#BigTechOnBlast

From Partners

Today’s the day! Big Tech is called to answer Congress’s questions—sign up for Athena’s Watch Party, starting today at noon.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Last week, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled that a laid-off person who decided to drive for Uber did not lose eligibility for unemployment, because they became self-employed. Kudos to regular reader Larry Mishel, and his daughter Julia Simon-Mishel, who argued the case in court in her capacity with Philadelphia Legal Services. 

Various California agencies are investigating Amazon workers’ safety concerns, after COVID has raged through warehouses. 

Geeking Out

“In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes. The only way to mitigate the most destabilizing aspects of mass migration is to prepare for it, and preparation demands a sharper imagining of where people are likely to go, and when.” ProPublica & the New York Times magazine take a detailed look at how climate change will impact migration patterns. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

WNBA players walk out in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, dedicate their season to Breonna Taylor. 

Jobs

Class Action is on the hunt for a new Executive Director

“We wanted to be fair, but we also wanted to set a very important standard, which was safety first.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“We wanted to be fair, but we also wanted to set a very important standard, which was safety first.”You’ve probably heard a lot about how various major-league sports are planning on returning to play. But did you know that roller derby has the best plan to respond to covid, of any sport? 

The Fight for $15, SEIU, & the Movement for Black Lives are holding a Strike for Black Lives next week. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Uber, seeking to protect its own proprietary data, hid its involvement in a coalition about protecting data from cities

“Advertisements created by algorithms encourage certain people to send in their résumés. After the résumés have undergone automated culling, a lucky few are hired and then subjected to automated evaluation, the results of which are looped back to establish criteria for future job advertisements and selections. This system operates with no transparency or accountability built in to check that the criteria are fair to all job applicants.” Automated hiring can reinforce discrimination. We should let job-seekers sue

What’s Going on in the Workforce

As the pandemic continues to rage on, and shoppers are nervous about in-person shopping, Instacart goes on a hiring spree

This new paper from NBER looks at where & who are switching to work from home during the pandemic. 

Uber took a teensy tiny baby step toward actually letting drivers set their own rates (in order to avoid misclassification challenges, of course). It only took, what, 11 years from the time they were founded? 

Shipt workers are striking today to protest the company’s new algorithmic pay model. 

Geeking Out

Check out this great new map, from Bargaining for the Common Good, that shows the contracts bargained for the common good around the US. 

Jobs

Here’s a kick-ass job that someone on this list should apply for: SVP at Omidyar Network

“It has been 54 days since we’ve felt the sun on our faces.”

The Perils of Trumpism

“It has been 54 days since we’ve felt the sun on our faces.” COVID-19 is hitting people living in institutions harder than the rest of us. Here’s a gripping story of life on the inside, told by an anonymous incarcerated person in MA. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Hospital robots are helping fight covid-19. Are they also getting trained to replace humans in some types of hospital work?  Happily, Adam Seth Litwin just penned a new paper about health care automation, in conjunction with UC Berkeley Labor & Working Partnerships. 

From Partners

ACRE is hosting a series of webinars this summer that will teach activists about the relationships between the police and financial institutions. The next one is July 15 at 10 am Pacific. Register here.

Organizing Theory

How non-profit workers in Wisconsin turned their non-profit into a worker-owned coop. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Want to build a solidarity business? Here’s a new manual, from Geo Coop & others. 

Can mutual aid groups grow into standing organizations to address the long-term causes the disproportionate impacts of immediate emergencies? 

It’s likely that the pandemic will kill the mall as we know it. Can malls survive by turning into housing?

And while we’re on the subject of housing, check out what the City of Lisbon is doing—working to turn Airbnb-style rentals into housing for essential workers. (h/t to Scott Mintzer for sending me this one.) 

Geeking Out

Do you want a hydroponic garden the size of a dishwasher, that can grow up to 60 plants? Not yet, but soon. 

A love song to Gen Z

Geeking Out

“None of these game-changing moments in narrative history arose by identifying the “right organization,” or by brainstorming the perfectly compelling campaign. None of these moments had an organizational logo attached to them. They had heart, spontaneity, humor, creativity, community, and an ability to quickly outmaneuver and outsmart the enemy.” A love song to GenZ and its brilliant ability to weaponize memes to shift narrative and take down racists, including the Racist-in-Charge. 

