Business News

Is it too late to join the bull market? Experts weigh in.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The blazing hot stock market seems to set new records just about every day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average stands above 40,000 for the first time in history, after climbing nearly 20% since October. Over that period, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have each soared even higher, climbing 23% and 27% respectively.

The market rally means a windfall for people with stock holdings but it poses a quandary for those on the sidelines: Is it time to jump in or too late to reap the gains?

Experts who spoke to ABC News encouraged investors to take advantage of the market upswing, saying the major indexes have room to rise even further.

The confidence stems from the nation’s sunny economic outlook, they added, as the Federal Reserve stands poised to make interest rate cuts that could boost an already robust economy. However, they cautioned, stubborn inflation or an economic downturn could bring losses.

"This is a pretty awesome environment to own stocks in right now," ​​Tom Essaye, president of financial data firm Sevens Report Research, told ABC News. "There is still time to get in."

The economy is performing well on many key metrics. Unemployment stands near a 65-year low, while economic growth has remained solid and consumer spending has shown resilience.

All of these positive indicators have added up to strong corporate profits, the lifeblood of the stock market. "Growth is good and corporate earnings are good," Essaye said.

Strong stock market performance, however, depends on where company results and economic output are headed rather than where they stand at the present time, experts said.

Fortunately, many observers hold an optimistic outlook about the coming months, since the Fed appears to be on the verge of interest rate cuts that could deliver a jolt to the economy.

In recent months, the Fed had all but abandoned its previous forecast of three quarter-point rate cuts this year. But a slowdown of price hikes offered hope of rekindling those plans.

Inflation data released last week showed that price increases slowed slightly from the annual rate recorded in the previous month, ending a surge of inflation that stretched back to the beginning of 2024.

"Front and center is what the Fed is going to do," Marc Dizard, chief investment strategist at PNC Asset Management Group. "There is a bias here that they want to cut rates, which the market is really liking."

Optimism about the stock market also owes to enthusiasm about the impact of artificial intelligence, experts said.

Major stock indexes drew a bump in recent months from investors favorable toward the newly prominent technology. Those gains were concentrated primarily in a handful of tech giants, known as the so-called "Magnificent 7": Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, Microsoft, Tesla and Nvidia.

Shares of Nvidia have climbed nearly 120% since October; Microsoft has jumped almost 35% over that period.

Ed Yardeni, the president of market advisory firm Yardeni Research and former chief investment strategist at Deutsche Bank's U.S. equities division, said adoption of AI in the coming months and years would help grow the economy and send the stock market higher.

"The market is right to get excited about technological innovations like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation," Yardeni said. "I think those technologies will boost productivity and productivity boosts real economic growth."

Dizard, of PNC, said the stock market retains the capacity to rise between 5% and 8%. While Essaye, of Sevens Report Research, said the S&P 500 could increase another 3% or more.

Meanwhile, Yardeni offered a longer-term view, saying he expects the major stock indexes to climb 50% by 2030.

Still, the experts warned of potential outcomes that could not only blunt future gains but incur significant losses.

Stubborn inflation could force the Fed to shift its posture, holding rates elevated for longer than expected or even raising them altogether.

"You could see a curveball," Dizard said. "That’s something investors need to be cautious about."

Some economic indicators, meanwhile, have already shown signs of a slowdown. The labor market has continued to add jobs this year but at a slower pace than 2023. The economy grew at the outset of 2024 but cooled off from the final stretch of last year.

"An economic slowdown is the number one thing everybody has to worry about," Essaye said, predicting that such an outcome could bring a market decline of 10% or more.

Even after noting risks, Dizard struck a positive note. "There is momentum to the upside," he said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Trump trusted more than Biden on inflation, a top issue for voters, poll shows

Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- U.S. adults trust former President Donald Trump over President Joe Biden on the issue of inflation by a double-digit margin, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll this month, which found that price increases remain a top concern for voters, with less than six months to go until Election Day.

In all, 85% of poll participants said inflation is an important issue, making it the second-highest priority among adults surveyed. The top priority, the economy, also relates to individuals' perceptions of price increases.

On each of those issues, the economy and inflation, adults surveyed by ABC News/Ipsos said they trusted Trump over Biden by a margin of 14 percentage points.

Price increases have slowed significantly from a recent peak of about 9%, but inflation still stands more than a percentage point higher than the Federal Reserve's target rate of 2%.

Rising gasoline and housing costs accounted for 70% of the price increases last month, according to data this week from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Inflation is something that affects absolutely everybody," Elaine Kamarck, a senior fellow in the Governance Studies program at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News. "People notice it, whether they're rich or poor."

In response to ABC News' request for comment, the Biden campaign provided a statement touting the president's economic achievements

"President Biden has delivered where Trump failed the American people: 15 million new jobs and record-low unemployment, bringing down costs, and investing billions in communities that have been left behind for too long," the statement said.

"All of this is on the line this November: If Trump sets foot in the Oval Office, he'll make it his mission to undo this progress, ship jobs to China, and send costs through the roof. Voters want a candidate who will make their lives better, and Joe Biden is the only candidate who will," the statement added.

The Trump campaign did not respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Todd Fisher, 60, a retired automotive engineer who lives in Miami, Florida, said he's noticed rapid price increases for everything from haircuts to groceries.

"Everything keeps going up and up and up," Fisher, who lives on a pension, told ABC News. "I'm not broke or anything but I'd prefer it to be the other way. It's more money for the bank."

Trump is better equipped to address inflation, Fisher said, noting that the onset of elevated inflation in 2021 took place under Biden.

"It wasn't happening when Trump was president," said Fisher, who identifies as an independent. "I think he's more aware of what's going on."

When asked about the cooldown of price increases that began in 2022, Fisher said it still amounts to price increases, given previous hikes.

"When inflation goes down, it doesn't necessarily mean the store is going to take everything back to the way it was," he added.

Analysts who spoke to ABC News said any president retains limited control over the trajectory of prices, but inflation poses a stiff political challenge because progress made on the issue often registers less with voters than the initial problem did.

