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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

Facebook’s CEO says the company will begin “aggressively” hiring remote workers and allow current employees to request to work from home permanently.

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Facebook’s CEO says the company will begin “aggressively” hiring remote workers and allow current employees to request to work from home permanently.

Jeff Chiu/AP

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he expects half of the tech giant’s 48,000 employees to be working remotely in the next five to 10 years as part of a major shift in how the company operates.

The company plans to begin “aggressively” hiring remote workers, and it will soon allow some current employees to apply to work remotely on a permanent basis, the CEO said in a livestreamed meeting with staff Thursday.

“We’re going to be the most forward-leaning company on remote work for our scale,” Zuckerberg said. “But we’re going to do this in a way that is measured and thoughtful and responsible and in phases over time. … Because this is fundamentally about changing our culture and the way that we all are going to work long term.”

The shift is a sign of how the coronavirus pandemic may permanently alter corporate policies and strategies, particularly in industries such as tech, where many employees can do their jobs outside the office. Twitter and Square, the payments company, have told employees they can work from home indefinitely.

On Thursday, Zuckerberg said that an employee survey indicated a lot of interest in permanent remote work and that he saw benefits in allowing more people to shift away from offices. These benefits include recruiting talented staff who don’t live near a current Facebook office, retaining employees who want to move and improving the diversity of the company’s workforce.

“When you limit hiring to people who either live in a small number of big cities or are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, different backgrounds or may have different perspectives on things,” he said.

The company will initially ramp up remote work for new and existing employees in the U.S. and Canada, focusing on experienced workers, especially senior engineers. Some roles, such as hardware development, content moderation, sales and recruiting, will not be able to be done outside the office.

Geographically, Facebook will first look to hire people in areas within a one- to four-hour drive of an existing office, such as Portland, Ore., San Diego, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The company is also looking to create new “hubs” with hundreds of remote workers in Atlanta, Dallas and Denver.

Zuckerberg acknowledged that the shift may save money for Facebook. The company will adjust employees’ salaries depending on where they live, he said.

Facebook, like other Silicon Valley companies, was among the first U.S. employers to close offices in the early days of the pandemic. Zuckerberg said 95% of employees are now working remotely.

While Facebook intends to start bringing some workers back to its offices in July, it will limit occupancy to 25% of normal capacity. The company has said that most staff can keep working from home through the end of the year and has canceled gatherings of more than 50 people through June 2021.

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Facebook Launches Virtual Shopping Mall, Saying It Will Help Small Businesses : NPR

Facebook hopes to make commerce a bigger part of its operation by letting businesses set up storefronts in its apps.

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Facebook hopes to make commerce a bigger part of its operation by letting businesses set up storefronts in its apps.

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Facebook is making a big push into online shopping by letting businesses set up free storefronts on its social network and Instagram.

Businesses can feature items in their shops, advertise them to users, and communicate with customers through the company’s messaging services. Shops will eventually be integrated across Facebook’s apps, including WhatsApp and Messenger.

Shoppers can buy products either through links to the businesses’ own websites or by using Instagram’s checkout feature, which enables purchasing within the app. Checkout will become available on Facebook in the future.

The company has been looking to make commerce a bigger part of its business in a bid to capture users’ time and new sources of revenue. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said those efforts have ramped up because of the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many of the 160 million small businesses that use Facebook’s apps struggling.

“We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online presences get online for the first time, and we’re seeing small businesses that had online presences now make them their primary way of doing business,” he said in a livestreamed announcement Tuesday. “For lots of small businesses during this period, this is the difference between staying afloat and going under.”

Facebook will not charge businesses to create virtual storefronts, Zuckerberg said.

“We know that if [Facebook] Shops are valuable for businesses they’re going to in general want to bid more for ads. We’ll eventually make money that way,” he said, noting that small businesses make up “the vast majority” of Facebook advertisers.

Facebook first launched the checkout feature last year on Instagram in the U.S., letting people stay in the app to complete their purchases. Instagram takes a cut of each sale.

Editor’s note: Facebook is among NPR’s financial supporters.