Organizing Theory

 An important piece examining how one mutual aid effort that sprang to life in the early days of the pandemic has morphed into an effort that now includes political education for the “helpers.” “It’s first important to recognize what mutual aid is and what it’s not,” Rodriguez says. “We don’t want this to be charity, and it can be perceived as charity for nine out of ten people involved. It’s a political process through which communities that have been ignored and deprived deliberately empower themselves with the resources they have to take care of one another.” 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

 If you have the fundamental belief that work of any kind in a capitalist system is the highest calling, of course you will set up your government to force people to work, no matter the circumstances. Welcome to North Carolina, please don’t ever lose your job

On the continent, however, Spain seems to have looked at the pandemic and decided, “gee, maybe a guaranteed minimum income is good!” 

Not just Philly specific—what can companies & organizations do to be more uplift a Black workforce

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“The risk is that [tracking technologies] become an avenue for more extensive data collection that’s really unconnected with the public health emergency and they will continue on after the public health emergency is over.” Companies are adopting surveillance techniques, allegedly to keep workers safe during the pandemic. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Amazon warehouse workers in Germany went on strike on Monday to protest the company’s handling of the coronavirus

“The stylist’s lead changed the conversation away from compensation details and pointed her to Stitch Fix’s core values, including being “motivated by challenge,” asking if that clause resonated with her.” How Stitch Fix silences internal dissent & creates a culture of silence within their workforce. 

The Supreme Court of Canada just dealt Uber a blow, when it ruled that drivers could join a class action lawsuit, and did not have to pursue individual arbitrations. 

From Partners

Are you interested in telling workplace stories? The Sidney Hillman Foundation has grants to make for reporters writing about working people and their struggles on the job. Applications on a rolling basis.  

We need tech for organizing, not just mobilizing

Original Content

Have you been frustrated in the search for a CRM that actually gets ORGANIZING, not mobilizing? I talk to Martha Grant from Action Builder, about the new worker organizing CRM she’s built in conjunction with the AFL-CIO and Action Network. 

Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. If you like the original content on this site, please kick in a small contribution ($2/mo?) to help us keep it up and running. 

From Partners

Check out this new site co-created by friend-o’-the-blog Wyatt Closs, Blkpaper, with downloadable Black protest art.  And while you’re in the mood to support Black artist, maybe you want to buy a ticket (or an ad) for Philly’s BlackStar Film Festival, which will serve Black and brown films to an online audience globally, this year. 

Cornell’s ILR is hosting a webinar called “Strategies for a Worker-Centered Re-opening and Recovery” on Wednesday, July 1. Register here

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“Starting with the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968, the U.S. government had spent half a century battling discrimination in offline rental markets. Through regulation and enforcement, the efforts had succeeded in reducing rates of discrimination, both in hotels and long-term rentals. Airbnb now raised the prospect of erasing some of these hard-won gains.” What’s Airbnb doing about #AirbnbWhileBlack

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Uber has started selling its ride-hailing tech to public transportation providers.  Not a good look, given that it’s also recently been proved that their algorithm has been putting a higher price on rides to neighborhoods where people of color dominate. Meanwhile, Mexican Uber drivers struck the company on Monday. 

“…for cities and towns experiencing a population decline, or those that have seen the departure or closure of a major employer in recent years, offering cash to remote workers is a relatively simple way to diversify and expand a local economy.” In the wake of COVID-19, even more cities are getting into the game of offering remote workers relocation bonuses

“What’s hot on-screen…doesn’t need to be hot on set.” The relatively new world of onscreen intimacy coordinator is bound to be disrupted by COVID, as tv shows and movies return to filming

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Black organizers and Latinx immigrants banded together to rise up against police and ICE violence in one small North Carolina town. 

Sarah Jaffe talks to folks from the unions at my alma mater, Rutgers University, about their efforts to build a joint table to bargain for the common good of all—faculty, staff & students. 

“Direct action is as ancient as human conflict.”

Organizing Theory

“Direct action is as ancient as human conflict.” Mobilisation Lab takes a look at how direct action strategies can translate for digital organizers

Consumer Reports (no, really), on how to safely take video and photographs to document police behavior, during protests and in other situations. 

