“We are a struggle machine, if we choose to see ourselves this way.”

Hi folks–another exciting announcement this week–Julia Carrie Wong is joining us as a new writer on the blog. Look for new original content to start rolling out in the week of March 10th!

Organizing Theory

“We are a struggle machine, if we choose to see ourselves this way.” Great video interview with Change to Win’s Valerie Alzaga about the international organizing model used by the SEIU Justice for Janitors campaign—including how the union saw changing their organizing model for existing members as a critical piece of strengthening the ability to organize new workers. Long, but super worth it.

Americans are watching even less live TV than ever—ditching it in favor of mobile video. What does this mean for people who are buying campaign ads?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Car sharing moves further into the EU, with new service, Wundercar, launching in Berlin. Meanwhile, could self-driving cars upend the concept of car-sharing?

Peers & Social Capital Markets are hosting a two-day conference in San Francisco in May, to talk about the sharing economy. To get updates, click here.

Are all for-profit firms inherently cooperatives?

From Partners

In the US and looking for state-specific data on income inequality? Check out this new report from the Economic Policy Institute, featuring work by friend-o-the-blog Mark Price, the most profane economist I know.

Geeking Out

Amazed by some of the Olympic coverage? Thank a camera mounted on a drone.

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

These college students are pushing a crazy idea in income egalitarianism—namely, that the president of their college shouldn’t make more than 10X the salary of their lowest-paid workers.

Freelancers in the EU have launched a fundraising campaign to be able to lobby in Brussels, to make sure freelance labor is counted, and to ensure they’ve got a seat at the table when new laws are being written. The goal? 5,000 euros.

I’d be curious to hear the Teamsters’ side of this story, but it sounds like UPS did some smart thinking about how to roll out computer-assisted route-mapping to their drivers—and saving 98 million minutes of idling time in one year is no joke.

“A world in which a healthy adult has the reasonable expectation of earning a decent living while working full-time at a market wage is absolutely a world in which the dignity of work is a useful social value to cultivate. In a world in which that is not a reasonable expectation, the dignity of work can be a harmful concept.” ~The Economist. Let that sink in.

It’s a common theory that the easiest jobs to automate are the ones that require the least education—but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening.

Sometimes I feel like we’ve got a problem of overwork AND a problem of underwork. Can we just get some balance?

Awesome look at regulations on the use of temp workers, in the US and around the world, from ProPublica.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

Are we allowing ourselves to be shut out of options in life because we’re trapped in algorithmic prisons?

“We need to update our nightmares.”

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

“We need to update our nightmares.” Zeynep Tufekci on the double-edge of tools that can be used for both resistance & surveillance.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The statement, “the economics (of the sharing economy) make sense” is up for debate, IMO.

But it’s also true that the old economy wasn’t working for many of us either. What’s the middle ground going to look like? Freelancers’ Union has an interesting interview up with Janelle Orsi, a lawyer who specializes in sharing economy legal questions. These researchers looked at the impact AirBnB is having on hotels in one US city. Amsterdam has done some revisions to their business permitting, to make it easier for private home-owners to rent rooms or apartments on AirBnB. Ride-sharing is one solution to a taxi shortage. Taxi-sharing is another. Would you split a cab to the airport?

Andrew Bibby has started a six-part series, for the Guardian, on co-op business models. Here’s the first entry—“Can co-ops compete?”

From Partners

LA folks—you might be interested in this conference, being organized at UCLA next week “Race, Labor & the Law”.

Geeking Out

Will machine learning mean that Google eventually knows when you’re home to receive a package, via drone or driverless car? Maybe.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

We move ever-closer to a world of distributed workforce, at least for white-collar workers. Here’s an interesting infographic that shows growth of co-working.

If you want to know why so many fast food & retail employees are rising up lately, check out this blog post from the Peet’s Workers Group—I haven’t seen a better round up describing the set of practices called the Disposable Employee Model.

“If someone has been in an internship long enough that they no longer need any training, then it’s no longer an internship: it is a job without pay.” Yup.

Does the UAW’s narrow loss at VW last week give them an opening to experiment with minority unionism?

Organizing Theory

Should worker centers & other Alt-Labor groups explicitly disavow their intentions to negotiate with employers, in order to protect themselves against injunctions for secondary boycotts? Michael Duff, professor at University of Wyoming’s law school argues they should, in this paper.

