The Real Reasons Big Tech Hates Unions

Tech companies don’t like unions. Here’s why — and here’s what happens when they call in the union busters. Around this time last year, Mapbox’s Slack workplace descended into 24/7 chaos, the virtual equivalent of an office-wide shouting match. It was a few weeks before workers were to vote on whether to join a union, and Mapbox leaders and workers on the “anti-committee” were posting about their opposition to the union at all hours of the day and night.

At anti-union all-staff meetings and on Slack, leaders accused union organizers of xenophobia because they opposed offshoring jobs to other countries. Staff members on the “anti-committee” blamed union organizers for creating division, chaos and conflict, and then piled on to endless Slack threads that bubbled with bickering posts and sometimes snarky laughing emojis when someone posted a pro-union message. “They would say, ‘How can you be doing something like this? You’re putting our livelihoods in danger,’” said Josh Erb, a Mapbox software engineer who helped organize for the union and who left the company in January 2022.

“Because of Slack being this virtual workspace that you can’t ever actually get out of, like 24 hours a day the anti-committee … at 3 in the morning would post,” Wes McEnany, one of the former union organizers with the Communication Workers of America, told Protocol. Mapbox did not respond to Protocol’s requests for comment.

Mapbox’s union opposition was industry standard. A wave of unionization has swept white- and blue-collar tech workplaces over the last two years: In addition to the attempt at Mapbox, workers have unionized at Amazon and Activision Blizzard and are in the midst of union organizing at Apple retail stores, to name just a few. The leaders of those companies are among the litany who have made it clear they want unions out.

So they have done what every anti-union company in the United States has done since the first organized labor movement more than 100 years ago — hired what companies call “union avoidance experts” and what unions call “union busters.”

And it works. The playbook mastered by consultants and attorneys at major law firms and strategy groups is effective at forcing a union vote to fail or collapse. What companies rarely consider are the long-term consequences. “It was like watching this beautiful thing wither up and die,” Erb said of the fallout at Mapbox, where workers voted down the union. “Before, it was probably one of the best company cultures I’d worked at.”

The often chaotic and threatening atmosphere created in the lead-up to a unionization vote alters company culture. Especially in closely contested elections, trust erodes between workers and leadership. Companies that pride themselves on openness and communication find themselves unable to re-create the same atmosphere. Top talent, disturbed by the change in environment, often flees or is poached. Recruiting becomes more difficult because of the reputational damage caused by the fight.

To look at what company culture at this company had been a year ago versus what it is now, the vibrancy has just been sucked out of it. Mapbox epitomizes those consequences. The company lost nearly 300 employees in 2021, an increase of more than 100 people compared to the previous year, according to data from Mapbox organizers and from LinkedIn statuses reviewed by Protocol.

“To look at what company culture at this company had been a year ago versus what it is now, the vibrancy has just been sucked out of it,” one current Mapbox employee told Protocol. The alternatives could be less of a nightmare than the unionization one keeping tech leaders up at night. Microsoft President Brad Smith staked his claim last week as the one major tech leader who seems less afraid of this alternative future when he announced that Microsoft wouldn’t oppose union organizing among its ranks.

The company had an unusual opportunity to prepare its position on unions because Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard, where 22 quality assurance testers at the company’s Call of Duty studio just formally unionized. Microsoft will have no choice but to deal with CWA, the union that represents those workers — and has even committed to a legally binding agreement to avoid the vicious, drawn-out fights that have embroiled places like Mapbox.

“If the employer treats employees in a good way, in my opinion a union’s not necessary,” Alfred Gray, an employment attorney who represents companies challenging unionization, said. “But once a union is in place, my attitude has been all along, I’ve gotta work with you, we might as well have an amicable relationship because we are going to get more done working together.”

At its heart, tech sector unionization has exposed messy political rifts at work. Whether someone favors unions or opposes them, their feelings tend to be rooted in political and ideological beliefs. Union organizers see union-busters as inherently malicious and opposed to worker rights; company leaders see unions as interfering pests with an anti-capitalist agenda. Enforcement of the laws that govern unionization changes depends on the political party in power in the White House, meaning that most legal fights create more mess, not recourse.

