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The Apple unionization movement is taking place at a time when union membership is at an all-time low, but public support for unions is at the highest point seen since 1965.
While Apple is fighting hard against Apple Store staff forming and joining unions, a large-scale survey earlier this year suggests that embracing unions could help staff retention …Apple unionization background
We first learned of retail staff plans to unionize back in February. Things progressed in April, with a formal start to the process at Apple’s flagship Grand Central Terminal store in New York, with a number of goals for a better deal for staff. This was followed by similar moves in Atlanta and Maryland, before expanding internationally to the UK and Australia.
Apple has so far reacted aggressively, hiring the same union-busting lawyers employed by Starbucks. The company is now facing multiple accusations of using illegal union-busting techniques. Employment experts have warned that these techniques can work, but may have long-lasting negative consequences.
Daring Fireball drew my attention to the data.Record-low union membership
Reliable data doesn’t go back further than 1983, but the union membership trend since then has been steadily downward, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Its figures show that the number of workers who belong to unions fell last year to 14M, or 10.3% of the workforce. This compares to a rate of more than 20% in 1983, with a steady downward trend since then.
When you filter the data for private-sector employees, then the percentage is even lower, at just 6.1%.
The data shows that union members earn more than non-union members, though the BLS does caution that the numbers can be influenced by outside factors, like variations in the geographic distribution of members.
Among full-time wage and salary workers, union members had median usual weekly earnings of $1,169 in 2023, while those who were not union members had median weekly earnings of $975.Highest public support for unions since 1965
A large-scale Gallup poll in the summer showed that public support for unions is at its highest level since 1965, and just one point below the level in 1936, when the first collected the data.
Seventy-one percent of Americans now approve of labor unions. Although statistically similar to last year’s 68%, it is up from 64% before the pandemic and is the highest Gallup has recorded on this measure since 1965.
Support in 1936 was 72%, and the all-time high in the 1950s was 75%.
The most common reason for union membership was to get better pay and benefits, followed by other employee rights. Employers are more likely to retain union members, with 43% seeking employment elsewhere, compared to 50% of non-members.Apple unionization battle continues
There’s no let-up in Apple’s aggressive fight against the unionization of its retail employees. Earlier this month, the company announced improvements to education and healthcare benefits, but excluded unionized employees. This is the same union-busting technique used by Starbucks.
The unionization movement continues to make slow progress, with Oklahoma the second US Apple Store to unionize, while Australian workers planned strike action.
We’d continue to urge a cooperative approach between Apple and its retail staff.
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Taking Health Care High Tech Terry Ellis uses mobile health technology to keep people with Parkinson’s exercising
Photo by Steve Prue
It started in Denise’s thumb—a slight tremor when she gestured while talking. Just part of getting older, she thought. Or maybe it’s related to that shoulder problem I’m working out in rehab. Her rehabilitation therapist disagreed. “Go see your doctor,” she said.
Stephen’s handwriting tipped him off. It was getting smaller. Then there was that shaking in his left arm. His mother had experienced similar symptoms, and he knew what the doctor would say.
Denise and Stephen (last names withheld for privacy), both in their early 70s, are among an estimated 7 to 10 million people worldwide who have Parkinson’s, an incurable brain disorder that affects the nervous system, causing tremors, slow movement, stiffness, and impaired balance. Terry Ellis (MED’05), a Boston University assistant professor of physical therapy and athletic training and the director of BU Sargent College’s Center for Neurorehabilitation, is working to help patients with Parkinson’s like Stephen and Denise manage their disease through exercise.
“Especially with the explosion of aging populations, we’re going to have more and more people with these chronic diseases,” Ellis says. “So how are we going to help them maintain a high-quality life and the highest degree of function, and to be independent and age at home? I think physical therapy has a large role, but we need to think of new models of care.”
In fall 2013, with a $50,000 grant from the American Parkinson Disease Association, Ellis and Latham began recruiting for a pilot study featuring Wellpepper, application software designed to help patients stick to treatment plans. The participants, New England–area patients with Parkinson’s, are randomized into two groups: an mHealth group that uses Wellpepper on an iPad mini provided by Sargent and a control group that follows an exercise routine with the help of the traditional paper instructions and demonstrative photos. Participants in the mHealth group access personalized exercise videos—Sargent videotapes them performing prescribed exercises when they enter the program—and submit their daily progress and levels of difficulty and pain. They can also chat virtually with a Sargent physical therapist who receives their Wellpepper data and readings from pedometers linked to the app via Bluetooth wireless technology. Ellis chose the iPad mini based on focus group feedback, but ultimately would like to see the app available on any platform of the patient’s choice.