"For voters, they feel increases in inflation are extremely salient," Francesco D'Acunto, a Georgetown University finance professor who studies how people understand economic news, told ABC News. "They feel this is very problematic and negative for their own finances."

"But there is no symmetric reaction on the decreasing end of inflation," D'Acunto added. "Prices still keep growing but at a slower pace."

Elevated inflation aside, the economy is performing well on other key metrics. Unemployment stands near a 65-year low, while economic growth remains solid and the major stock indexes are fresh off of record highs.

The robust performance has defied expectations amid a prolonged period of high interest rates, which have sent borrowing rates soaring for everything from mortgages to credit cards. The Fed earlier this month opted for the sixth consecutive time to hold interest rates steady, keeping them at a level last seen in 2001.

Still, 43% of respondents surveyed by ABC News/Ipsos said they've become worse off financially under the Biden presidency. Among those who say they've held steady financially, Biden leads by a wide margin of 66% to 21% percentage points, poll results showed.

Kenneth Vickers, 34, an elevator constructor who lives in Boston, Massachusetts, said his finances improved about a year ago when he joined a union. But, he added, inflation remains a top concern.

"I make a good amount of money but a lot of other people don't," Vickers said. "It's difficult to get through the day to day, week to week and month to month issues that might come around when you've got to pay your bills."

Vickers, who identifies as an independent, said he trusts Trump to handle the issue better than Biden.

"Trump is a businessman," Vickers added. "He's been through the wringer as far as running a business and maintaining wealth."

Even so, Vickers said he remains undecided about who he'll vote for in November, noting other issues of importance to him, such as immigration and foreign policy.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama vote against joining UAW, a blow to union's expansion in the South

Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Thousands of Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama voted against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Friday, delivering a significant defeat for the union one month after it prevailed at a Volkswagen facility in nearby Tennessee.

Workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant near Tuscaloosa, Alabama cast ballots against joining the union by a margin of 2,642 to 2,045, or 56% to 44%, the National Labor Relations Board said.

The result hinders the UAW's momentum as it seeks to organize additional plants throughout the South, where it has struggled for decades to gain a foothold.

Analysts expected a difficult contest at the Alabama Mercedes-Benz facility because the company conducted an anti-union campaign, whereas officials at Volkswagen had remained neutral toward worker organization efforts.

Still, the union's landslide victory last month at a Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee came as a surprise to many observers. The breakthrough marked the first car plant in the South to unionize with a vote since the 1940s.

In both recent campaigns, the union faced stiff opposition from local elected officials. Six Southern governors, including Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, both Republicans, issued a statement last month condemning UAW organization efforts in the region.

"We want to keep good paying jobs and continue to grow the American auto manufacturing sector here," the governors wrote. "A successful unionization drive will stop this growth in its tracks, to the detriment of American workers."

In recent months, UAW officials have touted an aggressive campaign to expand the union's membership. Over 10,000 non-union auto workers have signed cards in support of the UAW, and organizing campaigns have begun at more than two dozen facilities, the union said in a statement in March.

The burst of activity followed a high-profile strike carried out by UAW workers against the Big Three U.S. automakers last fall: Ford, General Motors, and Stellantis, formerly known as Chrysler.

The standoff contributed to billions of dollars in losses for the companies and put thousands of workers temporarily out of work. But the gamble paid off, helping the UAW achieve historic wage gains and other long-sought reforms.

In recent years, the U.S. labor movement has grown in popularity and made headlines with attention-grabbing strikes, but it has overall failed to increase the share of the national workforce that belongs to a union.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans approve of unions, a Gallup poll last year showed, putting the favorability of unions near its highest level since 1965.

Still, union membership has declined. Only 10% of U.S. workers belonged to unions last year, which is little changed from the year prior, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed. However, that figure marks a steep drop from a peak of nearly 25% in the 1950s.

The UAW's defeat in Alabama on Friday amounts to a missed opportunity for membership gains, since a vote to join the union would have added about 5,000 workers to its membership rolls. The UAW presently has declares a membership of roughly 400,000 workers.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones Industrial Average hits 40,000 for the 1st time

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed 40,000 for the first time in history on Thursday.

This is a significant and symbolic milestone for the index that tracks 30 of the most valuable publicly traded companies in the U.S.

The Dow is now up about 6% so far this year.

The recent rally in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq has been fueled by data showing inflation is cooling, which would allow the Federal Reserve to begin its long-awaited interest rate cuts.

Inflation data released on Wednesday showed that price increases slowed slightly from the annual rate recorded in the previous month, ending a surge of inflation that stretches back to the beginning of 2024.

In recent months, the Fed had all but abandoned its previous forecast of three quarter-point rate cuts this year. But the slowdown of price hikes offered hope of rekindling those plans.

"The combination of the Fed likely to be lowering interest rates because inflation is moderating with a resilient economy is a beautiful scenario for a bull market," Ed Yardeni, the president of market advisory firm Yardeni Research and former chief investment strategist at Deutsche Bank's U.S. equities division, told ABC News.

"It’s more enjoyable to say the market is going to these nice, round numbers in record-high territory than coming back down to them," Yardeni added.

The inflation news on Wednesday sent each of the major stock indexes up more than 5% for the day, propelling all of them to record highs. In early trading on Thursday, the Dow had ticked up a quarter of a percentage point.

Observers have also attributed this year's stock market rally to the rise in value of some major tech firms, driven largely by enthusiasm about artificial intelligence.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

New inflation data could signal cheaper grocery prices, more discounts, expert says

Kinga Krzeminska/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- As Americans continue to experience sticker shock with volatile food costs, a slight ease of inflation last month could provide relief for consumers' wallets -- particularly at the grocery store.

Food prices rose at a much slower pace than overall inflation since the same time last month, the Department of Labor shared Wednesday in the latest consumer price index findings.

The food at home index -- food purchased at grocery stores -- declined by 0.2%, while the food away from home index -- everything from takeout to dining at restaurants -- rose 0.3% over the month, according to the Department of Labor.

Dr. Michael Swanson, Wells Fargo's Chief Agriculture Economist, told ABC News that this is the first time in a while that consumers have spent more money on dining than on groceries.

