“…hackers may be their own worst enemies.”

Original Content

Have you seen Douglas Williams’ new post, “Occupying the 21st Century: The Rise of Leftism in American Youth Organizing” yet? If you like our original content, consider contributing to Hack the Union via Patreon

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…the companies run by the CEOs who were paid at the top 10% of the scale, had the worst performance…” Forbes reports on a study out of the University of Utah’s School of Business.

There probably hasn’t been a region more impacted by technology than the Bay Area. The SF Chronicle took an in-depth look at how the sharing economy is playing out through AirBnB rentals in SF…

Want a storefront, but only want to rent it for one day? Check out Storefront.

From Partners

Economic Policy Institute has a new paper out detailing why raising wages is the central economic challenge for the US right now. Friend of the blog Mariya Strauss wrote a post about why raising women’s pay, in particular, would be good for the economy.

Organizing Theory

SEIU UHW’s Dave Regan has a proposal for how unions can expand political access through ballot initiative access in 24 states. Since I’m spending most of this week at a training on how to run ballot initiative campaigns, it’s of particular interest to me.

And also out of SEIU–Local 775 president (and early backer of this effort) David Rolf, on how labor should learn lessons from start-up culture, by investing deeply, innovating often, and not being afraid to fail.

Geeking Out

Want to play a game that will teach you all about supply chains? Check out Factorio.

What’s Going on in the Workforce?

The Freelancer’s Union just put out a report on the growth of their membership—and some inferences about what’s going on with freelancers more generally.

Last week, the story of a man who automated a co-worker’s job. This week? A man who outsourced his own.

Tech journalist Quinn Norton interviews her mother on what it’s like to be poor and uninsured in the US.

Will you like it better when your boss is a robot?  How about if it’s your lawyer? (Insert obligatory lawyer joke here.)

You thought the automation of waitstaff was just about reducing labor costs? It’s more insidious than that. Turns out, the real reason Chili’s wants a tablet to take your order, instead of a human, is so that you’ll order more food.

Final Thoughts

“…hackers may be their own worst enemies. By claiming that the Net is uncontrollable, they are absenting themselves from the process of creating the system that will control it. Having given up any attempt to set the rules, they are allowing the rules to be set for them. Corporations are by no means intrinsically malign, but it is folly to think that their interests will always dovetail with those of the public.”

Charles Mann, “Taming the Web”, Technology Review (September 2001)

Occupying the 21st Century: The Rise of Leftism in American Youth Organizing

In 2010, the Pew Research Poll did a survey measuring people’s reactions to different political philosophies. They found that even though all age groups in America were opposed to socialism, the highest proportion of support, 43 percent, came in the 18-29-year old bracket. When they repeated the survey 18 months later, they found that young people now favored socialism more than they did capitalism in addition to giving socialism a plus-six favorability margin.

That finding made national news. After all, it had been 87 years since a leftist candidate carried a state in a presidential election (Robert M. LaFollette carried his home of Wisconsin in 1924) and 72 years since the last socialist governor in America stepped down (Gov. Elmer Austin Benson from Minnesota’s Farmer-Labor Party, who left office in 1939). Sewer socialism had long since gone out of style, with Milwaukee’s Frank Zeidler serving as the last socialist mayor of a major city until he left office in 1960. In that period, we have experienced: an embargo against Cuba, the ramping up (and eventual defeat) of American forces in Vietnam, the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the 1972 humiliation of George McGovern, Reaganism, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In 2010, we watched as Republicans successfully painted President Obama, who is a DLC-style centrist at best, as a socialist on their way to a 63-seat gain in the House.

But some things have happened since that dark day in November of 2010 that has given rise to a leftist tendency in America’s youth.

With the recession lifting the slowest for young people across the world and normally sympathetic governments introducing punishing austerity measures, young people started taking to the streets across the world in 2010. The most well known of these were the Indignados movements that gripped both Spain and Greece. The sometimes deadly protests against government’s acquiescence to unrestrained capital unleashed realignments in both countries politics: Spain’s center-left Socialists suffered a historic defeat while the United Left and Podemos have risen on the scene, and Greece’s long-dominant party of the center-left, PASOK, suffered a similar humiliation at the same time the left-wing SYRIZA party sextupled their vote between 2009 and 2012.

Much like that critically-acclaimed Japanese horror movie that finally makes its way to America, so too did these movements come from abroad in the form of Occupy Wall Street and its governing body, the New York City General Assembly. Their occupation of Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park became a lightning rod in a nation where mass protests of rapacious capitalism had not been en vogue since the Johnson administration. The rallying cry of “We Are The 99%” rung out from Lower Manhattan and touched disaffected youth across America, and the Occupy movement itself would eventually extend its reach just as much. Cities as diverse as Chicago, Minneapolis, Atlanta; Biloxi, Mississippi; and Columbia, Missouri. Hell, there was even an Occupy Tuscaloosa group that organized out of the University Presbyterian Church not far from campus. Many, if not all, of these Occupy groups were led by young people.

