It’s tough to kill your darlings

But it’s time for me to admit that COVID killed this website–or rather, killed my ability to write a weekly newsletter about tech and organizing, at least for now.

If you’re interested in what I’m working on these days, check out my company’s website at New Working Majority. And of course–you can always hire me!

Stay safe, HTUers.


What should I do to support Bessemer workers?

If you’re on any kind of labor-related news or social media sites these days, you know that the RWDSU has a union election happening at an Amazon worksite in Bessemer, Alabama, covering about 5,800 workers. This is an historic election, not just for its size, but because it is led by Black women workers in the South.

Over the weekend, calls for a boycott of Amazon began to surface, and quickly spread across labor Twitter and Facebook, leading the union to put out a statement on Sunday saying that they did not call for, nor endorse, a boycott.

I understand completely why the union did this, and I don’t think a hastily-organized boycott is ever a good idea–but I think it’s also a missed opportunity to ask their supporters around the US to stand with workers in Bessemer, against the enormous pressure that is being put on them to vote “no” by their boss, who is one of the richest (and therefore most powerful) people on earth.

A disclaimer: as far as I know, I don’t know anyone personally working on the organizing campaign in Alabama, and I am not throwing shade on anyone in the RWDSU. This campaign is extremely exciting and I have every hope that they will win.

But historically, many unions have asked for very limited support from other unions, or from members of the general public in organizing drives, and I wonder if it’s time for us to start reimagining what a corporate campaign could look like, in the 21st century.

We just went through a year where people around the country spent their evenings and weekends texting total strangers to get them to vote–for president, for US senate, in state legislative races and Congressional ones. In the age of COVID, Americans have learned to have persuasive conversations with each other without being in person. If we had an organized support team in the labor movement, could we relieve the pressure from some organizers locally? Imagine a team of volunteers that Hustled every Alabama Democratic voter from the November election to come to the Black Lives Matter/BAmazon car caravan they’re having this weekend? Or generated phone calls from community members to the local government officials, in response to the news that they’d changed the stoplight timing to prevent the union from contacting workers?

To me, the speed at which the boycott call spread across the internet demonstrates that people understand the historic importance of this election–and want to do anything they can to help the union win, to fight the power of America’s #1 corporate behemoth. We are in a moment where inequality is more exposed than ever before to the general public. We need a way to get them in this fight with us. We don’t seem to have any trouble asking union supporters to support labor-endorsed candidates or legislation–see the calls to support the PRO Act that are currently spreading across those same labor social media sites.

Most unions are wary of enlisting the help of outsiders in organizing drives not least due to their very real fear of being accused of being outsiders. That’s completely understandable. But if we want to build a movement that is for the whole working class, we have to figure out ways for the whole working class to participate–even if they can’t be in Bessemer right now. If we are successful in passing the PRO Act, we could be having campaigns as large as the BAmazon drive occur faster than we can handle them with existing union staff, right now–who is thinking about how to decentralize and disaggregate some of the organizing work supporting this?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this–if you haven’t yet joined the new HTU Slack instance, please jump in!

We’d rather have e-bikes on our streets than FedEx trucks

We’ve all seen the stories of how the pandemic is impacting small businesses around the country—and the corresponding stories of how Amazon is growing larger at their expense. Here’s how one South Jersey town is taking an interesting approach to supporting their small business community by taking a page from the logistics behemoth. 

In January 2021, Collingswood, NJ launched a new program called Collingswood Prime. This program paired small businesses with a minority-owned e-bike delivery company called Bloc Delivery, to deliver products from those businesses to residents in town, two days per week. Historically, Collingswood has had a thriving downtown business that includes a small grocery store, as well as pet stores, music shops, kitchen supplies and a comic book store. 

In an interview, Collingswood Commissioner Rob Lewandowski talked to me about the genesis of the program. 

“We really see that part of the role of local government in business development is inviting people into our downtown—in normal times, that looks like pedestrian planning, throwing community events, improving accessibility, things like that. When COVID hit, we were presented with this hurdle—we’re telling people not to shop in person, so how do we get them to shop local, when they’re buying everything online? We’re telling store owners they have to limit how many people are in their store—how do we help them reach more customers online?