"It surprises people because it's kind of a new development in the last couple of years where we finally saw the dollars exceed spending away from home," he said. "When you buy food away from home, 70% of that is overhead and labor, so you're really only buying 30% of the food with the dollar that you spend."

Compared to the same time last year, there has been a 3% increase in the gap between the two categories, which Swanson said indicates will "really push people to prepare more meals at home and take it with them, because it's such a big premium right now to be eating away from home with this inflation rate differential."

Some staple food at home products fell in April compared to a year ago, including bread, poultry and eggs, the CPI data showed.

Prices for other items like breakfast sausage and ice cream, however, increased at a pace near the level of overall inflation.

"Even when we talk about food at home, there's a huge range between highly prepared and more basic ingredients," Swanson said. "You can save a lot of money even at the supermarket buying some food that's less prepared."

Looking at the CPI numbers, Swanson said, "is really important" because it offers "a much bigger survey" thanks to the thousands of government price trackers who gather the new data, rather than if shoppers go with their "gut instinct about what's in their market basket."

What he has observed ahead of the summer months is retailers getting more customers in the door with deals.

"We're hearing from customers that manufactured food is gonna be more of an emphasis on what we used to see a lot," such as "coupons or buy one get one or promotions," Swanson said. 

He added that "consumers should get their game on -- because if you shop around you're going to find some pretty good promotions. But if you don't, you'll miss them."

Aldi, for example, recently announced discounts on hundreds of popular seasonal best-sellers from steaks to road trip snacks.

"I do expect it to continue because from what we've seen, all these companies are really battling for market share -- so we're gonna see more of this competition for market share, and this usually reflects either quality or price and hopefully both," Swanson said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Walgreens announces it will sell generic version of over-the-counter Narcan

RiverNorthPhotography/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Walgreens Boots Alliance announced Wednesday that it plans to sell its own generic version of the overdose reversal drug Narcan.

Narcan is given as a nasal spray and the active ingredient in the medication -- naloxone -- can quickly restore breathing if someone is experiencing an opioid overdose and if it is administered in time.

In March 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Narcan to be distributed without a prescription -- a milestone advocates have said will make it easier to save lives amid the country's ongoing opioid epidemic.

The nasal spray became available in fall 2023 at pharmacies, drugstores and grocery stores as well as online retailers with a suggested price of $44.99 for a two-dose box.

Walgreens said its over-the-counter version will be called Walgreens Brand Naloxone HCI Nasal Spray and will be priced at $34.99.

The pharmacy said the generic version is currently available online and will be available at stores across the country by the end of the month. It will be found in the pain aisle.

"As a leading healthcare services company rooted in a retail pharmacy footprint, Walgreens is committed to removing barriers to naloxone access," Dr. Priya Mammen, senior medical director in the Walgreens office of clinical integrity, said in a press release.

"As an emergency physician, I have for years combatted the devastating impacts of the opioid overdose epidemic and worked tirelessly to save lives. Expanding access to naloxone is a critical step in empowering individuals, families, and communities to act and be part of the solution. We must all confront this crisis head-on to bring change," the statement continued.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says naloxone is safe for bystanders to administer to anyone who appears to be experiencing an overdose and will not hurt users if it turns out they are not experiencing an overdose.

Harm reduction groups and other experts have been pushing for easier access to naloxone, saying over-the-counter status means people won't have to speak to a pharmacist to purchase the drug, which lowers barriers to access and reduces stigma.

Walgreens did not immediately reply to ABC News' request for comment.

The U.S. has been battling a drug overdose epidemic for years. According to provisional data from the CDC published on Wednesday, there were an estimated 107,543 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2023, a high number albeit lower than the 111,029 deaths recorded in 2022.

The majority of these deaths were due to opioids, particularly synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Red Lobster closes multiple locations as company prepares to file for bankruptcy

In this undated file photo, a Red Lobster Restaurant is shown. (Jeff Greenberg/UIG via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Red Lobster has abruptly closed at least 99 locations across the country with restaurants shutting their doors in at least 27 states.

Tagex Brands, a company that handles restaurant liquidation auctions, told ABC News that Red Lobster recently contacted them to auction off items from 52 locations that will be closing.

The popular seafood restaurant chain began eyeing Chapter 11 to consolidate debts last month. The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the company is now expected to file for bankruptcy "as early as next week," according to people familiar with the matter.

The decision comes just months after a major investor blamed Red Lobster's fumbled "Ultimate Endless Shrimp" promotion for costing the restaurant chain millions in losses.

During an earnings call last year, Red Lobster's former Thailand-based investor, Thai Union Group, shared that the menu promotion contributed to its more than $11 million third quarter operating loss.

Ludovic Garnier, chief financial officer for Thai Union Group, told ABC News this week, "Something which was different from our expectation is the proportion of the people selecting this promotion was much higher compared to expectation."

Financial reporter and affordable lifestyle expert Jennifer Streaks explained that because "consumers now are looking for value when they're going outside of the home" she thinks "consumers really ate more than Red Lobster could afford."

With inflation prompting more Americans to pinch pennies, experts are seeing consumers pivot to restaurants that can offer good value for price, and fast casual chains are seeing a boost in popularity.

"Red lobster is not a fast casual environment. It may be fast seafood, but seafood is still [an] expensive dining experience," Streaks added.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Inflation cooled slightly in April, ending monthslong surge in prices

Bloomberg Creative/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Consumer prices rose 3.4% in April compared to a year ago, slowing slightly from the previous month and offering a welcome sign for the Federal Reserve in its yearslong inflation fight. The fresh data matched economists' expectations.

After falling dramatically over the course of last year, inflation had accelerated in recent months. Recalcitrant prices forced the Fed to postpone highly anticipated interest rate cuts, leaving borrowing rates high for everything from credit cards to mortgages.

Price increases have slowed significantly from a peak of about 9%, but inflation still stands more than a percentage point higher than the Federal Reserve's target rate of 2%.

The latest finding indicated a mild cooldown from the 3.5% annual inflation rate recorded in March.

Core inflation -- a closely watched measure that strips out volatile food and energy prices -- increased 3.6% over the year ending in March, slowing slightly from the previous month, the data showed.

