant, will take place at 3 p.m. ET, the company said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Tesla says it plans to live-stream the event but the company has not announced where the video can be viewed.

The company plans to ​​to deliver just 10 Cybertrucks at the event, according to remarks made by Tesla global director of product design Javier Verdura earlier this month, Mexican outlet Milenio reported.

When will the Cybertruck be widely available for purchase?

Tesla faces "enormous challenges" scaling up production of the Cybertruck, Musk told investors on an earnings call last month. On a previous earnings call, Musk said the company "dug our own grave" with the decision to develop the Cybertruck.

Last month, Musk cited innovative features of the Cybertruck as a key reason for the delay.

"Prototypes are easy," Musk said. "Production is hard."

"You will have problems proportionate to how many new things you're trying to solve at scale," Musk added.

Ultimately, Tesla will produce 250,000 Cybertrucks per year, Musk said, noting that the company likely won't reach that output rate until 2025.

"You have to invent not just the car but the way to make the car," he added. "So, the more uncharted the territory, the less predictable the outcome."

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Travel Tuesday boasts savings on flights, hotels, cruises and more: how to score the best deal

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(NEW YORK) -- Travel Tuesday is taking off, and that next great vacation could be just a click away.

"We're expecting to see more deals available today than on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined," Hayley Berg, lead economist for the travel app Hopper, told ABC News' Good Morning America.

"There will be great deals on flights, hotels, rental cars and vacation homes today," Berg said. "If you're planning a trip for 2024, today is one of the best days of the year to book and score deals on future trips."

Whether you're looking to take a trip with the family or enjoy a weekend getaway with friends, there are plenty of ways to plan and save so you don't have to break the bank.

Hotels are slashing prices on rooms, including some holiday stays. Marriott is offering up to 20% off through Tuesday only for stays through Jan. 15. Also, travelers who are enrolled in the free One Key rewards program from Expedia and can get at least 30% off travel through 2024.

If you have your sights set on Europe, Hopper is offering great deals on hotels there.

"We're going to be offering up to 50% off hotels exclusively on the hopper app in destinations like Rome and Paris," Berg shared of the 80 dream destinations and over 10,000 hotel properties offering discounts without blackout dates or restrictions.

The Points Guy CEO and founder Brian Kelly told GMA that flight deals are even better now than during previous Travel Tuesdays.

"Because the airline industry is slowing down, air fares are starting to come down. And something we would have never thought a year ago [is] airlines struggling to fill seats," he said.

Southwest is offering 30% off some fares, while Frontier extended its all-you-can-fly annual pass at its lowest price of $499 through today.

Over 100 of Hopper's airline partners will be offering deals on Tuesday, including $50 round-trip fares from New York LaGuardia to Orlando, Chicago to San Juan for $160 round trip, and Los Angeles to Rome for as low as $480 round trip.

If an oceanfront vacation is more your style, Virgin Voyages -- one of many cruise lines discounting trips -- is offering up to 30% off fares.

"MSC cruises are an up and comer, they're offering really robust deals," Points Guy's Kelly said, adding that "Holland America is also offering 30% off select cruises."

Travel Tuesday Tips

As Berg mentioned, Hopper app users can check out the sale page, where Hopper has highlighted the best deals available.

You can also set price alerts on Hopper for the destinations or hotels you're eyeing, which Berg recommended for keeping track of the best deals in real-time. Simply click "Watch" on the app for destinations or hotels of interest, and Hopper will notify you when a good deal is detected.

You can also take advantage of Hopper's flexible booking options, which include "Cancel and Change for Any Reason" and "Flight Disruption Guarantee," adding the flexibility to book now and then change or cancel plans later, if necessary.

Berg also said Hopper has over 500 travel partners confirmed to be participating in Travel Deal Tuesday this year. So if there is a particular airline you prefer or hotel you've been eyeing, Berg said Tuesday is the ideal time to check for a deal.

"Airlines such as Aer Lingus, Air New Zealand, American Airlines, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, PLAY Airlines, and many more will have special offers today," Berg said. "Hotels such as Caesars Entertainment, Encore Boston Harbor Resort & Casino, Fontainebleau Hotel Vegas, MGM Resorts, Nemacolin Woodland Resort, The Equinox Golf Resort & Spa, Vermont, Wyndham Destinations and many more properties around the world will have discounts up to 50% off available to book on Hopper today."

If you're not ready to book on Travel Tuesday but don't want to miss great deals, Hopper also has a "Price Freeze" feature that will extend the Travel Deal Tuesday offers. When you see a good deal, simply freeze the price and book it later once you're ready.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

What parents should know about iPhone's 'NameDrop' feature

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(NEW YORK) -- In some recent social media posts about a new Apple iOS feature, several police departments have expressed concern about the new "NameDrop" feature potentially putting children at risk if it were to be misused.

But some tech experts say the technology is safe when used as intended and that the warnings in some cases are exaggerated.

According to Apple, the NameDrop option lets iPhone and Apple Watch users who are next to each other share contact information such as a name, photo, phone number or email address quickly and easily with just a few taps.

The feature, announced in June, is currently available on Apple's iOS 17.1 and watchOS 10.1 software, and is part of the software's existing AirDrop feature.

Concerns first arose after the Watertown Police Department in Connecticut shared a Facebook post Sunday that claimed Apple's NameDrop feature is "enabled by default" after a user updates their iPhone to the latest operating system. The post inaccurately claimed that with the feature enabled, "anyone" could place their phone near another person's phone and "automatically receive their contact information" and picture "with a tap of your unlocked screen."

