How did this butter get here?

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Plus.ai says they’ve completed the first-ever cross-country trip entirely driven by an autonomous vehicle—a truck containing 4,000 pounds of butter that traveled from California to Pennsylvania. Sadly, there is no news on what that butter will inevitably be carved into, for the PA Farm Show next month. 

Meet one of the Instacart shoppers who has been organizing strikes of the company. 

h/t to Tim Newman for pointing this one out: restaurant chain Sweetgreen set up a fund to allow its white collar workers to contribute to an emergency fund that workers in the company’s restaurants can apply for. Maybe just…pay them more? 

When you’re at the movies, this holiday season, spare a thought for movie theater employees who don’t get overtime, thanks to a loophole in current labor law (and a lack of political will to change it, and movie theater owners who want to profit from it). 

From Partners

From the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, a cost-benefit analysis of Amazon’s impact on the region. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“There’s no question, if most people were followed around 24/7 by a police officer or a private investigator it would bother them and they would complain and seek a restraining order. If the same is being done technologically, silently and invisibly, that’s basically the functional equivalent.” Amazon’s Ring is setting up an unsupervised surveillance network in almost every neighborhood in the US.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Opposition to higher minimum wage laws is increasingly based in ideology and orthodoxy rather than real-world evidence.” Don’t believe me, believe Axios

A new study of a basic income program in Kenya shows that there are network effects for whole villages, not just the individuals who received cash. 

Meanwhile in the US, tax policy and corporate greed has allowed the top 1% to triple their wealth over the past five decades. 

Organizing Theory

Why do we persist in calling movements full of leaders “leaderless?” 

what’s a new fingerprint gonna cost me?

Original Content

Service sector employers are forcing workers to surrender biometric data. What are we doing to protect them?  

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. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“Facial recognition technology has a higher error rate when it is trying to scan black or brown people. The software is biased, and I don’t see it working in our community at all. I also don’t want to be a lab rat for [Nelson Management]—I don’t want to be in one of the first buildings where they are testing their systems so that they can deploy it into more buildings.” These poor & working-class New York tenants organized against the use of facial recognition software in their apartment building. 

From Partners

Congrats to all my friends who have been working to build a table of organizations taking on the biggest company in the biggest way. Meet ATHENA

new documentary, featuring 4 activists with OUR Walmart/United for Respect, came out on November 19. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Juno, which once billed itself as the driver-friendly ride-sharing app, is shuttering its operations in NYC. 

Vice takes a look at several platform coops that are succeeding around the world, in competition with VC-backed gig economy apps. 

Former Instacart & DoorDash delivery people are building their own shopping businesses, using an app called Dumpling. “I make about twice as much as compared with when I was with Instacart.” 

New Jersey freelance writers are fighting the state’s version of AB 5, saying it takes flexibility away from those who legitimately freelance, and will dampen their employment prospects. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

I’m not going to lie, I did not guess that Massachusetts would be the first state police force to hire robot dogs. Creepy. 

When ISPs can’t figure out how to profit off of small, isolated communities, they just don’t connect them to the internet. Activists with an indigenous group of Hawaiians are choosing to build their own internet access. (Have they been watching the final season of Silicon Valley?)

Chicago just changed their ride-sharing tax structure to incentivize people using shared, instead of single, rides

Organizing Theory

The Fight for $15 held an organizing exchange with veteran labor organizers in the South last month, including survivors of the Greensboro Massacre

you can’t buy a new fingerprint

This weekend, I found myself in a mall for the first time in a while, returning something one of my kids bought. In the store, the cashier, who was a seasonal hire, had to call a manager to approve the return. The manager used his fingerprint to sign off on it.

The manager used his fingerprint to sign off on it.

I was sort of stunned to see this technology in the wild, and asked the cashier about it–he said, “oh yeah, they’re everywhere now–my other job is at a gas station, and I have to use my fingerprint to turn the gas pumps on in the morning when I get to work.” I asked him what kind of online security he thought the gas pumps had, and he laughed.

I’m not going to lie, knowing what I know about the ability of corporate America to keep credit card data safe, the idea that retail and other service sector employers are suddenly going to up their data security game to keep their employees’ biometric data secure from prying eyes seems…unlikely, at best.

What does it mean for low-wage workers, if employers demand sensitive personal data, and then fail to keep it safe?

This technology has been around since 2009, apparently. Companies who have implemented it seem to be focused on protecting themselves from theft–after all, a worker can’t swipe someone else in to cover their lateness, if they need to use their finger. But who is protecting the workers from the dangers of having their fingerprints stolen? After all, you can’t buy yourself a new fingerprint, if your employer’s personnel database gets hacked.

Apple’s Touch ID wasn’t yet invented, when this technology rolled out–but now it is very common for people to use their fingerprint to lock and unlock their phones. Banks and credit card companies are also starting to roll out fingerprint ID as a method of additional security for customers, as well. One can imagine a not-too-distant future where it is possible for those with malicious intent to reverse-engineer an individual’s fingerprint from a stored scan, to steal from or impersonate victims.

