Designing 21st century platform unions–part 3

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what parallels—if any—exist between platforms and unions, and whether there are lessons that can be learned from platform design, that could benefit worker organizers who are looking for new models. This is the third in a series of three planned posts on the topic. In referring to companies as platforms, I am specifically talking about internet-based businesses that provide some kind of a marketplace for different kinds of users (called here in shorthand “buyers” and “sellers”—though of course, on some platforms a user can be both a buyer and a seller) to meet and exchange something of value (money for goods or services, ideas, advice, etc.). In this series, company platforms can refer to sites like eBay or Craigslist, as well as Mechanical Turk, Uber or Etsy. This series should not be read as an endorsement of any of the company platforms or unions mentioned. In thinking about best practices for community governance, I drew deeply on a panel discussion from this year’s CommonBound conference, between Nathan Schneider, Micki Metts, and Mario Liebrenz, as well as the book Swarmwise by Rick Falvinge.

Best practices for online communities

Building any community requires rules. Traditional unions have bylaws to govern member conduct and establish how decisions get made, and platform unions will need the same kinds of structure. Setting standards for online community conduct and ensuring that decisions made online are made democratically are problems that every movement needs to struggle with, and happily, there are some lessons we can learn from worker-cooperatives and other organizations that are further along in their online development.

Use technology that helps people build relationships & connect across distance

There’s a reason that Apple created FaceTime in an early version of the iPhone—seeing people when we talk to them is better than talking on the phone (and talking on the phone is better than having a text-only relationship, no matter what my children might tell you). The cost of setting up video conferencing has gone from exorbitant to practically free, at least for small groups. Jitsi Meet (https://meet.jit.si/) is an open-source, low-bandwidth encrypted system that allows unlimited people to participate in video conferences, right from a browser. Google Hangout requires a computer or smart phone with a camera and mic (as well as a free Google Plus account)—and has a mode that allows recording for later playback (Hangouts on Air). Hangout is only good for groups of up to 10—but having 2-3 people cluster at the same screen can also help add more folks to the conversation. If you’re still mostly having regular meetings of a geographically distributed group over conference calls, you are missing out on the chance to connect in a deeper way.

National or global assemblies should set overarching values for the organization

A platform union that is both representing workers in Fairbanks, Alaska and Kissimmee, Florida needs to ensure that the overall values of the organization are widely accepted. Bringing people together in one location is expensive and can be exclusionary—so make sure that your national gatherings incorporate an element for online voting and, if possible, live-streaming of decision-making meetings.

Decision-making is best left to the group that is most affected by the decision

Organizing a national dialogue any time one group wants to start working on a piece of city-wide legislation is impractical. Local organizing committees should be empowered to make decisions about local work—while ensuring that their work conforms to the national or international values set above. Some online organizing groups have developed a rule of three that says that any idea that three activists agree is a good one can be moved forward—as long as those three people are willing to take on the responsibility for doing the work.

Regular meetings still matter, even if they’re not in person

For groups at the local level, it’s still important to make sure that they are meeting regularly. It’s equally important to make sure that they have something to meet **about**. If you are able to have in-person meetings, think about centering the meeting in both community-building (bring food!) and some kind of discussion that everyone—even non-experts—can participate in. Some groups will use their regular monthly meetings to help brainstorm around a problem that an individual or sub-group are having, or to think about their larger strategy and how to achieve goals.

Customizing specific technology can allow your overall resources to grow

Fair Coop, a global internet-based cooperative that has created a marketplace for selling products online, has created a crypto-currency of their own, called Faircoin. Every member gets an account with a wallet, and they spend a significant amount of time teaching their members how to use it. As the currency grows in value, the coop uses it to invest in cooperative development, including funds to help refugees or other historically disadvantaged groups to start coops of their own.

Make sure to tell your stories—especially about internal successes

Organizing national discussions or local ones that are mostly mediated online is challenging, and new to most of us. Make sure that you are using your platform not just to talk about your external successes (we won portable benefits!) but also about your internal ones (we had an important discussion using only the internet!). Ask people to tell a story about how being in this specific community has changed their life, or something new that they’ve learned from being a part of the group. It’s important to reinforce that being a part of an online decision-making process can be fun, or informative, or helpful.

Prison strike, pizza-making robots, and more.