From Partners

We’re mostly concerned with how delivery apps like Uber Eats, GrubHub, Door Dash & others hurt their delivery drivers. Here, ILSR looks at why they’re also bad for restaurants—and at what some cities are doing about it. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“If you’ve had Black employees, but they don’t tend to stay, did you treat it like any other churn problem and learn why?” Tiffany Ashley Bell, with questions for tech folks, some of which are relevant for all organizations. 

Migrant caregivers are stuck with their bosses 24/7 because of coronavirus. 

“The nation’s meatpackers along with federal and state officials have for years planned for pandemic flu outbreaks that could wipe out herds and flocks and threaten America’s food supply. But those efforts focused on animals rather than the army of humans—mostly immigrants, refugees and African Americans—hired to slaughter them and cut them up for restaurants and groceries.” Mother Jones looks at the response of meatpacking processors, to the coronavirus epidemic, and how they have worked to avoid local and state regulation of their plants

Uber continues to lay off office staff—last week, 200 Dutch workers found out they were being let go. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“As millions of people experience a sudden collapse of their income at the very moment their landlords are allowed to start kicking them out, other bills will also come due. Payments on millions of paused student loans will begin again at the beginning of October; the more than 4 million homeowners who received a six-month pause on their mortgage after April’s mass layoffs will need to start making payments again at the end of October.” The economy is likely to get a lot worse this fall.  

The ILWU is getting ready to shut down West Coast ports on Juneteenth, in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.

The New York attorney general is interviewing workers in Amazon warehouses about company retaliation against whistleblowers

Heeyyyyyyyyyy

You might find it hard to believe, but it’s been less than three months since we suspended the weekly newsletter. I’m bringing it back for now. Hope you have all been well, and I know you have all been busy, as the twin impacts of the pandemic and police violence have been felt so hard by the working people of our country–particularly the Black and indigenous people of color in all of our communities. Thank you for everything you are doing to fight for a more just society & economy.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…there’s a reason why so many elected officials relent when police contracts come up for renewal. The unions have political clout — offering politicians a big voting block of their members and those who support them. They also raise campaign contributions for elected officials who support their agenda.” Buzzfeed takes a look at how police unions influence efforts to reform the behavior of police.  Meanwhile, IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business, citing concerns about how the technology is being used for mass surveillance and racial profiling. 

Today in headlines that would have been hard to explain six months ago: “Uber will bail out food-delivery drivers arrested past curfew.” 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Workers have filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging that the company’s efforts at contact tracing to stop the spread of coronavirus in warehouses. One specific point of contention is that the company is only using surveillance from video cameras (which don’t cover all the areas where people might interact, just the places the company is worried about theft) to inform other workers that they may have been exposed. 

If you know that facial recognition software is effective worse at identifying people of color, maybe don’t use it to find photos to go along with robot-generated articles

“Despite its public statements, black users on Nextdoor are being silenced by community moderators after participating in discussions about race. Some are opting to leave the app altogether while others are considering moving out of their neighborhoods based on what they’ve seen on the platform. ‘As a black person, I don’t feel safe at all using it for anything,’ Kalkidan told The Verge. ‘I’m always terrified, thinking “Oh my god. I already know what so-and-so thinks of us.” This is a very horrible situation to be in.’” NextDoor communities expose racism & white supremacy in mixed-race communities. 

From Partners

New report from NELP: How Black workers are silenced when they try to speak out about COVID concerns in the workplace

Webinar, next week, by the Century Foundation: “Tackling child poverty in the wake of COVID-19” Register here

What’s Going on in the Workforce

CA farmworkers fear the spread of COVID in the crowded housing they are offered by farmers. 

CNN wonders—will the gig economy be the new normal for many people, after COVID?

All coronavirus, all the time

Organizing Theory

It’s inevitable that corporate America will seek some form of disaster capitalism (bailouts, tax cuts, etc.) through the shock of coronavirus. Take our one-question poll, “What should the left be focused on winning, in this moment of strategic leverage?” (important to note that friend-‘o-the-blog Jeff Ordower inspired this poll) 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

There is a lot of speculation about how the coronavirus will impact remote work, as more and more companies urge their workers to work from home. But I’ve seen less about automation speeding up. However, a hospital in Wuhan has now adopted robots to help clean rooms and deliver food.  And a printing equipment factory in China converted some of its automated machines to produce surgical masks. And in a stab in the heart of cashiers everywhere, Amazon announced that it will be opening access to Just Walk Out, the tech that allows it to run cashierless stores, to other retailers. 

