Business briefing

The daily business briefing: March 23, 2017

GOP struggles to unite ahead of health plan vote, 17,000 AT&T workers go on strike, and more

1

Conservative resistance dims chances of health bill

President Trump continued pressuring wavering Republican lawmakers to support the House leadership's proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare ahead of a planned Thursday vote. Conservatives are vowing to oppose the plan because they say it doesn't go far enough in rolling back the Affordable Care Act's provisions, and some moderates are balking because of expectations that millions more Americans will wind up uninsured. Mark Meadows, leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said his group has more than enough votes to defeat the bill. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said enough fence-sitters were getting behind the legislation to pass it. "The count keeps getting stronger for us," Spicer said. "There is no Plan B. There is Plan A and Plan A. We're going to get this done." Some analysts have warned of a possible stock correction if the legislation, which includes some of Trump's promised tax cuts, fails.

2

17,000 AT&T workers go on strike in California, Nevada

Thousands of AT&T wireline technicians and call center employees went on strike in California and Nevada on Wednesday to protest what they described as disrespectful treatment in contract negotiations. "The company has shown disrespect to the bargaining process by changing the work assignments of workers without bargaining as required by federal law," the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union said in its strike announcement. An AT&T spokesperson said the company always complies "with the law and the terms of our collective bargaining agreements."

3

Report: U.S. investigating North Korea link to Fed account theft

The U.S. is investigating whether North Korea was involved in the theft of $81 million from a Bangladesh central bank account at the New York Fed, Bloomberg reported Wednesday, citing two people with knowledge of the matter. Investigators believe the perpetrators of last year's theft used hacking tools that also were used in a 2014 cyberattack on Sony Pictures that the FBI already has linked to North Korea. That hacking occurred after Sony produced the movie The Interview, which ridiculed North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. A spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles office decline to comment.

4

Starbucks CEO hands key to successor as departure looms

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz symbolically handed over control of the coffee chain during the annual shareholders' meeting on Wednesday, marking the occasion by giving a key to Starbucks' original location to his successor, president and chief operating officer Kevin Johnson. Johnson officially takes over in April. "That has been in my pocket for 35 years," Schultz said. The handoff, announced in December, was the highest profile sign yet of the leadership transition, and it was a focus in the meeting. Investors brought up other topics, though. A conservative think-tank shareholder asked Schultz to respond to boycotts sparked by his pledge to hire refugees, and Schultz said the matter "unequivocally" had zero impact on the bottom line.

5

Acosta vows to avoid partisanship in Labor Department if confirmed

Alexander Acosta, President Trump's second labor secretary nominee, said in his confirmation hearing Wednesday that he would not let partisanship influence his department. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said Acosta did not do enough as assistant attorney general to prevent an official under him from "inappropriately" hiring mostly conservative lawyers in DOJ's civil rights division during the George W. Bush administration. Acosta said he would not allow partisan hiring at the Labor Department if confirmed. He also defended a controversial plea deal he struck with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. Acosta, now a law school dean, declined to say how he would handle Obama administration rules, such as one expanding the number of workers eligible for overtime pay.

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