While tech companies proudly advertise progressive values on climate change, racial justice and diversity at work, unions are where most draw the line. (Aside from Microsoft’s recent commitment, the few exceptions come from small tech startups that build tech tools for progressive causes, like Mobilize.)

Mapbox, for example, touts that its first maps supported international development in partnership with the United Nations, USAID and Doctors without Borders. It cites “people first” values and advertises “an amazing community of friendly, diverse, and talented people who work together to achieve big goals.” One current Mapbox employee told Protocol that they joined the company in part because of its reputation for a caring and progressive culture. Mapbox’s own leadership tried to play on this progressive ideal, using the “xenophobic” label to try to make the pro-union crowd appear less progressive than the company.

“These tech companies which sort of might be liberal on some issues, when it comes to unions or regulation, they are very anti,” said Wilma Liebman, who was chair of the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union laws, under the Obama administration.

“It poisons the well oftentimes,” said Ileen DeVault, a professor of labor history at Cornell University. “It makes workers not trust each other as much anymore. It tightens all sorts of conversations and cultures of companies. And I think that may be especially important in some of these tech companies, where, for the programming folks anyway, the culture was always relaxed.”

Why fight?

Companies articulate three primary reasons for fighting unionization: They don’t want another group mediating their conversations and relationships with their employees, especially a group without industry knowledge; they usually lose money because they are forced to increase pay and benefits; and they lose control over their ability to hire, fire and lay off whenever they choose.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy made some of these arguments in a June 8 talk, saying it’s easier and faster for teams to make change and for managers to incorporate feedback without a union. “We happen to think they’re better off without a union,” he said.

Liebman suspects that’s a view shared widely by tech company leaders, who might view unions as fusty relics. “My sense is that they view traditional collective bargaining relationships as probably being 20th century and out of sync with their business model, and they probably think that they can’t deal with a third party. ‘We have to make decisions fast, we can’t go through long negotiation processes,’” Liebman said.

Private sector unionization in the U.S. hit an all-time high in the 1950s, when more than one-third of workers at private companies were in unions. The majority of these unions were industry-specific; autoworkers were represented by the auto union, truckers by the trucker union. Every American citizen was either in a union or knew people in a union.

Today, private sector union membership hovers somewhere between 5% and 6% according to Department of Labor data, and most private sector employees don’t work in the same assembly-line style jobs that unions traditionally represented in the 20th century. “The average American on the street doesn’t know diddly-squat about how a union functions or what it can do and what it can’t do for workers,” DeVault said.

Union avoidance consultants and attorneys cite this shift as a key reason for opposing unionization. Gray believes that unlike historical private sector unions, unions today often organize workplaces in disparate industries and have little knowledge of how those industries actually function. When the teamsters won an election at a group home for people with disabilities, Gray said, citing an example, “it was problematic right from the get-go even from collective bargaining, because they didn’t understand the industry.”

Among other problems, Gray said the teamsters called for worker schedules to change to traditional daytime hours, even though the home only had residents in need of care during evening hours. “Now it’s just a numbers thing. They want as many people as possible,” he said of unions. There’s a fourth and less tangible ideological reason for union opposition: Depending on their politics, some people are inherently opposed to the idea of a union and question the legitimacy of the laws that enshrine their rights in the U.S.

“It’s almost like it’s an accepted part of corporate management culture, that this is what you do, this is how you are a good person in your role: You hear the word ‘union’ and you bring in the union-busters,” said Sara Steffens, the secretary-treasurer for the CWA. The CWA has spearheaded the effort to organize white-collar tech sector workers into unions over the last two years through a campaign called CODE-CWA, which has successfully unionized software engineers at Mobilize, Vodeo Games, Glitch, Raven Software and the New York Times tech department, among others.

Liebman agrees. “For some, I think it’s truly ideological; they don’t accept the legitimacy of labor unions or the legitimacy of this law,” she said. Still, about 68% of Americans approved of labor unions in a 2021 Gallup poll, a high not seen since the 1960s and a 20% increase from 2009’s all-time low.

The basic union avoidance playbook

When two-thirds of Mapbox workers announced their intention to unionize in spring 2021, the company quickly launched its opposition campaign, hiring labor consulting firm Lev Labor, LLC. (Lev Labor also consulted for Amazon in its anti-union efforts in the lead-up to the union votes in Staten Island warehouses).

