“The human-resources office is more focused on silencing mistreated employees…than actually standing up to protect them.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Barclay’s Bank believes that autonomous cars will mean up to a 40% decline in auto sales, as well as lower operating costs overall.

“The human-resources office is more focused on silencing mistreated employees…than actually standing up to protect them.” Amazon has internal problems. Shocker. (Seriously, though. Is the job of the HR department to stand up for employees anywhere?)

Geeking Out

In Japan, I can hire a man to watch me cry at work. Here in the US, I just force men to watch me cry when the patriarchy pisses me off. For free, because, gender wage gap.

From Partners

The Ford Foundation is looking for technologists to hire. Here’s why.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

A new report on worker cooperatives shows these businesses have been successful and resilient.

Are you part of the movement to make a more sound economy? Fill out this survey, these folks are trying to map the “Next Economy” ecosystem. (Side note—I wonder if all the cartographers of the New Economy ever map each other? Alternate title for this week’s newsletter: “Who maps the mappers?”*)

A good overview of the legal debate that exists around the “sharing” economy, from global incubator 1776’s blog.

*free HtU sticker to any reader who gets this reference

“Vicki, you know what I’m looking for.”

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“Vicki, you know what I’m looking for.” Excellent piece on how employers use temp agencies to practice discriminatory hiring against black workers.

“…with other gigs or gig-economy employers available, drivers may be less invested in reforming a single company.” Good piece from Buzzfeed (I know!) on the struggles that workers have in organizing work stoppages against Uber.

Ian Williams has started a new column to talk about labor in the video games industry. h/t to reader Eric Rosso for pointing that out…

“Uber currently limits its drivers to 100 hours a week…” Is that really a limit, though?

Organizing Theory

There’s been a lot of talk in New York & DC lately about how to experiment with portable benefits for independent contractors—some folks in Minneapolis may be willing to experiment with a model of paid sick leave that includes them.

Interesting post by the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England, on their work to understand how collective action develops among users to influence a platform (think Uber strike, or Reddit blackout).

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“If you’re committed to the worker…if you want to empower minority women…the worker co-op is the way to go.” The Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance just put out this short film, profiling 4 worker-owned businesses in Philadelphia.

From Partners

Meet “The Internet of Ownership,” an effort to advance platform cooperatives around the globe.

Geeking Out

The Feds just agreed that Google’s AI technology can count as the “driver” in a self-driving car.

The 3-D printer that can print human tissue replacement.

“Movements that elevate the power of the participant tend to last longer.”

Original Content
Meet Don Chartier, who’s creating an app called HourVoice, for workers to track hours, get local legal advice, and rate their employers. Launching in Chicago this month.

If you’re a fan of Hack the Union, consider supporting us on Patreon.  You can contribute as little as $1/month to defray site costs.

Organizing Theory

“Movements that elevate the power of the participant tend to last longer.” On hashtag organizing and the need to connect to real engagement. Notice I did not say “offline organizing.”

“Kill the notion of exclusive problem-solving by an agency and you’ll get more capabilities more quickly, and more innovation in your community.” It’s perhaps no surprise that folks from Palo Alto have a different way of incorporating tech into their local government’s solutions.

Great piece by Anil Dash on how technologists can work to secure the activist possibilities of social media.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“Asking whether drivers should get compensated for the data they create when they’re ‘off duty’ is certainly a valid question.” Uber is using driver’s data, even when they don’t have a fare in the car.

I guess this was a logical evolution of the story I posted a few months ago, about contractors spying on construction workers with drones…

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

The US Worker Coop Conference will be in beautiful, weird Austin this year. July 29-31.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Will women lose more jobs to automation than men will?

Workers Lab is investing in a new app for reporting workplace safety violations.

Amazon’s least-well-paid workers aren’t the folks who labor in their warehouses—they’re Mechanical Turks. What does it mean for academic institutions to be paying the equivalent of $2/hour for advancing research?

Can we please stop saying “no one who works full time should live in poverty”?