Original Content

Here’s the second in my three-part series about designing platform unions.

Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. 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

Pizzas made by robots are coming your way. At least, if you live in Mountain View, CA. And if you thought that being a religious leader protected you from automation, think again.

The Uber driver organization in NYC is not interested in seeing self-driving cars come to the city any time soon. Or maybe, at all.

When is being on strike even riskier than average? When you’re a prisoner, who is being exploited by some of America’s largest companies. These folks are brave.

Organizing Theory

Mobilisation Lab takes an in-depth look at the success of the Fight for 15’s model of directed network organizing.

From Partners

The Union Communications Services have started putting Steward Updates online—here’s the first version—engaging younger union members.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Instacart is partnering with Costco and Walmart in an on-demand office supply delivery venture.

The co-founder of Lyft posits that private car ownership will be all but over by 2025—and that’s good for cities.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

So you blurred-out your photo before putting it online. Guess what? Machine learning means it might not stay anonymous forever.

Geeking Out

This robot can read a book without opening the pages (which is useful, when you’re trying to read an antique book that you can’t open).

Events

In SF? Check out this talk on Thursday on how to use games to solve the world’s problems.

Designing 21st century platform unions—part 2

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what parallels—if any—exist between platforms and unions, and whether there are lessons that can be learned from platform design, that could benefit worker organizers who are looking for new models. This is the third in a series of three planned posts on the topic. In referring to companies as platforms, I am specifically talking about internet-based businesses that provide some kind of a marketplace for different kinds of users (called here in shorthand “buyers” and “sellers”—though of course, on some platforms a user can be both a buyer and a seller) to meet and exchange something of value (money for goods or services, ideas, advice, etc.). In this series, company platforms can refer to sites like eBay or Craigslist, as well as Mechanical Turk, Uber or Etsy. This series should not be read as an endorsement of any of the company platforms or unions mentioned. For the analysis of platforms, I am indebted to the authors of _Platform Revolutions_, and to MIT’s Sloan School for their online course of the same name, as well as Simone Cicero’s work, including this recent article.

What can we learn from platforms?

As we move into thinking about how to design platform unions in ways that incorporate best practices from the world of for-profit platforms, it is critical to realize that, just like Airbnb doesn’t fulfill all the functions of a hotel—we shouldn’t be focused on replicating the entirety of the 20th century labor union online. There are many functions that a 21st century platform union could perform—some of which will be things that were traditional benefits of unionization. But if we’re building an organization that is not centered around one physical workplace, we will need to find a different center of activity for our organizing work.

Remember metcalfe’s law, when designing the business model

Metcalfe’s Law says that the value of a platform rises as more people use the platform. The high “price” of entry creates major challenges for 20th century unions who are seeking to grow to scale. The advantage of the platform union is that it can experiment with business models to see which one works best. While some traditional unions have experimented with associate member models and other methods of getting non-union workers to see themselves in the union, their heavy dependence on their current, dues-based business model makes scalability difficult. If we want platform unions to grow into a high-value proposition for members, it must be possible for lots of people to join.

Some examples of business models that a platform union might adopt are:

    Platform takes a transaction cut from both parties

In essence, 20th century unions do this through the process of dues collection. The fundamental value proposition of a union has been—joining the union will get you a raise. Most unions bend over backwards to make sure that the dues that they collect from members are offset by raises, especially for newly-organized units. A platform union that adopts this model will need to make sure that the value that it is providing to workers is worth more than what they might command as solo actors, either through increases in wage rates, or some kind of benefits.

    Employers pay for access to specific kinds of workers

What the “specific” is will likely be different in different industries. While in some customer-facing businesses, having a large population of bilingual workers is important and hard to find, in others it is irrelevant. Employers who are struggling to fill a void in their workforce will appreciate an organization that helps provide stability in the face of that void. A deep understanding of the industry that workers exist in will be paramount to making this model work. A platform union that charges for access to specific workers will probably need to create some kind of certification, to affirm worker capability.

    Members pay for access to specific content or training.

Workers may, in certain industries, benefit from skills upgrades or information, and some professions require continuing education in order to be certified to practice. A platform union could create a business model that brings in members through an education program, and then organizes them to demand power later.

    Members pay for access to tools.