The campaign went as most do: Mapbox management hosted all-hands meetings (known colloquially as “captive audience meetings”) where it suggested union talk was responsible for a lost $150 million investment in the company and could also discourage future investment. Workers were pulled into one-on-one meetings with managers to discuss the union movement. Our main channel just turned into a slag-fest between pro-and anti-union folks.

“One of the things I’d always admired about Mapbox from the outside was just the seemingly hard-to-quantify complete lack of assholes. It was a really good crew of people, everybody super supportive, very open with their own struggles,” one Mapbox employee told Protocol. “Then there was a palpable shift in the tone of any sort of public communications. Just like the general atmosphere, a huge palpable shift. Our main channel just turned into a slag-fest between pro-and anti-union folks.”

“A big part of the leadership strategy in [the] campaign was to pit the U.S.-based workers against the workers abroad who wouldn’t be covered by the collective bargaining group we were pushing for,” Erb said. Company leadership accused the union of making it harder to support the global workforce. “It definitely colored every interaction I had with one of my counterparts who worked in a different country,” he added.

Lev Labor wrote in its mandated disclosure forms that “the engagement was merely to educate, rather than to persuade” and that the roughly $43,000 Mapbox paid it was “just payment for providing education and information to employees.”

By August, the two-thirds union support had vanished, and the union lost its election 123-81. In the months after the defeat, at least three union leaders were fired, let go or agreed to leave, according to the Mapbox Workers Union and posts shared by former union organizers on Twitter.

That mirrors the basic union avoidance playbook, which is governed by one overarching law. “There’s a whole rule of thumb — TIPS,” Gray said. (TIPS means you can’t threaten, interrogate, promise or surveil). “You can’t threaten employees, you can’t influence them, you can’t persuade them, you can’t offer them salary information, you can’t make promises to employees.”

And so union-avoidance consultants have adopted a few central strategies based on what past labor rulings show they can do. Sometimes they make the union leaders managers, because managers can’t join a union and that can effectively suffocate the movement. Amazon, Apple, Mapbox and other tech companies have all used captive-audience meetings, where workers are required to listen to company leaders — without union organizers present — explain why they don’t want a union. When workers don’t appear easily dissuaded, companies deliberately create so much chaos that workers vote against the union just to end the misery.

While it’s a common strategy, Gray advises employers to pursue another popular route: find ways to give employees what they want, but in a way that isn’t technically persuading or influencing, in hopes they drop the union effort. Steffens sees this when the CWA tries to unionize a workplace. Workers will get raises, or the mileage reimbursement will suddenly increase.

The consequences

But in Steffens’ experience, those changes vanish when the union fight ends and the consultants disappear. “The way they see it is if they cause that election to be not held, or scare enough people into voting no, they’ve done their job,” Steffens said. At Mapbox, current employees described a scorched-earth reality after the union lost the election in August. While those that remain are still happy with their individual teams and work, those that spoke with Protocol described trying to avoid thinking about the broader company culture and their relationships with senior management.

Waves of workers have also left the company over the last year, including some of the company’s longest-tenured talent. “It’s the absolute carnage of U.S.-based employees, folks who would have been in the bargaining unit leaving or being forced out,” one employee said. “The shock wave of losing so many creative and contributing employees, there’s certainly a possibility that they don’t immediately emerge from that,” the same employee said.

Erb stayed at Mapbox until January, five months after the failed union vote. “It became kind of like a ghost town in a sense where people were leaving faster than they could hire for roles,” he said. When he’d started working at Mapbox nearly four years earlier, one of Erb’s favorite parts of the job was the ease with which engineers could disagree with their managers when problem-solving. He left the company in part because he felt like that freedom disappeared after the vote. “I had no ability, even in my professional capacity, to be critical of management’s plans for something. The general vibe I got by the end of it is, that was basically just everyone’s experience.”

Source: https://www.protocol.com/

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Coinbase Cracks Down Front Running of New Crypto Listings

Digital asset exchange Coinbase will take action against front-running of new cryptocurrency listings on its platform as part of its “zero tolerance” approach.