Roughly 70% of the monthly increase in consumer prices owed to an uptick in gasoline and housing costs, the BLS said.

Food prices rose at a much slower pace than overall inflation, making up a bright spot in the report. Prices for some grocery store staples fell in April compared to a year ago, including bread, poultry and eggs.

Prices for breakfast sausage and ice cream, on the other hand, increased at a pace near the level of overall inflation.

In response to elevated prices, the Fed earlier this month opted to hold interest rates steady for the sixth consecutive time, keeping them at a level last seen in 2001. For now, the Fed has all but abandoned its previous forecast of three quarter-point rate cuts this year.

Speaking at a financial conference in Amsterdam on Tuesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said inflation has remained higher than expected, putting pressure on the central bank to leave its high interest rates in place.

"We did not expect this to be a smooth road," Powell told attendees at an annual gathering of the Foreign Bankers' Association. "But these [inflation readings] were higher than I think anybody expected. What that has told us is that we'll need to be patient and let restrictive policy do its work."

In theory, high borrowing costs weigh on consumer and business spending, which in turn slows the economy and reduces demand.

In recent months, the economy has shown signs of a slowdown. A worse-than-expected jobs report this month showed that employers hired 175,000 people in April, a significant drop off from the previous month.

The underwhelming jobs report sent the stock market higher since investors took it as indication that the Fed may rekindle plans for interest rate cuts.

Gross domestic product, a measure of all the goods and services produced in the economy, recorded 1.6% annual growth over the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department said last month. That figure marked a steep slowdown from a 3.4% annual rate measured over the final quarter of last year.

Despite the slowdown, economic output and hiring remain solid. The burst of stubborn price increases, meanwhile, has only lasted a few months.

The outlook for prices defies easy predictions, Powell said in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

"Is inflation going to be more persistent going forward?" Powell said. "I don't think we know that yet."

"I think we need more than a quarter's worth of data to really make a judgment on that," he added.

The outlook for prices defies easy predictions, Powell said in Amsterdam on Tuesday.

“Is inflation going to be more persistent going forward?” Powell said. “I don’t think we know that yet.”

“I think we need more than a quarter’s worth of data to really make a judgment on that,” he added.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama are voting to join the UAW. Here's what's at stake for workers nationwide.

Mercedes-Benz logo see on a Mercedes-Benz vehicle in Edmonton, on October 26, 2023, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Thousands of Mercedes-Benz workers in Alabama are voting on a union this week, marking a major test for the United Auto Workers just one month after a watershed victory in nearby Tennessee.

The UAW faces a more difficult contest this time around because Mercedes-Benz has carried out an anti-union campaign, attempting to dissuade workers and tilt the outcome, experts told ABC News.

A victory would hold significant implications, redoubling the union’s momentum as it seeks to organize a slew of additional plants throughout the South, where auto workers have struggled to gain a foothold for decades, they said.

A loss, however, could scare off workers at other facilities and derail the union’s success.

Here’s what’s at stake for auto workers and the wider labor movement:

Can the UAW sustain its momentum and unionize more carmakers?

The union vote this week involving roughly 5,000 Mercedes-Benz workers near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is the latest sign of momentum for the UAW since union members went on strike against the Big 3 U.S. automakers last fall.

The high-profile standoff contributed to billions of dollars in losses for the companies and put thousands of workers temporarily out of work. But the gamble paid off, helping the union achieve historic wage gains and other long-sought reforms.

The breakthrough triggered a wave of UAW organizing, the union says. Over 10,000 non-union autoworkers have signed cards in support of the UAW in recent months and organizing campaigns have broken out at more than two dozen facilities, the union said in a statement in March.

Last month, the workers at a Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to join the UAW by a landslide margin of 2,628 to 985. The victory marked the first car plant in the South to unionize with a vote since the 1940s.

"To see Tennessee make history as far as the South -- it’s big," Sammie Ellis, 35, an assembly worker for Mercedes-Benz at the plant in Alabama who supports the union, told ABC News. "It sends a clear message."

A union, Ellis said, would deliver better health benefits and pay, as well as "all-around respect for employees."

In addition to the plant in Alabama, the UAW is aiming to unionize 12 facilities across the South, Stephen Silvia, a professor at American University and the author of "The UAW's Southern Gamble," told ABC News.

"There’s a question of whether the UAW will be successful in keeping its momentum going," Silvia said.

Can unions win in large workplaces when facing an anti-union campaign?

The union drive in Alabama poses several challenges when compared with the UAW recent victory in Chattanooga, most notably the presence of an anti-union campaign, experts said.

The circumstances touch on a question that has loomed over the labor movement in recent years: Can unions win at big workplaces, such as Amazon warehouses or auto plants, if they face opposition from an employer?

In April 2022, warehouse workers at a 6,000-worker Amazon facility formed the first-ever U.S. union at the company, though no additional warehouses have unionized since. On the other hand, Starbucks workers have succeeded in unionizing roughly 400 of the company’s stores, which range in number but typically involve about 30 employees.

In Chattanooga, Volkswagen took a posture of neutrality toward the union, forgoing input about whether workers should organize. By contrast, Mercedes-Benz has undertaken a coordinated effort to dissuade workers from supporting the effort, said Ellis.

Officials at the facility have put up flyers, worn hats and handed out towels that all bear the same message: "Vote no," according to Ellis.

"They are heavy on voting no," Ellis added.

In response to ABC News' request for comment, Mercedes-Benz said in a statement that it supports workers' right to determine whether they want union representation.

"Mercedes-Benz U.S. International (MBUSI) fully respects our Team Members’ choice whether to unionize and we look forward to participating in the election process to ensure every Team Member has a chance to cast their own secret-ballot vote, as well as having access to the information necessary to make an informed choice," a company spokesperson said.

"We believe open and direct communication with our Team Members is the best path forward to ensure continued success," the spokesperson added.

When asked about the implications for unions seeking to organize large workplaces amid employer opposition, Art Wheaton, director of labor studies at the Worker Institute at Cornell University said, "If they win, it does help move the needle."