In the new world of work, the tools we need to perform are not always provided by employers. Can we envision a world in which a platform union of Uber drivers collectively own a car (a practice which is, of course, already in effect in both the traditional and coop taxi industries)? Or where a platform union of Task Rabbits share ownership of a set of tools?

    Monetizing user data.

Platforms will have access to user data, which in some instances, will have value to third parties (for example—a labor lawyer might pay for access to a list of workers who have suffered wage theft, or workplace injuries). Obviously, members will need to decide what are appropriate situations in which user data can be sold, and what should remain proprietary to the platform.

    Pick one or two major functions, and perfect them

Most of what we consider to be the gold standard of unionization wasn’t built overnight. The future of the labor movement may look much more like the pre-Industrial era workers’ movements than it resembles the unions that were built in the 20th century. Platform unions may not be able to hold all of the functions that current labor unions do—although they may be able to create new ways of building power for members.

Some examples of functions that a platform union might provide are:

    Training and certification of workers.

Some kinds of craft unions (particularly those in the building trades) have historically made this the bread and butter of their organizing success—creating an apprentice/journey/master system allows unions to provide value to members over the course of a career.

    Provide a virtual hiring hall.

Coupled with a training function, this can be a particularly compelling organizing model. A hiring hall is basically a method of finding unused resources (in this case, both skilled labor and access to jobs) and putting them to work.

    Create a system of portable benefits that is specifically designed for those with multiple employers.

Some 20th century unions have done an expert job of aggregating their gig workers’ income streams into a way to buy affordable health care and retirement savings. SAG-AFTRA, for example, provides a way for actors who have multiple income sources (commercials, TV shows, movies, audiobooks, etc.) to be eligible for health insurance and a pension, even if their work from one gig might not be enough to qualify them for a pension.

    Reputation management

As more and more workers get rated for every job they do, issues around reputation management are coming to the forefront as a workers’ rights issue. A successful platform union could be focused on protecting workers’ reputations—both for groups (in the form of bargaining about algorithms) and for individuals who are removed from access to work.

    Data aggregation.

Platform unions will have the ability to perform both data-based and anecdotal analysis for their members. Coupled with reputation management, this could provide a powerful tool for helping redistribute power between the employers and the members.

    Reducing information asymmetry.

Some gig economy worker communities have built success by collecting information about the consumers of their apps/services, and sharing it with each other. No one wants to walk into a house, after being hired to do six loads of laundry, to find that there isn’t a washing machine, and the contracted time now needs to involve a trip to a laundromat—sharing information about customers makes it possible for members to reject jobs from chronic abusers of gig workers. Turkopticon gives Turkers the ability to see which Requesters have previously rejected completed work without paying for it—which could lead a Turker to avoid working for them in the future.

    Brand damage/customer awareness.

20th century unions have certainly engaged in brand damage campaigns—primarily through work stoppages and in-person actions. 21st century platform unions will have the ability to make their brand damage campaigns go viral in ways that won’t work, when you’ve just got an inflatable rat.

Other things to think about

    Price to drive adoption.

For all of these models to succeed, a platform union needs scale. Thinking about the pricing structure must include a theory of how the price point will encourage adoption at a level that will make success more likely.

    Stoke the fires of activity.

If an important part of the platform union is community discussion where users exchange tips or , then make sure that you and others are participating by posting and responding to other users’ comments. No one wants to keep coming back to a platform where they are the only poster.

    Free can’t be both sides of the coin.

If you’re giving something away to one pool of users, you need a network effect that is so strong it pulls in a different pool of users, who will pay enough to overcome the cost of the subsidy.

The third post in this series, which will be up next week, will propose some best practices around governance, for platform unions. Have thoughts about this post? Please leave a comment.

“The companies hiring minimum wage workers…act as if they are managing herds.”

Original Content

I’ve been spending a bunch of time lately thinking about how to build worker organizations for the changing face of work. This is the first in a series of three posts about designing 21st century platform unions.

Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. 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.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“The companies hiring minimum wage workers…act as if they are managing herds.” Great piece by Cathy O’Neil on how algorithmic predictors are keeping people from getting entry-level jobs.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Countries that compete on low-cost labor are most exposed to the risk of automation.

“They can master in a matter of hours things that take us 20 years to learn.” Sure, machines are coming to a job near you. But rest assured, you can always become an Urban Shepherd (or perhaps, for at least one of my readers, Stoop God Keeper will be a new profession).

