“You can never ask for permission because no one will give it.”

Original Content

Last week, I interviewed David Rolf, author of The Fight for Fifteen. Check it out here.

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Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

#airbnbwhileblack: great piece about unconscious discrimination (or conscious? who can say…) by users on Airbnb’s platform, and how the company plans to adapt.

“Sure, taking 12-year-olds out of factories may have caused statistical job loss in the ’30s, but redirecting them toward education led to objectively better conditions.” FastCo, on whether we’re inching toward a $15/hour national minimum wage. On a related note, Pacific Standard looks at the White House’s claim that a minimum wage increase will have the side effect of reducing mass incarceration.

“You can never ask for permission because no one will give it.” That’s sort of the motto for the on-demand economy, right? This one seems more idiotic than most, though.

From Partners

In Florida? Check out this Digital Organizing Workshop by friend-o-the-blog Beth Becker.

Organizing Theory

Collective identity & layer cakes—MobLab looks at five organizations that are boosting member engagement.

“Too often the divide between traditional advocacy organizations and their digitally native peers is deeper than it should be.”

Geeking Out

How are we going to crash test self-driving cars for the ultimate question about self-driving cars—to wit: when should they decide to crash if it means killing someone?

What’s Going on in the Workforce

In the wake of the Uber settlement, both the Teamsters and the Machinists have announced plans to create driver associations.

And while we’re on the subject of the ride-sharing companies (and honestly, when are we not?)—it looks like Lyft & Uber just teamed up with Google, Ford & Volvo to lobby for self-driving cars.

“As any worker will tell you, it is not the number of jobs that matters most, but what kind of jobs are available, what they pay, and how that pay measures against the cost of living.” Sarah Kenzidor at Quartz, on why the 5% unemployment rate doesn’t feel like “recovery” to many.

“In the 1950s and ’60s, American economic growth democratized prosperity. In the 2010s, we have managed to democratize financial insecurity.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

PS Mag, on the need for a new social contract. Need more evidence? Read this. “In the 1950s and ’60s, American economic growth democratized prosperity. In the 2010s, we have managed to democratize financial insecurity.”

h/t to NELP’s Rebecca Smith for sending this my way—a report on an experiment in helping low-wage childcare workers in Appalachia save for retirement, done by WISER.

Organizing Theory

Last week, I gave a talk at the People at Work Summit, the first-ever online coworking conference that took place over 24 hours. One of my fellow presenters, Vanessa Gennarelli, did a talk on how to get over the fear of asking for money, including this nifty toolkit for putting your fundraising pitch together. Check it out.

From Partners

Coopify is an about-to-launch app that seeks to provide the benefits of having a distribution platform to worker-owned coops.

Shareable is looking for case studies of ways that cities are reimagining themselves, for a new book. Sectors of particular interest include housing, food, mobility & work.

And speaking of the newly-launched, check out Spendrise, which launched last week in New York–and look for an interview with founder Eric Shih sometime in May.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

If you’re a regular reader of this email, you probably already know that Uber settled two class action lawsuits last week, that included their acknowledgement that they need some kind of drivers’ organization. Here’s HuffPo’s Dave Jamieson on whether it will have any power.

On a related note, as part of the Uber settlement, drivers will now be able to accept tips—but just in cash, not through the app. Tylt wants to know—will you tip your Uber driver?

“I will never grocery shop again.”

Geeking Out

“I will never grocery shop again.” Is technology making women’s lives better? Or just forcing more of us to return to a 19th C relationship with domestic workers?

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Micro targeted political ads, delivered to set-top boxes that know your address? Might be the thing that knocks you over into becoming a cord-cutter.

Interesting post from the head of LA’s Taxicab Commission on how we might use technological monitoring to ensure the safety of ride-sharing drivers in LA.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“If your phone can give you access to the things you would need from a bank, well, you’ve just disinvented the need for banks, and fundamentally changed the operation of the money system, across whole swathes of the developing and emerging world.” If, like me, you’ve been looking for a super-long explainer of blockchain currencies, look no further. If no, click elsewhere. 

In SF next week? Check out this talk at Twilio on the tech behind the sharing economy. 

These non-profit folks are planning to give 6,000 Kenyans a basic income for 10-15 years, to see what happens. 

