Nearly 25% of Americans earned income on platforms last year

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From Partners

Pew finds that nearly 25% of Americans earned some kind of income from the platform economy last year, in this new report.

Interested in writing about precarious work? Check out this call for papers.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

A new, black-owned ride-sharing app wants to serve the communities Uber & Lyft are leaving behind, in the US & Africa. And Sweden is looking to ban for-profit ride-sharing, but is pro-carpooling.

The CEO of Honor talks about why he founded a company to combine tech with home care, why they chose to make everyone a W-2 employee, and what they see in the future of human-centered business.

Geeking Out

We’re missing out on the opportunity to start regulating the Internet of Things, because the federal government can’t decide which agency should lead.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Yet another gig economy company changes its service fee/tipping policy, resulting in a cut in workers’ pay.

I mean, I guess if you’re eating at a restaurant that serves Pizza Hut instead of actual pizza, you won’t mind if you’re served by a robot instead of a human?

And while we’re on the subject of job-destroying automation, check out Amazon’s take on the cashier-less store.

Events

Data scientists in Washington State want to talk about how to use their skills to help answer questions for social service & policy-based organizations.

What motivates gig economy workers?

Office life: business team during a meeting

Office life: business team during a meeting

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Because the supply of gig labor is liquid and comprised largely of part-time workers, employers like Uber have more flexibility to adjust wages and working conditions —but it’s their most dedicated workers who are affected most.” Strong work on what motivates gig economy workers, by Alex Rosenblat.

The taxi industry in Los Angeles is paying for LAPD sting operations that target Uber & Lyft drivers.

Gig economy companies are having a tough time retaining workers, as they cut wages and the overall economy adds jobs. But some kinds of freelance work is still picking up, especially in expensive housing markets.

The Future of Music just published this fascinating survey data on the income of working musicians.

Geeking Out

Will the Hyperloop revolutionize shipping, as well as passenger transport?


Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Instacart workers threaten strike the week of Thanksgiving, over the app’s change in tipping policy.

An on-demand app for finding family caregivers just launched in the UK.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Digital security tips for protestors, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A List of Demands? Why “making it plain” is key for movement success.

In the course of my duties as a PhD student here at the University of Alabama, I have had to teach Public Administration. It is not a fun class; the books on the subject are often reactionary in ideology, the material itself is dry, and the specificities of government infrastructure is a bit much for my 200-level students to handle. As most undergrad political science majors do, they want to talk about elections. They want to talk about social movements. They want to talk about the exciting stuff that they see all the powerful people do on MSNBC or FOX or House of Cards.

In that sense, they are no different from their older counterparts. After all, no one is talking about the state legislative races that will determine most of the policies that affect American lives daily; rather we get 24-7 coverage of a presidential race that does not have its first primary contest for another nine months. Yet both groups of people should realize that activism and frontline politics is but one side of the coin; policy and administration is the other.

The Occupy movement took off right as I was entering my PhD program. It was a sight to behold, and the way in which it transformed American political dialogue is something that we will be grappling with for a long time. It used to be that poverty and inequality were framed as personal failings, things that only a hard work ethic can fix. Now you have elected officials like U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) releasing plans for combatting poverty (horrible as they might be) and the same Barack Obama who chastised parents on the campaign trail in 2008 for “getting that cold Popeyes out for breakfast” to feed their children would introduce a program six years later (flawed as that was also) that would dedicate resources to young Black men in urban areas for education.

Yet amidst all the plans and the discussion, we have seen very little in the way of concrete measures aimed at redistributing wealth and closing inequalities. And if you peruse the website of the NYC General Assembly, the organization that kicked off the Occupy movement, it is hard to find anything in the realm of concrete demands. The closest that you will come is their Principles of Solidarity, which is less a list of demands than it is a loose statement of ideologies that underpin the movement. And good luck wading through the fifty documents under the Demands tag, which appear to be little more than minutes from a committee meeting.

