“Alexa, what is child labor?”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Alexa, what is ‘child labor’?” “It’s what we’re using to build Echo devices, customer!” 

“There is value to resistance that doesn’t challenge the status quo,” Great look by Sam Adler-Bell at the tactics that Amazon warehouse workers use to overcome and undermine the company’s culture in order to save their own bodies and minds. 

New York’s Taxi & Limousine Commission just extended its cap on ride-share vehicles for another year. 

From Partners

Survivors Know is launching a new training program for people who want to fight sexual violence at work systemically, rather than one bad actor at a time. 

Congrats to Trebor & others in the platform coop movement, who have recently launched the Institute for Cooperative Digital Economy

Reputation, reputation, reputation

You might think you can code your way out of surveillance, but you probably can’t

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

If you haven’t read the NY Times 1619 Project yet, let me be just one more voice prompting you to do so. 

The city of El Monte, CA just passed a law that requires ride-share drivers be paid a minimum of $30 per hour

“We have only to look to IBM’s role working with the Nazis during the Holocaust to understand the role that technology can play in automating mass atrocity.” Googlers are petitioning the company not to bid for a new contract with the CBP, and to stop contracting with ICE until they end human rights abuses inside the agency.  Whole Foods workers are issuing a similar demandto Amazon (which now owns WF). 

Organizing Theory

“Anticipating where the real protest will happen feels just like hoping you’re one of the people cool enough to be told about the afterparty. You keep one eye on the cool kids, in this case the fully masked protesters. As long as they are still around, we know we haven’t missed out on anything.” A fascinating street-level view of what’s actually happening, inside Hong Kong democracy protests.

Geeking Out

Are you making a thing that is designed to help improve the world (or to Decrease World Suck?). The Vlogbrothers (aka YA novelist John Green & his brother Hank) want to help you fund it

Low-wage work kills us with stress

Original Content

The median McDonald’s worker makes $7,473 per year. The company’s CEO makes that in an hour.  Jeff Bezos makes 58X what the median Amazonian makes. I can’t find statistics that measure the difference between an outsourced call center worker, and the head of AT & T, but I’m sure it’s significant. Emily Guendelsberger worked for all three of these companies, and then wrote a book about it. I interviewed her here

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 ($2/mo?) to help us keep it up and running. https://www.patreon.com/katisipp

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Walmart IT worker suggests company-wide strike until the stores stop selling firearms, and is immediately suspended. 

Congrats to our friends in Oregon, who have passed the most sweeping paid leave law in the country. Minimum wage workers will have 100% wage replacement for up to 12 weeks. And as of the first of this month, paid sick leave has come to the South—workers in Dallas are covered by a newly-effective law

As the battle around California’s AB 5 heats up, worker cooperatives get into the mix, proposing new legislation that would grant a majority ownership stake to platform workers. 

From Partners

The NDWA and Blue Ridge Labs are partnering to fund startupsthat are interested in improving the lives of domestic workers. Application deadline is August 28. 

The National Women’s Law Center has put out a report on advances made in state legislationto protect workers, in the #metoo era. 

Organizing Theory

Hong Kong protesters have been spreading information through apps like Tinder, Pokemon Go and Apple’s Airdrop system

Interview with Emily Guendelsberger, author of On the Clock

I talked to Emily Guendelsberger*, author of the new book On the Clock, What Low-Wage Work Did to Me and How It Drives America Insane.

Follow Emily on Twitter at @emilygee for more info.

*apologies for the wonkiness 3 minutes in, I had a wifi issue and we had to stop & start again.

Ad-writing robots take over Chase Bank marketing (humans still required to buy things, though).

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Chase bank just hired some artificial intelligence to work in their marketing department. 

IG Metall has partnered with the YouTubers Union to fight against the company’s arbitrary decisions toward content producers. 

It can sometimes feel that our advocacy efforts will never have an impact. Welp, the folks who drive for Lyft (and organize Lyft drivers) have actually made the company change its behavior, in New York City. 

Is Amazon planning a new grocery store chain(no, not the one they bought last year)?  And Uber is thinking about getting into grocery delivery in the EU. 

Geeking Out

The flying cars we were promised by early sci-fi could be with us in ten years. Here’s the Japanese prototype

Organizing Theory

“we’ve internalized the assumption that humans can’t be trusted” Why design from trust matters, and produces better outcomes. As important in public policy as it is in software. 

From Partners

A great new data visualization out from EPI shows the impact of raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 in (almost) every congressional district in the US. 

The folks at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies have just put out a new report on racial differences in the future of work. Enterprising electoral campaigners may be interested in the last chart on this two-page fact sheet. 


Are you an early-career journalist working in the South? The Institute for Southern Studies is seeking fellows for its new Julian Bond Fellowship

Also looking for fellows (although not journalistic ones) is the ACLU of PA. 