Organizing Theory

LGBT groups continue to lead the way on running evidence-based experiments that successfully reduce bias through 10-minute conversations at the door.

From Partners

The organizers of Personal Democracy Forum are still looking for folks to submit panels. All-male options need not apply.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Postmates is launching a new on-demand delivery service via subscription, perhaps to challenge Amazon Prime.

How trade unions and coops are working to help the self-employed in the EU.

we need to make the safety net work better for those of us living in the patchwork economy.”

From Partners

“But we do not need to answer all questions about the scope or importance of the gig economy to know that we need to make the safety net work better for those of us living in the patchwork economy.” New report from The Century Foundation on the need to patch the holes in economic security for all.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“I work usually every day,” he says, “but doing the things I believe in, it doesn’t always feel like work.” What’s it like to be the first guy in the Netherlands to collect a basic income?

I wonder, at what point will we just need to set up a global tax system, to catch all the evaders that persist in not paying taxes anywhere?

Here’s a good start on principles for platform design that empower workers to do better.

Organizing Theory

As far as I can tell, the jury’s still out on what factor to use, when calculating Facebook event drop-off. But maybe committing to carpool will make people more likely to show?

Geeking Out

I’m not going to lie. Reading this made me want a telepresence bot of my very own. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-to-telecommute-with-a-double-robotics-robot-2016-3?r=UK&IR=T

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Is Lyft becoming more like Uber?

More on last week’s story about the changes in US job growth, particularly when it comes to “alternative arrangements” (i.e.—gigs).

“Information asymmetries are not byproducts of Uber’s app design, but fundamental parts of the Uber business mode.” Data & Society’s Alex Rosenblat & Luke Stark analyzes how Uber uses algorithms to manage drivers.

Somewhere between the gig economy and a mainstream job is the “jobbatical.”


To longtime HTU supporter David Rolf on today’s publication of his new book, The Fight for Fifteen. Look for an interview with David here in the next few weeks.

“An activist’s moment is not the moment of change; it is the period when change seems impossible.”

Organizing Theory

“An activist’s moment is not the moment of change; it is the period when change seems impossible.” Great piece by an activist who went from leading the revolution at Tahrir Square to living on minimum wage in San Francisco.

From Partners

Silicon Valley’s Working Partnerships USA has just put out a report about Tech’s Invisible Workforce.

Geeking Out

Artists video rendition of a bricklaying robot? Sure, I wasn’t planning on doing anything cooler in that minute.

Always missing doctor’s appointments due to shaky transportation? If you’re in MD or DC, your doctor might send you an Uber.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Sharing economy startup Peerby just raised its biggest round of capital yet—from its own user base.

I’ve lived in a couple of older apartments that had closets which had clearly been converted from Murphy beds. I wonder what these will look like in 50 years?

How does platform capitalism feel like laughing with salad? You’ll only know if you read this great piece by Danny Spitzberg. Bonus points for having the best photo caption ever.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Fascinating look, by JP Morgan Chase, at income volatility within various US demographics (including statistics about on-demand economy income). What’s up, westside?

The Rideshare Guy asked 55 industry folks to predict the biggest issues for ridesharing companies in 2016.

“…by firing a poor performer and then getting a replacement from essentially the same labor pool, you are relying on random luck to find someone who is going to do a better job.” Why ratings systems aren’t the best way to manage, if you care about delivering quality services.

CA Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez explains why she introduced the “California 1099 Self-Organizing Act.”

Great piece by Michelle Chen—Gig Economy Work Doesn’t Have to Be Awful.

A new paper by economist Lawrence Katz asserts that all the net growth in the US job market since 2005 has been in the gig economy—both offline and on.

“You cost them a lot of money and don’t bring in a lot of revenue.”

Thanks to all those who have recently contributed to Hack the Union via Patreon! I appreciate your support.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Last week, tech pioneer Andy Grove (former CEO of Intel) passed on. Here’s a piece he wrote for the American Prospect, on one thing keeping manufacturing jobs from coming back to the US—our own lack of data about the problem.

“You cost them a lot of money and don’t bring in a lot of revenue.” But doing customer support is such a rewarding job, why should it pay well?