What message will the UAW send to the wider labor movement?

In recent years, the U.S. labor movement has grown in popularity and made headlines with high-profile strikes, but it has failed to increase the share of the workforce that belongs to a union.

Sixty-seven percent of Americans approve of unions, a Gallup poll last year showed, putting the favorability of unions near its highest level since 1965.

Still, union membership has shrunk. Only 10% of U.S. workers belonged to unions last year, little changed from the year prior, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showed. That figure marks a steep drop from a peak of nearly 25% in the 1950s.

A victory at the Alabama plant could show that the resurgent popularity and militancy of unions can translate into membership gains, Harry Katz, a professor of collective bargaining at Cornell University, told ABC News.

"Maybe it suggests [there's] more momentum for organizing than we’ve seen in the past,” Katz said.

Ellis, the Mercedes-Benz worker in Alabama, said he hopes a victory will show workers that unions help deliver a path to a decent livelihood.

"Those people will be able to come into these manufacturers and acquire skills that will provide great pay, great benefits and allow them to take care of themselves and their families," Ellis said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Cream cheese recalled over salmonella concerns sold at Aldi, Hy-Vee


(NEW YORK) -- Aldi and Hy-Vee shoppers, check your refrigerator for cream cheese products that have been recalled due to possible salmonella contamination.

Details of Aldi, Schreiber Foods, and Hy-Vee cream cheese recalls

"In cooperation with Schreiber Foods, Inc., and out of an abundance of caution, ALDI Inc., recalls its Happy Farms Whipped Cream Cheese Spread, Chive & Onion Cream Cheese Spread, Cream Cheese Spread, and Strawberry Cream Cheese Spread products," the company said in a statement on May 9.

Aldi did not state in the recall announcement if there have been any reported illnesses linked to the recalled cream cheese products.

A representative for Aldi and Schreiber Foods did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

On May 6, Hy-Vee, Inc., an Iowa-based grocery retailer, issued a voluntary recall on two varieties of its "Hy-Vee Cream Cheese Spread out of an abundance of caution due to the potential for contamination with Salmonella," the company said in its notice with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The products were manufactured at different third-party facilities around the Midwest, according to Hy-Vee's recall notice. The products were sold under Hy-Vee’s private label and bulk packaging programs.

"The manufacturers of these products notified Hy-Vee of the potential issue and out of an abundance of caution Hy-Vee is voluntarily recalling these specific products," the recall statement said.

As of the time of publication, there have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of the products sold at Hy-Vee. A representative for Hy-Vee did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

Cream cheese product label information for recalled products

A total of four cream cheese spreads in 8-ounce cup containers sold under the Aldi brand name have been impacted by this recall: Regular cream cheese, Whipped cream cheese, Chive and onion, and Strawberry.

The whipped cream cheese bears the UPC code 4099100101881; regular cream cheese UPC code is 4099100101737; Chive and onion UPC code is 4099100101751; and Strawberry UPC code is 4099100101744.

Each product had a range of sell-by dates from 08/30/2024 to 09/22/2024. Click here for the specific sell by dates on each, plus additional product label information.

The recalled Hy-Vee Cream Cheese Spread, sold in 12-ounce containers, bears the UPC code 0075450096120 and has a use by/best by date of 10/1/2024.

The second recalled product, Hy-Vee Whipped Cream Cheese Spread, sold in 8-ounce containers, has the UPC code 0075450096132 and two use by/best by dates: 8/7/2024; 8/14/2024.

Where recalled cream cheese products were sold

Aldi stores across 29 states

The affected products were sold at select Aldi stores in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Hy-Vee stores across eight states

The two affected Hy-Vee cream cheese products were distributed and sold at Hy-Vee, Hy-Vee Drugstore and Dollar Fresh Market locations, and Hy-Vee Fast and Fresh convenience stores across eight Midwestern states: Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

What to do with recalled cream cheese products

Aldi, along with Schreiber Foods, have urged customers who may have products affected by this recall "to discard it immediately or return it to their local store for a full refund."

Customers with further questions can also call a toll-free number or contact consumer relations for Schreiber Foods via email.

"ALDI sincerely regrets the inconvenience and concern caused as a result of this recall," the company said.

Hy-Vee stated that all of the affected items have been removed from shelves and encouraged any customers who purchased the products to "dispose of the product or return it to their local Hy-Vee store for a full refund."

Customers with additional questions can reach out to the customer care center by phone.

Potential health impacts, symptoms of salmonella

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people infected with salmonella experience diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, and symptoms typically begin six hours to six days after swallowing the bacteria.

Most people recover without treatment after four to seven days. But some -- especially children younger than five years and adults 65 years and older, or people with weakened immune systems -- may experience more severe illnesses that require medical treatment or hospitalization, the CDC states.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'It's a real thing': Drivers and passengers report motion sickness in EVs

A driver is seen inside of a Tesla Model Y car during its presentation at the Automobile Club, Sept. 5, 2020, in Budapest, Hungary. (Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- An oft-touted advantage of owning an electric vehicle is one-pedal driving, when drivers can slow down a vehicle simply by lifting off the throttle.

But as more Americans swap their gas-powered cars and trucks for an EV, some are also realizing there are drawbacks to the one-pedal lifestyle.

"It can cause some people to get sick," John Voelcker, a former editor of Green Car Reports and a contributing editor at Car and Driver, told ABC News. "Strong regenerative braking, which recaptures max energy, can cause motion sickness. There is a learning curve to lifting off the accelerator in an EV ... you have to modulate it."

Voelcker said he has felt queasy at least twice while riding in the back seat of a Tesla.

"The drivers didn't know how to modulate Tesla's strong regen braking," he recalled. "I was thrown around a little bit."

Ed Kim, president and chief analyst of AutoPacific, said Teslas are the "worst offenders" because they can be "very jerky and really abrupt."

"Most automakers have tuned the throttles to be jumpy in EVs to emphasize the power, but the side effect is that they can lurch and make some occupants car sick. You have to be so careful on how to apply the throttle ... if not, it can lead to an abrupt seesaw motion for passengers," Kim told ABC News.

