“…you have to find a job at IBM to live from Linux code.”

“…you have to find a job at IBM to live from Linux code” Why building a new kind of economy requires cooperative accumulation.

Most content creators (don’t believe me? here’s David Byrne from the Talking Heads, on Spotify) are fighting a losing battle in an effort to make a decent living from their work. But somehow, books carry on. Why is the publishing industry still thriving?

Worker-owned co-ops have a different approach to employee engagement than corporations. Here are some looks at how they do it. Co-op developers use a kind of franchising that looks much more friendly than the model used in the fast food industry.

Headed Down Under? Want to rent a caravan? The sharing economy’s got you covered. In the UK? Got a broken iPhone screen? The Restart Project wants to teach you how to fix your phone, instead of replacing it.

French filmmaker Maxime Leroy spent years interviewing people building sharing networks in cities around the world for his documentary, Collaborative Cities. Here’s an interview where he talks about the process of making the film, and how he got involved.

Margination just put out this youth-produced video about the building of a community farm in Chester, PA. Hey folks, I also love pesto–can I get a hook up?

Britain’s FabLab is a new kind of makerspace–one that aims to connect regular people to engineering experimentation.

Organizing Theory

Organizing within the global supply chain has the potential to truly link workers at every point of the transaction to build real solidarity. This new tech (developed by an NGO who wanted to give fashion companies a way to talk to “their” workers) might give us a breakthrough in how to organize inside chains.

From Partners 

Harvard Law professor Benjamin Sachs has a new paper out, advancing a theory that US labor law be amended to allow unions to separate out their collective bargaining from their political organizing. His blog post on the subject is here, full paper is online here. I’ve had some thoughts about it–interested to hear from others as well.

Sarah Jaffe has a new piece out, detailing efforts by workers at Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York to organize a union. H/T to them for enlisting digital organizing in the efforts–but why not use coworker.org for their petition?

Are you in the Bay Area, and interested in the collaborative economy? You might want to attend this event.

Organizing against austerity, in the EU or beyond? Head to this conference in Frankfurt in late November. I bet these Greeks who are fighting water privatization will be there.

The Singularity Approaches

Self-printing prosthetics churned out by 3D printer. Sarah Connors of the world, you might want to read this one.

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

The move to computer software that is based on recognition natural language is coming–Siri’s made all of us more comfortable with talking to our machines. This raises the question for educators–will teachers of writing need to start incorporating dictation?

What if you had to play a video game well, to secure your next job? Can you say ‘gaming the system?’

Your next international flight may feature an automated passport control system. And your next package (if you’re an Australian college student) may be delivered by drone.

Checking passports is one thing or delivering text books is one thing. Killer drones, with no humans at the wheel? This seems wrong.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Are you paying for Facebook likes & Twitter followers? Did you know that there are people, not bots, behind some of those services? Here’s a shocker–the pay for that work sucks.

Thought DRM went away with Napster? A Microsoft leader is resurrecting it, in trying to protect your data.

Geeking Out

Want to find out if people think capitalism is working for them? Watch this video by an artist who installed a scoreboard in Times Square (“the heart of capitalism,” according to one participant) and asked people to vote.

You may remember that Elon Musk announced a theory of Hyperloop back in August–but didn’t have a plan to start building it. This new team does.

Final Thoughts

“…a robust critique of technology should, first of all, be a critique of neoliberalism itself.” Evgeny Morozov

“If the goal is scale, promote theft.”

“If the goal is scale, promote theft.” If organizations that are trying to effect wide scale social change don’t open-source their successes & failures–we’ll never get to victory. All leaders of movement organizations should read this piece.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

The issue of how to maintain one’s online reputation is going to be a pressing one, in coming years. One country considers criminalizing slander on social networks.

Xbox One might be TV that watches you. No, like really watches. Down to your heart rate response to advertising. I wonder what a marketer would pay for that kind of data?

If Twitter’s going to turn into another company that turns our comments into data for the company to sell to advertisers–what are we getting out of the deal?

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

In the “that was quick” department, here’s a site offering freelance work to furloughed federal workers.

Ever wonder how China is so successful at censoring internet use? Chalk it up to 2 million “internet opinion analysts.” I guess they didn’t want to use Mechanical Turk?

What’s it like to take a MOOC? Somewhat unfulfilling, evidently. I bet it’ll be even better when the video editing of same becomes completely automated.