But as many have pointed out, Occupy Wall Street did not lead to a concrete gain in support for one political agenda or another. You did not see new political parties sweep out of nowhere on a national scale, and the electoral successes that leftists have had are on a very local scale. President Obama was re-elected, in part, by co-opting the message of the “99 percent” during the 2012 campaign; of course, many of his moves since then have been in the service of, well, anyone but the working class. But you did see folks like Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren, who famously referred to herself as laying the “intellectual foundation” for Occupy Wall Street, sweep to the United States Senate that same year. And were it not for Occupy Wall Street’s message of reducing inequalities, would we be talking about a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont as a legitimate threat to the Democrats’ chances of winning a third consecutive presidential election? And while the victory of Kshama Sawant in Seattle might have been functionally been a drop in the bucket, the fact that she won in a city that young people have flocked to (and stayed put) during the recession should give naysayers a bit of pause.

One organization that came out of the Occupy movement was the Ohio Student Association (OSA). This youth-led organization began in the winter of 2012 when Will Klatt, Stuart McIntyre, and other youth from across Ohio came together in Columbus to form a group that would advocate for Ohio’s youth on the issue of student debt, which is higher today than it has ever been. They got to work in fairly short order, helping to put together a national organizing conference for student leftists in Columbus that summer. The National Student Power Convergence featured seminars, breakout sessions, keynotes from people like Naomi Klein and organizers of the Quebec student protests ongoing at the time, and a march to the Obama for America office near Ohio State University to protest all the ways in which the Obama administration has left young people behind.

After the 2012 elections, they faced the challenge that all youth-based organizations face at some point: How do we keep youth interested and involved? The “moments of intensity” that power student organizations, as McIntyre described them to me, were self-evident in 2012 with a presidential election dumping millions into the Buckeye State and a hotly-contested U.S. Senate race, both won by Democrats. But moving into 2013, how were they going to continue the momentum that they had built up? The answer was to shift the focus from college campuses and the issues those students face to a broader focus on community-building and organizing around issues that affect all youth. According to McIntyre, “Many of us went to urban public schools in Ohio, and so we built a base that looks like the schools we went to. And while many of the students involved were still college students, many of their friends and families chose not to attend college due to financial concerns. We have never wavered in our commitment to educational justice.” As a part of that shift, the OSA organized around issues that affect a broader cross-section of young people like Stand Your Ground and the school-to-prison pipeline. They also participated in the celebrations surrounding the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Summer, where racial justice activists from all over the country gathered in Mississippi to register Black voters in 1964; it was also a movement that paralleled today’s progressive organizing in the large numbers of youth that were involved.

With all of their successes, it was natural that I would ask Klatt and McIntyre what they would suggest to leftist youth in places like Alabama who seek to form their groups committed to social justice and educational equality. Their answer was clear: long-term planning.

Klatt’s assertion that 90 percent of organizing groups like the OSA is dependent on ground conditions is an important one; the desire for instant gratification is strong for organizers of all ages in areas where progressivism and leftism feels relegated to a kind of permanent minority status. We often look for the perfect leader, candidate, or philosophy that will lead us to organizational or policy gains, and we are disappointed just as frequently. The forces aligned against the young, poor, and workers were not assembled in a day or an election cycle, and so it will go for the entities that organize to defeat such reactionary forces. This is why groups like The Dream Defenders are so important to the future of youth activism: they are able to clearly define the issues that affect our communities and execute actions that will highlight just how destructive our political system can be towards them.

The future is bright for those who wish for a more inclusive and just vision for American society.

Will better facial recognition mean we need to protect the right to lie?

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

Will we someday need to advocate for the right to lie, because Google Glass could let wearers know you might be lying?

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

If you’ve never clicked on a video (or if you’ve clicked on all of them) in this newsletter…click on this one. Not only the best meeting I’ve been to this year—basically, the fundamental question I am asking with this blog.

Before we have self-driving cars, we’ll have self-driving trucks.

Robot-assisted surgery might be safer and more cost-effective than that featuring only humans.

Read one man’s story of how he automated the job of a co-worker…kinda by accident.

Robot security guard. That looks like a Dalek. Sort of.

From Partners

How does CEO pay increase stock distribution to shareholders at the expense of job creation? This new Roosevelt Institute report shows us the way.  And on a related note—Walmart really has figured out how to game the (tax) system.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Why do some sharing economy participants want to get paid for their “sharing?” Because they’re getting screwed by the economy in many other ways.