“…by weakening unions, technology has changed the balance of power between labor and capital, and allowed the owner/investor class to claim a larger share of income.” How will we rebuild the labor movement in the age of machines?

I’ve talked to several folks recently who are working on apps around scheduling for shift workers. Looks like they’ve got competition from Microsoft.

Too much management is costing the US $3T per year. (Is there a way to remove managers and get that $3T to workers, instead of CEOs?)

Geeking Out

Pulled over by motorcycle cops and taunted by pedestrians—what’s it like, in the town where Google tests self-driving cars?

Organizing Theory

Can we take social change organizations off auto-pilot, when it comes to their digital organizing strategies?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

How residents in four rural Minnesota counties banded together to form a consumer owned internet service provider that’s building them high-speed broadband access.

The Freelancers’ Union is making progress on educating city council people on why gig economy workers and freelancers deserve the same wage protection that W-2 employees get.

“It’s a high-trust network. We don’t try to optimize for low-trust situations.” Great piece by Nathan Schneider on a cooperative freelancer network.

MIT’s Jonathan Gruber proposes a new kind of savings account that would match workers’ short term and long-term needs to reach financial stability.

Designing 21st century platform unions—part 1

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what parallels—if any—exist between platforms and unions, and whether there are lessons that can be learned from platform design, that could benefit worker organizers who are looking for new models. This is the first in a series of three planned posts on the topic. In referring to companies as platforms, I am specifically talking about internet-based businesses that provide some kind of a marketplace for different kinds of users (called here in shorthand “buyers” and “sellers”—though of course, on some platforms a user can be both a buyer and a seller) to meet and exchange something of value (money for goods or services, ideas, advice, etc.). In this series, company platforms can refer to sites like eBay or Craigslist, as well as Mechanical Turk, Uber or Etsy. This series should not be read as an endorsement of any of the company platforms or unions mentioned. For the analysis of platforms, I am indebted to the authors of _Platform Revolutions_, and to MIT’s Sloan School for their online course of the same name, as well as Simone Cicero’s work, including this recent article.

Unions and platforms—what overlaps?

One thing to keep in mind is that, at a pretty basic level, unions and platforms are both about disrupting power in an entrenched system. The point of a union is to decentralize power in a workplace, and to put more power in the hands of union members. The point of a platform is to decentralize power in an industry, and to put more power in the hands of users. Of course, both unions and platforms can be guilty of redistributing power in ways that are non-democratic, and sometimes power just gets moved to people who already, as a group, have status or influence in our society.

Let’s look at some of the qualities of a successful platform:

Discovers unused resources & puts them to work

Platforms that have achieved success have largely done so by tapping into markets for unused resources. Whether it’s Airbnb convincing people with an extra bedroom to rent it out occasionally, Etsy tapping into the desire for artists to sell their work to a national or global audience, or Josephine finding people who love to cook for others—successful platforms have figured out ways to sell things that largely weren’t sold **at scale** before.

Combines low cost of entry with a governance model that protects users.

The beauty of most platform businesses is that anyone with a device that connects to the internet can sign up for them, and there is not generally a high cost to staying on the platform. I might sell something on eBay only once a year—but my account stays active, without costing me anything. Because eBay employs a robust rating system, where both sellers and users rate each other, buyers can see that I’m an “honest” seller, even if I don’t sell frequently.

Uses network effects to grow (but needs rapid growth on both sides, early)

Platforms that grow best grow quickly. Uber isn’t worth much to me as a rider, if when I sign up there are too few drivers for me to ever get a ride. And it’s certainly not worth my time to drive for Uber if I have to wait for hours between ride requests, because not enough riders have joined. Uber and other successful ride-sharing companies have figured out that they need to concentrate on expansion of both sides of their user experience, and cannot merely open a new market with only riders signed up.

Immerses staff in data about users

Because platform business is by its nature conducted online, platform designers need to (and are able to) constantly immerse themselves in user data. Anecdotal information doesn’t cut it, when thousands of transactions are happening in an hour. And because it’s possible to “serve” different versions of a website to a segmented audience, it’s possible to run experiments on user engagement that track whether a new design will change the way users interact with the site.

