This week is Business Twitter may have been a short one (unless you doomscrolled on President’s Day), but it sure was eventful.
Here’s what you may have missed from the week, including a Clubhouse invite from Elon Musk to Vladimir Putin, Vlad Tenev getting grilled by the Senate, and a toxic work environment at Gimlet Media.
1. Musk courts Putin
.@KremlinRussia_E would you like join me for a conversation on Clubhouse?— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 13, 2021
Audio social app Clubhouse seems to be attracting everyone these days, from Mark Zuckerberg (whose company is already building a competitor) to Kanye West. While West hasn’t appeared on the app just yet, Elon Musk announced last week that the two would be appearing on “The Good Time Show” in the coming weeks.
Musk’s latest Clubhouse invite might be a little harder to nab: Russian President Vladimir Putin. Musk tagged the Kremlin’s official account in a tweet on Saturday, adding a note in Russian, which translates to “It would be a great honor to talk to you.” No word from the Kremlin yet.
2. Dan Price remembers Rush
I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh 3 hours a day as a home-schooled kid. My parents idolized him.— Dan Price (@DanPriceSeattle) February 18, 2021
5 years ago my parents called me: "Rush is about to talk about you!"
I was in the news for slashing my CEO pay to raise our min wage to $70k. I excitedly turned on his show (1/6)
Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price is known for his opinions on wealth inequality and exorbitant CEO pay. He first made headlines when he lowered his own salary from $1.1 million to $70,000, and raised the minimum wage of his employees to the same annual rate. When Rush Limbaugh — the conservaive radio personality who died on Wednesday — got wind of the move, he wasn’t a fan.
Price opened up about his own experience with Limbaugh’s radio show, writing that his parents were diehard fans, exposing a young Price to three hours of Rush each day. Then, in 2016, Rush covered Gravity Payments.
"I hope this company is a case study in MBA programs on how socialism does not work, because it’s gonna fail," Price wrote, quoting Limbaugh.
Price got the last laugh when his company policy was indeed a case study in Harvard Business School, but not for its failure. Limbaugh never updated his listeners on Gravity’s success, which naturally irked Price. Price finished his thread by offering his condolences to Limbaugh’s family, but added that he’s “not sad that his show is over...He hurt a lot of people with his words.”
3. “Reply All” goes viral
Last week I got an email from Sruthi about Reply All’s Test Kitchen series. I had been avoiding listening but once I did I felt gaslit. The truth is RA and specifically PJ and Sruthi contributed to a near identical toxic dynamic at Gimlet. This will be a longer thread, apologies.— Eric Eddings (@eeddings) February 16, 2021
The hit Gimlet Media podcast “Reply All,” which covers all things internet-related, had a spin-off miniseries that told the story of Bon Appétit’s toxic work environment. Then, as it turned out, “Reply All” was also hit with similar accusations of toxicity.
A Tuesday thread from Eric Eddings, a former Gimlet podcast host, said that employees of color were discriminated against and passed up for promotions. Eddings specifically called out “Reply All” co-host PJ Vogt, who has since stepped down amid the scandal, and Sruthi Pinnamaneni, the host of the Bon Appétit miniseries, called "The Test Kitchen."
In the thread, Eddings said that an effort to unionize was not taken well by the hosts, resulting in some heated arguments: “[Vogt] told me he was slacking with Sruthi and that she had ‘called me a piece of shit and asked him to tell me.’ I told him that we weren’t going to disrespect each other.”
Pinnamaneni issued an apology via Twitter on Wednesday:
4. Robert Reich on Amazon’s union fight
The media has barely mentioned it, but the biggest unionizing fight in Amazon’s history is happening right now in Bessemer, Alabama.— Robert Reich (@RBReich) February 18, 2021
Jeff Bezos has crushed every unionizing attempt for decades. If these workers succeed, it will have a trickle effect on Amazon workers everywhere. pic.twitter.com/gbRLNAPhxI
Speaking of unions: Robert Reich, economist, professor, political commentator, and former Secretary of Labor, is known for his views (and tweets) on inequality. This week, Reich tweeted a video explaining Amazon workers’ efforts to unionize in Bessemer, Alabama. Almost 6,000 warehouse workers have planned union elections, the largest effort in Amazon’s history.
Amazon, meanwhile, has gone to great lengths to keep workers from unionizing. The last attempt, in 2014, involved a smaller group of warehouse workers in Delaware. In Alabama, Amazon has resorted to forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings, texting workers up to five times a day, and even altering traffic signals near the warehouse to deter workers from congregating.
If the Bessemer union proves successful, others could pop up around the country. Mass unionization would undoubtedly cost Amazon in terms of higher wages for workers, better working conditions, and benefits, among other potential union demands.
Reich, meanwhile, was supportive of the workers, adding that “Jeff Bezos has crushed every unionizing attempt for decades. If these workers succeed, it will have a trickle effect on Amazon workers everywhere.”
5. Mr. Tenev goes to Washington
Robinhood co-founder and CEO Vlad Tenev has taken the brunt of public ridicule for his company’s role in the GameStop stonk craze. After being heckled on social media, Tenev made his way to Washington (via Zoom) for a House Financial Services Committee hearing on GameStop.
Tenev’s tweet, a reference to the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” included the caption, “Off Twitter for a bit …”
During the hearing, Tenev apologized for halting trading of GameStop stock after January 28, but didn’t admit to any wrongdoing. Members of the committee weren’t satisfied with Tenev’s answers, however. He blamed the clearing houses and two day settlement policy for the trade shutdown, which most members took as an excuse. Although Tenev was grilled for a total of five hours, he was also joined by other players in the fiasco, including Redditor Keith Gill, also known as Roaring Kitty.
Keith Gill, aka Roaring Kitty and DFV, keeps saying the word "stonks" instead of stocks.— WallStreetBets (@wallstreetbets) February 18, 2021
Brilliant performance. pic.twitter.com/R1hT6FlTk2