In a company blog post, CEO Brian Armstrong announced new measures of listing and reviewing tokens on the platform to prevent traders from examining its listing information or software to guess what assets would be listed in advance of the wider market knowing. This included using on-chain data to check if Coinbase is testing new assets integrations.

“We’re also aware of concerns that some market participants may be taking advantage of information from our listings process,” Armstrong said on Thursday. “While this is public data, it isn’t data that all customers can easily access, so we strive to remove these information asymmetries.”

“We’re adding new forensic tools to better prevent front-running, while also ensuring that we can move more quickly to de-list assets that appear to be run by bad actors,” the company tweeted.

Front-running means using non-public information about upcoming token listings to invest in them before the wider market. Coinbase received reports of people seemingly buying particular assets right before their listing announcement and benefitting from the accompanying price movements, Armstrong said.

“Finally, there is always the possibility that someone inside Coinbase could, wittingly or unwittingly, leak information to outsiders engaging in illegal activity,” he said. “We have zero tolerance for this and monitor for it, conducting investigations where appropriate with outside law firms.”

Armstrong said Coinbase’s trading policy restricts employees from trading in crypto assets on the back of material non-public information.

The platform aimed to list all legal assets while also protecting customers and maintaining a level playing field, Armstrong said. He laid out minimum listing requirements that included testing for legality, security, and compliance.

Some of the changes Armstrong announced included publishing decisions to list a token only when the decision had been made, labelling for newer and less well-known assets, and launching asset reviews and ratings.

“It’s always tricky to find the right balance on enabling innovation while simultaneously protecting customers from bad activity, but that is exactly the hard work that we need to do each day,” he said.

Coinbase is the largest crypto exchange in the US. It currently lists 174 coins, according to data provider CoinMarketCap. The company added 95 coins for trading last year, and more than 70 for its custody service, according to Bloomberg.

By:

Source: Coinbase Cracks Down Front-Running of New Crypto Listings

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Critics:

While the exchange has faced fierce criticism from the crypto community over its asset listing criteria, Armstrong doubled down on its approach in his post. “At Coinbase, our goal is ​​to list every asset that is legal and safe to do so,” he said, claiming that the exchange had no business in picking winners and losers. 

Earlier this month, Coinbase came under heavy fire after UpOnly host and influential crypto trader Cobie publicly called the company out for listing relatively unknown, dubious projects with low market capitalizations, such as StudentCoin, Polkamon, and Big Data Protocol. Notably, Coinbase has neglected to list many other assets that play a crucial role in the cryptocurrency ecosystem, such as Terra and Fantom. 

“Big Data Protocol, virtually completely dead prior to [the Coinbase listing blog post, has pumped 132% as a result of this news!” Cobie wrote, stressing that the coin had a market capitalization of only $1.5 million before the listing.

That wasn’t the first time Coinbase has listed questionable assets in favor of larger, more established projects. In February, the company was criticized for listing Pawtocol, another low-cap coin that claims to use blockchain “to improve the lives of pets and pet owners on a global scale.” Per data from CoinGecko, Pawtocol briefly rallied on the news but has since tanked, now more than 50% down since the listing and 84% short of its all-time high

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As Medication Abortion Becomes Dominant, Red States Restrict Pills

The abortion drug mifepristone was approved by the FDA more than 20 years ago. The FDA recently relaxed some of the rules for dispensing the drug. Now, some legislatures are trying to restrict access.

For most of the almost 50 years since the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision legalized abortion nationwide, clinics have been the focus of the battle over abortion rights.

Protesters gather outside on sidewalks. And Republican state lawmakers try to regulate what happens inside — through laws restricting which healthcare providers can perform abortions, the kind of counseling required and which procedures are allowed.

But now, more than half of abortions are taking place with pills.

According to data released by Guttmacher earlier this year, abortion pills – not surgical procedures – accounted for 54 percent of abortions in 2020. That makes medication abortion the dominant choice in the United States for the first time since the Food and Drug Administration approved an abortion pill, mifepristone, more than 20 years ago. It’s part of a two-drug protocol approved to terminate pregnancies up to 10 weeks gestation. That protocol also is prescribed to manage some miscarriages.