You wanna get members involved in online activism? Check out this FB page, that’s engaging teachers by getting them to post pictures in their schools of repairs that are being put off, while new technology is being purchased.

Is your non-profit spending more to get new donations, while failing to attract repeat donors? Bloomerang claims they can help stop the bleeding. And while we’re on the subject of fundraising—if you’re looking to kickstarter.com to start a project—you might want to read this first. Taxes will be paid!

“These technologies are not enabling people to meet their potential; they’re instead exploiting people.”

ICYMI—I wrote a post at the end of last week about Universal Basic Income…if you’re interested in that subject, you might join this FB group, promoting labor’s involvement in that struggle.

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Moshe Marvit’s got the story of the week in the Nation, about how Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service is creating a new kind of exploitation among online workers, who are largely uncovered by existing labor law, and get paid an estimated $2 per hour.

If a 3D printer can print a house in 24 hours, what will that mean for the construction trades?

What can a swarm of robots do that a swarm of humans can’t?

UK university lecturers are striking for a third time, after being told they’d be docked a full day’s pay for a two hour strike.

If you’re interested in precarious work for academics in the US, you might want to follow this tumblr, which features stories by folks who are stuck in the dumps of precarious work, like this one.

Organizing Theory

Are you thinking about how to use mobile as part of your online fundraising strategy, or wondering how to raise money from millennials? Are you fighting right-wing attacks that will make it harder for your union to collect dues through paycheck deduction? You might want to check out this article by TechPresident on innovation in the “frictionless donation” world.

Developing a blogger outreach program for your organization? Read these tips.

From Partners

Communicopia has done an update of their 2012 report on how non-profit organizations integrate digital into their organizing theory. Hybrid teams work best, it seems.

Geeking Out

I can’t wait until every conference is full of iPads on wheels, video streaming us all as we sit on our own couches. For a vision of that future, click here.

Teenager uses 3D printer to make a robohand for neighbor kid who was born missing fingers. Verklempt.

In the “You REALLY Can’t Make This Up” department—a new Disney video features lovable surveillance drones.

Are Twitter bots a new kind of public art, that make us question our relationship to algorithms? Maybe.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Is the city of Chicago discriminating against traditional taxi drivers by refusing the regulate sharing-economy ride services? This lawsuit says they are.

The National Worker Cooperative Conference is being held in Chicago from May 30-June 1. More info on that here.

Workers who have taken over factories in the EU and beyond gathered in Marseille last month to talk best practices, and brainstorm ways to include their communities in their struggles for self-determination.

An excellent article about how a black-owned consumer co-op in South Carolina helped launch the voting rights movement.

Final Thoughts

“…it’s easy to get rich by getting a state asset at a deep discount.”

Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality

Why Labor should join the fight for Universal Basic Income

This country is ripe for a conversation about how to adjust our economy to the realities of the digital revolution, but that conversation is barely happening. Just as all workers (not just farmer laborers) were affected by the transition from the Agricultural to Industrial economies, all workers today—whether they are corporate lawyers, fast food workers, or taxi drivers—are facing technological change that impacts (or threatens to utterly destroy) their work.

Nearly 200 years ago, the labor movement developed the demand for an 8-hour work day as part of their response to the Industrial Revolution. In the intervening 200 years, many things have changed—but for the most part, our economic demands haven’t.

Why are we still holding full-time, permanent work as the gold standard of our movement?

We continue to tie our economic demands to particular employers, because that’s how unions have been institutionally successful—by bargaining with specific employers, and then collecting dues from the specific employees of those employers. Employers, in the Industrial Age, were willing to have that relationship because it got them what they wanted—labor peace in specific industries, and for the most part, in specific geographies.

Employers don’t seem to want that anymore.

What they want is to take advantages of the productivity gains that technology produces—more part-time work, more contract labor, more flexible arrangements.

Happily, I think we can also conclude that most workers don’t oppose productivity gains—they like technology that makes their jobs easier, and safer, and faster—but they don’t want to be left out of the wealth that increased productivity creates. Similarly, as we have more and more struggles around “work/life balance” we can conclude that less time at work will not be unwelcome to most of the workforce—as long as it is not accompanied by a huge net loss in income.

We need to build a labor movement that plays to the things employers want—but also makes them see that, without a social safety net that supports a flexible workforce, they will have no labor peace. The union of the future won’t be the one that figures out how to bargain with Facebook over their use of contract labor—it will be the one that figures out how to represent people to fight for benefits outside the workplace, as well as inside. In fact, it might not be a union at all.