Mono-homing versus multi-homing

The concept of mono-homing is one way that platform businesses seek to keep users on their platforms. Basically, mono-homing means “I have one home for this particular interaction or practice.’ It’s pretty easy to switch from one airline to another for different trips (ie–multi-homing)—so airlines have developed reward miles, to keep you ‘loyal’ to their particular airline (hence, mono-homing). Smart phone platforms have generally adopted this tactic—it’s hard to switch from an iOS device to an Android one, because you have to replace all your apps, and learn new methods of interacting with your phone. Other platform businesses have grown through multi-homing—there is no barrier to being a driver for both Instacart and Postmates, for example, or for customers to order food delivery through both GrubHub and Yelp Eats.

And some of the parallels, of a successful union:

Reduces information asymmetry between workers and bosses

An effective collective bargaining process has the great advantage of giving workers the same information that bosses have, about both the financial health of a company, and to some degree, the strategy the employer plans to employ to grow the business. Workers with more information have the advantage of being able to make better decisions—which might involve deciding to put more of their total compensation package into retirement savings, or to request skills training, to learn to use a new technology the company is implementing.

Has a high cost of entry, combined with a democratic governance model

For most US workers, the choice to join a union comes with peril. It can involve the risk of getting fired, or having to risk going without pay for some period of time to win a strike. In some parts of the country, bosses have successfully framed unions as a polarizing force, and potential members may face social pressure from friends or family if they join a union. And finally, the actual cost of dues (and sometimes, initiation fees) are much higher than in most other social movements. (The financial cost can, of course, be offset by gains made at the bargaining table.) Unions, at least in theory and often in practice, have a democratic governance model that allows for all dues-paying members to have a vote—usually outlined in bylaws that are ratified by members.

Uses network effects to grow value

There is a fairly clear relationship between the rate of union density in the US, and the level of income inequality: as union density has declined, inequality has increased. More union members in a particular industry in a particular market (say—hotel workers in Los Angeles) will inevitably push up wages in that industry, in that region, as they bargain better contracts. However, more union members will also cause anti-union employers to raise wages, as they seek to avoid unionization. In the best times in our history, unions have also leveraged their political power and social pressure to raise wages for millions of non-union workers through minimum wage legislative or ballot initiative campaigns.

Holds data as proprietary (sometimes even within organization)

Unions have not, historically, been great users of data either for member outreach or for making a public case for why they are necessary & socially useful organizations. While most unions are committed to meticulous upkeep of their seniority list, they do not tend to track as assiduously things like average wage rates, family size, number of member children who are able to successfully attend college, or other pieces of information that might be a boon to labor economists, academic researchers, or public policy makers. In addition, many unions hold tight their member contact lists (sometimes even restricting their own staff from being able to see them). The high cost of member acquisition forces unions into this defensive crouch—but the crouch itself can provide an additional barrier to fully serving members’ needs.

Mono-homing is the default

It’s difficult to belong to more than one union. Not impossible, of course—especially in the performing arts where recent years have seen the merger of SAG and AFTRA, acknowledging that many of their members were doing work in both film and TV. There is no institutional barrier in becoming a member of UNITE HERE as, say, a school cafeteria worker and a member of SEIU as a home health aide—but the high cost of dues may prohibit part-time low-paid workers from joining two unions, if the benefits largely accrue to full-time work in both cases.

What’s the market? (where the analogy fails, but we still have something to learn)

Unlike platforms, which mostly deal in single seller/single buyer transactions, unions are generally aggregating the selling power of a large group–in this case workers in one particular worksite or industry—to one particular buyer—the company for whom they work. That transaction is conducted through the collective bargaining agreement, and is enforced by a group of members (aka union stewards and officers) combined with paid staff (of both the union and the company).

However.

As the rate of US unionization has declined, employers have done more and more offloading of their employment to third parties. Many workers who seem identical to full-time employees on their face, are ineligible for traditional unionization because they are employed by temp agencies or other kinds of labor brokers.

For those of us who are interested in seeding new types of worker organization, or evolving some part of our current organization to be more platform-like, the next post in this series will look at how we can design them using best practices from platforms.

“The cost of less content is the gain of more helpful and constructive content.”

Organizing Theory

“The cost of less content is the gain of more helpful and constructive content.” How Nextdoor changed their reporting system to make it harder for racists to profile on their neighborhood’s message board.

