business news in context, analysis with attitude

…with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

Gizmodo reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “announced on Friday that it is lifting an import ban that prevented a brand of genetically modified salmon - dubbed ‘Frankenfish’ by some - from reaching U.S. shopping selves … The FDA originally cleared AquaAdvantage salmon, which is genetically engineered to grow year-round and thus reach the market twice as fast as unmodified salmon, in 2015 following a lengthy, years-long review … However, Congress passed a law in 2016 mandating the formation of labeling guidelines informing customers that the fish was genetically modified - standards that weren’t finalized until late last year.”

Just label it. Be clear. Be unambiguous. Be obvious. But also be educational … explain to consumers why this is a good thing for them. Tell the story. Own the narrative. And then let shoppers decide based on real information.

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Costco “said it has raised starting wages for store workers to $15 an hour, as a tight U.S. labor market continues to drive fierce competition for hourly staffers.

“Executives at the Issaquah, Wash.,-based retailer, which has around 245,000 workers, said Thursday the company raised its minimum hourly wage for U.S. and Canadian staff from $14 this week. It is the second such increase in less than a year at the company, which raised its hourly minimum from $13 last June. Costco will also increase pay for supervisors and has started offering paid parental leave for hourly employees, said chief financial officer Richard Galanti.”

Costco always has been a good employer, but it is amazing how better they can be when they have to, because labor has gotten so tight.

• The Associated Press reports that “unions representing thousands of Stop & Shop workers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island are voting to authorize a strike if a contract dispute with the supermarket chain drags on … Members of Local 328 of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ union voted unanimously in favor of the authorization Sunday in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Three other UFCW locals have also voted to authorize a strike. Another chapter representing Stop & Shop workers, Local 919, is slated to meet later Sunday.”

The union says that Ahold Delhaize-owned Stop & Shop wants to “degrade the quality of life” of employees with inadequate offers on insurance, pensions and vacation time; Stop & Shop says its offer “would ensure full-time associates continue to be among the highest paid food retail workers in the region.”

• We reported here recently that Tesla has decided to move to an online-only sales model, and would close a number of its stores around the country, using just a few of them as showrooms but not actually taking orders there; the decision was seen as an effort by the ambitious but seemingly overextended company to cut costs, which would then allow it to meet its goal of selling its new Model 3 electric sedan for $35,000.

Well, not so fast.

Fortune reports that Tesla has as much as $1.6 billion in lease obligations, and the mall landlords from whom it has been leasing space seem to have little inclination to let Tesla off the hook.

In a securities filings, the Journal writes, Tesla warned “of the risk that its ‘various non-cancellable operating lease agreements’ could lead to legal battles should the company seek to terminate them.” Which would mean, at the very least, that Tesla and its often-unpredictable CEO, Elon Musk, may not be able to save as much money as hoped.
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