Australia’s unions are launching a campaign to force employers to make more casual employees into permanent ones.

“Uber for X” isn’t the only model that on-demand companies are adopting, at this point.

Geeking Out

Facebook’s research department created this fascinating data visualization to answer the question “do jobs run in families?

What if cities’ analysis of sewer waste led to better health outcomes? How smart cities are investing in data.

Organizing Theory

Four ways of categorizing online communities. Interesting take.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Got excess food from an event that you’d rather share with the hungry than throw out? In the Bay Area, there’s an app for that now.

“…it is naive to think that we can extract the merits of the sharing economy without investing in the infrastructure and social welfare state that undergirds that economy.” Excellent take on the sharing economy, Cuba-style.

From Partners

EPI has a new paper out, rebutting the Harris/Krueger paper claiming that we need a third way to classify workers in the gig economy.

Haymarket Books has a new book about Chinese worker organizing coming out this month—check out the tour to see if they’re coming to a city near you in April.

And while we’re promoting new books—here’s an excerpt from Tom Slee’s new book, What’s Yours is Mine: Against the Sharing Economy.

“The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.”

Original Content

The worker justice movement has been winning $15/hour wages at the ballot box, and on the desks of friendly elected officials. What’s next, in policy moves that could restore more stability or rewards for workers?

Last year, Hack the Union lost $35. We’re not set up to make a profit, but it’s great to basically break even. If you like the original content on this site, please kick in a small contribution ($1/mo?) to help us keep it up and running.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Are you a middle manager? Slackbot will either up your productivity, or eat your job.

The CEO of Gigwalk has weighed in on the need for some kind of portable benefits system.

Uber & Lyft have both recently launched products to pay drivers instantly. Here’s a good look at the pros & cons of both apps’ solutions. Also, a recent survey from Reuters demonstrates that Lyft drivers would have received $835 in mileage reimbursement, on average, if they’d been classified as employees.

“The complexities of intellectual puzzles are nothing to those of emotional ones. Work is a wonderful refuge.” On why we can’t quit working.

What’s it like when your job gets replaced by an algorithm?

From Partners

Race Forward is asking worker advocates who are familiar with racial discrimination in different industries to fill out this survey.

UC Berkeley’s Institute for Research on Labor & Employment has a new paper out, studying domestic outsourcing in the US, and proposing a further research agenda on that topic.

CommonBound 2016 has issued a call for proposals (I’m working on two of these tracks, would love to see some proposals from HtU readers).

Organizing Theory

I wrote a piece for the New Labor Forum on digital organizing and the labor movement.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Ross Baird and Lenny Mendonca push back on the idea that Silicon Valley should be putting itself in the position to “solve” the problem of poverty by engineering basic income.

Geeking Out

Google has urged the US to adopt uniform laws around self-driving tech, rather than leaving it to the states.

$15/hour? Done. What’s Next?

There has been a debate within the labor movement for years about what role unions should take in supporting social policy that helps all workers, regardless of whether they are in a union or not. Some union staff and members feel that if workers can get higher wages or better benefits through political action, they won’t have a reason to join a union. This seems to me to be a sort of lazy logic, along the lines of “I can’t figure out how to make my product appealing, I can only sell it if it’s standing alone with zero competition.” It eliminates the idea of a union being part of a social and political movement, and leaves us with the merely transactional elements of collective bargaining.

The Fight for 15 has done an incredible job of showing us what it looks like to capture the imagination of a group of unrepresented workers, and putting them in motion to win significant raises not just for themselves but for an entire generation of Americans. While we’re quite a ways a way from raising the national minimum wage to $15/hour, the victories that workers have won in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles have given workers everywhere the courage to keep fighting for higher wages. Workers in many other cities and states have seen their base pay rise to $10 or $12/hour—and they continue to fight for $15. Right now, some unions are choosing to intervene in those fights by having their members exempted from legislation that raises wages—arguing that they have secured other kinds of financial concessions from employers, in the form of health and retirement benefits—that are worth more than the financial improvements that come with just raising wages. I’m curious to see at what point those unions will start to have an easier time at the bargaining table, because their members are no longer competing for jobs with people earning half of their wage—and to see what lesson union leaders take away from that experience.

