Ride-share drivers are striking May 8th!

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Ridesharing drivers in cities around the world plan to strike this week, in advance of Uber’s IPO. 

Tesla manufacturing workers: “we’d like a more predictable schedule.” Tesla: “how about the ability to borrow against your paycheck?” Tesla workers: “nobody asked for that.” 

The Perils of Trumpism

Shocking possibly no one, the Trump Secretary of Labor does not support raising the minimum wage. 

And while we’re (still) talking about the terrible nature of the Trump DoL (seriously, will we ever get to stop?)—last week, at the end of April they stated the obvious—they think platform workers are independent contractors, and won’t be doing anything about misclassification. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Ever wonder what Amazon knows about you? Check out all the kinds of information that the company is collecting about users. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Workers for some of the biggest companies in the US talk about their struggles with poverty wages. Is capitalism broken, or is it working as it was intended? 

“It’s the unspoken racism that’s most damaging.” What’s it like to be a Black chef in a fine dining restaurant

“They’re monitored and supervised by robots.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“They’re monitored and supervised by robots.” How Amazon is using data to fire up to 10% of its warehouse workforce each year, for failing to make steep productivity goals.  And in Utah, they’ve just opened a warehouse with more robots than people

“75% of the drivers in this study said that they had never had a drink or meal with anyone else who had ever driven for Uber.”   Georgetown’s Katie Wells & her team interviewed 40 TNC drivers in DC. Check out what they found, and why she coined the term “slippery wages,” in this new report that clearly demonstrates the need for more organizing in the ride-share workforce. 

“Going on strike is a right in the French constitution, just like the freedom of speech. There was a national yellow vest movement, my client wanted to take part in it. Is he supposed to stay silent on that national movement just because he’s an Amazon employee?” How Amazon workers in France are fighting to stop the company’s expansion

Before you laugh off the efforts of Instagrammers to unionize, remember this: “Memers aren’t direct employees of these tech platforms, nor are they independent contractors for them. But they produce, directly or indirectly, the bulk of these platforms’ income.” 

Organizing Theory

If you teach teenagers how ads are lying to them, it helps them make better choices about eating. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Colorado is leading the nation on expanding employee ownership

“Being saddled with any form of debt is exhausting, but student-loan debt is its own beast.” Four young Americans talk about their struggles with student debt

“With each beverage-less order, restaurants sacrifice a lucrative piece of their business.” How the ease of home delivery is changing the restaurant business

“We can’t afford to live in the cities where we work…”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“We can’t afford to live in the cities where we work, so there are parking lots throughout the Bay Area where Uber and Lyft drivers congregate, sleeping in their cars between hours-long shifts — many doing so for a few days before driving back to their homes in Vallejo, Sacramento, Stockton or other cheaper cities.” On the cusp of Uber’s IPO, ride-share drivers are organizing harder than ever before And with the failure of both Uber & Lyft to protect women drivers and riders from sexual harassment in cars, can you blame them? 

If you’re the victim of a classic New Yorker backlog, you may not have seen this piece about the development of a robot to pick strawberries. 

Amazon warehouse workers are on strike in Germany this week. 

From Partners

Running a union and want to check out whether your digital program is healthy? Check out the new tool from the UK’s TUC Digital team. 

Geeking Out

MIT researchers have developed a robot that can aid in recyclable sorting—it doesn’t look at objects, it uses fingers to see how squishy they are, to determine whether they’re paper, metal or glass. 

I had a brief chat last week with the founder of Trusted Herd, who is trying to do gig reputation right, for people who work in the event management industry. I’ll be curious to see how this develops. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Is your phone showing you a Dunkin’ Donuts coupon every time you drive past a store? Thanks, Waze, for selling our location data for hyperlocal marketing. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The New Republic argues that the Green New Deal and the fight for reparations should be more closely linked together, if not fought as one. 

In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, Ikea has started growing lettuce and other greens in shipping containers outside of their stores, in Scandinavia. 

Employee ownership of work is increasing—including in some industries you might not suspect. 


Next Thursday morning, Dr. Katie Wells & others will be presenting at a Georgetown meeting: “The Uber Workplace in DC: Who’s in the Driver’s Seat?” 

Hello…I vant to deliver your blood…

What’s Going on in the Workforce

UPS is piloting drone delivery of the blood supply. Insert your vampire bat joke of choice here… 

The Open Markets Institute looks at the impact of monopolies on workers and others, in America’s food production. 

A growing number of UK companies are moving to a four-day workweek—and finding increased productivity is the result. 

Immigration issues, and a lack of overall respect for the profession is causing worker shortages in the home care industry. 


I don’t usually post fundraising events on this blog, but I have to make an exception for the National Employment Law Project’s 50th Anniversary event. These are the movement lawyers for every US working people’s organization. Dig deep.

Geeking Out

You know what every autonomous floor-buffing robot needs? A smiley face painted on the front.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The Connecticut legislature is taking a step towards banning non-competes for low-wage workers. 

The unemployment rate for Black workers is still 2x the rate for white workers. 

Jersey City, NJ wants to mandate that all ride-sharing companies provide their drivers with illuminated signage, after a New Jersey woman was murdered in SC when she got into a car she thought was her Uber. 

Organizing Theory

One way of making people understand the scale of the plastics-in-the-ocean problem? Exhibit it in a museum

White activists are contributing to the burnout of activists of color. This is not an April Fool’s joke.