Kim said his wife has gotten nauseous in a Tesla Model Y and he's heard of similar experiences from other motorists. The extremely quick acceleration of EVs can be disorienting to Americans who learned how to drive with an gasoline engine.

"EVs have so much torque -- you tap the throttle and the thing just takes off. The abruptness of power delivery can be unsettling to some people. If you set really high regenerative braking, the car lurches forward and rocks and back forth a lot," he said.

Dr. D.J. Verret, an ear, nose and throat doctor in Texas, said motion sickness in EVs "is a real thing."

Verret pointed out that the lack of sound in an EV can also worsen the experience for passengers, especially those already prone to motion sickness.

"The brain sets up a model for what it expects in certain situations," he told ABC News. "In combustion cars, you hear the engine revving and know someone is stepping on the accelerator. The car moves forward. In an EV, the auditory and visual inputs don't fit the model that you are actually moving."

Passengers are more susceptible to dizziness and nausea in an EV than drivers, especially when they're in the back seat.

"If you're the driver, your head moves when you turn the wheel to the left," he said. "Our brain is responding to what it's expecting to happen. If you're a passenger, you can't see those motions. If you have a certain lateral acceleration -- like turning a corner fast -- that will increase your potential for dizziness and motion sickness."

Monica Jones, an associate research scientist at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, has been studying motion sickness for years. It's a topic that's gathering "a lot of interest," she told ABC News, adding that researchers are still not clear on why some people are more sensitive to motion sickness.

She recently completed a study with an automaker that looked at longitudinal jerk, "which is what happens with regen braking," she said.

Jones and her team modulated the jerk in an automated vehicle while maintaining its peak acceleration. Participants were "very sensitive to the jerk," she said.

"Motion sickness ratings increased on average throughout the duration of the trial and significant interactions were observed between levels of longitudinal jerk and time," she said. "The highest rate of accumulation or earliest onset of motion sickness was observed for the jerk condition with the highest magnitude."

Jones said this research could help automakers ameliorate motion sickness in EVs as they continue to refine the technology with newer models.

"One-pedal driving is a very different experience than combustion engines," she said. "Even if you learn how to effectively do one-pedal driving, uncertainty in the environment -- like traffic -- can still cause motion sickness."

There are EVs available now that ride similarly to an internal combustion engine vehicle, a bonus for those looking to avoid a Tesla-like ride. Hyundai's new Ioniq 5 N, a chic hatch that makes 641 horsepower, comes with fake gearing and artificial engine noises, delivering a gas-powered experience on and off the track.

Matt Farah, host of the popular "The Smoking Tire" podcast, said he was so blown away by the Ioniq 5 N that his perspective on EVs has changed.

"We now know it's possible to make an EV fun," he told ABC News. "The synthetic gearbox and synthetic noises successfully mimic what we like about gasoline sports cars."

Farah said he, too, has been queasy in an EV before, especially when going really fast or doing full throttle launches.

"If I do two or three launches in a row in an EV, I don't feel great after," he said. "The way an EV motor delivers power -- and the absence of sound -- are what make you feel dizzy going fast in one."

Hyundai's decision to include the fake gearing and noises (N e-shift and N active sound+) "were not created to alleviate queasiness or motion sickness, although it is possible that these features might indirectly help reduce some of those effects for electric vehicle drivers," a company spokesperson told ABC News.

Either way, Farah, who test drove the Ioniq 5 N in California last month, said more automakers should follow Hyundai's example.

"You have more control over what the car is doing with the gears. You want to control what the car is doing -- that is the point of driving," he said. "You realize the sound is fake, but after a few minutes of driving, it's giving what you need and it works."

The Cadillac Lyriq, a sleek electric sport utility vehicle that went into production last year, may not have fake engine noises but its tuning and drive quality has won over motorists who are anti one-pedal driving.

"It's the closest approximation to an ICE car that I have seen in a while," Voelcker said.

The Lyriq does not lurch forward unexpectedly like some of the other electric SUVs, Kim pointed out.

"The acceleration is more gentle," he said. "The passenger experience is more like a traditional gas car -- no matter who drives it."

Kevin Cansiani, a senior engineer at Cadillac, told ABC News the Lyriq drives even better than an ICE car.

"My gripe with ICE transmissions are those shifts and jerks you always get," he said. "With the Lyriq, there's just this feeling of seamless torque. The goal of the engineers was to make the Lyriq have a premium drive quality."

Cansiani 's team tuned the Lyriq so that passengers and drivers alike would not be affected by the SUV's throttle response.

"We came up with a common set of throttle mapping and had specific drive scorecards. We took objective measurements on jerk -- that sting you feel," he said.

The Lyriq offers three regen modes -- off, normal or high. Cansiani said the majority of Lyriq customers choose the normal mode for the "instant feel of negative torque."

And driving with the regen off won't impact range, Cansiani noted.

"You're not losing a lot of range," he said. "We have blended braking on the Lyriq. The brake pedal, when pressed, will command as much regen as possible. When maxed out, only then will it transition to friction braking."

For electric car rookies, there are ways to minimize the shock when driving some EVs on the market.

"People who are newer to EVs are not accustomed to how powerful and torquey these things can be," Kim noted, adding that it's relatively easy to get comfortable with the tech.

He recommended that drivers set up eco mode in their EVs to make the throttle less sensitive. 

"It will give you a more relaxed driving style," he said.

His other suggestion was that engineers adjust the throttle mapping in an electric vehicle so it more closely mimics how a gasoline-powered car moves and operates.

Voelcker said regen braking is different on every EV and some vehicles may be better than others for those with a lead foot. He personally is a fan of the driving technique: "I don't touch the brakes. The car does the braking for you."

Worst case scenario for those who are having trouble with the EV's stop-start manner? Shut off the regen entirely, Voelcker said.

"It's about muscle control in the foot," he explained. "People who drive gas cars, they don't glide. They accelerate to the stop sign then slam on the brakes."

He added, "A lot of motion sickness, honestly, is because of the driver."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

OpenAI announces new version of AI language model that fuels ChatGPT

Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- OpenAI announced a desktop version of its conversation bot ChatGPT on Monday as well as the latest iteration of the AI language model that fuels the chatbot.

