time to expand the map

Original Content

Some initial thoughts on what the map of our movement looks like, at this moment—and what it means for winning economic justice fights, in the age of Janus.

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What’s Going on in the Workforce

Today in #robotwork: Walmart starts using self-driving cleaning equipment in some stores.

The Department of Labor is reaffirming the idea that a person can be an employee of more than one employer. I know, it seems like a duh moment, but it’s important.

Just in time for Black Friday, the Aspen Institute put out this report about trends in retail employment.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Think you’re safe from being tracked by Google, if you’ve got Location Services turned off on your Android phone? Nope.

State Attorneys General are investigating Uber, after the company announced it’s been covering up a hack that exposed customers’ data.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Georgia has joined the list of states calling for Amazon to collect sales taxes on products they sell for third-party sellers on their site.  And in other Amazon news, Chicago’s HQ2 proposal apparently allows the company to keep income taxes that they collect on their employees’ behalf. So yes, workers will be paying taxes to the boss. I’m sure that Jeff Bezos will be paying taxes on all of his enormous income, though.

Could New Jersey become only the second US state to open a public bank? With the election of Phil Murphy as the next governor, it just became a little more real.

As we watch the big internet companies fight it out over Net Neutrality once again, take heart in seeing how communities in Detroit are building their own internet connections.

a not-entirely-scientific look at our movement in space (Pt. 1)


As regular readers know, I recently rolled out a project to build a database of economic justice organizations in the US. It’s one of the things I’ve been curious about for a while–how good a job are we doing at building permanent, long-lasting infrastructure, in the face of increased attacks on traditional unions. As it turns out, we’ve got some real work to do to make sure that workers all over the US are able to build power for themselves and their families.

At this point, the database includes information on a total of 293 organizations, most of which are statewide or local groups–18 are national organizations or networks. When I set out to collect information on these groups, I built a list of organizations that are affiliated with national networks–organizations like the Center for Popular Democracy, the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Jobs with Justice, PICO, etc. There are a couple of reasons for that, but the most important one is that, in my experience, it’s much more likely for local base-building groups to be able to raise funding from national foundations if they are connected to a national network that helps to validate and broadcast their work outside their own city or region. I also think that local groups in a national network benefit from the resources of the national network–things like research departments that can provide corporate profiles, intensive legal work, and innovative policy campaigns can be hard for local organizations to sustain (though there are obviously exceptions). National networks can provide an important role of convening a set of local groups that are working on a similar issue and helping them create a fundraising strategy, as well as provide some share resources like communications, that make executing that strategy easier.

What I found, as you can see in the map above (as well as the chart below the directory itself) is that the broader economic justice movement has been just as challenged to fund sustained organizing in the South and parts of the Midwest as the traditional labor movement has. And I think that’s a problem, because what it demonstrates to me is that, as the country’s population has shifted into the Sunbelt, we haven’t created organizing opportunities that give workers there hope that progressive employment policy will someday come.

I was somewhat shocked to see, for example, that the City of Oakland, CA has more of these economic justice organizations (8) than the entire state of Florida (7). Or that America’s smallest state, Rhode Island, has as many groups fighting for better work as does the entire state of Alabama (2).

I’m not trying to take anything away from folks who are doing this organizing in Oakland or Providence–in fact, I’m sure they could use more resources and support too. But we’ve got to do better about adding resources to groups that are working in severely underfunded places, if we want to ever be able to win federal legislation that creates an even playing field for all workers in the arena of wages, or paid time off, or racial justice at work, or any of the many things we fight for daily.

And it clearly isn’t the fault of those organizers running national networks, who are rarely able to seed wholly-new organizing efforts in places that don’t already host it. The start up costs of creating a new organization in a new place will run hundreds of thousands of dollars per year–and the work isn’t going to pay off in victories in the first year. It isn’t easy to raise money to fund solid, consistent organizing work for the five years or more it can take to build a base of support and begin racking up organizing or legislative wins–and that can take even more time in places with unfriendly legislatures with few elected allies to champion work. Some of the national networks are connecting groups that do base-building or direct worker organizing (CPD, JwJ, NDWA, NDLON, ROC, etc.), while others are connecting groups that provide legal support or help advocate for policy changes (PICO, Gamaliel, IWJ, etc.). In the places where our movement has had the most success winning local and statewide victories, you can see a rich ecosystem of groups that help support each others’ campaigns. We should be figuring out how to expand the map with those rich ecosystems, not contract in the few places we’re already winning to send resources elsewhere.

I’ll be writing another post next week with some of my thoughts about what we can do to change this map–but I’m curious about yours, too. If you have thoughts that you want to share on this issue, leave them in the comments or shoot me an email at  kati (at) hacktheunion (dot) org. I’ll include them in next week’s post, too. And of course–I know there are a ton of amazing worker centers out there that aren’t necessarily connected to national networks, but are still doing needed and important work–so if you know of them, please add them to the directory (I’ll be working to do the same, myself).

*some notes on the map: I’m hoping to soon have a better one that you can dynamically click on, showing which actual organizations are represented here. The lack of clickability creates some representational problems on the map–for example, all of the organizations in GA (3) look right now like they’re in AL, and two TX groups look like they’re in Mexico. I did not display any of the 18 organizations listed as “national” in the database, which would have skewed the DC/NY numbers even more. In states where an organization has more than one office, I only used one of the cities to represent that entire organization.  This is also only the map of the mainland US–there are three groups in the directory that are located in HI & PR, which I couldn’t fit in this screenshot.