To participate in the program, Denise and Stephen traveled on separate occasions to the Center for Neurorehabilitation to meet with Tami DeAngelis (SAR’02), a senior physical therapist, who guided them through several exercises and gave them a pedometer and a daily walking goal. “I hope to get fitter,” says Stephen, who’s just starting out in the paper group, “and I hope it slows down the progression of the disease.” Denise, who has finished her six months in the mHealth group, says she is “willing to try anything, just so I don’t fall through the cracks.”
Patients appreciate the ongoing interaction and accountability mHealth technology offers, Ellis says. “They want the encouragement and some level of oversight—someone saying, ‘Hey, great job! Look how much you accomplished!’” The encouragement motivates Denise, who says mHealth technology keeps her on track with her exercise routine. She likes the personal interaction, as well as working with DeAngelis to switch up her program when she wants more of a challenge. DeAngelis checks Wellpepper regularly and says mHealth technology makes her feel more connected to her patients and better able to support them.
“Especially with the explosion of aging populations, we’re going to have more and more people with these chronic diseases. So how are we going to help them maintain a high-quality life?” —Terry Ellis
Data collection wrapped up in fall 2014, and preliminary study results are positive. When 18 participants had completed the first three months of the study, those using the iPad had a higher exercise adherence rate (81 percent) than those using paper (57 percent). They spent more time performing moderate-intensity exercise, reported more confidence in their ability to exercise successfully, and rated the program 9 out of 10 for satisfaction.
Sargent is ahead of the curve in experimenting with these technologies, which are examples of telehealth, the delivery of health services through electronic communications such as email, two-way video, and smartphones. As Ellis and Latham point out, telehealth’s possibilities are expanding as technology becomes a more integral and affordable part of people’s lives, and as health care professionals seek ways to counteract higher costs of in-person care and shorter lengths of stay in hospitals or rehabilitation facilities.
The Affordable Care Act, which includes provisions for telehealth, is giving the field a boost, says Karen Jacobs (SAR’79), a clinical professor of occupational therapy. Sargent has already incorporated telehealth into its occupational therapy curriculum, she says, and “is well-positioned to be a global leader in student training and faculty research” in the field. Participants in Sargent’s new Neurological Physical Therapy Residency Program, for example, are involved in observation and research for the Wellpepper project.
Telehealth poses challenging questions for the health industry: How will services be reimbursed? Will current licensing policies change to facilitate care across state and national boundaries? What steps will providers take to ensure patients’ privacy and the security of their information? But Ellis says now is the time for change. “We have to be innovative in coming up with new models of care to try to reach people. I think we can have a bigger impact than people realize.”
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That audible sigh you just heard marked the final death throes of a significant chunk of the systems that have been on our Top 10 Performance Desktops chart. And you can thank Intel’s Sandy Bridge processor for that. The Dell XPS 8300 is priced at an eye-poppingly low $1399 (as of 2/2/2011). No pre-Sandy Bridge system can top the price-to-performance ratio of this inexpensive little powerhouse. But that’s hardly where the story ends. Just how much more can Dell fit into this PC to truly earn the “Performance” title? Spoiler: Lots.
The XPS 8300 packs a brand-new 3.4GHz Intel Core i7-2600 CPU within its all-white casing. The chip is but a stone’s throw away from being Intel’s top-of-the-line part, as its bigger brother — the i7-2600K — adds an unlocked CPU multiplier to the equation (overclockers, rejoice). For all intents and purposes, the XPS 8300’s processor shares the crown of best on the market right now.
Accompanied by eight gigabytes of DDR3-1333 memory, the Sandy Bridge (second-generation Core) CPU helps the XPS 8300 make short work of our WorldBench 6 tests. It earned a score of 162 — you’d be hard pressed to find any rival in the XPS 8300’s price range coming close, though systems based on overclocked Sandy Bridge processors do post higher scores (with higher prices to match). One contender: The $1700 Micro Express MicroFlex 26B earned a 202 on our WorldBench suite, though it’s not as feature-filled.