I tend to fall on the side of those who are convinced that technological change is disrupting employment faster than it’s making new jobs. Here’s an opposing view. On the other hand, rail automation replaces Australian train engineers who get paid $240K a year. And anesthesiologists fight being replaced by CRNAs, but now they’ve also got to fight machines. Not in a cool, Hugh Jackman kind of way either. Lest my Sheetmetal friends be thinking that they’re exempt, here’s a robot that can learn to weld without being programmed for a specific intersection.

In related news, the fast food industry’s fighting a hike in the minimum wage by threatening that US workers will be replaced by robots.

From Partners

The Democracy Collaborative recently put out a new paper describing some of the best practices for using anchor institutions–like hospitals or universities–to meet the needs of the low-income communities they sit near or serve.

The new Cry Wolf Project aims to debunk claims by conservative think tanks & business groups that progressive reforms hurt the economy.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

If you missed the launch of the final chapter of The Story of Stuff last week, you really ought to watch it.

Want to help map the shareability of cities in the US? Join up with this mapping venture in mid-October. And while we’re on the topic of sharing and October–check out New Economy Week.

You may think that you’re committed to sustainability–but are you “moving into a dumpster” committed? Or perhaps you want to move to an island made of recycled ocean plastic? It seems like a fitting penance for my dirty Coke Zero habit…

Maybe you should just start a community currency, instead. (Though as someone who lives in a town where the local ‘Cash’ looks like Monopoly money, take my advice–invest in graphic design.)

What if you know how to fish, but you can’t get access to a fishing hole? Ed Whitfield, a member of the US Federation of Worker Co-Ops, breaks it down in this video. In order to allow more co-ops to buy those fishing holes (could this metaphor get any more tortured?) the bank belonging to the world’s largest worker-owned coop (Mondragon) recently agreed to partner with the US’s National Cooperative Bank.

The price of car sharing may be too high to make it sustainable for short-term rentals, at least for now.

The Singularity Approaches

Any day now, we’ll be stalked in the wild by galloping robots.

“Robotics without wires or motors.” If you’ve been wondering how self-assembling machines will happen, watch these program-embedded materials turn themselves into things. Imagine if water pipes could expand or contract to meet supply or shifting weather conditions? MIT’s all up on the self-assembling–here are some cubes that build themselves, too.

Are we at peak Google Glass yet? Probably not, if we’re just now figuring out how to make computers visually recognize objects.

If you’re in the US, and you’re nostalgic for Lee Majors http://imdb.to/18JXt0T, check out this upcoming show on the Smithsonian Channel “The Incredible Bionic Man.”

Geeking Out

I don’t know if I want to brush my teeth with something that came out of a 3D printer & looks like a caterpillar–but you might.

You’ve probably already used an app to hack your body in some way–calorie counting, tracking exercise, logging sleep–but have you tracked & hacked your driving habits yet?

Final Thoughts

“Anything that you measure in public, people will strive & self-organize to improve.”

Rick Falkvinge, Swarmwise

Reputation, reputation, reputation

future health care

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

If you work in the sharing economy, you might want to check out this new tool launched by the Collaborative Fund. And of course, you probably wanna check out today’s launch of the insurance exchanges, created by the Affordable Care Act.

Bike sharing programs are doing well in all kinds of cities–except the ones that require riders to wear a helmet. If you have a personal bike you’d like to share (or many other kinds of personal possessions), you might want to check out this new app, peerby.

Zacary Adam Green says Silicon Valley’s version of the sharing economy is “a temp agency crossed with a Zynga game.” PBS’s Idea Lab has a cure for that–“let’s make all apps more civic.”  And Shareable is launching a new column by Denise Chang of MIT, to explore the future of work.

Want to make your local economy more democratic? Here are ten ways to make sure capital is invested in your neighbors and you. European readers who are interested in promoting some of these ideas might want to go to this meeting in Rome, in early November (because, well, Rome!). And while we’re pimping international efforts, Canadians should join The Media Co-op–they have openings on their board.

If you’ve got to have money, why not Occupy your money?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Reporters–think your industry has been disrupted enough already? Think again. Get ready for 3D immersive virtual reality journalism.