Gig economy companies are under a lot of pressure to figure out how to protect workers during the coronavirus outbreak. Here, Sen. Mark Warner (VA) tells them they should pay people who are quarantined.  So far, Uber, Instacart, DoorDash & Lyft have all said they’ll pay drivers who have to self-quarantine if they are exposed, but Amazon Flex, Grubhub, Postmates said “nah.” Amazon will pay hourly workers at their various offices in Washington, who have to stay home.  Amazon warehouse workers in Illinois, on the other hand, just filed a complaint about the company failing to pay sick leave for any of them, despite a local law that’s been in effect for nearly 3 years.  

From Partners

Don’t miss this new film, focusing on the wonders of life in the gig economy. Playing in very short stints (and hopefully theaters that are un-impacted by coronavirus). h/t to friend-‘o-the-blog Wyatt Closs for sending this in. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Most of us on this list know why unrestricted funding is better for organizations—here’s a perspective on why it’s better for funders, too. 

You know who’s really misunderstood in our society? Billionaires

“Societies of the value of unpaid care work unless there is a disruption in the supply.” Women’s unpaid work is worth $10.9 trillion, worldwide. 

“The new warehouses will be built around A.I. robots and not humans.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“The new warehouses will be built around A.I. robots and not humans.” A look at the next generation of warehouse robots, which are learning how to sort in ways previously only available to humans. 
Job platform startup Boulo is expanding from Birmingham, AL to Jacksonville, FL. Organize the South, people! 

Need an odd job done? In at least one market, Amazon is rolling out a platform to connect customers with things like house cleaning or mounting wall TVs. 
Some lessons about remote work, from a survey of remote workers. (As a mostly-remote worker, I too would recommend working remotely) 

Thanks to California’s AB 5, San Diego just took a step towards forcing Instacart to pay their shoppers as employees, instead of independent contractors. 

Events

Cornell’s Institute of Labor Relations is holding a one-day forum on organizing app-based workers around the world. 

One of my favorite annual conferences is Organizing 2.0—this year, it’s April 17-18 in NYC. 

Organizing Theory

“…most established tracking and measurement systems don’t properly capture the dynamics and value of people-powered campaigning. While most organisations have developed sophisticated systems for tracking financial donations from supporters, there remains a marked lack of metrics that quantify and value other important contributions.” Fascinating new report from Mobilisation Lab, that has been studying how organizations measure the building of people power. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability


This article about a plan to pass AB-5-lite in New York, led by Gov. Cuomo (?) is…a whole thing, while in CA, Assemblywoman Gonzalez (author of AB 5) has introduced a bill to protect small restaurants from the likes of DoorDash, GrubHub & Uber Eats. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“Even full-time workers may find themselves dependent on their score in one category or another.” The Economist has discovered that ratings systems can be oppressive… 

From Partners

Our friends at the New Economy Coalition rolled out a new comprehensive package of policies to help build a solidarity economy. 

“…they also are eager to affirmatively crush collective worker action using antitrust.”

From Partners

“At the same time that antitrust enforcers meekly accept abuses of labor, they also are eager to affirmatively crush collective worker action using antitrust.” The Open Markets Institute takes a look at monopsony power in four recent court cases. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Grad students in Georgia are organizing to raise university workers’ raises

UNITE HERE and their allies have been fighting to make sure that hotel housekeepers are safe, through requiring employers to provide panic buttons. Now, the fight is on to make sure that panic button tech isn’t used to surveil workers

Uber has gotten a new permit to test self-driving cars in California, while more than 100 drivers in the state have filed wage theft complaints with the CA Labor Commissioner. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

It’s well-documented that Uber & Lyft could be doing more to keep racism off their platforms. Here’s a look at how racist fears of coronoavirus are affecting Asian-appearing drivers and passengers. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…by 1950, via the GI Bill, the American government spent more on education than the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe. But most American colleges and universities were closed to blacks, or open to only but a few in token numbers.” Please, tell me again how we can’t afford free college now that the US population has gotten both less white and more attuned to institutional racism.  Relatedly: what if we just collectively stopped paying our student loan debt? 

Dean Baker looks at historical trends in the US minimum wage, and finds that if it had kept place with productivity, it would be $24/hour today

Geeking Out

I don’t know what possessed anyone to figure out what the oldest, still-operating company in every country was—but it’s fascinating to look at. 

Robots at work and play