The only real scuff mark on the XPS’s benchmarks comes from our graphics tests. The system’s aging AMD Radeon HD 5870 GPU is a very good one, but its average recorded frame rate of 120.7 on Unreal Tournament 3 (at 2560 by 2100 resolution, high quality) is hardly a category-leading mark. You’ll still be able to crank the next-generation titles you throw at the XPS 8300, but its benchmarking results are among the lower scores of all the performance PCs we’ve tested over the past year.
A two-terabyte hard drive is an excellent addition for such an inexpensively priced desktop, as is Dell’s inclusion of a Blu-ray combo drive. While these are generally standard add-ons in the performance PC category, we nevertheless appreciate that Dell didn’t try to cannibalize features in order to keep its costs down. One feature that really stands out as something unique in this category is Dell’s choice of wireless-N networking as a supplement to its existing wired gigabit setup. That’s not a make-or-break element that will suddenly inspire millions to rush out and pick up an XPS 8300, but it does give the system just that much more versatility in one’s home. Take that, wires.
Turn the system around, though, and you find four USB ports, one USB 3.0 port, one eSATA port, one SPDIF optical connection, one gigabit ethernet connection, and integrated connections for 7.1 surround sound, all making for a truly diverse PC. As for video, the system’s graphics card supports two DVI connections, an HDMI connection, and a DisplayPort connection — the holy trinity of video options. We couldn’t ask for much more.
Dell continues its all-white motif with a glossy, bleached mouse that accompanies the system. It’s generic in functionality, but we do like its look — just different enough from the old bargain-bin black that we’re so used to seeing on competing systems. The XPS 8300’s keyboard is black with a white trim, but, more important, it packs a few additional function buttons for launching applications and controlling media and volume. We dig.
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It’s a relatively short but important period in your child’s life: the high chair years. That magical time when they can sit eye-level with the rest of the family, perched atop a throne-like chair, and proceed to launch, mash, and pour food stuff everywhere (including, sometimes, their mouths).
Choosing the right high chair means making a lot of choices—plastic vs. wood, multi-function or basic—so a lot depends on your specific wants. But these high chair options will deliver no matter what your needs, and no matter what they end up being covered in.
Good for children up to the age of 3 (and not exceeding 40 pounds), the Graco TableFit is a single-function high chair that offers adjustability but, most of all, reliability. You are given up to 8 different height positions, making it perfect for any dining table set up, and the seat has 3 points of recline. Best of all, the seat-pad is machine washable and the tray is dishwasher safe. The TableFit also boasts what they call the “One-Hand Harness,” which allows you to adjust the seat harness fit with, well, just one hand. This feature is not to be underestimated, as any parent who has tried to help a frustrated baby while holding a tray of food can attest. The cool black and white design also mitigates some of the visual noise pollution common with a lot of child products.
As mentioned, some products aimed at children can be garish, which is why the WeeSprout is another welcome alternative. An extremely simple, minimal design belies its versatility and ingenuity. It can go from high chair to booster to kid-sized chair, growing with your child. Combined with its sturdy and easy to clean wooden construction, the WeeSprout is a multi-year investment—something that also can’t be said of every child-centric product. Because it’s so simply crafted, it’s easy to assemble and easy to adjust. Also, it’s refreshing to have one less plastic item in any home.
As the name suggests, this Fisher-Price option is ideal for families finding themselves maxed out on space. Rather than being a full-on, free-standing high chair, the SpaceSaver attaches to a standard dining room chair. The removable tray lets is function as a high chair first, then a booster seat later, guaranteeing at least a few years of use. Fully adjustable with dishwasher-safe parts, this highchair makes sense for those unwilling to invest in a more elaborate and less practical high chair, or for those with simply not enough space to accommodate one. It’s also available in an array of muted colors.