The fresh model offers improved speed and interactive capability when compared with the company's previous model GPT-4, OpenAI Chief Technology Mira Murati said at an event livestreamed by the company.

Known as GPT-4o, the latest version eliminates lag time in the response from ChatGPT and allows users to interrupt the conversation bot with a new query that in turn elicits a modified response, Murati said. The improved capacity, Murati added, functions in response to text, audio and visual prompts.

"We're looking at the future of our interaction between ourselves and the machines, and we think that GPT-4o is really shifting that paradigm," Murati said. "This is the first time we're making a huge step forward when it comes to the ease of use."

An OpenAI researcher performed a live demonstration in which the new product identified the pace of his breathing and offered him advice on how to relax, and another in which the product provided immediate translation allowing for a conversation between someone speaking Italian and another speaking English.

In a separate demo, the product viewed a researcher's attempt at solving a math equation through his phone camera and provided real-time guidance.

GPT-4o will be released over the coming weeks, Murati said, adding that the company will make the product available gradually in an effort to prevent abuse.

"Our team has been hard at work building in mitigation against misuse," Murati said. "We continue to work with stakeholders."

OpenAI has sought to release fresh products and upgrades since the November 2022 release of ChatGPT, which reached 100 million app users within two months. That performance set a record for the fastest-growing app user base.

In March 2023, Open-AI released GPT-4, the latest version of its AI language model. Days after the release of GPT-4, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman told ABC News that the product scored in the 90th percentile on the Uniform Bar Exam. It also scored a near-perfect score on the SAT Math test, and it can proficiently write computer code in most programming languages.

GPT-4 could be "the greatest technology humanity has yet developed" to drastically improve our lives," Altman told ABC News at the time.

The announcement on Monday arrives three months after OpenAI unveiled its video-generation tool Sora.

Sora composes videos, lasting up to one-minute long, based on user prompts, just as ChatGPT responds to input with written responses and Dall-E offers up images. The video-generator is in use by a group of product testers but is not available to the public, OpenAI said in a statement in February.

The risks posed by AI-generated content have stoked wide concern in recent months.

Fake, sexually explicit AI-generated images of pop star Taylor Swift went viral on social media in late January, garnering millions of views. A fake image of pop singer Katy Perry at the Met Gala circulated widely online last week, even fooling Perry's mother

OpenAI posted a statement online in February outlining measures taken by the company to prevent abuse of Sora.

"We'll be taking several important safety steps ahead of making Sora available in OpenAI's products," the company website says. "We are working with red teamers  --  domain experts in areas like misinformation, hateful content, and bias  -- who will be adversarially testing the model."

In response to growing scrutiny over AI-produced content, tech platforms have taken steps to regulate such posts ahead of the November election.

Meta announced in February that it would begin labeling images created by OpenAI, Midjourney and other artificial intelligence products. Social media site TikTok said in an online statement last week that it would also start labeling such images.

The series of major product releases in recent years has coincided with leadership turmoil at OpenAI.

Altman abruptly stepped down in November 2023 from his role as CEO of OpenAI. After an employee revolt and a public apology from one of the company's board members, Altman was rehired for the position just four days later.

The decision included a condition for OpenAI to reconfigure its board of directors. Altman's return appeared to involve input from Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, whose company made a $10 billion investment in OpenAI last year.

At the end of the event on Monday, Murati hinted at a forthcoming product announcement.

"We also care a lot about the next frontier," Murati said. "Soon we'll be updating you on our progress toward the next big thing."

ABC News' Victor Ordonez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

McDonald's may consider $5 value meal as food prices continue to soar

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- McDonald's could soon be lowering prices and possibly launching a new value meal to its menus.

The Golden Arches currently offer some individual items on its $1, $2, $3 menu, but it may be rolling out a new value meal with a McChicken or McDouble, fries and a drink for just $5, as Bloomberg first reported.

Knowing that consumers have grown tired of sticker shock on food, Chief Executive Officer Chris Kempczinski said McDonald’s would look to be "laser-focused on affordability." He was spoking on the company's first quarter earnings call late last month, after profits fell short of expectations.

People fed up with soaring prices have taken to social media to sound off about how much they're paying for fast food.

Colleen Pipes, whose video went viral after she spent $14 on a fast food order, told ABC News, "I joked that this was fine dining now, because I might as well go at a sit down restaurant and be served [to] pay those type of prices."

In March, fast-food prices were 33% higher compared to 2019, according to the Department of Labor, while grocery prices were up 26%.

Companies like Starbucks reported a slow in sales with a 7% drop in transactions at the Seattle-based coffee chain.

Starbucks told ABC News that some price increases at their stores has been a result of customers opting in for customizations on drinks, which can bump up the price.

Consumer behavior is also changing outside restaurants, while shoppers like Lorin Augeri of Tampa, Florida scour to score the best prices on groceries by going to multiple stores.

"I've learned how to map out where those things are going to be less expensive, or which stores have the items that me and my family enjoy eating," she told ABC News.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of beef is predicted to increase 3.3% in 2024, with eggs up 4.8% and sugar and sweets up 4.3% this year.

Professor Roger Beahm, who teaches marketing at Wake Forest University School of Business, told ABC News that much has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Before the pandemic consumers tended to shop primarily at one grocery store -- the pandemic was very disruptive," he said. "Consumers couldn't get a lot of the products that they wanted at one particular store. So they actually started shopping in more retail grocery stores."

Consumers like Pipes are begging fast food chains and grocery stores to do something about it.

"Please lower your prices so you can't go up any further," she said.

While McDonald's has not yet officially confirmed the new value meal, the company has long stated and reiterated that prices vary by location due to individual franchisee decisions.

Competitors like Burger King offer a $5 value meal, as does Wendy’s, who recently announced a new 6-piece chicken nuggets for free on Wednesdays with any mobile app purchase for rewards members.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Home prices are soaring. Is this another bubble?

Thomas Northcut/Getty Images/STOCK

(NEW YORK) -- Roughly 15 years after a housing bubble triggered the worst U.S. financial disaster since the Great Depression, some observers are voicing concern that the industry has fallen into another bubble.