It’s not every week that Congress moves to protect workers…

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Last week was a big week for federal legislation to protect workers, with the Fight for 15’s victory in passing the House,  as well as the introduction of a federal Domestic Workers Bill of Rights,  and a new bill to stop private equity from looting newly-acquired companies for at least two years .

From Partners

The Workers Lab put out their request for proposals for 2019. 

A good guide to infosec practices in organizing workers, put out by the folks at Whole Worker. 

Geeking Out

Robots are performing IVF on coral reefs, to save them from destruction. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

ICYMI, last week former Toys R Us execs announced that they are bringing the company back into brick-and-mortar retail sales. Sort of. Also, see that third story back in the SS & S section of today’s newsletter. 

If you were interested in, say, organizing warehouse workers, you could do worse than come to Pennsylvania. (Please, someone, do this!) Here, the mid-state’s biggest paper takes a look at 96 distribution centers in and around Harrisburg

Another day, another story about how gig economy companies are using tips in lieu of paying wages to fill out workers’ checks

“Public demonstrations often occur when employees have exhausted internal methods of raising concerns and hope to exert more pressure on the management.” Workers are walking out of work to protest employers’ practices, and Newsweek is on it. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

I can’t wait until I can wear face jewelry to protect my privacy at every demonstration I decide to go to. Cool cool cool. 

“…the 4 day workweek is a pragmatic response to a the problem of overwork that is leading to a crisis in mental health and wellbeing.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…the 4 day workweek is a pragmatic response to a the problem of overwork that is leading to a crisis in mental health and wellbeing.” Check out this piece, about the 4-day workweek campaign in the UK. 

Bay Area cities are starting to get serious about investing in worker-owned cooperative development. Here’s a piece about how worker-owned cleaning coops are trying to franchise their model

New York City needs to step up its game, in terms of earned sick leave enforcement, according to a new report by the city controller. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

You, like me, may not understand everything explained in this article about Zoom’s recently-revealed bug. But you should draw the same conclusion: cover up your laptop camera, whenever you’re not actively using it for a video call, even if you’re not really paranoid. 

Organizing Theory

An excellent overview of the kinds of things activists should be doing to keep safe from government surveillance, during protests. 

“…nonviolent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns.” A new study establishes that non-violence resistance is a most effective strategy. 

From Partners

Action Network’s Nicole Aro, on how progressives need to support organizing tech that counters the values proffered by venture capitalists. 

Geeking Out

An amazing explainer of wage theft was run last week in Teen Vogue. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Glad to see that Gig Workers Rising and Rideshare Drivers United were in Sacramento last week, lobbying for AB 5.  (And also noting with side-eye that Uber & Lyft paid drivers up to $100 to attend their anti-AB 5 lobby day.) 

Walmart associates are posting pro-union memes on Reddit. 

Final Thoughts

Sending light and love to all my friends and family at SEIU Local 32BJ, who lost their president, Hector Figueroa, last week. It only feels right to give him the last word, this week. 

“…human carers will become a premium, reserved for those who can pay for human empathy and touch.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“In an effort to robotize nursery homes, human carers will become a premium, reserved for those who can pay for human empathy and touch.” A look at the programming of care-bots. 

The California legislature has been debating the status of gig workers—particularly app-based ones—through AB 5. For a good explainer of the bill, and the discontent among driver organizers about some of the labor politics involved, read this Vox piece.  And CalMatters takes a look at what other kinds of workers might be covered as employees, if AB 5 passes. 

Amazon warehouse workers in Minneapolis are planning to strike next week, on Prime Day. 

Geeking Out

Why does the world need a bowling robot? Why not, I guess. 

Organizing Theory

“The more hosts you recruit, the more likely it is that each potential attendee will find an event near them.” Nathan Woodhull walks through how to set up a mobilization of hundreds (or thousands) of small events, through online organizing. 

A small investment by companies can make employees—and customers—more likely to vote

Reputation, reputation, reputation

The Times takes a look at algorithmic management

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Still trying to convince funders to support your census education and outreach? Check out this map of the hardest-to-count census tracts, which may help them understand exactly why your organization is prioritizing it. 

In case you missed it, Wayfair employees walked out in late June, to protest their company’s sales of furniture to ICE, to furnish detention centers. Damn, just when I was looking for a new vanity!

From Partners

The MIC Center, a new collaboration between Rutgers & Penn, just released a report from its two day conference in Philly about the Platform Economy & the Future of the City. 

And a new study by two Berkeley economists finds that raising the federal minimum wage to $15/hour would likely not result in major job losses


Are you coming to Netroots Nation? I’m moderating a panel about the work that Philly alt-labor activists have been doing to increase enforcement of local labor laws, in the city. Saturday, 2:15 pm, Rm. 116. Join us!