During the pandemic, the FDA relaxed rules so that the tightly regulated drug mifepristone could be obtained through telehealth appointments and mail-order pharmacies, rather than in person. That made it easier for patients in some states to get a medication abortion at home. The Biden administration recently made those changes permanent.

Now, Republican lawmakers in several states are pushing back. In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem recently signed legislation designed to restrict access to the drugs.

Already, more than a dozen states restrict limit the use of telemedicine to provide abortion pills. And this year, Planned Parenthood says new restrictions have been introduced in two dozen states, some of which would ban the pills altogether if Roe v Wade is overturned.

In Georgia, Republican state Sen. Bruce Thompson sponsored SB 456, a bill banning abortion pill delivery by mail and requiring doctors to examine patients in person before prescribing them. During floor debate, Thompson said his bill was intended “to protect the cherished doctor-patient relationship.”

But that position is at odds with that of major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Medical Association, who’ve long supported easing access to the pills and called for lifting the in-person dispensing requirement.

Thompson opposes abortion rights, but he claims this bill is all about patient safety.

“Why would we not do everything within our power to protect women’s health and safety during this difficult time in their lives?” he said.

But opponents say the bill would make patients less safe. Several lawmakers noted that Georgia is among the states with the highest rates of maternal mortality – and that those death rates are dramatically higher for Black women.

State Sen. Kim Jackson, a Democrat, noted that many people, particularly in rural areas, lack access to pregnancy care.

“What’s really cruel about this bill is that those who are already the most vulnerable are the ones who are most likely to be burned by this injustice,” Jackson said. “People who are poor, people who live in rural communities. People with disabilities, and people of color.”

The bill passed Georgia’s state senate on March 1 and is awaiting a vote in the House.

“As soon as the FDA made medication abortion more accessible, Georgia pretty much turned around and was like, ‘No, we actually want to make it really difficult for people to get one,'” said K. Agbebiyi, a Georgia-based advocate with the reproductive rights group URGE, which is fighting the bill.

Agbebiyi said medication abortion could become the only option for a growing number of people in states where clinics are few and far between because of abortion restrictions.

“We know, and our opponents know, that medication abortion is going to grow in popularity if Roe is overturned,” Agbebiyi said. “And that’s precisely why they’re trying to put as many barriers in place as possible.”

It’s more difficult to put up barriers on the internet, where abortion pills are available through mail-order pharmacies and other groups.

Ushma Upadhyay, a reproductive health researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, warned that if states try to block access to abortion pills, patients will find them online without a doctor’s help.

“That is what I’m concerned about,” she said. “It is extremely safe, but all patients should have the access to clinical support if they need it, if they have questions about how to take it, or whether what’s happening is normal.”

Meanwhile, some states are trying to make access to medication abortion easier. A bill moving forward in Delaware would allow a wider array of healthcare providers to prescribe the pills to their patients.

By:

Source: Republican state lawmakers are working to restrict access to abortion pills. : NPR

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Critics:

By: Shefali Luthra

“Medication abortion is the existential threat of the anti-abortion movement,” said Greer Donley, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School who specializes in laws surrounding medication abortion access. When they’re on the precipice of getting the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade, there’s a technological advance that has made it impossible to control abortions.” 

Texas, which is so far the only state that has ended access to abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, provides some insight. The number of Texans receiving abortions has only fallen somewhat — a far larger number of people are now making journeys out of state or ordering medication abortion pills online from the European nonprofit Aid Access, which operates outside the U.S. health care system but has worked to provide Americans with telemedicine-based medication abortions since 2018.

In a post-Roe world, the options would likely look different. With more states banning or severely restricting abortion access, travel likely poses a greater burden, especially for people who live where neighboring states also have legislatures that have restricted access. But health care providers in states where abortion rights are protected could, under the new FDA guidance, could potentially prescribe pills through a phone call or video-chat and mail them to people in other states.

There are accessibility questions. Not everyone has sufficient internet access to find a virtual provider, noted Abigail Aiken, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who has studied the Texas law’s impact on medication abortion requests. And not everyone knows about services like Aid Access or other ways to navigate the health care system and find an out-of-state provider.