“Our traditional model wasn’t useful during the pandemic, so we reallocated our event budget to promoting local businesses in other ways. We think it’s much better for our town to have people buying things locally and having them delivered in an environmentally sustainable way, instead of having our streets crowded with FedEx and UPS trucks that are delivering things from far away warehouses.”

Collingswood Prime is a partnership between the town’s Business Improvement District and an employee-owned delivery service, Bloc Delivery. Customers are charged a transaction fee, on top of the cost of their purchase, which goes directly to the delivery company to pay for the delivery—that is not shared with either the businesses or the town government, instead it goes directly to the workers who own the delivery service. For its part, the township added a page to their website, advertising all the stores that are involved in the program and giving people a taste of what they sell, to help promote online shopping and local delivery.

“Our hope is that this continues past the pandemic,” Lewandowski told me.  “While residents can’t meet every single one of their needs by buying local, we want to show people that a lot of things that they buy are available in town, and we want them to keep relying on local stores when the need for social distancing and limits for how many people can shop in person is over.”

An open letter to readers of Hack the Union

Well, hi there! It’s been a minute—all on me, I know, as Hack the Union was suspended for probably more weeks of 2020 than it was published. 

As we move out of the chaos of 2020, and into the (even more?) chaos of 2021, I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of this website, and where it is going. 

I’ve spent the bulk of my career organizing in the liminal space where political organizing and labor organizing meet. And I’ve been lucky enough to do that in both large, multi-racial labor unions and in smaller, primarily BIPOC worker justice organizations. To be clear here: when I say “political,” I mean a combination of legislative, policy and electoral work—“politics” is more than just elections. Similarly, when I say “labor organizing,” I am talking about organizing workers to make a change at work—which includes, but is not limited to, winning NLRB elections or securing contracts. 

I started writing Hack the Union in 2013, because I was reading a lot about the then-nascent gig economy, but only in the tech press. At that point, few labor leaders were paying attention to what was going on in Silicon Valley. Suffice it to say, that problem has been remedied over the past eight years (not exclusively by me, but I’ll take some credit for it). Part of my lack of focusing on this newsletter, over the past year, has been driven by the knowledge that other people have started covering these stories, thanks to the explosion in labor journalism that was kicked off during the Trump era (I will not take any credit for that). 

At the same time, a lot of what had me distracted last year (in addition to *gestures vaguely* all the things) was the fact that I had to really split my focus. Starting in the second quarter, with the pandemic in full effect, I (like many of you) spent countless hours on phone calls and zooms, supporting workers who were standing up against employers that wouldn’t keep them safe, and fighting for excluded workers to get the cash they needed to keep them alive.  And simultaneously, because of the liminal nature of my work life, I was also spending a ton of time with folks who were trying to protect our democracy. Notice I do not say “with folks who were trying to elect Joe Biden.” That was an important side effect, but for most of the people I worked with, electing Biden was a secondary goal. 

That combination of pieces of work has me thinking a lot about what failures exist, in the labor movement (not to mention our democracy more broadly) when it comes to the political education of the working class. 

I had planned to take the Christmas holidays/end of year break as time to figure some things out, but it turned out that I was so exhausted, I didn’t do nearly the amount of thinking work that I wanted to do. Last week’s actions in the Capitol are not making me feel like I’m going to have the mental capacity to do a ton of that thinking in work in the immediate future, either. 

I’m writing this anyway, because I want you to hold me accountable to doing it. 

One of the hardest things for me in being a freelancer is feeling like I don’t have the space to do things that aren’t about earning money. (Deep thanks, to all those of you who are supporting my Patreon—but it’s not enough to pay my monthly phone bill, at this point—and I don’t even write something I charge for every month!.) Suffice it to say that while my other consulting business is pretty secure, Hack the Union is a solid demonstration of my failure to be a successful capitalist. Which is okay.

