“Hey Alexa, why are you powered by dirty energy?”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Hey Alexa, why are you powered by dirty energy?” Greenpeace activists asked commuters in Crystal City, VA (potentially the home of Amazon’s future HQ2) to talk to Alexa about why the company should switch to cleaner energy for their cloud services. 

From Partners

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research just put out a new study on the impact of automation on women, which found that women’s risk of work automation is spread across well- and low-paid work. 


Blueprints for Change is out with a new organizing how-to, this time on using What’s App in organizing.  

What’s Going on in the Workforce

I think that “cleaning up after nuclear accident” is probably one of those jobs that most people would rather have robots doing, than humans… 

Events

Class Action is holding a webinar tomorrow, focused on cross-class organizing

Interested in tactics that target capital in new ways? Apply to be in Transform Finance’s 2019 Cohort

Geeking Out

I mean, why not build a robotic gymnast and name it after Nadia Comāneci? 

Organizing Theory


Students are organizing against the Kochs on campus—and once you understand how much the Koch’s are donating to undermine science-based education, you’ll be glad. 


“Hell no, we won’t pole!”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Hell no, we won’t pole!” Sex work is work. Strippers are workers. And thanks to the Dynamax ruling in CA, they’re actually able to organize a union now. 

Automation is coming to the bond trading desk

“Since you’re always getting paid for only half the journey, it doesn’t take you very long to realize that a majority of your deliveries are to customers that reside far outside the cluster of restaurants and eateries.” One courier describes how Postmates kept him logging in to the app—despite the obvious problems in delivery pay. 

“The haves and the have-nots might be given new names: the demanding and the on-demand.” 10 years in to the new gig economy, Alexis Madrigal has a run down on the fate of 105 companies that sucked up venture capital to offer us all a tiny bit more convenience. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

What’s Lyft worried about, as it approaches its IPO? Amazon Web Services, self-driving cars & HIPAA. 

Organizing Theory

Here’s a bot that will help your Slack channels be less biased, when it comes to describing women & their work. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…working less may actually be the key to better distributed, sustainable economic prosperity.” This new report looks at the case to be made for a shorter workweek in the UK, & outlines the steps to get there. 

Connecticut unions are backing state legislation to raise the pay for ride-sharing drivers. 

Amazon has lobbied to exempt its employees in Washington state from a new law regulating the use of non-compete clauses. 

Geeking Out

“No one ever went to journalism school to write a weather forecast.” How Patch is using AI to free up reporters to cover more interesting news. 

Events

The United Association for Labor Educators has its annual conference in Philly next month. 

Want a Hack the Union sticker? Drop us a line with your mailing address, and we’ll send some out.

Robots in the drive-thru

Can you do us a favor?

After you read this week’s Hack the Union, forward it to a friend and ask them to subscribe.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

I feel like if you attributed the sentence “we spend a lot of time training people” to literally any fast food chain’s executive, in a conversation with a fast food worker in that chain, that worker would laugh. But hey, that’s why they’re investing in AI at the drive-through! 

Axios provides a visualization of the number of workdays involved in last year’s strikes, with teachers leading the way, followed by hospitality workers. 

Not knowing your work schedule in advance makes your life more stressful. I know this seems like a ‘duh’ moment to you, but it still needs to be researched, for politicians to believe it’s true. (And even then, some of them will still refuse to believe it.) 

In an interesting twist, Uber drivers in London are suing the Mayor, alleging that his recent decision to impose a congestion tax on rideshare drivers, but not on black car drivers (who are mostly white) represents illegal racial discrimination. 

Working moms at Amazon are demanding that the company do more to meet employees’ childcare needs, including helping figure out backup plans when kids can’t go to their regular daycare facility. 

Geeking Out


Come for the video of a robot cleaning the floor in Walmart…stay for the twitter thread, about the implications of automation & what elected officials should do (or not do) about it. 

Organizing Theory

“What platforms do, is centralize an existent, fragmented, and virtually invisible (partially even black) market by means of a platform. By technologically increasing convenience, they consequently provide opportunities for these markets to grow.” An interesting look at the possibility of unions growing through organizing platform workers, by a Dutch researcher on the gig economy. 

From Partners

The Fair Workweek Initiative asked retail workers about the likelihood of their jobs being replaced by automation. Here’s what they said

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

A University of Alabama law professor has created a site to aggregate academic research about the gig economy, if you’re looking for such a thing. 

A group of New Yorkers are working to figure out if worker-owned coops can be successfully franchised

As Uber & Lyft preparer for IPOs, they’re struggling to figure out how to deal with fights around driver misclassification…by offering them money to buy shares with? I’m guessing this is not what white collar workers in the companies get…  


“A $15 minimum wage is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A diet. A stress reliever.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“A $15 minimum wage is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A diet. A stress reliever. It is a contraceptive, preventing teenage pregnancy. It prevents premature death. It shields children from neglect.” I rarely share reporting from the NY Times, because frankly, they don’t need the little added reach HTU provides. But this piece, on new research about the many salutary effects of a living wage, especially on the children of workers who get raises, is a tour de force

You’ve read it here for years—now the president of SAG-AFTRA agrees. When organizing gig economy workers, look at the models built by actors, musicians, and other itinerant performers. 