As easy as it may be to pin this solely on Occupy, it is not limited to just them. The most concrete proposals to come out of the police slayings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner last summer are to fit every police officer with a body camera. That seems like a good idea until you remember that Eric Garner’s murder was captured on film, in addition to the fact that he was killed in broad daylight on a busy street corner in Staten Island. The rest of the demands from assorted groups are no less ephemeral than Occupy: truth and reconciliation commissions (typically done after any hope for justice is lost, since no one who has been involved in police brutality would ever forgo their right against self-incrimination), Congressional hearings into police abuse (to what end, no one is particularly sure), and more effective community oversight (with a civilian review board? a streamlined complaint system?). One list of demands even calls for President Obama’s administration to “develop, legislate, and enact” a “National Plan For Racial Justice”. Aside from the fact that the President cannot legislate anything, the details of such a plan are largely left to the imagination.

Given all this, it is little wonder why we have not seen any movement on these issues legislatively or administratively.

The opposite side of that coin, of course, is the Fight For 15 movement. What are the demands of this movement? Well, it is right there in the title: fast-food workers are fighting for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, which would bring some of America’s most vulnerable members of the working class to a living wage in most areas of the country. While fast-food workers demanding such a wage would have been thought laughable just a few years ago, the movement has scored successes in Seattle and San Francisco, and Portland, OR has raised its minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. Even by those standards, the movement would have been considered one of the more successful ones initiated by the working class and their allied organizations (labor unions such as SEIU have greatly assisted in the Fight For 15 effort) in the last generation.

But it did not stop there. The 2014 elections saw minimum wage increases on the ballots in several states, and some of the ones that voted Yes may surprise you: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota are on no one’s list of most labor-friendly political environments, and yet those states all voted to increase the minimum wage by substantial margins. In fact, the victories in these states were probably the only highlight in an election that saw Republicans win eleven more state legislative chambers and take back the U.S. Senate. The issue also featured prominently in the last dash to the polls in Chicago’s just-concluded mayoral election, where challenger and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia has come out in favor of a $15 minimum wage for employees of the city’s public school system, which has been decimated by budget cuts and closings under Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

And as the movement’s day of national action on April 15th draws closer, it has become clear that this is a fight that will endure for quite some time.

There are many factors that go into organizing on different issues, and I am not trying to make the case that there are tight parallels between organizing around law enforcement issues and doing the same with regards to the economy. But Occupy and the protests of police violence have failed to “make it plain” and give people something that they can take into their communities and begin mobilizing for social change. That has to change if we are to see the working class build enough power to dismantle the structures that holds progress back.

American federalism and the case for reevaluating labor’s priorities.

On March 8th, Wisconsin became the 25th state to legalize the open shop. The provision commonly referred to as “right-to-work” by the corporations and right-wing politicians who back it has very little to do with economic freedom and liberty for workers, and everything to do with the destruction of a movement that has given the American economy a tiny measure of democracy. Ever since the 2010 elections that swept Republicans to power across the country, the push to make America an open shop nation has been stronger than at any time since the policy’s genesis in the Jim Crow South. Nineteen state legislatures have seen right-to-work proposals during the 2015 session, a clip similar to the period between 2011-2014, and there is no reason to believe that the pace will be slowing down anytime soon.

In Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy, J. Eric Oliver notes that the people who are most likely to vote in local elections are those who own homes. This makes sense in a way; the homeowner is more directly affected by changes in their land values than those who rent, and are thus more likely to be in tune with the ways in which local government engages in land management. Oliver notes that as land management is the most important function that most local governments provide (since many communities contract their emergency services and utilities to county or regional authorities), it will be the concerns of the homeowner that dominate election issues at the local level.

But another thing that drives the disparity between homeowner turnout and renter turnout in local elections is the gap in outreach to the two groups of people. According to data the author pulled from the National Elections Studies in 2008, homeowners were reported to be 60 percent more likely to have been contacted by a political campaign than renters. Combine that with educational disparities (renters are twice as likely to not have a high school degree), and homeowners are engaged with at a rate at least double that of renters. While Oliver makes the case that low turnout in local elections should not be automatically seen as a delegitimizing force in our democracy, the fact that there are some who are being engaged in the political process and others who are not is something that is deeply troubling. This goes double when you consider that renters are three-and-a-half times more likely to earn under $15,000 a year (the rough estimate of the federal poverty line for a family of two) than homeowners. These stats underline a long-standing contention by political scientists and leftist organizers alike that American democracy is regressing in its responsiveness to working-class concerns.