Lest you think we’re down on all sense of fun when it comes to the design of children’s furniture, we’ll throw a spotlight on the Infantino Grow-With-Me primarily because it combines playfulness with performance. The cartoon critter seat will delight children and actually cute enough to be a welcome addition to your home. The Grow-With-Me has 4-in-1 functionality, meaning it works as a standard freestanding high chair until you remove the legs and attach the seat to a standard dining room chair to save space, then it can be adjusted and transformed into a booster seat and eventually a kid chair. It’s easy to wash and easy to assemble, a great option with a welcome sense of whimsy.
tvOS is missing a lot of tent pole features of the Apple ecosystem. It’s an excellent foundation, but it could use a lot of work. It often feels like tvOS gets left behind when Apple is working on its annual platform updates. It’s time for it to get a chance to shine.
The first part of tvOS that you see is the Home Screen. Apple’s kept it fairly simple for a few years now. It has a large header space for dynamic content and a sea of app icons below it. In fact, it’s been that way since 2012 before Apple officially branded Apple TV’s software as “tvOS.”
There are a couple of ways Apple could improve upon the Home Screen on Apple TV. We can look to other popular smart tv platforms and even the modern iOS Home Screen with widgets for some inspiration.The Home Screen
Apple has teetered between prioritizing the TV app and the Home Screen on Apple TV for a few years now. I think it’s time to combine them into one system. Across the top, you’d get all of your key categories in addition to a few new ones: on the far left, a search button, and on the far right, a settings button.
In the middle of the Home Screen, the dynamic content header would still be present. But Apple could use it to show more types of information, including news. It also should be detached from the app that’s currently selected. Rather, it should show curated updates from the iTunes team. Below your dock of five chosen favorite apps, you’d find all of the great content in the TV app’s watch now tab.
Additional tabs include a dedicated place for all of your games and a new live tab for content that’s streamed live over the web.The New Library
Services that integrate with the TV app would be allowed to show favorite shows and movies right in the library alongside your purchases. There’d also be a new podcasts category to display episodes of shows you subscribe to.Apple News
One thing that’s always felt de-emphasized on tvOS is news. Apple News is such a perfect service to bring over to the platform. Videos could be curated by the Apple News team from articles and served up in a neat feed. Those who subscribe to live news services could access ones that choose to integrate with Apple News.
Apple News Audio and Apple News+ exclusive stories could also be included in a tvOS app. It would introduce a whole new avenue for Apple News content.Introducing Scenes
Apple TV screensavers are a staple of the platform. Everyone loves the beautiful landscapes, cityscapes, and nature videos shot by Apple. A new ‘scenes’ app could let you play these for extended periods of time in your home, in an office, in a lobby, wherever you want to.
You could save your favorites, set timers, and even have the scene show things like a clock. Newer Apple TV models could even show simultaneous streams of different streams on the selection menu.Secure Authentication
The new iMac shows that Apple can indeed implement wireless Touch ID. While the new Apple TV remote doesn’t have a Touch ID sensor on it, it certainly could in the future. But Apple could introduce more secure authentication right away with special secure connections to your other Apple devices with Touch ID and Face ID.
When you go to sign into an app or make a purchase, your Apple TV should ask your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to do the authentication work. You could scan your face or fingerprint on your other devices to pay for things quickly and securely.Handoff
Another feature that could integrate with your other Apple devices is handoff. It’s an obvious feature to bring to Apple TV, and it’s frankly bizarre that it hasn’t already been brought to the platform. When watching a show, movie, playing music, or a podcast, the Apple TV could recognize it and offer you a dismissible menu to transfer the progress to your television seamlessly.
It could work the same way it does between Macs and iOS devices or even like it does with proximity sensing with HomePod, where you can pass audio between devices.More to Love
Home app Home controls are already available on Apple TV through the control center, but it could be super useful to have a dedicated app for those actions.
Breathe app Fitness+ already integrates with Apple Watch to track your status during classes. Apple could introduce a complementary Breathe app on the tv so you can do synced meditations as well.
Night shift Lots of folks watch television late at night; a yellow filter could help reduce eye strain for late-night viewing or long periods of time.
Rebrand mirroring as Sidecar When using AirPlay mirroring with a Mac, Apple could rebrand it as sidecar and improve latency to make it more on par with iPad.
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About a week ago, Apple did something not entirely unprecedented yet rare enough to make big waves across the tech world. Without warning and seemingly off-the-cuff, they backtracked on the AirPod release date, postponing indefinitely a product they had massively built up themselves in September.