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The Coronavirus Crisis

More Patients Seek Abortion Pills Online During Pandemic, But Face Restrictions

Consider This from NPR

The New Texas Abortion Law Is Putting Some Patients In Danger

National

With Abortion Restrictions On The Rise, Some Women Induce Their Own

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Trial Finds Vitamin D Supplements May Reduce Risk of Autoimmune Disease

New data from a large placebo-controlled clinical trial investigating the effect of daily vitamin D and omega-3 use indicates the supplements may reduce the risk of developing autoimmune disease. At the five-year follow-up, the trial found those taking vitamin D alone, or in conjunction with omega-3, showed lower rates of autoimmune disease compared to those taking placebo.

Called VITAL, the ongoing trial has enrolled more than 25,000 participants who were randomly assigned to one of four groups: vitamin D and omega 3 (2,000 IU plus 1 gram of fish oil per day), vitamin D plus placebo, omega-3 plus placebo, or double placebo. At the time of recruitment the participants were aged over 50 and generally healthy.

The trial has been running for over five years now and several studies have already been published looking at the effect of these supplementations on cancer risk, cardiovascular risk and depression. For the most part, the trial has found little benefit to vitamin D and omega-3 supplementation in otherwise healthy subjects.

This latest analysis of the trial data looked at the emergence of newly diagnosed autoimmune diseases during the five-year trial. Autoimmune diseases in the trial included rheumatoid arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica, autoimmune thyroid disease, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Overall, after five years, those taking either vitamin D alone or vitamin D alongside omega-3 displayed significantly lower rates of autoimmune disease compared to those in the placebo group. Little difference was seen in rates of autoimmune disease between the placebo group and those taking omega-3 alone, suggesting the benefits detected were primarily due to vitamin D supplementation.

Another important finding was the longer the trial went on, the lower the risk for autoimmune disease in the vitamin D group. Looking at the data from just the last three years of the trial saw 39 percent fewer cases of autoimmune disease in the vitamin D group compared to placebo. This suggests the greatest benefits of vitamin D supplementation in terms of autoimmune disease comes from a cumulative effect over several years.

“This is the first direct evidence we have that daily supplementation may reduce AD [autoimmune disease] incidence, and what looks like more pronounced effect after two years of supplementation for vitamin D,” said senior author Karen Costenbader.

“We look forward to honing and expanding our findings and encourage professional societies to consider these results and emerging data when developing future guidelines for the prevention of autoimmune diseases in midlife and older adults.”

This study is, of course, not without limitations. Despite the large number of trial participants and the robust protocol there was a relatively small volume of autoimmune disease diagnoses. Due to the slow onset of many autoimmune diseases a longer follow-up will be necessary to better understand the efficacy of these supplements as preventative tools.

The trial also solely focused on older healthy adults so there is no indication the results are transferable to younger populations or those already diagnosed with autoimmune disease. However, Costenbader is relatively comfortable recommending the vitamin D/omega-3 combination to those over the age of 50 looking for ways to reduce their risk of autoimmune disease.

“Now, when my patients, colleagues, or friends ask me which vitamins or supplements I’d recommend they take to reduce risk of autoimmune disease, I have new evidence-based recommendations for women age 55 years and older and men 50 years and older,” noted Costenbader. “I suggest vitamin D 2,000 IU a day and marine omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil), 1,000 mg a day – the doses used in VITAL.”

Another recently published study looking at vitamin D and overall mortality tracked more than 20,000 people taking either vitamin D or a placebo for several years. It found no difference in all-cause mortality or from cancer and cardiovascular disease when comparing the vitamin D group and placebo.

Source: Trial finds vitamin D supplements may reduce risk of autoimmune disease

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Beyond The Blockchain Hype: Two Ways The Game-Changing Technology Is Being Applied Now

When looking for technologies that are secure and remove a middleman/broker from the execution of your business plan, thus reducing the cost to your customers or decrease in your margin, distributed ledger technology (DLT) could be an option.

Blockchain is just one in an array of tools in the technical class of DLT. DLT is the roll-up technology class; it’s on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network using a consensus protocol among all the peers partaking in the DLT, eliminating the need for a clearinghouse involvement. Each peer or endpoint is called a node on a public database called the chain.