But the question becomes: how do we change this for the better?

A disengagement from federal politics….

The labor movement has given generously to federal politicians, particularly the Democratic Party. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, well over 90 percent of all donations go to Democratic candidates. In addition to the money spent directly on campaigning, labor unions have spent nearly $428.6 million on lobbying members of Congress on their top issues. What does labor have to show for it? Not the Employee Free Choice Act, despite having the largest Congressional majority in over four decades. Not a public option for Obamacare. Not any kind of deal that will prevent the so-called “Cadillac plan tax” under Obamacare from hitting the health benefits that labor has won through negotiation and struggle. And all the money spent on ensuring that a Democrat remained in the White House did not keep the President from appointing judges and cabinet members who have worked against the working class throughout their careers.

If we could not get decent labor policy during a Democratic bonanza at the federal level, what are we honestly to expect when the party of Scott Walker controls Congress? Maybe we get another Democratic president, but Hillary Clinton ain’t exactly Norma Rae. It is clear that both parties have failed unions and the working class at the national level and that a reassessment of priorities for movement resources is required.

….and a rededication of resources to the local level.

Recent years have brought with them some very encouraging news for the working class in local politics and policymaking. In 2010, local labor unions in New Haven, Connecticut backed city council candidates and defeated candidates backed by the long-serving Mayor (and failed 2006 Democratic gubernatorial candidate) John DeStefano. The year 2013 would be even better: in addition to the election of socialist Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council, a slate of independent labor candidates stormed the city council elections in Lorain County, Ohio; in that election, nearly two dozen candidates defeated people backed by the long-dominant Democratic machine in the union-dense county.

But winning the election was not enough; these candidates had to produce once they were in office. And produce they have:

  1. While the Fight For 15 was a movement that predated Sawant’s ascension to the city council, her dogged determination on the issue pushed the council and mayor to an agreement that will bring in a $15 minimum wage for Seattle workers in the next few years
  2. The New Haven councillors crafted an agreement that allowed a charter school into the city, but mandated them to allow the unionization of its employees and the acceptance of disadvantaged children who were not already in one of their schools elsewhere

And in Lorain County, the councillors have simply given an ear to the working class that had not been there before, when the former mayor took it upon himself to break a picket line and do sanitation work for a day. That work can be just as valuable as a concrete policy outcome. Increasing the political efficacy of the working class is what spurs the development of social movements and efforts at an independent political voice in a landscape where common concerns can fall on deaf ears. The capital class knows this all too well, and has seemingly cleared the floor for the advancement of anti-worker policies.

I thought I read that the New Haven effort began as some sort of worker center?

You read correctly.

That is the last plank of this community engagement plan. It has nothing to do with labor unions, of course, as worker centers are barred from engaging in activities that could be seen as preparing workers to join a union. Doing so would bring them under the administrative clutches of the Landrum-Griffin Act, which has odious reporting requirements that often hamstring union organizing budgets. But they should be more than just a means of entry into traditional labor unions, anyway: they should independently act as a means of mobilizing the working class around issues of democracy and economic justice, as well as educating communities about the ways in which capitalism continues to fail them on a regular basis.

Local and state governments are often referred to as the “Laboratory of American Democracy”, and it is not hard to see why: the pilot projects that begin in a neighborhood, city, or county can become national policy under the right circumstances. The dismantling of our national welfare system did not begin with President Clinton in 1996; it began over a decade earlier with Gov. Tommy Thompson’s (R-WI) efforts to change the federal matching system for funding to a block grant system that would severely curb the flexibility of state governments in managing their welfare systems. After a reduction in welfare rolls (but, notably, not a reduction in relative poverty), the program was greenlighted for other governors who wanted to do the same. Eventually, it became federal statute with the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which is the welfare reform bill that President Clinton signed into law. So it was with this thing that its proponents called “right-to-work” in Florida during the early 1940s. After its passage in a statewide referendum, the policy spread like wildfire across the South and the Great Plains, eventually finding federal backing in the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, better known to opponents and allies as Taft-Hartley.