Original Content
Can we please stop saying “No one who works full time should live in poverty”?
If you’re a fan of Hack the Union, consider supporting us on Patreon.  You can contribute as little as $1/month to defray site costs.
Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
Haven’t had enough rage-inducing reads this week? How about this proposal to use Uber to create workfare for the poor. Vomit.
VC Fund Y Combinator just announced that they’re going to hire a researcher to study universal basic income.  Friend-o-the-blog Nathan Schneider has this to say in response.  And Vox takes a look at the various basic income experiments that are already happening, or are on the near horizon.
Let’s be honest—if you’re reading this newsletter, you’re probably not a Baby Boomer small business owner who’s getting ready to retire. But maybe you know one? Here’s 10 reasons they should sell to their workers, when they retire.
Organizing Theory
Hollaback has developed a new site designed to help people who are suffering online harassment on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation—and to help organize those who want to support them.
If you’re not regularly using videoconferencing to keep in touch with remote partners (whether inside or outside your organization), I really have to ask—what are you waiting for? Google Hangout is not only free, but also recordable—and now there’s Room, which the people you’re talking to don’t even have to sign up for! (This link is for the iOS app, but it works with Android too.)
What’s Going on in the Workforce
Last week, Lyft drivers who had been suing the company for misclassification settled their suit. While the settlement did cure some major problems with Lyft’s practices, the company maintained the right to keep their drivers as independent contractors. Here’s the drivers’ lawyers’ statement on why they settled.
Could Uber drivers benefit from self-driving cars? I confess, it’s a possibility I hadn’t thought of before reading this piece.
Fast Company makes a sideways argument in favor of government-provided parental leave benefits.
Reputation, reputation, reputation
Uber announces that their app is using the driver’s phone gyrometer to see if s/he is driving safely.
Geeking Out
The FCC just came a little closer to promoting transparency in political advertising.

Dream Bigger to Do Better

In recent weeks, I’ve had dozens of conversations with people who are thinking about how to do new kinds of worker organizing, both within the traditional labor movement and outside of it. Overwhelmingly, organizers and policy experts express a need to find a “new narrative” that can compete with the “sexiness” of the tech industry’s gig economy.

It’s hard for us to contemplate a new narrative, because we’re so committed to fighting for our old one. After all, through the stalwart efforts of the Fight for 15, and the Our Wal-Mart campaigns, we’ve finally gotten a sitting United States president to say the words that we love to repeat, over and over again:

“No one should work full-time and live in poverty.”

We don’t think too much, though, about the message that framing sends to people who aren’t us. Take a step back, and hear that sentence (if you can) with fresh ears. How does it sound, if you’re a part-time worker? What if you’ve tried to get full-time hours and your boss won’t let you have them? What if you choose to work part-time because you split shifts of child-raising with your spouse because you can’t afford day care, even if you both work full-time? What if you’re a student who needs to work to help pay your way through college, or you’re in high school, and have a job to help your mom with expenses? What if you’re an undocumented worker, who has to stand on a corner and hope that someone picks you up for a shift of landscaping that day?

Do you deserve to live in poverty?

It kind of sounds like we think you do.

We wanted a 40-hour workweek back in the day because at that time, many workers had a 60-hour workweek. We weren’t organizing to increase people’s hours to 40—we were fighting to be able to spend more time at home. The fight for the 40-hour work week was able to engage hundreds of thousands of workers in a fight that lasted for generations because it promised them something much, much better than what they currently had.

What does our current fight for full-time hours make people think?

“Great, I can spend more time at work, a place I mostly don’t like. Yes, maybe I’ll be more able to pay my bills—but I’ll spend less time with the people I love.”


“I work full-time now, and I don’t live in poverty. This doesn’t fix my problem of overwork, and feeling like I’m missing out on the things I really enjoy. So I guess this movement isn’t for me.”

Obviously, people in our movement are not trying to make workers spend more time doing things they hate, and less time with people that they love—but it takes a couple of levels of analysis to understand that. A top-line message that needs a couple of levels of analysis to really land is not an effective top-line message. We don’t need polling to tell us that. We can see it, every day.

I think the question we really ought to be asking ourselves is, “why are we still fighting for the 40-hour workweek?”

While some of us in the movement are crazy and actually enjoy working more than 40 hours in a week, we ought to know by now that many people would prefer more flexibility, rather than being locked in to a 9-to-5, an 11-to-7, or any other formal schedule. In fact, a large part of the appeal of gig economy work is that it is something you can turn on and off with the click of a button. Only got an hour to drive today? No problem. Family emergency in the middle of a planned ‘shift’ of delivering packages? Just deliver what you’ve got in your car, and shut down the app.

The underlying reason that we’re still fighting for a 40-hour-workweek, of course, is that in our current context, that’s the best way to fight for economic stability for workers.

But if what we actually want is economic and personal stability for all, why don’t we just say that? Why are we limiting our fight for economic stability only to those people who are capable of working 40 hours a week? We can dream bigger, and in doing so, we can build a movement to win our dream that includes many more people.