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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

Demand for rides has dropped sharply during the pandemic, exacerbating Uber’s financial woes.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images


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Demand for rides has dropped sharply during the pandemic, exacerbating Uber’s financial woes.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Uber is cutting 3,700 jobs — about 14% of its corporate workforce — as demand for ride-hailing has dried up during the coronavirus pandemic.

The layoffs affect people who do customer support and recruiting, CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told employees in an email seen by NPR. He said work for those departments had dried up as trip volumes dropped “significantly” and the company instituted a hiring freeze.

“Days like this are brutal,” he wrote.

Uber is also closing around 180 help centers for drivers and Khosrowshahi is forgoing the rest of his $1 million salary through the end of this year.

In his email, Khosrowshahi hinted at more cuts to come.

“This is one part of a broader exercise to make the difficult adjustments to our cost structure (team size and office footprint) so that it matches the reality of our business (our bookings, revenue and margins),” he wrote. “We are looking at many scenarios and at each and every cost, both variable and fixed, across the company.”

Uber already was losing money before the pandemic. The crisis has only exacerbated that situation as millions of people stay home. In March, Khosrowshahi said demand was down at least 60% in Seattle, and he was expecting a similar trend in other big cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Other U.S. tech companies have also been hit hard by the pandemic. Both Uber’s rival Lyft and travel booking site Airbnb laid off thousands of employees in recent days.

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California Sues Uber And Lyft For ‘Cheating’ Drivers And Taxpayers : NPR

The lawsuit is the first big test of a new state law that poses a serious threat to the ride-hailing apps’ business models.

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The lawsuit is the first big test of a new state law that poses a serious threat to the ride-hailing apps’ business models.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The state of California is suing Uber and Lyft for classifying their drivers as contractors instead of employees. The lawsuit is the first major test of a new state law intended to give gig workers more labor protections, including access to employer-sponsored health insurance.

“Uber and Lyft both claim that their drivers aren’t engaged in the company’s core mission and therefore qualify for benefits,” said Xavier Becerra, the state’s attorney general, at a press conference on Tuesday. “If drivers in California contract the coronavirus or if they lose their job as a result, guess what? They’re the ones that go missing. They’re the ones that don’t know what to do next. They’re the ones who have to worry about how they’ll pay their bills.”

Becerra said the companies are also harming taxpayers by classifying drivers as contractors rather than employees. The companies do not pay “hundreds of millions of dollars in social safety net obligations,” or state payroll taxes, he said.

The state is seeking penalties that it estimates could reach “hundreds of millions of dollars.” It also wants the companies to pay restitution to hundreds of thousands of drivers in California.

The lawsuit escalates an ongoing battle over how companies in the so-called gig economy treat the workers who make their services possible. The coronavirus pandemic has put gig workers in the spotlight and exacerbated the precariousness of their jobs.

Classifying drivers as contractors saves Uber and Lyft a lot of money because they do not provide benefits like health coverage to contractors, or pay into state unemployment insurance systems. The companies say that business model benefits drivers by giving them the flexibility to work when they want.

Becerra was flanked at the press conference by prosecutors from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, which have joined the lawsuit.

The California prosecutors contend that the companies are flouting the rules — specifically, Assembly Bill 5, a law passed last year that makes it harder for companies to say workers are not employees.

“Misclassification means cheating,” said Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney, at the press conference.

The law represents a significant threat to the apps’ business models, but Uber and Lyft have argued that it does not apply to them. Along with food delivery app DoorDash, the companies have pledged to spend $90 million on a ballot initiative seeking to overturn AB5.

On Tuesday, Uber said it would fight the lawsuit. “At a time when California’s economy is in crisis with four million people out of work, we need to make it easier, not harder, for people to quickly start earning,” the company said. “We will contest this action in court, while at the same time pushing to raise the standard of independent work for drivers in California, including with guaranteed minimum earnings and new benefits.”

Lyft struck a less combative tone in a statement it released Tuesday. It said: “We are looking forward to working with the Attorney General and mayors across the state to bring all the benefits of California’s innovation economy to as many workers as possible, especially during this time when the creation of good jobs with access to affordable healthcare and other benefits is more important than ever.”

Editor’s note: Lyft and Uber are among NPR’s financial supporters.

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