A good look at the Jackson Rising conference, and the movement behind democratization of the South’s economy.

Do you have an idea for a new sharing project in your community? Shareable wants to give you a grant of up to $1,000 to support it. Apply online before June 20th.


“…we have an economic system that, by its very nature, will always reward people who make other people’s lives worse…”

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

“…we have an economic system that, by its very nature, will always reward people who make other people’s lives worse and punish those that make them better.” David Graeber expands on his theory of “bullshit jobs.”

Good news, art majors—Dilbert says, in a world of complete automation, artists will be king! Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 2.40.46 PM

The Chamber of Commerce says it will cost US businesses $700 million to estimate their CEO-to-average worker pay ratio. Aren’t those guys supposed to be the Big Data experts?

Paris Bakery workers have been occupying their worksite for a week, to protest the fact that many of them have up to 3 months’ worth of unpaid wages—and to keep the boss from emptying out the facility.

Geeking Out

Do you want an open-source, encrypted method for video chat & meetings that DOESN’T require reliance on Google? Try jitsi.

From Partners

Center for Popular Democracy is launching a new campaign called the Fair Workweek Initiative, to fight for predictable schedules for retail & other low-paid workers.  As for me, I personally feel like we’re moving more and more toward a world where white collar workers complain about being too busy, and service sector workers are struggling to put together enough hours to get by… Here’s an interesting perspective on how to know when to stop working, if you freelance (or otherwise work for yourself). And check out this new magazine that was created specifically for freelancers.

“I don’t have to be degraded for a couple more dollars.” Restaurant Opportunity Center has a great video series about #livingofftips—watch this one about the link between sexual harassment and tipped work.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Instead of building a separate ecosystem of civic-ly hacking apps—why not build civic possibility into apps that are already on the phones of millions of users? For some good examples of that, check out this article about using your smartphone for climate science. “It makes people feel like science isn’t just this kind of remote thing done by people in white coats in labs, but something rather more approachable.”

Felix Salmon looks at the economics of driving for Uber.

“Interpersonal forms of sharing are not enough to deliver social justice or environmental sustainability.”

Here’s an interesting idea—this reverse food truck collects food for the hungry, instead of selling it.

Organizing Theory

Organizer Melissa Byrne tells a story of self, student loan debt, and pushing through to find a long view within herself, even when it got really hard.

Final Thoughts

“Greed may be an inherent part of human nature, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do to temper the consequences of unscrupulous bankers who would exploit the poor & engage in anti-competitive practices. We can & should regulate banks, forbid predatory lending, make them accountable for their fraudulent practices & punish them for abuses of monopoly power.”

Joseph Stiglitz, The Price of Inequality

“A platform helping with self-employment shouldn’t be owned by the 1%.”

Original Content

If you enjoy the original content that Wyatt Closs, Douglas Williams, Julia Carrie Wong & Kenzo Shibata have created here—won’t you help support them?

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“A platform helping with self-employment shouldn’t be owned by the 1 percent.” How some sharing economy start-ups are becoming co-ops, to ensure that they won’t lose their way.

You want a cartoon explaining problems with the sharing economy? Here you go.

“…unchecked market fundamentalism can devour the social capital essential for the long-term dynamism of capitalism itself.” Translation? Even bankers are starting to worry about economic inequality. At least, British bankers are. Well, maybe only one British banker. Still, it’s something.

Jack Conte, 1/2 of YouTube sensation Pomplamousse, talks about sustainability as a music creator, and why that led him to create Patreon. Long video, but super-interesting.

Reputation, Reputation, Reputation

“These big collections of personal data are like radioactive waste. It’s easy to generate, easy to store in the short term, incredibly toxic, and almost impossible to dispose of.” I really wish I had been at this talk

Facial recognition will be good for your business. If what your business needs the most is to recognize people on various watch lists…

Geeking Out

These are the de rigeur yearly internet stats you didn’t know existed.

“…you get a lot more Neros than you get Claudiuses…” Jaron Lanier on how we really need to figure out how to grow the middle class.

Organizing Theory

Google Ventures has to make group decisions in a hurry—here’s the process they use.

Iceland has made great strides in reforming their democracy, in the wake of the worldwide recession. Notably, they jailed some bankers and resisted austerity. Read more about the tactics and techniques they used here.

What’s Going On in the Workforce?

Last month, the International Trade Union Confederation released a report on the world’s worst countries for workers.  With salaries like these? The US has gotta be pretty high on that list. Walmart Moms are going on strike for a better way & better pay.

“When I take the kinds of technological progress that I’ve seen recently and take them forward for two-plus generations, it honestly feels to me like we’ll be in a science fiction economy at that point.” Robots are coming, folks. Really.