Organizing Theory

This new study looks at how white activists are contributing to activist burnout, with activists of color in the US.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Workers are pushing back against the use of biometric data for identification at work, especially when companies aren’t transparent about how that data is stored.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Tech workers in the UK are creating projects with ending Brexit in mind.

From Partners

NELP has released a report looking at how Handy has lobbied to change employee misclassification laws to advance their business model of independent contracting, in several states.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Unions were highlighted on stage during the Game Developers Choice Awards last week in SF—despite the fact that no major game developer has unionized yet.
Could drivers’ strikes impact the success of Uber & Lyft’s IPOs? “…once you pass your background test anybody can drive. Uber should put a cap on drivers.” It’s not just big cities that are experiencing a glut of drivers. It’s everywhere.
The New York Supreme Court just ruled that it’s okay to require home care workers to work without pay for 11 hours of a 24-hour shift.


Geeking Out

I know, I’m a weirdo. But a new Boston Dynamics video will always brighten my day.

Customer ratings systems—they’re not just for gig economy companies anymore!

Original Content

Customer ratings systems—they’re not just for gig economy companies anymore! Here’s why it’s a problem that so many companies are asking us to rate their employees for them. 

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. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Uber drivers are demanding their data from the company in the UK, asserting that they have a right to it under the GDPR. 

Organizing Theory

Yesterday & today, people interested in the gig economy & the city have been attending a conference in Philly. Follow the hashtag #platformecon to see what they said. Relatedly, Juliana Feliciano Reyes profiled the city’s labor enforcement office and found it wanting. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Uber Freight is expanding to the EU, starting in the Netherlands. 

A worker-owned, refugee-founded cleaning company in Australia just signed a contract with Airbnb

From Partners 

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the Open Markets Institute and others have called on the FTC to ban worker non-compete clauses

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Connecticut just took a big step toward regulating how much ride-sharing drivers get paid out of the fees that customers pay on apps. 

Kickstarter workers are organizing a union with the OPEIU. 

“This is about person-to-person organizing,” Rideshare drivers in LA are striking this week, and know that it will take more than a one-day strike to bring Uber & Lyft to the table. 

“…increases in state minimum wages in recent years have been associated with decreases in suicide rates.” Welp. Probably should do more of those, then. 

The Business of Rating Workers

There’s a lot on this blog about the need to protect workers’ reputations, in the digital era. Today, I want to spend a little time talking about what it means that so many corporations are essentially handing over some or all of their management of front-line workers to customers. Because part of what it means is that we’re all doing unpaid labor for corporate America, and that’s not good for anyone. 

Whenever I buy something at my local post office, before the woman who serves me hands me the receipt, she uses a highlighter to circle the customer service survey on it and asks me to fill it out. Because I know she’s protected by a union, I throw it out and don’t bother to do the survey. I’m not worried that she’s going to be fired for having either bad or non-existent customer service scores. 

But more and more, it seems like every transaction I make offers me the opportunity to rate the employee who provided it to me. There are extreme examples, like Uber & Lyft—where I know that if I rate any driver at less than five stars, I’m threatening their livelihood (or at least their access to the app). There’s the innocuous survey a hotel sends after a stay, that asks about how happy I am about the housekeeping service. Open Table, after I eat at a restaurant, wants me to rate it on a variety of metrics, including service—and so does GrubHub, if I order food in instead of eating out. I buy a flip-chart pad at Staples, and the cashier makes a special point to ask me to do the survey on the receipt, because she’s new and needs good ratings. 

Corporations have a clear value proposition for asking their customers to rate them: it makes the customer feel like their opinion is valued, for a start. In the extreme cases, like ride-share drivers, it allows the company to essentially dispense with any direct management of front-line workers—if the driver isn’t making enough customers happy, they’re just gone. 

Am I actually getting anything in return for doing any of this rating, though? Or am I just helping companies justify eliminating substantive feedback from a frontline manager that would be much more useful to the employee, and slash staffing costs by reducing the amount of time that managers are given to manage. Do I have any incentive to give honest feedback about a service sector worker or ride share driver who made a human mistake, if I know that anything less than 5 stars might cost them their job?

With all these ratings systems, there doesn’t seem to be much ability for companies to ferret out the biases and prejudices of their customers, in order to take that into account. Should a company allow racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist, Islamophobic or transphobic customers the same ability to rate their employees that they would anyone else? What if I’m a Karen just having a crappy day, and decide to take it out on a retail worker? 

We’ve made some real progress, as a movement, at making cities and states understand their needs to regulate the gig economy, and to put limits on algorithmic scheduling that causes upheaval in working people’s lives. It’s time for us to start thinking about how to put limits on these rating systems. 

For example—can we pass local or state legislation that expressly forbids companies from solely using customer ratings to terminate workers or contractors? Can we force companies that are asking us to essentially replace some key management functions to pay us for that labor? Can we require that they allow regulators to poke around in their algorithms, to understand what they are doing to control for biased customers? Can we call a one-day “ratings strike” where we all agree to give every worker we encounter five stars, or refuse to participate in ratings at all? 

Until we band together and agree to stop doing companies’ unpaid labor to manage their workforce, service sector and gig economy workers are going to suffer the indignity of asking every customer to give them the highest rating possible.

“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… 


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. 


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…