Home prices are soaring, despite high mortgage rates that in theory should crimp demand and push down prices.

The share of U.S. homeowners under serious financial strain, meanwhile, jumped slightly at the outset of this year when compared with the final months of 2023, real estate data-firm ATTOM found in a report this week.

Despite these trends, experts who spoke with ABC News largely rejected fears of a housing bubble.

The frothy prices and the strain they place on prospective homebuyers are a cause for concern, they said, but the price hikes owe to an old-fashioned imbalance between supply and demand rather than the frenzied speculation characteristic of a bubble.

"The price increases have been quite remarkable but there aren't abnormal factors driving them," Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, told ABC News. "It's simply supply and demand -- the normal reason."

Two years ago, the Federal Reserve began an aggressive series of interest rate hikes in an effort to rein in inflation. Typically, such a policy would send mortgage rates higher and drive home prices downward as homebuyers wither under steep borrowing costs. In this case, the mortgage rates soared but prices skyrocketed alongside them.

For nine consecutive months, year-over-year existing-home prices have climbed, according to data released by the National Association of Realtors in March. Going back further, the median price of an existing home has jumped nearly 40% over the past four years, NAR data shows.

"It's a strange market that seems like an anomaly," Marc Norman, associate dean at the New York University School of Professional Studies and Schack Institute of Real Estate, told ABC News. "I can certainly see people wondering if it's a bubble."

The hot prices, however, stem from a straightforward instance of too much money chasing too few homes, experts told ABC News.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, homebuilding slowed when shortages of materials and workers made input costs more expensive, Norman said. Right as the supply blockages began to fade, the Fed raised interest rates, making it more expensive for developers to borrow the money required to launch projects.

The cooldown of housing construction has contributed to a dearth of homes. Housing supply stands 3.2 million homes short of the amount needed to meet demand, real estate and investment firm Hines said in a report last month.

"We haven't built enough houses in this country and there's still a lot of demand," Christopher Mayer, a real estate professor at the Columbia University Business School, told ABC News. "The interest rates have made it more expensive to build and homes have gotten more costly."

The current housing shortage contrasts sharply with the housing bubble that led to the Great Recession, experts said.

Back then, a sharp rise in prices drove a surge of homebuilding, which fueled an oversupply of housing. The abundance of homes, in turn, drove buyers to scoop up a property -- or multiple properties -- as appreciating assets rather than places to live. When new buyers couldn't be found and the music stopped, prices crashed.

Prices stand unusually high in the current market but the shortage of housing places a limit on how far they can fall, since the lack of options for buyers will continue to push upward on prices, Ken Johnson, a real estate economist at Florida Atlantic University, told ABC News.

"I don't see a dramatic crash," Johnson said, adding that he expects a scenario in the coming months in which home prices plateau or dip slightly as they test the limits of consumers' budgets. "On a scale of one to ten, with the last bubble being a nine, this is a two or three."

Still, Johnson said, potential interest rate cuts could heat up the housing market even further, sending prices skyward and further threatening the stability of the sector.

On the other hand, Yun raised the possibility of a recession that forces layoffs and compromises the capacity for homeowners to afford their mortgages, potentially flooding the market with homes. Even in such circumstances, he said, "home price decline would be fairly modest."

Even in the absence of a full-on bubble, the market could use some deflation, Norman said.

"The bigger problem to me than a bubble is just the lack of affordability," he added. "Maybe the bubble doesn't burst but some air gets let out of the balloon."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Target will only sell Pride Month collection in some stores after backlash in 2023

Target has announced that it will only sell their Pride Month collection in select stores after suffering a backlash and boycott last year during the 2023 Pride season. -- Target

(NEW YORK) -- Target has announced that it will only sell their Pride Month collection in select stores after suffering a backlash and boycott last year during the 2023 Pride season.

The company says that instead of offering their Pride Month collection merchandise across all stores, they will be “offering a collection of products including adult apparel and home and food and beverage items, curated based on consumer feedback. The collection will be available on and in select stores, based on historical sales performance,” the company said in a statement on their website on Thursday.

"Target is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round. Most importantly, we want to create a welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQIA+ team members, which reflects our culture of care for the over 400,000 people who work at Target. We have long offered benefits and resources for the community, and we will have internal programs to celebrate Pride 2024,” the company said.

Target says they are making other plans to celebrate Pride Month, including having a presence at local Pride events in Minneapolis – where the organization is headquartered – and around the country.

“Beyond our own teams, we will have a presence at local Pride events in Minneapolis and around the country, and we continue to support a number of LGBTQIA+ organizations,” a company spokesperson said in a statement obtained by ABC News on Friday. “Additionally, we will offer a collection of products for Pride, including adult apparel, home products, food and beverage, which has been curated based on guest insights and consumer research. These items, starting at $3, will be available in select stores and on"

Target suffered a backlash and boycott last summer during Pride season which prompted the chain to pull some of the LGBTQIA+ merchandise, which, in turn, caused a separate backlash against that decision as they became the center of a culture battle.

“For more than a decade, Target has offered an assortment of products aimed at celebrating Pride Month,” Target said in May of 2023 amid the fury. “Since introducing this year's collection, we've experienced threats impacting our team members' sense of safety and well-being while at work. Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior. Our focus now is on moving forward with our continuing commitment to the LGBTQIA+ community and standing with them as we celebrate Pride Month and throughout the year.”

This year, however, in spite of their reduction of available Pride Month collection merchandise at all of their retail establishments, Target says that they will continue to support LGBTQIA+ organizations year-round, including Human Rights Campaign, Family Equality and more and will also be highlighting LGBTQ-owned brands during Pride Month and throughout the year in their stores and online.

"Target is committed to supporting the LGBTQIA+ community during Pride Month and year-round. Most importantly, we want to create a welcoming and supportive environment for our LGBTQIA+ team members, which reflects our culture of care for the over 400,000 people who work at Target,” a company spokesperson told ABC News on Friday. “We have long offered benefits and resources for the community, and we will have internal programs to celebrate Pride 2024.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.