It’s okay—but if it’s important to YOU that this thing here continues to evolve, I need some help from. Here’s what I need (pick one or both):

  1. Schedule a 30-45-minute long meeting with me to talk about Hack the Union, in the first two weeks of February.
  2. Send me the name of one great organizer that you personally know, with a one-paragraph description of something that they’ve done that’s worth writing about. Bonus points if it includes that organizer’s contact information.

Thanks to you all. Love to your babies (human and fur). Dance with joy at the defeat of our enemies. May 2020s be the decade we earned, though our mutual, exhausting work in 2020. 

With love & solidarity,


“…governments can ensure higher wages for drivers without making everyone worse off.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…governments can ensure higher wages for drivers without making everyone worse off.” Not just drivers—everyone! The NY Times looks at NYC’s efforts to set minimum wages for ride-share drivers. 

California’s Prop 22 could be the state’s most expensive ballot measure of all time, as Uber & Lyft dump millions into the fight to prevent their drivers from making any real money, or having workplace protections. 

Organizing Theory

Want to learn how to run a platform cooperative (or turn your existing worker coop into a platform coop)? Here’s a new course from Mondragon to help you do it. 

From Partners

New study from EPI looks at how states in the South have used pre-emption to prevent workers from gaining new rights, in cities. 

National Women’s Law Center just put out a new report looking at “Me Too” workplace reforms at the state level. 

Geeking Out

How’s your state doing in the “recovery” (is it a recovery if people are still losing work?). Check out this new economic tracker

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“A woman in Orange County, Florida, reported working 117.5 hours in one two-week period. That would have entitled her to 37.5 hours of time-and-a-half overtime — if she were an employee. But since she was labeled an independent contractor, there was no OT.” The new work at home gig you definitely don’t want to get involves running an inbound call center in your house. 

Looks like Uber is maybe starting to get out of the freight business. 

The Perils of Trumpism

Millions of people are losing their jobs, permanently, as the federal government fails to act on the impact of the coronavirus on working people. 

In other terrible Trump news, the Administration is taking a step that might reduce agricultural wages. I know, you were thinking all those people picking tomatoes were buying too many yachts! 

“At some point, it will start to look like being Black is a pre-existing condition.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“At some point, it will start to look like being Black is a pre-existing condition.” This new piece from Bloomberg CityLab looks at how the pandemic has exacerbated inequality—in both health outcomes and economic ones. 

This new study takes a panoramic look at Latinx cooperatives in the US. 

Organizing Theory

A good walk-through of how to set up a mutual aid fund. 

Worried about how to deal with disinformation? Check out this new framework for how to deal with it, from Blueprints for Change. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Amazon’s injury rates have gone up each of the past four years, the internal data shows.” And surprise! They’ve been lying about it! But seriously, Prime Day is coming up—make sure you click this link and read about how terrible it is for worker safety, before you click that “Buy” button.  

DoorDash is telling customers that restaurants who don’t use its app are “too far away” and redirecting them to restaurants that are paying their commission. 

This new report underscores the terrible working conditions for migrant crab pickers in Maryland.

The Perils of Trumpism

Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg is…wait for it…not good for labor. Quelle surprise! 

From Partners

good curriculum, for anyone who is interested in doing civic engagement work with teenagers. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Um, no thank you. “Amazon One lets you pay with your palm” 

Seattle is forcing gig companies to pay hazard pay

What’s Going on in the Workforce

A new Seattle law aimed at forcing gig workers hazard pay for work performed during the pandemic has added $2.50/order to food delivery apps. So far, gig delivery drivers have received over $350,000 in back pay, since the law has been in effect. 

A new app wants to help gig drivers develop their own businesses, instead of relying on Uber or Lyft to do all their billing. 

In news that will surprise few people outside of the White House, health care workers are experiencing a COVID-induced mental health care crisis

Organizing Theory

Are you using technology to organize workers even more, since the onset of COVID-19? Take this quick survey about your satisfaction with worker organizing tech! 

