When do I get my personal book bot?

Geeking Out

I can’t wait until the day I can install a Book Bot in my own house, to catalog my sizable library. 

The robot video you didn’t know you needed: serving sushi

The Perils of Trumpism

The NLRB just rescinded their opinion that graduate students are workers. Will this mean expansion of more state laws, giving student workers the right to organize? 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

In a strike wave, it’s good to know your rights. Kudos to Vox for publishing this “five things you need to know about going on strike that you were afraid to ask.”

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“…at this point, one would have to be pretty desperate to give a company with Facebook’s history any insight into their romantic life.” Dating and desperation do sometimes go hand in hand, though… 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Southern low-wage workers convened in North Carolina for a summit to talk about how to lift wages in specific workplace fights as well as in political arenas. 

Uber is suing NYC over the city’s cap on rideshare drivers’ ability to cruise without passengers. (The city created the cap both to improve the likelihood that drivers could earn a living wage, and to reduce pollution.)  New York drivers organized a 1,000-car protest of Uber’s move, last week. 

Seattle is gearing up to pass a new tax on ride-share companies, designed at supporting public transit development & funding a driver support center. 

Fort Collins, CO is setting up its own broadband network, to compete with Comcast within the city limits. They’ll charge $60/month for comparable fiber internet connections. 

Trans women of color are starting a worker-owned cooperative beauty salon in Queens. 

Concerned about food deserts? This new study suggests that worker- or non-profit-ownership and community input are more likely predictors of success than the involvement of for-profit grocery chains. 

Who wore it best?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

As you likely saw, last week California gave a huge boost to gig workers, by passing an “ABC test” for contractors, in the form of AB 5. I had some thoughts about the Trumpian nature of the TNC companies responses… 

Facing South makes the case that the South could flip the senate, next year. All the more reason to promote more worker organizing there. 

The OECD is working to figure out how to incorporate algorithms into legislation that creates rules around transportation and transit. One idea? Program self-driving cars to obey the speed limits set in geo-fenced areas

The FTC is investigating Amazon’s behavior towards third-party sellers as an anti-trust violation. 

From Partners

Congrats to our friends at the Freelancers’ Union, who last week passed a bill to extend civil rights and anti-harassment protections to freelancers in New York City. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

The passage last week of California’s AB5 wasn’t just a victory for ride-share drivers. Here’s a look at what other kinds of independent contractors will be covered (and some that are still exempted). (And a big shout out to our friends at Gig Workers’ Rising for helping to make this happen!) 

Yoga instructors in New York City are seeking to form a union

I mean, sure Jeff Bezos is the richest man on earth, and could probably single-handedly end hunger in the United States…but instead, he’s cutting off health care for all of Whole Foods’ part-timers. 

Organizing Theory

Delivery ride-alongs and bike repair clinics—this Canadian union has developed some unique strategies for organizing food delivery workers. 

Planned Parenthood developed an anonymous chatbot, to help answer teens’ questions about sex, gender, puberty & more. 

Geeking Out

Google’s AI voice assistant is apparently good enough at conversation to fool a receptionist at a hair salon. But my mom? Hmm. 


Looking to pick a fight about state-level preemption in Pennsylvania? Check out this posting from our friends at the Partnership for Working Families. 

What do Major League Baseball & Uber have in common?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

For once, a story about an Uber/Lyft driver, where Uber/Lyft don’t come off as the bad guy. Instead, it’s Major League baseball, which apparently pays players in the minor leagues so poorly that at least one was driving rideshare as a side hustle. 

Chinese ride-share company Didi Chuxing says it will launch self-driving cars in Shanghai. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Gig economy site offers spying on your spouse for just $5! 

Geeking Out

h/t to Scott Mintzer for pointing this story out—about a MIT student who has programmed a computer to “read” his thoughts. No, really. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Is it predictable that newspapers would try to protect the ability to pay journalists as freelancers? Yes. Is it predictable that they would do so by sneaking that into an opinion piece about how newspaper delivery persons should be independent contractors? Well, I didn’t see it coming… 

“I can pay the rent and the energy bill and the cellphone. That’s it. There’s no way to make sure the kids have everything they need, or even to dress halfway decent. Sometimes I braid hair to make extra money.” In the wake of the Popeyes’ sandwich craze, Alexia Fernandez Campbell talks to one manager about her struggles to live on $10/hour

Here’s an interesting look at how a programmer describes wiping out four people’s jobs in the interest of “efficiency.” 

A surgeon has successfully performed heart surgery via robot, on a patient 20 miles away, for the first time. 

An incredible look into the many crashes (some fatal) that Amazon delivery drivers get into—and the lengths that the company goes to, to escape culpability. 

From Partners

This new paper looks at the impact of algorithmic management on Uber drivers & concludes that they hate it. (But it might be supporting their burgeoning baseball career, so hey.)


In DC? Check out “The Color of Surveillance” on Nov. 7 at Georgetown. 

Who says the blue collar dudes can’t go green?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Irish shipbuilders have seized control of the last shipyard in Belfast, demanding that it transition to manufacture renewable energy infrastructure

The Fight for $15 has adopted a new tactic in efforts to unionize fast food workers—looking at chains that are in state-run highway rest stops. 

“If we have a contract and some evidence that work was done, [an allegation of wage-theft] is not a long conversation.” The Minneapolis city council is considering expanding their wage theft lawsto freelancers and independent contractors. 

From Partners

Are you a budding graphic designer? Do you work with one? Check out Social Movement Tech’s apprenticeship for graphic designers

Geeking Out

And while we’re on the subject of graphic design, if you’re a geek for letter press printing or other typefaces, check out the work of this Black type designer, who has made fonts based on the handwritten signs of important civil rights leaders and protest movements

What’s Going on in the Workforce

You are probably working more than your medieval ancestorsdid,  unless maybe you are Finnish

Time Magazine takes a look at the fight for fair wagesin America’s restaurant industry. 

“…if you’re driving Lyft or Uber, almost by definition you can’t afford to live in a high rent area, but of course most rides are in high rent areas. So almost by design, most of the drivers are living far away from where they’re working, and when you get them so exhausted that they can’t drive home, it sounds like they’re essentially living out of their cars for how many days a week.” A tech reporter discovers the joy of talking to ride-share drivers, in the run up to this week’s action in support of AB5. 

Last week, a district court ruled that Amazon delivery drivers aren’t bound by the arbitration agreement in their contracts, and can join a class-action suit around misclassification, against the company. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“Own your data” for drivers is different from “own your data” for social media users. Discuss. 


“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.