“There’s the whole ethical question of whether a country of freelancers is really the sort of place anyone wants to work in, but whatever.” Oof, PandoDaily. Here’s the future of cloud computing–HR management of freelancers. Take 10 minutes and watch this video about smart work changes that organizations need to make in the age of offices that can be anywhere. I guarantee you will not regret it. You might even be happier.

Is the teaching of writing, in the digital era, different from days gone by? This new book from CMU Press says yes.

If you haven’t yet watched The Take,  you really should. Here, Nora Leccese goes back for a decade-later look, and finds out how Argentine workers are seeding workplace democracy overseas, as well.
Like Cassio, we understand it can hard to fix a damaged brand–whether it’s personal or corporate. Launching a new section this week:

Reputation, reputation, reputation

And it’s just in time–as Acxiom launches a new line of data products that will allow their clients to combine offline and online targeting data.

From Partners

Civis Analytics has a cool new tool for mapping the uninsured by census tract. If you’re looking to target uninsured workers for ACA advocacy or enrollment, check it out.

The Singularity Approaches

But on the way there, we’ve gotta make sure it’s safe. The downside of this surgical robot, promoted by UC Irvine Med School docs? It’s been linked to 71 patient deaths.

That next “highway to the danger zone” may be flown by an empty fighter jet.

What makes robots move more like humans (or animals, I guess)? Tendons.

The cost of this 3D printer may make you rethink how quickly you’re prepared to put one in your kitchen. After all, if they’re good enough for NASA’s use in saving astronauts, they’re good enough for you.

Geeking Out

Yahoo Japan helped a special needs school move into the 21st century, with a 3D printer that can be used by the visually impaired. You can donate model files to the school’s database, to expand the range of things that students can print.

I had a conversation with a disability rights activist lately about the issues in work & tech–he gave me a different way to look at it, pointing out that technology was the only thing allowing him, a person with a physical disability–the ability to live and work in the community. This piece reminded me of our conversation.

And finally–if you ever felt lied to by science fiction writers, because they’ve promised you a jet pack for years–I have good news. If you have $200,000 you’re not doing anything with. Sure, the price will come down eventually–but you’ll miss out on the joy of being an early adopter!

“We’re removing labor, error and waste.”

robot error

What’s Going on in the Workforce

We’ve got a whole lot of robot stories this week. I’m sensing a trend…

I don’t know what servo motors are, but these machines sure are building a lot of them, without human intervention. And BMW is pushing the envelope, with robots that are safe for humans to work side by side with.

The beauty of military robots is that they can prevent soldier injury & death, by going into situations that are too dangerous for humans. But what happens when soldiers start to empathize with robots?

“We’re removing labor, error and waste.” Well. I guess that’s that then–robots are replacing pharmacists in some Pennsylvania nursing homes.

On the manufacturing side…with the renaissance of American manufacturing, we may need to clarify: “Made in America” does not always mean “Made by Americans.” And electronics manufacturing is coming back to Haiti. At a wage of $200 per week…

The Singularity Approaches

Well, robots might make us obsolete at work, but our dogs will still love us, right? Or will they

If you’re sad about your dog loving a robot more than you, here are some tips for drowning your sorrows by maximizing service from your friendly neighborhood robot bartender. (Shouldn’t we program the robots better, instead of the humans?)

Is our world really “photocopiable?” That reality is certainly closer with a 3D scanner. Our roads might also start charging our electric cars. It’ll only cost a trillion dollars or so.

“We will become cyborgs and it will be seen as just a normal thing.” Now you’re just teasing me, Wired.

Economic Sharing & Solidarity

The Shareable blog has come out with a new report showcasing policy advice for cities that want to encourage the sharing economy. Ecuador’s government is taking this idea seriously–they’re working with the Peer-to-Peer Foundation’s Michel Bauwens to re-imagine their country based on the principles of open networks and good living.

new app from UC Davis aims to create a social media platform for workers in low-paid, precarious employment to create solidarity with each other.

How can co-ops do a better job of working with each other to really promote and coordinate each others’ success? One proposal would see the services and apps of the sharing economy transform themselves into co-ops.

Here’s an interesting theory about the self-driving car: “People will not buy robotic cars, they will subscribe to them. But maybe you don’t want to share a car with a stranger…how about your boat?

Are you one of those people who always cooks too much food for dinner? This new online community connects Greek eaters with people who have extra food to share–for a nominal price.