I think that a Twitter bot like @horse_ebooks probably has limited utility for organizers. But what the hell do I know? Plus, we talked Facebook bots last issue, and I never want to leave Twitter out.

“One of the most important things Black Lives Matter did…is they sort of helped a wide swath of America, not just black people, to see what’s going on not as a set of isolated incidents, but as a repeating pattern. Then you begin to see individual events as part of an ongoing pattern of injustice.” On how #blacklivesmatter went viral and made it socially acceptable to tweet about race. (You know, for people who don’t tweet about it daily already.)

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

UberPool has been approved for use in WageWorks’ pre-tax transit buying, in New York City. Next up, Philly, Chicago & SF.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Worried about your organization’s data and other internet security? Here are a few steps to take to make you safer.

Color of Change, the ACLU and others just released this statement expressing concerns about the use of predictive technologies in policing.

From Partners

The Century Foundation has a new report exploring the potential impact of a $15 national minimum wage on food insecurity. (Spoiler alert: people will have more food.)

Friend-o’-the-blog Sarah Jaffe has a new book out—here are all the places you can see her & buy it!

Geeking Out

Will robot soccer players be subject to dramatic, possibly fake injuries too?

This is a pretty amazing effort by three women to engage frequent business travelers in fighting sexual trafficking, by taking pictures of their hotel rooms.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Is moving to unlimited vacation a bad plan, management-wise?

Uber is referring drivers to Stride Health, to use an app that tracks their work-related expenses (you know, those things that employers cover for those of us who have jobs). Stride Health wants to help, because they’re trying to sell drivers health insurance.

Walmart is laying off 7,000 workers due to increased productivity and automation—but it’s not the workers you might think it would be.

Amazon is moving some of their technical teams to a 30-hour workweek (at 75% pay).

“Meaningful input best follows from meaningful voice and ownership.”

HTU will be on summer hiatus next week–so no newsletter next Tuesday.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Meaningful input best follows from meaningful voice and ownership.” The co-founder of food-sharing service Josephine explains why they’ve decided to give cooks equity (starting in 2017) in their platform.

Uber continues to get hammered for its discrimination against wheelchair-bound passengers.


Organizing Theory

I’m working on building a bot for FB Messenger, for a project at my day job. Would appreciate a chance to chat with any HTU readers who have experience with same. (Don’t know why bots are useful? Check out these two pieces.)

From Partners

Trebor Scholz & Nathan Schneider, organizers of last year’s Platform Coop conference, have organized a book made up of many of the talks given by presenters there. You can preorder it now.

Like the idea of a Universal Basic Income, but worried that it’s politically too hard to pass, because of the scourge of ‘lazy adult’ rhetoric? Check out TCF’s Andy Stettner, on why a universal child allowance makes sense for the US.

Geeking Out

The self-driving car dilemma (should it kill the passengers or pedestrians) isn’t a dilemma because of self-driving—it’s a dilemma because humans can’t agree on which lives have value.

I’m really hoping that technology will cure blindness (it’s only fair—increased screen time is definitely contributing to my worsening eyesight!).

Wondering when AI is going to pay off for you personally? Why not try a Gmail extension that claims to make your emails more effective?

What’s Going on in the Workforce

On a UBI vs. a Job Guarantee.

Uber’s move to start deploying self-driving cars in Pittsburgh is going to leave some of their staff very bored. Why? For legal reasons, a person still has to be behind the wheel—but Uber will want the passengers to interact with an iPad, not the driver. And in related Uber news—they’ve just purchased self-driving truck company Otto.

“…the digital gap does not have a basic closure benchmark that can be held up as an achievement; the goals are constantly shifting.”

Organizing Theory

“…the digital gap does not have a basic closure benchmark that can be held up as an achievement; the goals are constantly shifting.” Has the digital divide turned into more of a digital spectrum?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Massachusetts just set up a new process to regulate ride-sharing companies—and the mayor of Boston is not thrilled with the deal.

Coops in the UK are pioneering a new way of funding paid sick time for the self-employed, inspired by a model in the Netherlands. I’m wondering if any US coops have used a similar tactic? A different UK group have launched a crowd-funded vehicle for supporting worker-coops there. Curious, US friends, is there an equivalent fund here?

The founder of Zipcar has some ideas about the advance planning we need to do, to get ready for wide-scale adoption of self-driving vehicles.