Check out this interview with one of the worker-owners of Defector Media (the worker-owned cooperative being setup by laid-off Deadspin alums), on what it’s like to build a mutually-owned business from scratch

Robot of the Week

Not the robot—but the robotics CEO. Marc Raibert talks about his vision for Boston Dynamics, the company behind your favorite dystopian robot videos. Or maybe just MY favorite. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Ghost kitchens are turning parking lots into spots for your dinner to be cooked and picked up (by your favorite app drivers). 

And what’s going to happen to those gig drivers (and other gig workers), now that the unemployment insurance designed to help them is over. 

From Partners

Thanks to our friends at EPI for this new brief: “50 reasons the Trump Administration is bad for workers.” 

The Perils of Trumpism

ICE is sterilizing women. I realize that some of you won’t think that’s appropriate for a newsletter that is at its core focused on work, organizing and tech. But as a woman who has enjoyed complete control of her own uterus for her entire life, I can’t let it go unremarked. Fuck everyone who was involved with this. 

Is the pandemic speeding up job loss to automation?

What’s Going on in the Workforce

new report from the Philly Fed shows that automation is speeding up during the pandemic, leading to permanent job loss for some workers. 

As many as 4 million US workers (largely working moms) will be forced to leave the workforce, if they can’t find childcare that helps their kids learn remotely. Great job, US government! 

What happens to male models, after they leave the industry? 

Mother Jones has a new series about workers who quit jobs during the pandemic. Here’s a Bojangles (fast food) worker, talking about how she quit when customers were racist to her, so her boss rewarded them with free food. 

One Uber driver talks about how she’s kept driving during the pandemic—and how she’s lost income, because of how much time she takes cleaning her car between rides. 

From Partners

Check out this Kickstarter from our friends at Big Bowl of Ideas, for their project to put up murals thanking essential workers for what they’ve done to keep us all safe, during covid-19. 

Organizing Theory

Blueprints for Change has translated their guide to distributed organizing! Spanish version here  & French here.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

White workers have been getting re-employed twice as fast as Black workers, after pandemic-related layoffs. 

The Seattle Drivers’ Union just delivered over 1600 driver signatures to their City Council, demanding that rideshare drivers get fair pay. 


The Century Foundation is partnering with Rep. Barbara Lee to talk about How to Implement Reparations in America


Historically, we’ve occasionally posted jobs in this newsletter. I’ve been getting so many jobs sent to me that I decided to start a separate newsletter just for jobs. If you’re interested in that, you can subscribe here!

“I never wanted to be a 1950s housewife, and I feel like that’s kind of what I am now.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“I never wanted to be a 1950s housewife, and I feel like that’s kind of what I am now. A few years ago, I was at the White House interviewing the First Lady, and now I’m adjudicating battles between Pokémon players.” The impact of the pandemic on working mothers’ careers is going to be felt for years to come. 

It’s not just fast food workers who are complaining about racial discrimination within McDonald’s—50+ Black franchise owners just filed a suit claiming discrimination from the company, too.  Meanwhile, nearly 50% of Black-owned small businesses have been shut down due to COVID. 

From Partners

New report from the Open Markets Institute: “Eyes Everywhere: Amazon’s Surveillance Infrastructure and Revitilizing Worker Power.”  Relatedly, if you blink you might have missed this news—Amazon posted job openings for researchers to surveil their own workforce for signs of unionization, then pulled them offline after facing criticism. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Just to put this in perspective, MIOSHA has received more complaints this year since March, than were received in 2018 and 2019 combined. Michigan’s state-level health & safety agency has investigated an unprecedented number of workplace safety complaints, in the pandemic. 

Uber may face big fines in California, for fighting regulators who were seeking information on sexual harassment complaints filed by riders and drivers. 

Chuck Collins & Frank Clemente, on why we need a one-time tax on billionaires’ pandemic financial gains

Organizing Theory

Nobody needs to be killed for just believing in something.” The Verge talks to 11 people who filmed acts of police violence. (content warning) 


Looking for organizing work that combines labor activism with climate justice? Look no further