Geeking Out

It may not be as reliable as a doctor, but given that 90% of all concussions go undiagnosed, I think football parents everywhere are probably saying, “Thank God there’s an app for that.” And on a related note–would you agree to real-time monitoring of everything that goes on inside your body? What if it would help detect cancer?

Final Thoughts

“Markets are an information technology. A technology is useless if it can’t be tweaked. If market technology can’t be fully automatic and needs some ‘buttons,’ then there’s no use in trying to pretend otherwise. You don’t stay attached to poorly performing quests for perfection. You fix bugs.

And there are bugs! We just went through taxpayer-funded bailouts of networked finance in much of the world, and no amount of austerity seems to be enough to pay for that. So the technology needs to be tweaked. Wanting to tweak a technology shows a commitment to it, not a rejection of it.”

Jaron Lanier, Who Owns the Future


The Robot Sings of Love

musical robots

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Why is labor’s share of American income falling? Economist Timothy Taylor breaks it down. With charts! The New America Foundation just released a study showing that policies that make up the “low wage social contract” are not overcoming the impact of low pay on America’s service sector. The first step toward fixing it? A higher minimum wage, and more progressive taxation.

Want to develop some understanding of why companies want to move to a more flexible work arrangement? Here’s a good piece by Roger Martin.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 11.36.45 AM

No LinkedIn for blue collar workers? WorkHands wants to work with union halls to maximize hiring. Another new platform, Zipments, wants to make it easier for couriers to maximize the work of same-day delivery. (Does it come with that cool green t-shirt?)

How is technology changing education? Joel Klein has some ideas  And on the higher-ed side, Google’s getting into the MOOC game.  But not to worry, the Chronicle of Higher Ed assures us that companies don’t want to hire people who have online-only degrees. What makes that assertion confusing is that Wharton is putting their first year MBA curriculum online. My guess is that they’re not worried about getting grads placed.

On the health care side, did you know that Kaiser Permanente has a fake hospital set up to allow healthcare workers to use/test new tech in a realistic setting?

Economic Sharing & Solidarity
Are you a handy person? Think about starting up a repair cafe in your neighborhood, so people can get stuff fixed, instead of throwing it out & buying something new:  Or how about starting a cooperative bank? (I think they might be called credit unions, but w/e). The Transition Network just released this report on the transformative potential of re-localizing our economies through inter-locking & mutually-reinforcing businesses. Another slightly older (but still worthwhile) report on the success of interconnectedness of the collaborative economy was produced last year by the Peer to Peer Foundation. Finally, the trade association for co-ops in the UK just put out a report showing that the co-op economy has outperformed GDP growth in the UK for the fourth consecutive year.
Will Byrne argues that it’s time for social do-gooders to link up their collective purchasing power, and move corporate America through the power of the purse.  Some people are already trying to adopt a better food distribution model, by breaking the May-October farmers’ market cycle in favor of year-long distribution of locally sourced foods.

Folks in the co-op crowd, here’s an interesting discussion about how to take lessons learned from the open source movement and apply them to other parts of the sharing economy.

The Singularity Approaches
A carpenter in South Africa has made his 3-D printable robot hands an open source design, in order to make sure it’s accessible to amputees regardless of their ability to pay. China may be the first country to legalize package delivery by drone. Worried about your pacemaker being hacked? Researchers at Rice are figuring out how to encrypt them, so that can’t happen. Meanwhile, maybe you should practice being the kind of person no one wants to murder in a completely diabolical way…

If you’re not worried, you’re not paying attention. A new report from Oxford shows that nearly half of American jobs will be automated in the next 20 years. After all, who’s going to need an optometrist when your smartphone will be able to write you a scrip for glasses?  On the flip side, a new report from the IT Innovation Fund argues that there isn’t anything to see here–no jobs will be harmed by the production of new technology.  Apparently, they haven’t been hanging out on this subreddit much.
It seems like much of our online stock trading economy is now happening too fast for humans to react to in time to do anything about it. Hi robot overlords. We love you! Please don’t destroy our 401Ks.

Maybe the real reason to embrace a future without work is that it will finally give us the ability to appreciate leisure? We’d all be happier with more time to participate in crowd-sourced movies.

Geeking Out
Are you ready for furniture printed out of salt? Does it come with ketchup?