With an increased focus on communities and local politics, the labor movement can begin to turn the tide against the right-wing onslaught of the last couple of years. Otherwise we are just waiting for the next catastrophe to take hold.

Whither the Works Council? A critique.

Labor is, God willing, at a turning point in this country. New campaigns have started to infuse fresh energy into a moribund and declining movement, and new models of collective action are being proposed in the course of these ongoing efforts. While the existing NLRB/NMB certification election-contractual bargaining system still functions on paper, in practice it has broken down. Employers do not hesitate when flouting the law while trying to head off a union vote going against them. Even when they lose, bosses are willing to sandbag their workers by refusing to even bother to negotiate, and striking has been gelded as a tactic through injunction and wrongly decided precedent about permanently replacing strikers. While corporate campaigns, which focus on pressuring shareholders and embarrassing companies into acting humanely, have met with some success they have not delivered the kind of widespread worker empowerment that the postwar period did. There’s absolutely no doubt that if workers are going to ultimately make their own destiny that a new model or approach is needed for unions. One that has been proposed, separately by the UAW and by Benjamin Sachs, is the implementation of works councils in the United States.

The works council model is one that is used across Europe, with the most prominent examples being in Germany, although works councils also exist in the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium. There, employees are elected to four-year terms on the works council, where they negotiate the terms of employment and workplace conditions with the employer. In Germany this is enabled through the Works Constitution Act, which was first passed through the Bundestag in 1952 and allows the formation of works councils in any private workplace of at least five people. While the employees who serve on the works council are not required to be in a union, over 77 percent of them are. As such, the works council functions as a strong facilitator of union power in German labor relations, especially in the large auto plants there.

(It should be noted that the works council system is different from a worker cooperative. The chief distinction is that workers in a cooperative have full control over the means of production, while a works council is, essentially, what we would consider to be a labor union bargaining unit in the United States.)

It is imagined in the United States as an unprecedented form of economic democracy. Our conception of a Board of Directors has very little to do with a company’s employees or their demands; rather it is an oligarchy of investors and corporate officers who run our nation’s business apparatus. So the thought of workers getting a say in the dealings of two of our nation’s largest industries, automotive and fast food, is one that is understandably exhilarating for those supportive of the labor movement.

There’s a couple of problems with implementing such a model in the US, though. Firstly, the National Labor Relations Act explicitly bans company unions in Section 8(a)(2). Sachs makes that clear in his piece, saying that implementing a works council model at McDonalds would require significant legal wrangling to avoid being proscribed by Section 8(a)(2), though far more optimistically than we would.

Another big concern is that the works council model could mollify working-class radicalism at a time where it is on the upswing. Few could have predicted that fast-food workers would be engaging in waves of walk-outs with the demand of a $15 an hour minimum wage. Combined with the recent demonstrations against state violence in major cities across the country and the connections between these two movements, working-class organizing might be in a stronger position now than in any other time since mass deindustrialization began in the 1970s.

Furthermore, story after story is raising awareness of how other countries have paid their fast-food workers a living wage and still managed to turn a profit. To turn all of this potential for a paradigm-shifting movement and steer it towards a highly formal and bureaucratic process before any real gains have been secured would seem to be an error. In fact, it could be argued that the bureaucratization of the labor movement is a key part of why it is in such dire straits in modern times. Why voluntarily repeat the errors that got us where we are today for a system that we are not even sure will work in the United States?

Finally, is winning a process that, from its beginning, privileges the interests of management at the same level as the interests of the workers really worth it? Given all of the effort, energy, and time that would get put into organizing works councils, is it a big enough win? Make no mistake, the purpose of works councils is for smooth functioning of commerce at a given employer by addressing the collective concerns of its workers. Whether the emphasis falls on the front half of that statement or the back half in an American implementation of works councils remains up in the air. At a time when labor is frequently discussing things in terms of labor-management partnerships and jointness, will workers’ interests be better served by a system where the union is not even an independent body but rather an organ inside the corporate structure?

Works councils have significant power in Europe and are able to redress major issues for the workers who participate in them. However, they gained this power in the shadow of the Cold War, at a time when capitalism had to show it gave a damn about Western workers lest they fall “victim” to Communism. That threat does not exist now. There is no indication that the works councils that are being proposed would be able to address the larger problems that the working class faces on a day-to-day basis. While alternatives to a dysfunctional NLRA-focused process should be considered, the notion of labor-management partnership can only function when labor has sufficient power to make everything stop.