Cities are rethinking their relationship to Amazon, after demands by immigration activists that the company stop colluding with ICE.

Organizing Theory

Interesting look at how Working Washington is helping gig workers—particularly delivery drivers—figure out their REAL pay, using an online calculator they built that factors in the costs of doing the job. 

From Partners 

Wanna see how much money schools in your state are missing out on, due to corporate tax abatements? Check out this report from Good Jobs First. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Arrested people have to give up rights to their “voice print” to be able to make phone calls, in some jails—but no one seems to be able to say if those voice prints will be deleted, if they are found not guilty, or charges are dropped. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Microsoft employees are calling out their employer for continuing to develop products for the US Department of Defense, this time seeking to stop the company from selling augmented reality headsets to the military. 

Startups in the freight industry continue to expand in the US, as we all order more stuff. And Uber hints at international expansion of Uber Freight. And while we’re on the subject of Uber (and when aren’t we, frankly?) — the company is experiencing slowing growth and declining revenue, which may be problematic for its IPO plans, later this year. 

“This is bigger than Amazon.”

Organizing Theory

“This is bigger than Amazon.” An amazing look at the community organizing that led to Amazon’s pulling out of Queens—as well as what that means for similar campaigns in Nashville and Northern Virginia. Congrats to all my friends who have been in this fight! 

Is this what work-to-rule looks like in lawyer? 12,501 Uber drivers have filed for arbitration since August 2018. 

SEIU’s Justice for Janitors campaign is fighting a case at the NLRB that claims that janitors picketing the property that they work in (while being employed by a subcontractor) is a secondary boycott. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Finland’s basic income experiment (which only funded people who were unemployed) has succeeded in making those people happier—but hasn’t changed whether they got jobs (do we all need jobs, to be happy?). 

Controversial take: capitalism can ruin anything, even solar panels on your roof

Facing South takes a look at how the Green New Deal can help the South close its energy-efficiency gap. 

Geeking Out

Your job-killing robot of the week—this one installs drywall

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Still not creeped out by Amazon’s facial recognition technology? What if it’s being used to track you at work

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Freelancers who bill by the hour are more likely to be stressed over feeling like they’ve got to be “always on.” 

2 million workers (most of them women) had to quit their jobs in 2016, because they couldn’t find adequate, affordable child- or elder-care. We need an holistic solution. 

Shocking possibly no one who knows me in real life, I too have been fired for not smiling enough. Now, fast food workers in New York are taking on their bosses’ ability to fire at will

“Undervaluing low-wage work as ‘low-skill’ is often untrue and unfair…”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Undervaluing low-wage work as ‘low-skill’ is often untrue and unfair, but it also undermines our economic future.” Byron Auguste breaks down why workforce development needs to acknowledge the many skills that low-wage working people bring to the table, and stop cutting them out of opportunities. 

Workers at meal-prep-kit company Blue Apron are suing their employer for wage theft. 

Last week’s story about Instacart stealing workers’ tips to pay wages has now morphed into this week’s story about Amazon Flex stealing workers’ tips to pay wages. The moral of this story? Tip in cash when you can. 

Thanks to organizing work by Warehouse Workers for Justice and the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, Walmart announced last week that it’s taking back control of warehouses that had been subcontracted in the Inland Empire and Illinois.

Events

The MIC (Media Inequality Change) Center is hosting a day and a half-long conference in Philly on March 25-26, called “The Platform Economy & the Future of the City.” 

Organizing Theory

I have…so many questions.  

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

After the news that Amazon, thanks to activism from thousands of New Yorkers, might be rethinking their quest to rake in $3B in tax subsidies to build a second headquarters in Queens emerged, groups in other HQ2 finalist cities are saying, “don’t look at us, Jeff!” 

“The problem is the growing certainty that you were sold a false bill of goods about the immeasurable value of higher education, and that’ll you’ll be forever paying down the cost of a broken dream.” Buzzfeed takes a look at how making sure people attain a college education went from a social responsibility to an individual one

Nancy Leong, on the problem of making diversity a “value” that can be commodified

“Long Lyft, Short Uber”

Geeking Out

“Long Lyft/Short Uber” In the run-up to both companies having their IPOs this year, one financial analyst says Uber’s a bad bet

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Data & Society looks at the labor involved in beginning to use new technologies in grocery stores and family farms in a new report

“The employer power and suppressed worker voice that precipitated the tragic fire have reemerged in today’s labor market.” What does the workplace of today have in common with the workplace of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire era? Excessive employer surveillance, at the expense of workers. 

From Partners 

Here’s a great piece of work (and petition) from my friends at Working Washington, about the way Instacart is using customers’ tips to pay employees’ wages.

