Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of November 9, 2020:
Biden wins. Former Vice President Joe Biden was projected to win the 2020 presidential election on November 8, 2020, defeating President Donald Trump. Biden secured 20 electoral votes and surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed for the presidency by winning in Pennsylvania. Senator Kamala Harris will become the first woman, as well as the first Black and South Asian American, to hold the office of vice president. President Trump has not yet conceded the election and has made claims, without evidence, of voter fraud in states such as Pennsylvania and Michigan.
- The takeaway: The election results came four days after election night, due to vote count delays. In addition to record turnout, millions of Americans voted early or by mail this year, rather than on election day, because of Covid-19. In contrast to Trump’s anti-tax, pro-trade war agenda, Biden campaigned on issues such as taking a more aggressive federal approach to combatting the pandemic, rolling back the 2017 tax cuts, expanding the Affordable Care Act, and supporting climate change initiatives such as the Green New Deal.
Uber and Lyft take a victory lap. Ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft won their campaign to pass Proposition 22 in California, meaning the companies’ drivers will remain classified as independent contractors, not employees. Uber, Lyft, and takeout food delivery company Doordash launched a $200 million campaign to pass the proposition, which came in response to a 2018 California Supreme Court ruling and later legislation that would have required the companies to reclassify their gig workers as employees. The passing of Proposition 22 means that these companies won’t have to provide workers with certain benefits, such as healthcare. The proposition does, however, include a wage floor and some limited benefits.
- The takeaway: The success of Prop 22 in California is expected to pave the way for rideshare and delivery companies to fight labor laws in other states. Uber, Lyft, and Doordash won in California despite a struggle by lawmakers and unions in California to regulate tech start-ups and to enforce labor laws for the gig workers employed by those companies.
More marijuana votes. Last week, Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, bringing the total number of such states to 15. Voters in Mississippi and South Dakota legalized marijuana for medical use. The state of Oregon voted to decriminalize all drugs, and legalized psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, for therapeutic use. Washington, D.C. voters also voted to decriminalize psychedelic plants. (Decriminalization means a jurisdiction removes criminal penalties, although the substance still may remain illegal to possess.)
- The takeaway: The newest laws legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana demonstrate the growing acceptance of marijuana use. The new markets in these states could be a boon to the legal marijuana industry, which already exists in some states and territories in the U.S. Additionally, the decriminalization of all drugs in Oregon could indicate an increasing effort to end the war on drugs in the U.S.
Amazon takes to the skies. Amazon announced that it will open its first air operations outside of the U.S. The tech giant will operate two Amazon-branded Boeing 737-800 airplanes out of a 20,000 square meter air hub within the Leipzig/Halle airport in Germany. The new hub will also employ 200 workers. Amazon first reportedly started the air cargo arm of its business in 2016.
- The takeaway: The new airport marks Amazon’s expansion of this kind in a foreign market. The move also displays a growing effort to bring operations and transportation in-house, rather than outsourcing that work to logistics companies such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or FedEx. Amazon is also building its transportation services in the U.S. In June, 2020, the e-commerce company leased 12 Boeing 767-800 planes, in addition to the 70 it already had, in the U.S.
When debt comes a-texting. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal watchdog agency, ruled on October 30, 2020 that debt collectors can now contact consumers via text, email, social media, and voice messages. Debt collectors will be able to use these methods of communication starting in 2021. The new ruling is intended to add more modern methods of contact to the ones outlined by the 1977 Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which placed restrictions on methodology and timing of debt collection. The new ruling limited the number of calls allowed per week to seven, but did not place limits on other methods of contact.
- The takeaway: Consumer defenders have argued that this decision could lead to harassment by debt collectors as well increasing the potential for scammers to target vulnerable consumers with fraudulent links. Consumers will reportedly be able to opt out of emails and text by making a written request to collectors.
Find out what we covered in last week’s Scan.