It’s time for the labor movement generally to get behind the push for a GDPR-like law in the US, or a national expansion of California’s new CCPA. Low-wage workers (and the rest of us) need protection from employers that demand our most unique identifiers.

The City of Brotherly Love & Sisterly Affection just created the country’s first city-administered portable benefits fund.

Original Content

My friends at the PA Domestic Workers Association just won the first city-administered portable benefits fund in the US. Hear from director Nicole Kligerman about how it happened, and how it will roll out. 

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. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

New York city council staffers are launching a union organizing drive

New Jersey (one of the few “ABC test states” for determine whether workers are misclassified as independent contractors) just slammed Uber with a $650 million tax bill, for avoiding payroll taxes. 

United for Respect has succeeded in getting workers onto a “mirror board” for Toys R Us’s follow-up iteration. 

The ’sharing economy’ has gotten a bad rap, thanks to the profit-seeking behavior of various gig companies. But there is value in sharing, and these cities are partnering with sharing economy groups to reap the benefits. 

New Orleans has approved a study of dollar stores in the city limits, realizing that they are concentrating in low-income, food desert areas that could benefit from actual grocery stores. 

The Perils of Trumpism

The DoJ apparently thinks it’s okay for your local McDonald’s to have a “no-poach” agreement with your local Burger King. Because, special sauce, I guess? 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“…working for a good cause often means accepting lower pay than in the corporate sector—but some nonprofit jobs don’t even meet the most basic criteria of liveability, leaving some of their staff stressed and struggling.” An interesting look at how the non-profit sector factors into income inequality—with some recommendations about how non-profits (and their funders) can do better as employers. 

Organizing Theory

Blueprints for Change just launched their first manual of campaign how-tos. Find out how to get your hands on a copy here

Geeking Out

Here’s a pretty interesting data visualization of how salaries vary across 800 different US occupations. 

Messi may be the world’s best striker…

What’s Going on in the Workforce

The men of Major League Soccer are getting ready to strike

Remember when that self-driving Uber killed a pedestrian in Arizona? Turns out the company didn’t program cars to recognize that pedestrians jaywalk.  Meanwhile, the Taxi Workers Alliance are suing Uber for wage theft in NYC.  And ousted Uber founder Travis Kalanick is back with a new venture—this time, he’s building ghost kitchens to maximize productivity in the food delivery space. 

Hollywood assistants are speaking out about low-wages and punishing conditions in the film and tv industry. 

An interesting look at how the gig economy is penetrating the grocery industry, and other retail stores. Hint: it’s not just about delivery. (h/t to reader Thomas Beckett for sending me this one.) 

From Partners

Next 100’s Phela Townsend takes a look at how worker organizations are using digital tools to build power. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Nearly a fifth of Americans hold jobs with nonstandard or variable hours.” What’s that doing to our social relationships

Food delivery workers in Japan and Norway have formed the first unions in that industry, in Uber Eats and Foodora, respectively.  Meanwhile, US Instacart workers are striking over changes to the app design that lowered their pay. 

This is more on the anti-solidarity side—but private prisons have created a new attack group, acknowledging the damage that has been done to their business model by migration rights and anti-incarceration activists. 

Shout out to my daughter, Alina, who sent this one my way—Microsoft’s test of a four-day workweek in Japan was a success—and will be repeated next summer. 

Organizing Theory

Who among us hasn’t groaned when being assigned to run the icebreaker section of a meeting? If you need a quick idea, here are 25

Check out this Call to Action worksheet put out by Mob Lab—to help you figure out how to describe the actions you’re asking supporters to take. 

And finally, here’s a beautiful interview by Civic Hall’s Micah Sifry, about how Color of Change embraced the concept of Black Joy, as a way to both move from online to offline organizing, and build long-term relationships with and between members.

 

Would you like a side of spying with your steak?

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Would you like a side of spying with your steak? If so, head on over to the Outback Steakhouse in Portland, OR which has started using in-restaurant cameras to surveil their staff

“Please smile more” is probably advice men will start getting too, if this effort to use AI to hire people gets off the ground. 

From Partners

UC Berkeley’s Labor Center and the Partnership for Working Families just put out a new report about automation (or the lack of it) in warehouses. 

If someone were to ask me, “what is the most Nafisah Ula thing you can imagine?” I might come up with this new board game. Although I might make the mistake of adding U of M branding… 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

UPS is planning to incorporate drones into its health care delivery system, both working with CVS on delivering prescriptions to homes, and for transporting lab samples. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“A pay increase for low-wage workers doesn’t have to be a zero-sum game. In fact, the evidence suggests that everyone can win.” Market Watch explains why raising the minimum wage hasn’t slowed restaurant employmentin New York City. 

Using “customer demand” as the evidence that a program your company created auto-defaults to is an interesting choice. Amazon is losing money, big-time, on one-day delivery. The company is having significant difficulty hiring and retaining drivers in Germany. 