“…each year, hundreds of minor league baseball players spread across 256 teams earn far below minimum wage to chase their dreams.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“…each year, hundreds of minor league baseball players spread across 256 teams earn far below minimum wage to chase their dreams.” Minor league baseball players need a living wage too. 

Uber’s driver misclassification may be an anti-trust violation, when it comes to the taxi & limo industry. As the company is feeling under attack in CA,  it’s gone on a PR offensive , and is rolling out a new version of the driver-side app, with increased gamification to convince drivers to work more hours. 

Tesla is blocking Blind, the anonymous service where tech workers go to gripe about their working conditions, on its internal network and its email servers. It’s a problem, because Blind users are required to have a company email to verify they are legit employees. 

Organizing Theory

“…organizing online is not enough, but organizing digitally is clearly necessary.” A round-up of the latest thinking about platform organizing in the workers’ rights movement. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Humans only NEED about 8 hours of work per week to feel productive and mentally healthy. So stop pushing for a four-day workweek, and start pushing for a one-day week! 

New York state just passed new rights for farmworkers in the state. Apparently, this state senator is opposed to farmworkers having a day of rest every week. 


Are you coming to Netroots Nation next month? Join me and some of my friends at this fundraiser for One Pennsylvania (I’m on the host committee, don’t make me look bad). 


Want to help build a movement for Latinx justice in exurban PA? Make the Road seeks an Organizing Director

“It’s not an independent business. You can only use those Amazon trucks to do Amazon delivery.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“It’s not an independent business. You can only use those Amazon trucks to do Amazon delivery. Your only client is Amazon. It’s a way for Amazon to get this work done at an arm’s length with the contractor relationship.” Gizmodo takes a look at the problems inherent in Amazon’s delivery model. 

Welcome to the raspberry-picking robot future. 

Are Uber & Lyft drivers “colluding” to make prices surge? (maybe Uber & Lyft should stop cutting driver’s fares?) 

The Perils of Trumpism

Should we call this “Unhack the Union?” Thanks to friend-o-the-blog Eric Rosso for sending this one my way. The Koch’s have helped to fund an app that makes it easier to leave your union, post-Janus. Sigh… 

While California is looking to protect gig workers from misclassification, the US DoL is doing exactly the opposite.  Here’s why

Organizing Theory

Does your group do street outreach that requires organizers or volunteers to collect data on phones or tablets? Tired of having data access problems with google drive? Jot Form might be the solution for you. 

Uber & Lyft are trying to mobilize drivers against CA’s efforts to pass legislation that would apply the Dynamax decision as a piece of state law. Unlike previous times that the TNCs have done this, there are considerable counter-organizing efforts among drivers. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“The transition to a zero-carbon economy is necessary (oh boy, is it necessary), but demonstrating support to the workers displaced in the process is vital to making that transition a success.” How New Zealand is creating its own Green New Deal

Rolling Stone takes a look at the UFCW and the legal weed industry

Walmart is changing its internal documentation for vendors, to allow them to use “new tariffs” as a justification for price changes. Be nice if they open-sourced that data in some way, to show the impact over time & various industries. 

“Hope…is the best resilience to hate.”

Organizing Theory

“Hope…is the best resilience to hate.” Lessons from the campaign around Brexit. 

“We cannot white-paper our path to a just society.” Sorry wonks, you’re just one part of the solution, but community organizing has to be a part of it too. 

It sounds nice that companies like Netflix are saying they’ll pull out of Georgia if its abortion ban goes into effect. Here, researcher Phil Mattera explains why that isn’t as great a step forward as it might seem. 

Personal contact works better than email, if you want to turn people out to events. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

It’s not every day you see dads standing up for the right to parent while also being a working person. Congrats to these dads at JP Morgan Chase for winning a class action settlement that will force the company to treat dads as equal parents. 

Game Workers Unite and a French union have united to defend 100+ workers laid off by Activision Blizzard earlier this year. 

Salesforce uses the power of its customer management software to tell companies: you can’t sell automatic weapons with our tech

Reputation, reputation, reputation

It’s one thing to not be able to use your email, when Google has a server outage. It’s another thing to not be able to change the temperature in your house, or open your front door… 

Wanna come to the US from some other country? Now you’re going to have to give the State Department access to your social media. It won’t just be teenagers setting up Finstas, now… 

Geeking Out

Robotic window washers and their human (ex window-washer) operators. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Humbling an employer of that scale could hearten employees at smaller operations to take their shot at empowerment.” Of all the coverage of last week’s Fight for $15 actions against McDonald’s, perhaps the most fun to read is the restaurant industry’s version. h/t to Brett Banditelli for sending this one. 

Uber announced last week that it will finally start banning passengers who have bad ratings (it’s only fair, if they’re kicking drivers off the app for it!). So take your trash with you (and please, tell my kids to do the same). 


In Australia and want to learn more about online to offline organizing? Check this training out.