Afternoon Coffee: Suez Canal container ship freed; Home appliance makers now facing semiconductor shortage; Amazon warehouse votes on unionization

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After nearly a week, the 1,300-foot, 222,000-ton container ship stuck in the Suez Canal was freed and is once again underway, according to NPR.

Tugboat horns blared in celebration on Monday afternoon after having freed the ship, named Ever Green. The vessel pointed north for the first time since last Tuesday, after winds and low visibility caused it to turn cross-ways in the canal and stick. It shut down all ship traffic in the heavily traveled waterway, the article said.

The successful effort to free the ship from the Suez Canal means that at least 369 other vessels backed up waiting to enter the canal can now move through. It will also allow billions of dollars worth of cargo to resume transit and avoid taking the long detour around the tip of Africa, the article said. The world’s largest container line, Maersk, said the disruptions to global shipping could take weeks or months to unravel.

“Buyers must resist the urge to simply wait and see what happens,” Ian Nethercot, supply chain director at IT procurement provider Probrand, said in a press release. “Even though the ship has now been freed from the shoreline, a huge amount of uncertainty will remain. When cargo starts moving again, we should still expect congestion and disruption as goods are unloaded at port. Products may arrive in the country, but it could still take weeks to get your hands on them.’’

Refrigerator, microwave and home appliance makers next in line for semiconductor shortage

As the global semiconductor shortage continues on, a new victim to the supply chain disruption is emerging, namely fridge, microwave and other home appliance producers, according to Reuters.

Whirlpool Corp., one of the world’s largest appliance makers, said it is falling behind on exports to Europe and the United States from China. It said it’s running low on microcontrollers that sit in particular products like refrigerators.

The semiconductor shortage first began in December as consumers in lockdown bought up laptops and other electronic devices. The article said many semiconductor producers then prioritized gadgets and electronic makers because they buy a more expensive silicon. Automobile producers were the first companies to be hit with the shortage. Now, home appliances may be next.

Workers at Amazon vote on unionization

Workers at an Amazon warehouse voted on Monday on whether they will form a union or not, with the vote count beginning Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.

The votes in the Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse will have implications for the country’s second-largest employer as well as the labor movement as a whole. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union would focus on working conditions, better pay and respect. Amazon is pushing back, arguing it offers more than twice the minimum wage in Alabama and workers get benefits like healthcare, vision and dental insurance without union dues, the article said.

The voting process is overseen by the National Labor Relations Board and the majority vote will decide the outcome. Amazon employs more than 950,000 full and part-time workers in the US, and nearly 1.3 million worldwide. Whatever happens with the vote, experts say it will reverberate to other parts of the workforce.

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