We will only rebuild power through advancing the interests of the working class as a whole. Investing more in organizing, training, mobilization, and educating union workers about their rights is a part of this equation, but only by fundamentally aligning the labor movement with the communities it represents will we start to recover.

When flexible scheduling goes so, so wrong…

Original Content

Do you ever wonder how artists are making it in the new economy? I talked to David Thomas about how he sustains his independent filmmaking through a combination of crowdsourcing patronage & bootstrapping.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

Got a free moment, and thinking “hey, I wonder if any stores around here need their shelves stocked?” Wonolo’s got you covered. Sheesh. When flexible scheduling goes so, so wrong.

Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program made a major change, this year, that’s affecting the way that non-US requestors can use their services. Could be a real problem for international researchers.

In the last 15 months, the number of trips in traditional taxis in SF has plummeted, thanks to new ride-sharing services. But it is it harming wheelchair-bound customers’ ability to get around?

Reputation, reputation, reputation
“…being private requires work and often the benefits of working for privacy are too abstract.” Shouldn’t we all be more worried about government—and corporate–surveillance?

On that same topic—this new report on Civil Rights, Big Data & Our Algorithmic Future is riveting—particularly the section about jobs. Is a hiring algorithm discriminating against you because your potential commute is too long?

A new experiment reveals the efficacy of Facebook “Like” farms.

Organizing Theory

Sir Tim Berners-Lee talks about how he designed the World Wide Web to be democratic—in that your content should be delivered the same way, regardless of what browser you use, or what country you’re in—and why he’s kicking off the Web We Want Festival in the UK next weekend. h/t to reader Paul Beauvais for sending me this video.

From Partners

Two EU unions have partnered to put out this tremendously in-depth booklet with an overview of a series of campaigns fighting privatization.

Do you need a quick check-in on your social media strategy? Social Movement Technologies is offering free 1:1 help for organizers and unions—for one month only.

Geeking Out

Well, at 10 mph, this robot is not quite yet a cheetah—but check out this amazing robot that can run, untethered, in an open field.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Did you give away any money on September 15th? This group of folks did, to commemorate the anniversary of the Lehman Bros. collapse, and spark a conversation about how our relationship to money might be different.

Steve Denning asks: Is the internet economy going to finally allow us to cast off the shackles of “pervasive short-termism?”

This new platform, for artists, makers and technologists, aims to create a place for the sharing economy to be really social just.

TechPresident examines the struggles that the Detroit Water Project has had—with no staff on the ground—reaching people who need help paying their water bills in the city.

“It costs more to have an Internet connection in your house per month than the casual worker on MTurk can make in 30 days.”

Original Content

Did your lawn get mowed this weekend, by you or someone else? Check out Wyatt Closs’s new piece “A Cut Above: The Workonomics of Grass.”

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

“It costs more to have an Internet connection in your house per month than the casual worker on MTurk can make in 30 days.” In 2009, Jason Huff launched an artistic project to get Mechanical Turk workers to tell their stories. Five years later, he went back to that well to see if and how things had changed.

Veteran journalist Karl Hodge takes a look at life from the perspective of a freelancer, in the age of Oodesk, Elance, and other apps.  And Stas Zoblinski talks about why we should all take a chance on building our own businesses, because “Corporations Will Eat You for Breakfast.”

Sometimes, even when your app makes money, you still have to lay off all your staff.

Watch NYU B-School professor Scott Galloway shred this robotics industry executive on the question of whether people’s jobs are being replaced by robots.

Geeking Out

You may have already figured out who gets your stuff, after you’re not here anymore. But do you know who might inherit your email? A new set of state laws may make this clearer. (As for me—hey, my kids don’t read their own email—what are they going to do with mine?)

As someone who has personally used both exercise and calorie tracking apps, I was disconcerted to see this new report from the FTC about how those apps might be selling very personal data about you to ad companies.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Civic crowd funding has become a larger & larger trend. This MIT student has been looking at the success rate & average size of proposals in this sector, for the past two years. Here are the results of his research.