In addition, lots of groups (led nationally by the Working Families Party & the Partnership for Working Families) are doing great work to win paid leave of various kinds, both at the ballot and in city councils and legislatures. The United States routinely ranks among the worst among industrialized countries when it comes to paid parental or sick leave—and limiting those benefits to the 7% of the workforce that happens to have a union is bad public policy. We’re all at risk of public health problems when restaurant workers have to go to work sick, and the union movement doesn’t do its members any favors by sitting on the sidelines when non-union workers fight to win the right to take a day off with pay.

It got me thinking about what other kinds of contractual benefits we might be able to put on the ballot, on the desk of a friendly governor or mayor, or on the legislative agenda of a progressive city council. Here are some ideas I came up with—if you have others, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

1. Shift differentials. Mandate a $1.50 bump in pay for every hourly worker who has to work between 11 pm and 6 am. If you’ve gotta have Taco Bell at 1 in the morning, shouldn’t the worker serving it to you make a little more money than the one who’s there at 1 pm?
2. Language bonuses. The US is increasingly a multilingual country. People who can demonstrate fluency in a language that serves a market of some statistical significance in a city should be rewarded for it. Can you pass a conversational test in Spanish and English in Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami? Great, here’s a $.50/hour bonus for you.
3. Scheduling. There has been a good deal of attention paid recently to the struggle that some workers go through just to know what their hours will be from one week to the next. San Francisco recently passed a law to protect workers’ schedules, and to encourage employers to offer more hours to their existing part-time workforce, before they make new hires. What if we took this practice one step further, and mandated that employers create a scheduling committee made up of workers? For women workers in particular, the right to control one’s schedule (and to know it in advance) can make an even bigger quality-of-life difference than a small raise.
4. Pay transparency. Governments should have an interest in what companies are paying to their constituents, in order to protect them from racial and gender-based pay disparities. We should start demanding that companies report annually on their actual (not average) rates of pay, broken out by demographics of the workforce. Publishing that information on the web will let a city’s residents make informed choices about the kind of companies they apply to work for.
5. More regulatory & licensing levers. Boston recently announced that they will provide free salary negotiation training for all women. That’s a great idea, and they deserve a lot of credit for thinking creatively about how to empower women workers. But I wonder what they are doing to deal with the fact that managers don’t always like it, when workers ask for raises? Can they require that every business who renews some kind of license in the city has to put their managers through salary negotiation training too?

I am of the train of thought that we’re able to win much more for our members when the basic standards they’re bargaining from are pushed higher by governments and vibrant social movements. In other words, it’s a lot harder to win wage increases (particularly when bargaining for low-paid workers) when the minimum wage has been stuck in place for 10 years. It’s easier to win wage increases when all workers are receiving regular raises, than it is when employers are looking at a labor supply thirsty to do even the tiniest bit better than $7.25 per hour. While these kinds of campaigns aren’t possible in all cities due to pre-emption laws, mayors (and governors in states with hostile legislatures) are usually still able to set wage & sometimes benefit standards for city contractors and subcontractors. Our movement should be pushing the envelope of what’s possible, instead of opting out to keep hold of the things that only union workers have, right now.

“…it is shared wealth that creates most of the value of private wealth, yet we charge private wealth owners almost nothing to use it.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…it is shared wealth that creates most of the value of private wealth, yet we charge private wealth owners almost nothing to use it.” Peter Barnes, on the need to base a New Economy on common wealth.

Instacart may be the next on-demand company to crater.

Uber is testing a new emergency hotline for riders. Is your city one of the test markets?

“There is a massive opportunity for people who wish to serve the planet to take hold of new technological tools and out-invent those who would consume our common assets.” The founders of two sharing economy companies, on why they want us to stop using that term to describe rentiers (and why real sharing matters).

Italy considers taxing sharing economy income at 10% up to the first€10,000 in earnings, more after that.

From Partners

David Rolf has a new book coming out next month, about the Fight for 15—read an excerpt here.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Starbucks is encouraging baristas to register to vote. I wonder if they’ll give people time off to do so, not just in the presidential election, but every year?

“The doctor will see you now” seems moot, in an age of wearable tech and diagnosing apps.