The chain itself is validated by the P2P network nodes, but the detailed data is securely stored in the block. First, there is a block of origin, and then each block is recorded as a transaction level, and the computers on the peer-to-peer network work as one. The blocks are validated by a wider community rather than a central authority. This makes it more secure and less costly in the long term.

Many have no idea when to apply DLT technologies — and to be fair, there are still very few market applications that exist outside of the crypto exchange use cases. That said, DLTs can become game-changers, as they provide a transaction-based, validated, decentralized, single-distributed ledger as well as smart contracts and crypto-assets, including currencies in certain competitive niches once they have been identified like NFTs.

They could also create a transformative effect that enables new ways of doing business that have not emerged to date. Do not underestimate the cost savings of eliminating or preventing the need for a middleman in many business models. It could help to make sense of ways of doing business that never made sense in the past.Below are two examples from my experience.

Counterfeit drugs are a complex issue in healthcare. The supply chain in pharma is negatively affected by counterfeit activities, as it leads to manipulated and artificially inflated or deflated prices. The current siloed supply chain has no way to keep counterfeit drugs out of the supply.

While there are fewer counterfeit drugs in the supply chain in the U.S. than elsewhere, having no way to monitor origins of supply can lead to unregulated and inconsistent drugs (which could be dangerous to patients) as well as losses for companies that follow regulatory guidelines and legal drug supply to the healthcare sector.

A peer-to-peer protocol like DLT technologies/blockchain could help provide a cryptographically secure, distributed private ledger that tracks each supplied drug within the supply chain through traceable and verifiable smart contracts at a discrete transactional level. To put it simply, theft, entry of counterfeit drugs and drugs that are being sold after their expiration date would be traceable.

Also, the movement of drugs and supplies to other countries post-expiration date for philanthropic purposes could be more easily traced to their next destination, and the exact use or recipient could be documented. If you can trace the origin block and the nodes within, the DLT peer-to-peer network can validate the transactions, which would allow for tighter control on what is entering the pharmaceutical drug supply.

Supply Chain

Ever wonder where your food came from and how fresh it is — especially those prepackaged lifesaving boxes of ingredients that many of us have been ordering to increase the variety of our kitchen skills and culinary repertoire?

With all of the transformative effects of the recent pandemic and digital purchasing of foods from remote locations through national delivery services straight to the consumer’s home, having the assurance of the origin of the foods, their transport length and chain-of-custody proof would give us all the confidence in who supplied and distributed them and how it was done.

It could also prevent the ingesting of something hazardous or unsafe due to delays from farm to table. We have all heard stories of farmers and agricultural businesses struggling to turn a profit. By leveraging a peer-to-peer network like in blockchain, it could prevent data manipulation, ensuring an increase in food and agricultural supply chain trust.

During the height of Covid-19, before the variants began to emerge, I participated in think-tank activities associated with Operation Warp Speed — the mechanism in which the development of vaccines was funded and distributed through partnerships between biomedical companies and numerous agencies within the federal government.

Many interesting conversations on vaccination transport weaknesses and supply chain vulnerabilities were had. These conversations shed a light on ineffective transport practices.

Through this experience, I believe blockchain could be leveraged to connect serial data points from the point of origin (e.g., organic certifications, chemicals used with barcodes, batch identifying information, and when and who the supply was released to for transport).

In transport, Bluetooth thermostats for drug and food temperatures as well as livestock monitoring for the humane treatment of the animals being transported could contribute to checkpoints in the blockchain of things like farm to table.

You can begin to imagine all of the transformative things that could be done with blockchain, as the immutable (unmodifiable, undeniable, peer-to-peer secure) data about what we are purchasing and the companies we support could help reduce waste and cruelty as well as the costs that are built into our supply development and distribution.

Encouraging technology for the sake of technology is never advised. However, any business model reliant on intermediaries that require handoffs in the production-to-consumer chain they do not control or that need secure and reliable data across an ecosystem that is not under the organization’s direct control would benefit from this technology.

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Shawna is an IT Services executive, leveraging her medical background, leading the healthcare and biomedical vertical for SenecaGlobal. Read Shawna Koch

Source: Beyond The Blockchain Hype: Two Ways The Game-Changing Technology Is Being Applied Now

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