These Greek factory workers took over their factory after it had been abandoned by the boss, and started a worker-coop that makes environmentally-friendlier products than what they made before the crash.

Wouldn’t it be cool if every road in the US was paved with solar panels? These folks are crowd-funding to perfect that tech.

Can co-ops become the dominant form of enterprise in the sharing economy?

Organizing Theory

Industry-leading email newsletter provider (and the host for this fine list) MailChimp has a great internal website to let their staff know what kind of tone to use in writing for every possible circumstance. Does your organization help staff figure out how to write for different parts of the web?

And speaking of email—are you looking for good examples of, say, an announcement email? Check out Really Good Emails.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

Is it too late to opt out of world-wide facial recognition?

Apple, I love you. Mostly. But you’re starting to seriously creep me out.

“Devices which are networked or controlled by a corporation therefore cannot form part of an individual’s extended body.” Interesting polemic on the consequences of wearable tech, from the folks at Stop the Cyborgs.

From Partners

Need to do a video conference with a group that includes English and Spanish speakers? USiLive’s got your hookup for video conference meetings that involve interpreters.

“We are a culture that buys a lot of junk.”

Original Content

Julia Carrie Wong explored the intersection of apps that hire domestic workers, and domestic workers who are self-organizing into co-ops and other kinds of employee-empowering structures in this new post.

Kenzo Shibata wrote about the need to take seriously the labor of digital organizing here.  Well, that is, if you want to win…

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“We are a culture that buys a lot of junk.” In this case, fast fashion—but it’s about to get more expensive. Thank an organizer in Bangladesh or China! No, really, thank them—I’m not being sarcastic.

The world’s about to get its first 3-D printed house. The construction industry—and the waste it generates—may never be the same. In the US, Reaction Housing is planning to build a shelter system that’s light enough to be moved by hand—but can stop a bullet. There’s nothing on their website to explain why someone might be shooting at you.

Should the super-rich all quit their jobs, so someone else can have them?

Can unions and other workplace-oriented groups help their members save money on their energy bills? These UK groups think so.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

Are you ready for a social network that’s made up only of people who live in your neighborhood? I’m not sure I want a round-up of bikes stolen & who needs to cut their lawn…but this does seem to have more uses.

Google Glass, or similar technology, seems to have a lot of upside when you think about it in the context of a hospital—instant access to medical records; the health care provider looking at the patient, instead of down at a screen; the ability to hold a consult with someone in a different place. But hospitals are wrestling with some serious concerns about uploading so much personal information to the cloud.

Do you ever get annoyed when people you don’t know well reference something you’ve shared on Facebook? This game will teach you about what level your privacy settings really are .

Mega-corporations are spending mega-money to monitor their presence online. Here’s a story about Wells Fargo’s social media command center. Wonder what hashtags they’re tracking…

Organizing Theory

Why do people engage in protest or direct action? If you’re designing a campaign that requires mass mobilization, read this.

Curious about how to use open data to organize? TechPresident has a good primer, with lots of examples of how to engage communities. And while we’re on the topic of data — here’s how some organizers have been thinking about using data to promote resilience in fragile communities.

In the for-profit sector, the best-performing companies turn over their entire board once every nine or ten years. I’m wondering if anyone has done a similar study on non-profit boards?

Geeking Out

Can tech-infused sponges make surgery safer for patients? This company is betting on it.

Google Glass has some cool factor…but Orcam? Will change the life of a visually impaired person.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

Contributoria continues to be the most interesting experiment in funding journalism, at least to my mind. Here’s Brett Scott, writing about the ways that funding investigative journalism continues to evolve.

Is there a case to be made that part of what’s driving unemployment in Italy is automation of jobs? This professor thinks there is.

Here’s a pretty incredible, data-driven effort to figure out how musicians’ ability to make money has changed in the light of digital tech—and where the future of musical revenue streams will come from.

Toyota was one of the pioneers of having robots and humans work together on the line. Now, they’re thinking about adding back jobs for humans. Turns out, you can’t become a master car maker without first being an apprentice.

“I’m hard pressed to make a case for my edge over a robot…” Says a doctor.

“…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

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.