Final Thoughts
Today’s picture (and subject line) come from this amazing article documenting the fight the American Federation of Musicians waged against recorded music in the movies, after The Jazz Singer came out. I’m pro-serendading robots, for the record. But pro-serenading humans, too.

Newletter 5


This week’s image is from a reader who had to wear it on his arm in a to-be-unnamed warehouse, where he worked packing boxes…

Economic Sharing & Solidarity

Some elected leaders in the City of Edinborough wants to do politics differently–so they adopted a cooperative model for soliciting citizen input (and are developing co-ops for childcare, social care, energy & housing). In other co-op news, here’s an in-depth look at the university run by the Mondragon Co-op, where the highest-paid worker can’t earn more than three times what the lowest-paid worker makes. They also serve as the R & D arm for the Mondragon Corporation, which is a set of interlocked co-ops.

If you’re interested in starting a co-op of your own, there are tons of helpful guides and how-tos here. And while we’re on the topic of co-ops, Giles Simon has a helpful piece about why we should talk about our values when promoting them.

While most of the articles about sharing economy services talk about individual users as consumers–here’s an example of Mechanical Turks moving science forward by creating a dictionary that linked words with emotions. And here’s a good article from the Freelancer’s Union about how to use community purchasing power for good.

Peer-to-peer is inevitable–but how we make it work is up to us, as outlined by Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation at last spring’s OuiShare Fest. He’s recommending two hacks that can help move us from a for-profit to a for-benefit system. Watch, it’s 20 minutes out of your day that you won’t regret.

Here’s a great interview that describes how Brazilians built their version of the solidarity economy, on the Shareable blog. They’ve even got it all mapped out!

A new service raised $6 million last week to put the sharing economy to work in managing major vehicle fleets, causing Wired to ask the question–do we need less democracy to spread the sharing economy?

What’s Going on in the Workforce

In a follow-up to last week’s news about changes to higher education, here’s one MOOC star who just refused to teach that way again, after being asked to license his course for sale to other schools, saying, “When they talk about lowering the costs, I think that they are creating a rationalization for the state legislatures to cut back on funding to the state universities.” In other e-learning news, this British startup aims to be the Netflix of that ecosystem.

London School of Economics professor David Graeber asks a trenchant question in the Sydney Morning Herald: “Why aren’t we all working less, by now?” And as if to answer him, entrepreneur.com shows us why everyone will someday be an entrepreneur, in this helpful infographic that’s designed to make you loathe the future. In more positive news, at least one tech investor is thinking about the labor impact of technological innovation. While we’re on the topic, why not join the campaign for a 4-hour workday?

Business week shows us how even construction jobs can be outsourced, this week. And McDonald’s just ordered 7,000 touchscreens, to replace cashiers in Europe.

The Singularity Approaches

Remember that Tom Cruise movie, Minority Report, where ads were pitched to individuals walking down the sidewalk? Did you ever think that a billboard  would be able to recognize your car? And while we’re on the topic of cars & engineering–are you ready to drive one using only your brain? Or do the Imperius Curse from Harry Potter (while playing a videogame)?

This file may be outdated. New computer programming systems need to move toward natural language, and away from the structures that currently exist.

Electronic skin (no, really) may someday take your vital signs, and allow you to have the kind of subvocal conversations that parents today can only dream about (come on, like you’ve never reverted to high school French to attempt an adults-only conversation with your partner?). But first they’ve got to figure out how to make it bend right.

Final Thoughts

“It’s about knowing what the underlying values are of the social systems that you’re using.”

Michel Bauwens, Peer-to-Peer Foundation


Newsletter 4



The Singularity Approaches

There’s been a lot of talk lately about self-driving cars–but how real is that possibility? Well, the advertising world is already trying to figure out how to sell them, and Australian mining operations have been using giant robotic trucks, since 2008…so maybe they’re not so science-fictiony, after all.

In higher ed disruption news, some professors at UT have started a new model of online education that mixes a MOOC with a traditional in-person class. So far, it’s only got 50 not-on-campus students–but the goal is to get to 10,000. Teach Thought poses the question “what will education look like in 2028?”, while Inside Higher Ed surveys what current faculty are thinking about tech in the university today.

Are you a retail worker who hates inventory day more than anything? Just wait till your boss is making you wear Google Glass to ensure you’re not stealing.