In Pennsylvania, the Jefferson Hills Police Department on Sunday also shared a Facebook post with a similar note, specifically addressing parents, encouraging them to "change these settings after the update on your children's phones."

Despite those warnings, Liz Keping, the owner and founder of Cyber Safety Consulting, told ABC News' Good Morning America that parents do not have to be overly alarmed about kids' safety surrounding the use of NameDrop.

"I wouldn't say they should be hyper concerned about NameDrop more so than any other feature that their kids are exposed to when they use the devices," Keping said. "The way the police postings read was that if you put two phones close together, you can have your personal information taken from your device, but there's actually a screen that pops up that asks for approval to transfer that information."

Keping suggested the NameDrop feature might serve as a reminder for parents to talk to their children about digital safety and safeguarding private information, especially from a young age.

"Show them where it's at, tell them that you want to turn it off [if you decide that], but then what it does is it gives a parent another platform to talk about why it's important to protect that information," Keping said. "If you say like, 'Hey, here's a feature in the app or the device. Let's talk about it.' You're not coming at kids like, 'Hey, are you sharing your personal information?' [which can make] kids really defensive."

Watertown Deputy Police Chief Renee Dominguez, meanwhile, told GMA this week that her department's decision to share the post, which also included instructions on how to disable the iPhone feature and change settings, was more about taking a proactive approach to try to educate and raise awareness of a newer phone feature, as they have done previously when sharing information about phone scams or incidents that arise from the use of new technology.

"We just want people to be aware and choose to set up your child's phone, your own phone, the way that you feel that suits your needs and as much privacy as you want to keep on your phone and restriction of access," Dominguez said. "We will go to some of these workshops that we do for parents, and parents really have no idea that their kids have all these abilities on their phone."

However, Dominguez added, "There has been no negative activity with [NameDrop] that [has] been reported to the police department, or even in our surrounding area that we've been made aware of."

Apple declined to comment to GMA about the NameDrop feature. The company explains on its website, however, that if users wish, they can select who they want to share any contact information with and when -- and it can only be done when devices are within centimeters of each other, when devices are unlocked, and when a user follows the prompts to complete a NameDrop process.

The NameDrop function can be disabled by going to an iPhone's Settings app, selecting the General tab, then the AirDrop tab, and then toggling the "Bringing Devices Together" option off.

If a NameDrop process is started, it will also automatically cancel if one of the iPhones or Apple Watches is moved away from the second device, or if an iPhone is locked before the NameDrop process is completed.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Black Friday shopping takeaways and what they mean for the economy

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(NEW YORK) -- Black Friday sales did gangbusters as the nation enters a holiday shopping season expected to test shoppers, who account for nearly three-quarters of U.S. economic activity.

Consumers spent a record $9.8 billion online on Black Friday, which marks a 7.5% increase over the year prior, according to Adobe Analytics.

Shopper visits, a metric used to assess in-person sales, rose 4.6% compared to a year ago -- a rate nearly double the average overall increase in foot traffic so far this year, retail data firm Sensormatic Solutions said.

Even more, consumers are expected to spend between $12 billion and $12.4 billion on Cyber Monday, which would make it the biggest online shopping day ever recorded, Adobe Analytics said.

A significant reduction of inflation over the past year has delivered some relief for consumers. At the same time, they've been squeezed by a decline in savings built up during the pandemic and a spike in borrowing costs for loans like credit cards and mortgages.

"The Christmas buying season got off to a good start, as Black Friday sales appear to be strong," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics, told ABC News. "Consumers are hanging tough."

A host of key indicators bode well for consumers as the holiday season takes hold. The unemployment rate stands near a 50-year low, wage growth outpaces inflation and savings have been resilient for upper- and middle-income households, Zandi said.

The U.S. economy grew at an annualized pace of 4.9% over three months ending in September, more than doubling growth in the previous quarter and rebuking worries about a possible recession, a government report last month showed.

Black Friday sales data suggests that the good times for consumers may continue for the remainder of the year, Zandi said.

"While Black Friday isn't always a good guide to overall Christmas sales, this is a good sign," he noted.

Still, potential pitfalls remain for consumers and, by extension, the U.S. economy, Simeon Siegel, a retail analyst at BMO Financial Group, told ABC News.

Credit card debt climbed to a record high in the third quarter of 2023, surging nearly 5% from the previous quarter and leaving a growing share of borrowers late on payments, a Federal Reserve report earlier this month showed.

The growing debt has emerged alongside a spike in borrowing costs for loans from credit cards to mortgages that stems from interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve.

Since last year, the Fed has raised its benchmark interest rate at the fastest pace in more than two decades, seeking to slash price hikes by slowing the economy and reducing consumer demand.

In theory, the economy should eventually falter as it becomes more expensive for businesses and consumers to borrow. The job market, for instance, remains robust but has slowed in recent months.

Broad economic trends offer ample "reason to be concerned," Siegel said. He noted, however, that Black Friday sales appeared to dispel fears of a worst-case scenario for consumers.

"The question was, 'Is it going to be such an overhang that it closes the cash registers and keeps people from going online and in stores?'" Siegel said. "The retailers' response would suggest that it was not."

Rosy inferences from the data deserve a note of caution, Siegel said. Consumers often spend during the holidays, even if it means shopping beyond their means, Siegel added, making Black Friday sales an imperfect shorthand for consumer health.

"The holidays have gotten off to a good start," Siegel said. "What you and I can see from revenues is what people spent. But what we can't see is what they have in their bank accounts."


Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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