Amazon union vote, US vaccine hunters and a Martian helicopter

It’s been a week of big numbers – the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund kicked off their spring meetings, with the latter advocating for an additional $650bn in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) to shore up the world economy.

United States President Joe Biden is plowing ahead with his $2.25 trillion infrastructure proposal that he wants to pay for by upping corporate taxes.

And more than 273 million miles away from Earth, a four-foot-long plucky little helicopter named Ingenuity is getting ready for its maiden Martian flight.

We’ve gathered up the numbers to know from this week’s biggest news stories, so stick a (reusable, please) straw in your favourite cup of cold brew and get your scrollin’ thumb ready.

In Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon employees overwhelmed by the pace of work and afraid of catching COVID-19 contacted the union, setting in motion a vote that’s already seen as a watershed for Amazon and the United States labour movement [File: Jay Reeves/AP Photo]


The number of American Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama who were eligible to cast ballots in a historic union vote.

Ballot counting began on Thursday in a closely-watched unionisation push that, if successful, could spread to Amazon warehouses across the US.

Workers in Bessemer had the opportunity to vote on whether to join the national Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.

The unionisation vote in Bessemer is seen as a bellwether and has drawn international attention.

As of Friday morning, ballot counting was still underway with workers voting against unionisation by a roughly 2-1 margin so far.

$2.5 trillion

That’s how much revenue the US Treasury estimates would be generated over 15 years if the US corporate tax rate is hiked from 21 percent to 28 percent and other parts of the tax code are overhauled to reduce incentives for big companies to shift production, jobs and profits overseas.

The bold changes to the tax code are part of President Biden’s push for his proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, which includes ambitious green energy proposals like a $174bn investment in electric vehicles, big tax incentives for renewable energy, and widespread improvements to the ailing US power grid.

But some environmental advocates feel Biden’s plan doesn’t go far enough to address the existential threat of climate change, especially after four years of inaction on global warming by the administration of former President Donald Trump, writes Al Jazeera’s Ben Piven.

90 seconds

The amount of time Ingenuity, NASA’s first space helicopter, will spend hovering above the surface of Mars if all goes to plan.

“Like a plucky character in a children’s book, NASA’s intrepid four-pound helicopter has survived a long, perilous journey to reach the rocky bottom of Mars’ Jezero Crater. There it will attempt what has never been tried before: flying on another planet,” writes Al Jazeera’s Dee Ann Divis.

Taking flight in the thinner Martian atmosphere is a whole lot different from doing so here on Earth, and every part of Ingenuity is designed to make that happen — including its oversized, composite carbon fibre blades.

Ingenuity hitched a ride on NASA’s Perseverance rover to reach the Red Planet in February, and the two bots took a selfie together to celebrate Ingenuity’s forthcoming flight. Awwww.


The amount of new Special Drawing Rights the International Monetary Fund (IMF) could allocate to help the world economy bounce back from the COVID-19 recession. We know, we know, not everything can be as exciting as a helicopter on Mars, but SDRs are worth understanding.

Think of SDRs like the IMF’s artificial currency — one that its 190 member states can trade for freely usable hard currencies like US dollars. Each SDR is worth about $1.42, but countries are allocated millions of them based on their IMF quotas. That makes them worth waaaay more than your ’90s Pogs.

Those in favour of boosting the SDR allocation argue that it is a quick way to bolster the financial firepower of poorer countries whose economies have been left reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, without those countries becoming saddled with even more debt that they cannot afford. Critics argue SDRs aren’t a panacea, and they can give an unconditional cash injection to governments that are dragging their feet on long-overdue and necessary reforms to get their economies in better shape.

3 million

The number of COVID-19 vaccinations the United States is averaging per day as of this week. Faced with rising cases, Biden has previously doubled his initial goal to 200 million shots in arms in his first 100 days in office, a goal he is expected to achieve if the pace continues.

Yet despite the national push to tackle a disease that has killed more than 556,000 Americans, distributing vaccines still largely falls to state and local authorities, which has made the process variable, decentralised and in some cases, chaotic.

Into that chaos have stepped armies of volunteers ready to help total strangers navigate the various vaccine scheduling systems.

Coders have designed vaccine list websites. Internet-savvy telecommuters are refreshing their browsers to book coveted appointments. And New York City-based non-profit WGIRLS mobilised 450 of its volunteers to help 18,000 senior citizens procure vaccine appointments over the past six weeks.

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