“…workplace surveillance is becoming increasingly pervasive and worryingly sophisticated.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“…workplace surveillance is becoming increasingly pervasive and worryingly sophisticated.” Who doesn’t want their pizza created under the eye of a pizza-botic supervisor? 

“Target worked me hard from mid-July of 2018 to February 2019, right before my medical coverage was about to kick in,” Workers say Target cut their hours, after receiving kudos for raising their starting wage to $15/hour. Fair workweek for everyone!

From Partners

Unionbase has launched a new publication, designed to educate stewards and other workplace leaders. 

The Century Foundation has released a new report on how robots are affecting workers & their wages, and find that the Midwest is more affected than any other part of the country. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Amazon is taking over elections.  They’re also interested in defense contracts. Is there some kind of reason to keep these things separate? 🤨

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Mayor Lightfoot is proposing a new tax on rideshare vehicles that operate in downtown Chicago, in part to fund an expansion of bus routes in the city’s neighborhoods. 

In the fight to get more people out of their cars (or other peoples’ cars) and onto buses, one Swedish city is now underwriting 2 week free passes for people who move there, to encourage public transit use. 

Adding to last week’s story about the impact of AB 5 on dancers, is this story, looking at how it will impact freelance journalists. (One wonders about the lack of critique of online outlets that are paying $1-25/piece?)  And Salon’s Nicole Karlis wonders if AB5 would drive Uber & Lyft out of business, if it were expanded nationally. 

66% of Amazon workers in Staten Island, NY experience physical pain as a result of their work, according to this new report from NYCOSH. 

Events

The tenth annual digital labor conference is being held at the New School November 7-9. Who Owns the World? The State of Platform Cooperativism

California’s AB 5 affects more than just Uber drivers

What’s Going on in the Workforce

There’s been a lot of talk about the (positive) impact of AB5 on gig workers like rideshare drivers. But what’s the transition been like for dancers in “gentlemen’s” clubs

“What Uber Freight does is to miss out the middleman…” I think you mean “replace the middleman”

Banks think they’ll be able to replace 200,000 workers via automation, in the next ten years. 

Two pieces of international Uber news this week: 1) Uber is buying a grocery delivery business that is based in Mexico & Latin America;  and 2) Uber is launching a boat service in Lagos, which makes me also wonder if they’ll be testing self-sailing boats someday soon.  Meanwhile, in the US, they’re laying more people off

From Partners

New Oxfam report shows worker exploitation in Amazon’s Whole Foods’ supply chain. 

Organizing Theory

Will Amazon workers start talking about unionizing if enough pro-union book covers are put in front of them? One self-published author is hoping to spark conversation inside the fulfillment center, when workers “pick” his book. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The New York state legislature is gearing up for the next battle around gig worker rights and protections, with an eye toward California’s AB 5. 

Instacart workers are planning a three-day strike in early November. Get your turkey elsewhere. 

“Attitudes around pay transparency are a sign of a seriously broken culture. How we’re compensated shapes everything about our day-to-day lives: where we can live, what we can do, how much freedom we have. It’s entirely in our interest to be more informed about where we stand when it comes to our pay, and yet we keep that information secret because we’re afraid we’ll be penalized for sharing it. In an industry that’s supposed to value transparency so deeply, we’re falling short where it matters most.” On searching for salary transparency in Silicon Valley (and tech, generally).  

“…when we work together we can accomplish things that don’t always seem possible. It’s been a really big win…”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…when we work together we can accomplish things that don’t always seem possible. It’s been a really big win…” Amazon warehouse workers just stood together to make sure one woman got rehired after an unfair dismissal. She was fired for exceeding her paid time off by one hour, while a family member was dying. Similarly, Amazon warehouse workers in Eagan, MN walked out last week to protest the company’s insistence on part-time scheduling. 

“The more corporations shovel into executives’ pockets, the less they have for workers’ wages and other investments.” Yup, seems right

Sure, you’ve probably heard about the fact that tech companies Palantir and Amazon provide services to ICE. But here, Fast Company profiles a bunch of smaller tech firms that are also collaborators. 

Organizing Theory

An interesting piece about how the things you measure become the things your organization prioritizes, as seen through the lens of Wells Fargo’s many, many problems. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

If we can’t figure out how to regulate facial recognition technology, Amazon has some ideas for us. Fox, meet henhouse. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

No matter where you are, there’s probably an Amazon fulfillment center coming to your region in the near future. They prize efficiency over all else, including government subsidies (despite what their local lobbyists say). 

The Fight for 15 suffered a loss last week, when the Ninth Circuit upheld a federal judge’s decision that McDonald’s is not an employer of franchised fast food workers, and the joint-employer standard doesn’t apply. 

Congrats to my friends at UFCW 1776, who just signed their first contract to represent medical marijuana workers in PA. 

Jobs

The Freelancers’ Union is on the hunt for a new Executive Director