May your Thanksgiving be robot-free

Happy Thanksgiving, folks! May your holiday be as adorable as this turkey.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability
Did your city put in a bid for Amazon’s HQ2? Muckrock is FOIA-ing as many of these bids as they can find—and looking for local activists to fill in details.
Upset about the delay in changes to the overtime eligibility rule? The EPI has put out recommendations on what states can do to help workers who deserve overtime.
There was a lot of good news for progressives this election day—but you may have missed this one. Voters in Fort Collins, CO approved building a municipal-owned broadband network.
What’s Going on in the Workforce
Gizmodo takes an  in-depth look at Amazon Flex—the last-mile courier app they’re using to compete with UPS and FedEx, with predictable gig economy conditions.
VisualCapitalist uses public data to show all the states where Walmart is the largest private employer, in their chart of the week.
Sure, the country is polarized, politically—but at least Americans agree that they hate corporations.
Since last year’s election, tech workers have expressed more interest in organizing—and begun to discover that labor organizing is hard. (I’m tempted to make a “isn’t there an app for this?” joke.)
Cornell’s Worker Institute is hosting a two-day conference in New York next April, to talk about policy & organizing precarious workers.
You will never go wrong spending an hour on one of Mobilisation Lab’s webinars—their next is 11/28 at noon eastern, on “Building More Effective Campaign Narratives Through Social Science”.

The 28-hour workweek? I’m there.


Original Content

Have you gotten a chance to look at our new directory of economic justice organizations yet? If not, go check it out, we’ll wait. And an enormous thank you to Ben Kaplan, friend o’ the blog, for fixing my Javascript problem.

Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. If you like the original content on this site, please kick in a small contribution ($1/mo?) to help us keep it up and running.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Germany’s unions are fighting for a 28-hour workweek. Could the UK do it too?

Las Vegas debuted a free, self-driving shuttle last week. Unfortunately, it was involved in a fender bender on its first day in action.

Do you still go to malls? If so, do you ever stop at kiosks to buy things? Here’s what life is like, for a mall kiosk worker.

This guy pays his employees up to $2,000 per year to go on vacation.

Uber wants to know what other kinds of on-demand services their drivers would be willing to perform.

From Partners

The coalition of scientists & AI researchers who oppose autonomous weapons just put out a new barely sci-fi video.

Geeking Out

You know all those people who scoff, “we won’t have self-driving cars until 2030!”? Show them this.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Local coops are helping fight inequality.

Great piece on what unions can do to fight sexual harassment.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Perhaps the best walk-through I’ve read of how Facebook’s “People You May Know” connects you to people you haven’t told Facebook you might know.

Should we get rid of social security numbers?

New on HtU–data on economic justice organizations

Original Content

One of my longest-running ambitions for Hack the Union has been to chart the ecosystem of organizations that exist to do economic justice work. I’m happy to announce that it’s finally starting to get off the ground. You can check it out here—and I’m curious to get your feedback. (Also, if you have any expertise in embedding javascript into a WordPress page, I could use a 15-minute consult.)

A couple of notes: 1) I haven’t started collecting info on unions yet—that will be coming soon, although it will take time to get up, of course; and 2) one of the things I was interested in seeing is the geographic spread of the economic justice movement—take a look at the chart at the bottom of the page, to see what that looks like.

Thanks to all our supporters who keep this site going. If you like the original content on this site, please kick in a small contribution ($1/mo?) to help us keep it up and running.

From Partners

Do you have the patience to read and rebut a bunch of ridiculous tax proposals? Me neither. Happily, the Patriotic Millionaires has taken the heavy lifting out of that, with this new site.

Cornell’s Institute of Labor Relations has launched a new website, Mobilizing Against Inequality, to provide case studies about the new labor movement.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

What can cities do to protect reproductive rights? Plenty of things, says the National Institute for Reproductive Health in this new report. (And yes, that includes protecting the safety of health care workers who provide reproductive health services, as well as protecting workers from discrimination based on their personal decisions around family planning.)

Americans are ambivalent about automation, except when it comes to banking.

Fast Company has an issue looking at LGBTQ equality in the workplace, in the age of Trump.

Anil Dash announces that his company will start to provide climate leave, when staff are disrupted by extreme weather events—and urges other CEOs to do the same.

A UK “zero hours” worker just won a claim against his former employer for refusing to pay him holiday pay, despite the fact that he was off the schedule (through no fault of his own).

Geeking Out

Oh come on, let’s be clear. They had me at robot bees.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Worker-owned coops will no doubt be expanding in Rhode Island, after their legislature passed this new bill.

An interesting look at why WeWork’s attempt to launch communal living hasn’t succeeded as quickly (or at all?) as their coworking business has.

“I can go anywhere, I’m like a gypsy.” I guess that’s the upside, if you live in an RV in Silicon Valley.

Etsy has some suggestions about how tax reform could be done in favor of gig economy workers.

And while we’re on the subject of gig-economy policies, the National League of Cities has just issued a report about how cities are getting along with the likes of Airbnb, Lyft & Uber.

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Look, I get it. Google Drive is the default cloud apparatus of every non-profit or union I’ve worked for, too. But here’s one perspective on why it’s maybe not the best bet.