Origami robots

Original Content

Are you looking for a new way to put pressure on companies? Check out my interview with Eric Shih, founder of Spendrise, on a new way to organize consumers to support your work.

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.

Geeking Out

Automated donut making. Taking “time to make the donuts” to a whole new level.

And while we’re on the beautiful world of robots—how would you feel about an origami robot made out of pig intestine wandering through your stomach to fix a hole?

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Remember how McDonald’s got dinged by the Fight for 15 for paying their workers using debit cards, instead of checks? Well check out this new report from ROC, to find out what major restaurant chain has been doing that too, at their workers’ expense.

Great piece by Lauren Smiley that looks at the truth behind Uber’s claims to be protecting drivers from racism and sexism, by refusing to allow in-app tipping.

We don’t always think about how technology affects creative workers—but the way we watch TV now is very definitely affecting TV writers. Is that the next industry that will be “disrupted?”

From Partners

In the “doing God’s work department”—this new website allows you to sign up to get notices anytime a union buster files LM-20s.

Worker center folks—check out this opportunity with OSHA to fund your worker organizing through workplace health & safety training.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

June 5-11 will be Global Sharing Week. Sign up for your local tool library, folks!

Ride-sharing services are excluding the poor & elderly who lack smartphones. If they kill the taxi industry, who will take them places?

In the US, it can seem like Uber is winning the ride-sharing wars hands-down. But Apple just invested in a Chinese ride-sharing company that’s eating Uber’s lunch.

A federal credit union in Vermont just became the first in the nation to create an initiative specifically to invest in coops.

Organizing Theory

*apologies that last week, we had an item referring to a Coop Disco Tech as being organized by Danny Spielberg—it was Danny Spitzberg! Damn you, autocorrect…

“…they spent too much money in an inauthentic way.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Amazon Prime has been rolling out same-day delivery in lots of cities—but it’s been excluding majority-black neighborhoods, in some. This good expose of their data by Bloomberg News has caused them to already expand in New York, Chicago, & Boston.

“Between 2025-2030 the global workforce will decrease by 12 million workers per year.” Are migrant workers the answer to this problem?

“…they spent too much money in an inauthentic way.” You’ve probably already heard that Austin voters sent a clear signal that they want ride-sharing services to be safer, via a ballot initiative held on Saturday, despite spending nearly $9 million on electoral efforts. Here’s one supporter’s analysis of why they failed.

Check out Julia Carrie Wong’s excellent piece on the recent Uber settlement—and driver anger about feelings of being shortchanged.

Organizing Theory

Saket Soni of the National Guestworker Alliance offers some tips for those who are seeking to organize the new day laborers of the digital economy.

Danny Spitzberg, on the Co-Op Disco Tech he and others organized in Oakland on May Day.

Geeking Out

Can voice-altering technology reduce gender and racial bias in tech industry hiring?

I’m REALLY HOPING that I get to walk into a virtual room, as an avatar, and take notes on virtual butcher paper at least once before I retire.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Flattr is partnering with AdBlock to figure out new ways to let users pay for content—especially ad-hating users.

62% of British bosses think that the time has come to institute a 6-hour workday.

Is there a psychological argument in favor of Universal Basic Income?

“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.

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.

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.