Want to hack your brain so that you can finally have a decent conversation on a first date? MIT’s got you covered.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

ProPublica has a podcast up this week featuring Michael Grabell talking about his long-form story investigating conditions for temp workers. Did you know that in the 1950s, temp agencies had to post bonds ensuring that they had enough money to pay the wages of the workers they were hiring? Temp work isn’t just a US problem though, so some global unions are planning a worldwide day of action on October 7th, to protest “zero hour contracts,” as they’re called in the UK.

You can take a look at the “performance” of CEOs that rank in the top paid employees in the country? Institute for Policy Studies has a new report, downloadable here.

Meanwhile, the sharing economy & its new jobs is experiencing some controversy. Business Insider talked to an anonymous Task Rabbit, who pointed out that just maybe, not having a way to find out whether the client you’re working for is sane, and not being able to talk to other TRs about that client, isn’t exactly the safest way to work. Some argue that trusting strangers to give us a ride to the airport means there are fewer serial killers in the world. But if only workers’ reviews are visible, bad “employers” can just keep contracting out their grossest cleaning, without paying the real price.

If you’ve ever wanted to know what it was like to work as an Amazon Mechanical Turk, wonder no more. Jeremy Wilson did the heavy lifting (er, clicking?) for this piece of research.   And the last word on this subject (well, at least for this week) goes to Tom Slee, who writes: “The sharing economy is not an alternative to capitalism, it’s the ultimate end point of capitalism in which we are all reduced to temporary labourers and expected to smile about it because we are interested in the experience not the money.”

Of course, there’s no giving up on whether talk of workers’  disruption is Luddite or prescient. Mark Sigal poses this question on GigaOm this week: “Would you feel differently if the creative destruction were a natural disaster instead of an economic one?” And finally, if you think Right-to-Work laws have given us nothing? Look, factories are coming here because it’s easy to lay people off!

In more positive sharing economy news, bike-sharing programs in the US are at an all-time high and poised to grow even faster. And I can’t wait till one of my neighbors buys a 3-D printer, and then shares it with the neighborhood, so I can print this

Final Thoughts

It would be hard for anyone, let alone a technologist, to get up in the morning without the faith that the future can be better than the past.

Jaron Lanier, You Are Not a Gadget

Do You Know Where Your Job is Going?

It’s Labor Day, and I have an important question for you: do you know where your job is going?

It’s an important question because, to quote the Harvard Business Review, “Growing number(s) of employers are increasingly committed to not being committed.”

In the late 20th century, Toyota’s Just in Time theory of inventory management revolutionized the way that US auto factories ran, after Toyota spent a few years eating GM’s lunch. Today’s employers have adopted a similar philosophy, only they aren’t worried about inventory oversupply–they’re fighting against any worker downtime.

Whether called “zero hour contracts” in the UK, or “day labor” or “contingent work” in the US, the phenomenon of employers wanting more flexibility from their workforce is on the rise. And for the most part, they’re getting what they want.

The question is–what are we getting in return?

It’s a funny thing to say on Labor Day, but I’m going to say it anyway:

Why do we all still have to have full-time jobs?

I know that there are practical reasons for it, in our current economy. If you don’t have a full-time job, you don’t have a full-time income, and you don’t have health care, and you don’t have any kind of retirement security, or ability to save for the future (you might not have that even if you have full-time work, of course).

But let me ask it again:

Why do we all still have to have full-time jobs?

Productivity is up.
Profits are up.

What’s not up? The standard of living for most people in the United States. Because we have a society that’s fundamentally based on the idea that everyone has to work 40 hours a week, in order to earn a living.

That idea is the product of the labor movement in the early 19th century, and it was a radical idea at the time. “8 hours for work, 8 hours for rest, 8 hours for what you will.”

8 hours

Why are will still demanding to work full-time, as if it’s the 19th century?

What could we demand, instead?

It’s an interesting question to ponder on Labor Day.

Labor Reads for Labor Day

Inspired by Flavorwire’s Labor Day Reading List, I’ve decided to make my own. Here are my top ten Labor Reads for Labor Day (bonus–links, where they exist, go to powells.com, the unionized internet & Oregon bookstore).

1. temp slave Best of Temp Slave by Jeff Kelly. Chronicling nearly ten years of temp work in the 90s. Everything old is new again.