Peter Barnes, on the need to think about rents in a new way, to steer our economy toward new outcomes.

Geeking Out

You say you need a new car? Why not try a vending machine

People driving too fast in your neighborhood? Install a robotic speed bump!

From Partners

Alex Rosenblat takes a tour around all the ways a ride-sharing app can commit wage-theft—whether intentionally or inadvertently.

The Century Foundation, on increasing worker-owned businesses as a vehicle to reducing income inequality.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Bringing manufacturing jobs back the US…one “robot-powered” factory at a time.

“…[people find sex work when they] have a financial situation that has to be met in some informal way. They’re downsizing; their hours are cut back; they’re going to school again; they’re a mom.” Priceonomics looks at the life of a phone sex operator.

Here’s an interesting new (at least to me) service to create incentives for improving employee recognition. Curious if any HtU readers have experience with Bonusly?

“Everyone’s hour is worth the same as everybody else’s”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Everyone’s hour is worth the same as everybody else’s.” Trying to remember when I have read a more radical sentence. On using time banking to build a just transition.

Many on-demand economy services require a smartphone—which puts them out of reach for those who don’t have one. This startup aims to connect riders to companies like Uber and Lyft through older-school technology (think, postcard).

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Remember last week’s story about Uber hiring a security firm to spy on unions in Seattle? Well, they’ve also apparently hired a private eye to spy on a Yale researcher, who’s suing them for anti-trust violations. Really not a good look.


Organizing Theory

The panel I moderated at CommonBound 2016, with Nathan Schneider, Micky Metts & Mario Liebrenz talking about tech and platform coops, is online now. Watch it here:

Seattle City Council is still working out the kinks of which drivers will be eligible to vote in the Uber election.

From Partners

Want to know what the US presidential candidates think about workforce automation? Sign this petition to have a question about that included in the debates.

Geeking Out

The first-ever self-driving taxi service will launch in Singapore next year.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Do I wish that someone other than a Jackson Lewis lawyer had written this piece? I do. Still, interesting look at why the NLRB determined that a group of musicians were employees, not independent contractors, for the purpose of organizing.

Here’s a great explainer, from Mathbabe, on why pooling retirement savings (a la Social Security) is a better bet for everyone, than making people create individual accounts.

“The hustle is either romanticized or criminalized, and therefore it is rarely understood or appreciated for what it actually is.” I don’t think I’ve read anything that connected the gig economy of freelancing and the gig economy of selling loosies, better than this.

“Most don’t choose self-employment.” Almost 1 in 6 workers in the UK is self-employed at this point—in large part, due to “precarious work” contracts.

Here’s a legal question for those scholars among us—can an algorithm count as a manager, for determining whether an independent contractor’s work is “managed?”

“Instead of working five days, for 35 hours, let’s just work three days to make room for others to work.” The richest man in Mexico wants to introduce a three-day work week, to create more job opportunities for younger workers.

Inside a robot-run warehouse

Geeking Out

I know, you think you’ve already read enough think pieces about Pokemon Go. Just trust me, and go read this one about the potential implications when the Internet of Things meets augmented reality.

The BBC takes you inside a robot-run warehouse in China, which processes 20,000 packages per hour.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

As a Philly person, I can vouch for the fact that last weeks ’s DNC had a fair amount of sharing economy presence, including a “special” relationship with Uber, who had a tent all their own for ridesharing use. Airbnb also held a panel for delegates, to talk about how they’re good for the middle class. Oh, and here’s Susie Cagle’s take on what it was like to deal with Uber at the DNC.

In DC? Check out this panel on financial inclusion, at Brookings on Thursday, 8/4.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

The high court in Delhi just ruled that Uber and other ride-sharing apps can’t use surge pricing, if it raises their rates above the ones set by the government for taxis.

Oh, and Uber seems to have hired a CIA-linked firm to investigate unions in Seattle. Hmm. That’s probably not a story they wanted out in the world.

Will established automakers be the ones who push Uber out?

Some of my very favorite journalists are the snarky ones. What happens when journalistic chatbots take over? We’ll be in good hands, apparently.

Organizing Theory

Podcast “You Are Not So Smart” investigates the science behind deep canvassing. h/t to whatever reader sent this to me—sorry that my record of who that was has been obliterated by a flurry of DNC related email/texts/tweets.