It is by no means the first time Apple is somewhat behind schedule in rolling out a product (take the Mac Pro, the iMac Retina 27”, or watchOS 2 in 2023), but it is for the first time pertaining to the product accounting for Apple’s biggest following and largest share of revenue: the iPhone.
While this might help explain the sheer scope of reactions to the announcement this time around, one cannot help but wonder if an increasingly unfavourable public perception of Apple’s standards also plays into the response. To be clear: in a world where billion dollar companies ship spontaneously combusting devices it’s a hiccup that must not be dramatised. With that said, Apple have once again given ammunition to critics who like to point at an expanding trail of imperfections. Could Apple be slacking off?
In view of the (badly communicated) AirPod situation, it’s a question Apple must be willing to stomach without taking offence. Regardless of their response, which without a shadow of a doubt would be a resounding rebuttal, it is astounding to observe how Apple needlessly set themselves up for failure in this instance.
Notwithstanding the fact that it looks at least a little unwise to release the first flagship iPhone embracing wireless audio and its designated wireless AirPods months apart, the pathos (#courage) and determination put on display when a late October arrival was promised to the public really seemed to jinx it from the off.
Does setting yourself a deadline for an obviously unfinished product mean slacking off? Of course not – if anything it means the opposite. But what do we find on the other end of the scale? Imprudence for one, possibly paired with overzealousness, two nouns we were not used to associate with the Cupertino-based company until recently.
Taking a step back from the self-inflicted AirPod situation, it is not too much of a challenge to recount other incidents where Apple appeared to throw their ‘it’s not done until it ships’ mantra under the bus.
People are quick to pick at the first generation Apple Watch in this context, however I would not call that a very strong case. It has become quite evident in the software department though and Apple’s sudden willingness to roll out beta functions on devices running final version software: iCloud Photo Library in iOS 8, Apple Music Beta on Android, chúng tôi the new Portrait camera mode on iOS10 just to give you a few examples.
For us users, some of these introductions definitely hit the ground running, while others did not. What matters is that Apple clearly started feeling the heat of the market and at some point made the decision to provide quicker access to certain innovations, even if it comes at the cost of a conceivably unpolished product. This is a conscious decision driven by eagerness if you are the glass-half-full kind of person, haste if it’s glass-half-empty for you. In that sense the motivations described above are pretty similar to the AirPod scenario.
In other words, is Apple guilty of sacrificing their vehemence and focus on the little things for the prospect of for example competing in the high-margin car business? Did Apple really believe they could nab a piece of the upscale jewellery market with their original $17,000 Apple Watch Edition?
This seems uncoordinated at best and while it is well within the company’s rights to experiment, throwing ideas at a wall and seeing what sticks is a method kind of running counter to the ideals of the company that used to think different.
The AirPod example is also reminiscent of the 2013 Mac Pro mishap, when early customers were promised shipping by December but eventually Apple had to back paddle on that too. Disgruntled customers aside, this went down on the back of the now famous ‘can’t innovate my ass’ line by Phil Schiller, a sentence that accurately sums up the gist of the previous paragraphs: almost inexplicably (considering their financial prowess), Apple can act like they are on the back-foot, as though they have to prove that they are still on top of their game.
Not only on top actually, but also blazingly fast at it. Unfortunately, a cocktail of the two is bound to have them run into recurring trouble and upset customers along the way. Just like with the AirPods.
What matters at the end of the day is not necessarily if you believe Apple is overambitious or complacent. What matters more is that it has been a while since Apple released an absolute prestige product which exceeded everyone’s expectations. The new MacBook with Touch Bar could be a good start, but it is early days. What matters the most is for Apple to keep its word on the dates no one but themselves decide to put out to the public.
If I sound a little salty on this topic, it could be because I am – and that’s Apple’s biggest failure. The importance of strong customer relations is part and parcel of the marketing 101 and Apple need to do a better job at adhering to it by not messing with the customers’ expectations.
If you have something in the pipeline but do not want to be quoted on a release date, guess what – that’s fine too. However do refrain from imposing an unreasonable timeframe onto your project and if you just cannot resist, at least do not communicate it with the public.
This is not stick for refraining from putting out an unfinished product, it’s merely a note on intelligent customer communication. In that regard the Apple of late is slacking off, but the good news it’s nothing they cannot recover from.
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