We don’t, however, only need a new model of worker organization—we need a new way of talking about work, in our movement. We’ve spent a lot of time promoting the value that all work has dignity, and is deserving of respect. We say things like, “no one who works full-time should live in poverty.” We write articles & opinion pieces, extolling the times when we had something close to full employment as being “the best of times.”

When we make moral statements that only promote the value of work, we lock ourselves into a rhetoric, by extension, that only workers have value—and that makes it hard for us to reframe the demand for full-time work into one for a full-time livelihood, regardless of the number of hours spent at work.

It will take a big leap, in the labor movement, from saying “no one who works full-time should live in poverty,” to “no one should live in poverty.” From saying, “we need full employment” to saying “we need a full livelihood.” But if we want to dream big—if we really believe that technology is transforming work into a wholly different thing, the way that it did during the Industrial Revolution—we need to take that big leap.

Progressives in general—and worker activists in particular—should join the fight for a universal basic income.

Right now, the 1% are the people who are gaining most from the huge increases in productivity that we’ve seen over the past two decades. They are reaping enormous profits, while shedding jobs, destroying communities and disrupting our economy. We need a movement that demands that all of us deserve the benefits of productivity increases—and understands that those benefits may not come in the form of full employment, but in part-time leisure.


(Note—if you’re interested in learning more about universal basic income, here are a group of articles that have helped to shape my thinking about it: http://bitly.com/bundles/katisipp/f)


Expansion Mode

First up–exciting news at Team HtU. Thanks to some fundraising success, we’re finally going to be a real team (no longer a team of one). I’m very excited to announce that Wyatt Closs & Douglas Williams have agreed to start doing some writing for this blog. See more about the two of them here. Look for additional content from them, in the coming weeks.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Some folks who are trying to spread co-working in NYC came up with this innovative idea—why not co-work at the Met? or a wine bar? (that last one would not be conducive to my own personal productivity, but YMMV).

If you’re using your personal car to operate as a Lyft driver, you might find that your personal car insurance isn’t willing to cover you, if you get in an accident. Commercial insurance may be financially out of reach for folks who are only driving once or twice a week. Will something fill the gap?

Interested in the history of Britain’s co-ops? This archive’s got you covered.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

Don’t want Google Glass to record your every trip to the bathroom? You may be in luck.

You probably don’t have a great understanding of how your credit score gets determined. What kind of regulation do we need, if we’re about to adopt even more kinds of biased, algorithmic scoring?

Do you need to figure out if breaking news is real or manufactured? Check out this how-to manual for journalists and others.

From Partners

Friend-o-the-blog Andrew Brady from global solidarity network USi Live is coming to the Eastern Seaboard in late March, to build relationships with US unions. If you want to meet him in Philly, check out this event. And follow Organizing 2.0 on FB for info about when he’ll be in NYC.

Did you know that corporate America gets bigger tax breaks if they pay their CEOs more? Seems perverse. Rep. Lloyd Doggett & Sens. Reed & Blumenthal are working on a fix.

Geeking Out

“We have to do things that cannot be tackled by apps.” What are the political consequences of embracing an app-based solutionist culture? Evgeny Morozov opines that we’re outsourcing, to corporations, solutions we used to expect from government. Bonus quote? “We should throw out venture capitalists.”

Not only do androids dream of electric sheep, they now appear to be able to write the modern day version of “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Interested in what it’s like to start a worker-owned co-op? Here’s a great series of first-person blog posts from a guy who’s working with others to do that.

I’m guessing it takes a special kind of person to eat for three hours a day in front of a web cam. But for $9K US a month, people will do special things.

Distributed workplaces are complicated. Imagine what it’s like to lay off people in large groups when they’re scattered across the country? Now listen to this phone call, where someone from Patch actually does that. Then, go take a shower, as I guarantee you will feel dirty.

Foxconn is building a factory in the US. Think that means good news for US workers? Think again. US robots, on the other hand? It’s good news for you.  Google’s purchase of AI company DeepMind has this Oxford University professor worried we ALL may be losing our jobs sooner than we think.

As a single mom with two kids who lives in the Philly metro area, I’d need to work 147 hours a week at Wal-Mart to make a secure living. Wanna know what you’d need to earn?