The Opportunity Agenda takes a look at the best practices around engaging celebrities in political and social issues. 

Organizing Theory

When was the last time you did any craftivism

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Open Markets Institute takes a look at how grocery store consolidation is affecting family farms and workers’ wages

Texas organizers are wondering who influenced a new rule in the state that classifies gig workers who get work through online platforms as “marketplace contractors” instead of workers, for the purposes of avoiding unemployment eligibility. 

“Solidarity doesn’t happen overnight.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Solidarity doesn’t happen overnight.” The great Sarah Jaffe, on the organizing that brought the LA teachers to victory

A look at research about whether worker cooperatives can remain democratically run, as they grow larger. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

MIT researchers just slammed Amazon’s Rekognition program, stating that it does a poor job of identifying people who are not white cisgendered men. Great thing that the DoD, VA, NY and TN are poised to give them all that money, right?

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that employers have a responsibility to protect worker data, in a key case against University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Organizing Theory

Excellent new piece from Blueprints for Change on some principles for building networked coalitions

Geeking Out

“…a substantial portion of women who had the means and opportunity began to prefer their robot companions to their boyfriends or husbands.” Cathy O’Neil takes a shot at imagining a utopian world where cyborgs have taken the danger out of sex for women—by removing the threats that are created by some men. 


Ever wonder what Jeff Bezos’ entire empire looks like? Check out this visualization


What’s Going on in the Workforce

The US may be moving to a Japan-like future, as our working-age population shrinks with the reduction of immigration caused by Trump. Will it cause Americans to retire even later (if at all?) 

Spanish taxi drivers are fighting a pitched battle against Uber & Lyft, including working to introduce legislation that would require booking a ride share at least an hour in advance of the trip. 

Waymo is betting that Michigan’s long history as a center of automotive assembly will continue in the self-driving era. 

The same kind of automation that has been taking off in warehouses is being repurposed to take inventory in stores. 

Events
Mobilisation Lab will be holding a weeklong campaign accelerator in New York in April. 

“Local grocers that survived Walmart are now falling to Dollar General.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“Local grocers that survived Walmart are now falling to Dollar General.” Great new report by ILSR on how dollar stores are targeting low-income communities as America’s permanent underclass—and how Tulsa, OK is fighting back. 


GrubHub is being sued by a Philly restaurant chain, who is alleging that the company is charging restaurants for phone calls that don’t actually result in food orders. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce


Uber is facing questions, after they “clarified” their policy on whether drivers can pick up unaccompanied minors (you can’t ride alone if you’re under 18, officially), by mentioning how it’s great that drivers can be there when parents can’t….


I have complicated feelings about a robot cafe, where the robots are controlled by people who are home-bound or physically disabled. 


“It might stay for a long time because it’s a matter of ego,” he says. “The shutdown is biting.” How the federal government shutdown is affecting taxi, Uber & Lyft drivers in DC. (And of course, that isn’t even mentioning the increased competition as some government workers turn to driving as a side hustle to pay their own rent.)


At the end of last year, Uber drivers in London won a ruling against the company that will force them to treat drivers as workers, not contractors.  And a French court just granted an Uber driver employment rights. 

Geeking Out
Kiss your carb-free New Year’s resolution goodbye, with this bread-bot



“People are in pain because unless you went to college, the only way you’ll earn a decent living is by breaking your body or risking your life”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“That’s the thing they don’t tell you about opiate addiction. People are in pain because unless you went to college, the only way you’ll earn a decent living is by breaking your body or risking your life — plumbers, electricians, steamfitters, welders, mechanics, cable guys, linemen, fishermen, garbagemen, the options are endless.”An amazing first-person narration of what it’s like to be the cable guy, even when you’re not a guy.


Are cannabis delivery companies luring Uber & Lyft drivers away with more stable pay & better benefits? 


Uber may be close to a settlement that pays drivers .11 per mile driven, in exchange for giving up their rights to pursue employee misclassification claims. 


“Through 2016, our analysis found that between the time older workers enter the study and when they leave paid employment, 56 percent are laid off at least once or leave jobs under such financially damaging circumstances that it’s likely they were pushed out rather than choosing to go voluntarily.” ProPublica & the Urban Institute have concluded that workers over 50 are more likely to be pushed out of jobs than they are to leave them voluntarily, resulting in huge economic consequences. 

Events


Want to up your digital game? Becker Strategies has announced dates for the three bootcamps they’ll be holding this year. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability


In the run-up to the holidays, Connecticut Lyft & Uber drivers staged a one-day strike. Let me know if you have contact with the folks who organized this! 


It’s possible that the 21st Century “Battle in Seattle” that will most impact gig worker organizing, is the one being conducted around collective bargaining rights for ride-sharing drivers. 


“Frankly, we should all be mad that the richest country in the world doesn’t care about workers’ well-being.” Well, yes. Welcome to the party, Digg.