2. xtra tuf Xtra Tuf No. 5 The Strike Issue by Moe Bowstern. Yes, another zine. I’m crazy like that (but these are books of zines). Imagine being a commercial fisherwoman (woman fisherman?) in Alaska. Now go on strike. Big fun.

3. germinal  Germinal by Emile Zola. Life in a mid-19th century French mine certainly was not charmant.

4. The Kid from Hoboken by Bill Bailey. I think I bought this self-published book at an Abraham Lincoln Brigade event in San Francisco sometime in the 90s. It’s the autobiography of a guy from Hoboken (duh) who worked on possibly every U.S. tramp steamer that went to sea in the middle of the 20th century, while organizing for the Communist Party. If I know you offline, you can borrow this book, but if you lose it? I might have to kill you.

5. hey waitress Hey Waitress! The USA from the Other Side of the Tray by Alison Owings. Sort of a Studs Terkel-ish approach to waitresses.

6. The Many and the Few by Henry Kraus. Amazing inside look at the Flint Sit-Down Strike of 1937.

7. holding the line Holding the Line by Barbara Kingsolver. I’m guessing that few of her fiction fans know that her first book was about women copperminers who struck in Arizona in 1983.

8. black workers remember Black Workers Remember by Michael Honey. Black workers fought segregation on the shop floor and in the union.

9. small trades Irving Penn: Small Trades. Vogue fashion photographer shoots Parisian workers with the tools of their trades. Result? Magnifique!

10. my year of meats My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki. You know that feeling you had when you read The Jungle? You’ll have it again.


What are your top ten Labor Day Reads? Answer in the comments.

Newsletter 3


The Singularity Approaches

3D printers might seem like science fiction–but what if, every time you lost a spoon, you could just print a new one in your own kitchen? The Manufacturing Association ain’t gonna like this one. Plus, y’know, self-assembling 3-D printed drones.

The higher ed system is ripe for disruption, especially with the astounding cost of college these days. More than half of all parents expect their kids to do at least part of their college curriculum online. We’ve already seen a huge increase in faculty adjunct teaching–expect to see changes in all kinds of service sector jobs that exist in the university system, as kids spend less time on the traditional four-year college campus.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

Not to be outdone by the Task Rabbits of the world, Google just launched a chore-contracting service. It’s invite-only, at least for the moment. Google’s also bought into Uber, giving rise to speculation that the self-driving limo isn’t too far off.

A recent opinion piece on TechCrunch makes the argument we’re interested in–what happens in the post-scarcity economy? The unemployed masses of the future seem to be concerned–the post had over 120 comments at this writing. Some tech companies seem serious about maximizing the ability to work less, more efficiently, for the same money.

Sharing & Solidarity, in the Economy

While companies like Lyft & Uber disrupt the taxi & limousine service, Relay Rides is out to mess with Hertz. Why should your car sit in a parking spot all day? Rent it to a stranger, instead!

Sara Horowitz did a great interview with NYU biz Professor Arun Sundararajan from NYU about the sharing economy, this week on the Freelancers’ Union blog. Key takeaway? We’ll all be factoring in the value of our rooms-to-let when we apply for mortgages, in the future.

In shareholder-first versus sharing economy news: Big power companies don’t like the idea of rooftop solar growth. While this op ed is definitely tinged with “the little people only matter when they’re on my side” syndrome–it still makes some valid points.

From Friends

Interested in building a better labor movement today? Two friends of HtU have recently published papers that may help you with that.

Matt Dimick studied the impact of greater centralization and found that unions that centralized their collective bargaining have a better ability to achieve income equality in the workforce.

Peter Murray studied how major membership-based organizations (think the NRA & AARP) using functional organizing (ie–providing services and a communications platform), not just issue advocacy.

Several folks in the co-op community pointed out the publication of this new book, which studies worker-owned coops in Italy, Argentina & Japan.

Geeking Out

Supporters of a basic minimum income for all legal residents of Switzerland announced recently that they have reached enough signatures to qualify their proposal to be put to a vote. Here’s a pretty good primer on Basic Income efforts around the world.

Final Thoughts

“Today we are raised with the notion that to be secure is to be financially autonomous. Amassing wealth is viewed as the primary rite of passage to a secure, autonomous existence.”

~Jeremy Rifkin, The End of Work