Was 2015 the year the robot revolution really began?

Is it the shortest week of the year? It’s certainly the shortest newsletter…

Happy New Year, folks, see you in 2016!

Geeking Out

Fast Company says 2015 is the year the robot revolution really began. Here’s the evidence.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Here’s a great explainer, by friend-o-the-blog Michelle Chen, on how Seattle’s new labor law will allow Uber & Lyft drivers to unionize—without pre-empting federal labor law.

Some of the signers of last month’s portable benefits letter are looking to expand beyond the original coalition of signers.

From Partners

The Global Social Economy Forum has put out this call for proposals for their next event, September 2016 in Montreal.

Amalgamated Bank has become one of the first banks in NYC to accept the new municipal ID as verification—important for undocumented workers, who often have great difficulty setting up bank accounts.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“The best companies in the world struggle with security every day. I don’t think the campaign people have a chance.” Whether you’re a Bernie bro or a Hillarista, we should all be worried about who’s trying to hack campaign security. (Also, I guess I should come up with some clever name for Martin O’Malley supporters. But meh.)

“The half-life of a skill is shrinking”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“The half-life of a skill is shrinking.” Fast Company takes a look at the future of work in 2016. Apparently, nanojobs will not involve nanites, more’s the pity.

From Partners

US Labor Secretary Tom Perez thinks we need a Leather Apron Club for the 21st century (h/t to my hometown hero, Ben Franklin).

And Institute for the Future just put out this paper “10 Strategies for a Workable Future.”

Organizing Theory

This California legislator is introducing a bill that would let online on-demand economy workers organize against the app they work for.

Greenpeace’s Mobilization Lab wants you to take this survey, to help you analyze how you’re practicing mobilization (and getting max value out of it) in your organization.

Slacktivism actually makes a difference, according to these researchers.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

With the cost of tuition what it is, it’s not shocking that a college student might decide to rent out a dorm room bed on AirBnB. Colleges might not be so supportive, though.

The drumbeat for instituting a universal basic income continues, in the tech community.

Are we likely to morph to a world where hotels buy condos to run as AirBnB centers, and AirBnB starts offering hotel-like amenities?

When “bringing back manufacturing” doesn’t mean “bringing back manufacturing jobs and their attendant wages.”

Original Content

Hey folks, I’m launching a Hack the Union Slack channel this week. If you’re an organizer or technologies interested in joining a conversation about how to do better organizing through tech, send me the email address that you want to have invited. If you’re reading this online, send me an email through the comments system. If you don’t know why you should use Slack, read this.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

When “bringing back manufacturing” doesn’t mean “bringing back manufacturing jobs & their attendant wages.”

It’s no secret that the Post Office uses long-term temps, to keep down the cost of mail delivery. Here’s one letter carrier’s story about why she could no longer keep doing that work. And while we’re on the subject of grim jobs the economy still needs, here’s a year in the life of a long-haul truck driver.

Uber, but for software development. Gigster is changing the way apps get built.

A new study of gig economy workers shows that a (self-reported) 29% of them have a full time, traditional employment relationship with someone else.

And while we’re on the subject of gig economy work, here’s a great piece from Think Progress on how strippers are fighting misclassification as independent contractors.

Steven Greenhouse asks why on-demand drivers should be treated as a new classification of worker?

Organizing Theory

New Uber strategy: pass state laws that characterize their drivers as independent contractors, so that the feds can’t intervene.

Should you build an app to deliver services? Depends, but likely no. Interesting read on what makes a non-daily app worth building.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“I use my other freelance job to give myself flexibility to pursue my passions.” How do artists stay afloat in the gig economy? (Gigs aren’t just online, y’know.)

Utrecht experiments with (non-universal) basic income.

“Move on, move on, always move on. And I say to myself, ‘Why should I have to move on?’” How do the formerly-homed deal with becoming homeless in Silicon Valley.

Geeking Out

Fire fighting robots. Yep. Merry Christmas to you, too.

“…as many as 45% of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“…as many as 45% of the activities individuals are paid to perform can be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technologies.” h/t to reader Andy Stern for sending this interesting new paper on the potential short-term impacts of automation in a variety of industries. Spoiler alert: “The hourly wage rate alone is not a strong predictor of automatibility.” Yes, high-wage workers, they’re coming for your tasks too.

Thanks to the Guardian for introducing me to the term “Human Cloud,” in this great roundup about the possible futures of work.

Geeking Out

The effort by Black Lives Matter activists to collect info on police union contracts has resulted in this amazing website.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Add Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun to the list of people mysteriously kicked off Uber (as a driver), despite having above-standard ratings.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The NYC city council just forced AirBnB to release data on how much hosts are earning—and it looks like a significant majority of homeowners are earning big bucks from renting out homes full time.

Can we use the freezing cold vacuum of space to cool buildings in the summer, instead of AC?

Organizing Theory

Will linking to Facebook make your driver’s license more legit? Interesting piece about what kinds of changes public institutions may have to make, to deal with digital identity & online presence.

Want a quick video explainer of how income inequality & wealth inequality keep getting worse? Here you go.

From Partners

In DC tomorrow morning? Head on over to the Brookings Institute for this discussion, “Modernizing labor laws in the gig economy.”

Is your social media safe from Lockheed Martin?

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Is your social media safe from Lockheed Martin’s infosec division? Not if you’re organizing against Wal-Mart

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Microcredit was once touted as the solution to global poverty. What went wrong?

My own hometown gets a shout out from the Grassroots Economic Organizing website, with a look at #solidaritycities: Philadelphia. (pro-tip, folks, it’s the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection).

Everytime I think we’ve reached peak sharing economy, I am proved wrong.

Organizing Theory

The Kasich campaign (no, really) is pioneering a new kind of mapping social relationships between voters.

How Seattle is enforcing all those spiffy new employment laws they’ve been passing.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

The CEO of GrubHub breaks down what makes for a successful food delivery service—and what doesn’t. And a bike delivery driver in SF has some insight into what app developers don’t always think about (hills, anyone?).

Penn State is working on a new technology to write textbooks with robots. Perhaps my daughter’s copy of An American Pageant will have a cyborg on the cover in the next generation?

Uber continues to lower the bar for acceptable corporate behavior—now they’re partnering with predatory lenders to “help” drivers buy cars. They’re also, of course, managing via algorithm. But it’s not all bad—they’re now supporting driver retraining, for when their fleet is fully autonomous. Oh, what the hell, let’s just turn this into an all-Uber newsletter. Here’s the Data & Society Research Institute’s paper where they interviewed Uber drivers, and participated in the many, many ridesharing driver forums.