• From the New York Times:
"Federal labor regulators have concluded that Amazon’s policy of restricting the warehouse access of off-duty employees is illegal, backing a contention of the union that has represented workers at a Staten Island warehouse since winning an election there last year.
"In a written communication sent to the union on Wednesday, a lawyer for the National Labor Relations Board’s Brooklyn region, Brent E. Childerhose, said the regional office had determined that the company broke the law by adopting the access rule last summer in response to union activity, and that it had applied the rule in a discriminatory fashion against union supporters.
"The Amazon Labor Union contends that the access policy makes it difficult for workers to exercise their right to talk to co-workers about joining or supporting a union.
"An Amazon spokeswoman, Mary Kate Paradis, said that the company had adopted the rule to protect employee safety and building security, and that it applied the rule fairly and in a way that 'has nothing to do with whether an individual supports a particular cause or group.' Employees continue to have access to nonwork areas outside company buildings, she said."
• The Information reports that "Toyota is phasing out support for Amazon’s Alexa in its vehicles as it focuses on improving its own in-house voice assistant, including by potentially integrating OpenAI’s ChatGPT, The Information reported on Wednesday.
"The auto giant has already dropped support for an app that allowed users to operate Alexa in their cars through their smartphones in 2023 models such as the Corolla, Prius and RAV4. It will be phased out from additional models in the coming years, according to a person close to the automaker.
"An Amazon spokesperson noted that the company still has partnerships with Audi, BMW and Chevy, which are among the car brands that have Alexa built into their infotainment systems."
• Bloomberg reports that "Apple Inc. plans to spend $1 billion a year to produce movies that will be released in theaters, according to people familiar with the company’s plans, part of an ambitious effort to raise its profile in Hollywood and lure subscribers to its streaming service … The list of potential releases includes Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio; the spy thriller Argylle, from director Matthew Vaughn; and Napoleon, Ridley Scott’s drama about the French conqueror … The investment is a significant increase from years past. Most of Apple’s previous original movies have either been exclusive to the streaming service or released in a limited number of theaters. The company has pledged to put movies in thousands of theaters for at least a month."
The story notes that Apple's move follows a similar strategic decision by Amazon, which, Variety notes, has made a "commitment to putting 12 to 15 new movies in theaters annually." Both companies are shifting away from their previous strategy, which focused on bypassing theaters as a way of driving people to their streaming services. Now, the companies seem to have concluded, theatrical runs for selected high-profile films could serve to promote both Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video.
Bloomberg writes that "Paramount, Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. are looking to increase their output of movies for theaters after experimenting with distributing films on streaming services alone. The one outlier in this return to the theaters is Netflix Inc., which wants its movies to appear in theaters and online at the same time, or within a couple weeks."