From Partners

Today’s the day! Big Tech is called to answer Congress’s questions—sign up for Athena’s Watch Party, starting today at noon.

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Last week, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court ruled that a laid-off person who decided to drive for Uber did not lose eligibility for unemployment, because they became self-employed. Kudos to regular reader Larry Mishel, and his daughter Julia Simon-Mishel, who argued the case in court in her capacity with Philadelphia Legal Services. 

Various California agencies are investigating Amazon workers’ safety concerns, after COVID has raged through warehouses. 

Geeking Out

“In recent months, the coronavirus pandemic has offered a test run on whether humanity has the capacity to avert a predictable — and predicted — catastrophe. Some countries have fared better. But the United States has failed. The climate crisis will test the developed world again, on a larger scale, with higher stakes. The only way to mitigate the most destabilizing aspects of mass migration is to prepare for it, and preparation demands a sharper imagining of where people are likely to go, and when.” ProPublica & the New York Times magazine take a detailed look at how climate change will impact migration patterns. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

WNBA players walk out in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, dedicate their season to Breonna Taylor. 


Class Action is on the hunt for a new Executive Director

“We wanted to be fair, but we also wanted to set a very important standard, which was safety first.”

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“We wanted to be fair, but we also wanted to set a very important standard, which was safety first.”You’ve probably heard a lot about how various major-league sports are planning on returning to play. But did you know that roller derby has the best plan to respond to covid, of any sport? 

The Fight for $15, SEIU, & the Movement for Black Lives are holding a Strike for Black Lives next week. 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Uber, seeking to protect its own proprietary data, hid its involvement in a coalition about protecting data from cities

“Advertisements created by algorithms encourage certain people to send in their résumés. After the résumés have undergone automated culling, a lucky few are hired and then subjected to automated evaluation, the results of which are looped back to establish criteria for future job advertisements and selections. This system operates with no transparency or accountability built in to check that the criteria are fair to all job applicants.” Automated hiring can reinforce discrimination. We should let job-seekers sue

What’s Going on in the Workforce

As the pandemic continues to rage on, and shoppers are nervous about in-person shopping, Instacart goes on a hiring spree

This new paper from NBER looks at where & who are switching to work from home during the pandemic. 

Uber took a teensy tiny baby step toward actually letting drivers set their own rates (in order to avoid misclassification challenges, of course). It only took, what, 11 years from the time they were founded? 

Shipt workers are striking today to protest the company’s new algorithmic pay model. 

Geeking Out

Check out this great new map, from Bargaining for the Common Good, that shows the contracts bargained for the common good around the US. 


Here’s a kick-ass job that someone on this list should apply for: SVP at Omidyar Network

“It has been 54 days since we’ve felt the sun on our faces.”

The Perils of Trumpism

“It has been 54 days since we’ve felt the sun on our faces.” COVID-19 is hitting people living in institutions harder than the rest of us. Here’s a gripping story of life on the inside, told by an anonymous incarcerated person in MA. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Hospital robots are helping fight covid-19. Are they also getting trained to replace humans in some types of hospital work?  Happily, Adam Seth Litwin just penned a new paper about health care automation, in conjunction with UC Berkeley Labor & Working Partnerships. 

From Partners

ACRE is hosting a series of webinars this summer that will teach activists about the relationships between the police and financial institutions. The next one is July 15 at 10 am Pacific. Register here.

Organizing Theory

How non-profit workers in Wisconsin turned their non-profit into a worker-owned coop. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Want to build a solidarity business? Here’s a new manual, from Geo Coop & others. 

Can mutual aid groups grow into standing organizations to address the long-term causes the disproportionate impacts of immediate emergencies? 

It’s likely that the pandemic will kill the mall as we know it. Can malls survive by turning into housing?

And while we’re on the subject of housing, check out what the City of Lisbon is doing—working to turn Airbnb-style rentals into housing for essential workers. (h/t to Scott Mintzer for sending me this one.) 

Geeking Out

Do you want a hydroponic garden the size of a dishwasher, that can grow up to 60 plants? Not yet, but soon. 

A love song to Gen Z

Geeking Out

“None of these game-changing moments in narrative history arose by identifying the “right organization,” or by brainstorming the perfectly compelling campaign. None of these moments had an organizational logo attached to them. They had heart, spontaneity, humor, creativity, community, and an ability to quickly outmaneuver and outsmart the enemy.” A love song to GenZ and its brilliant ability to weaponize memes to shift narrative and take down racists, including the Racist-in-Charge. 

Organizing Theory

 An important piece examining how one mutual aid effort that sprang to life in the early days of the pandemic has morphed into an effort that now includes political education for the “helpers.” “It’s first important to recognize what mutual aid is and what it’s not,” Rodriguez says. “We don’t want this to be charity, and it can be perceived as charity for nine out of ten people involved. It’s a political process through which communities that have been ignored and deprived deliberately empower themselves with the resources they have to take care of one another.” 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

 If you have the fundamental belief that work of any kind in a capitalist system is the highest calling, of course you will set up your government to force people to work, no matter the circumstances. Welcome to North Carolina, please don’t ever lose your job

On the continent, however, Spain seems to have looked at the pandemic and decided, “gee, maybe a guaranteed minimum income is good!” 

Not just Philly specific—what can companies & organizations do to be more uplift a Black workforce

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“The risk is that [tracking technologies] become an avenue for more extensive data collection that’s really unconnected with the public health emergency and they will continue on after the public health emergency is over.” Companies are adopting surveillance techniques, allegedly to keep workers safe during the pandemic. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Amazon warehouse workers in Germany went on strike on Monday to protest the company’s handling of the coronavirus

“The stylist’s lead changed the conversation away from compensation details and pointed her to Stitch Fix’s core values, including being “motivated by challenge,” asking if that clause resonated with her.” How Stitch Fix silences internal dissent & creates a culture of silence within their workforce. 

The Supreme Court of Canada just dealt Uber a blow, when it ruled that drivers could join a class action lawsuit, and did not have to pursue individual arbitrations. 

From Partners

Are you interested in telling workplace stories? The Sidney Hillman Foundation has grants to make for reporters writing about working people and their struggles on the job. Applications on a rolling basis.  

We need tech for organizing, not just mobilizing

Original Content

Have you been frustrated in the search for a CRM that actually gets ORGANIZING, not mobilizing? I talk to Martha Grant from Action Builder, about the new worker organizing CRM she’s built in conjunction with the AFL-CIO and Action Network. 

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 ($2/mo?) to help us keep it up and running. 

From Partners

Check out this new site co-created by friend-o’-the-blog Wyatt Closs, Blkpaper, with downloadable Black protest art.  And while you’re in the mood to support Black artist, maybe you want to buy a ticket (or an ad) for Philly’s BlackStar Film Festival, which will serve Black and brown films to an online audience globally, this year. 

Cornell’s ILR is hosting a webinar called “Strategies for a Worker-Centered Re-opening and Recovery” on Wednesday, July 1. Register here

Reputation, reputation, reputation

“Starting with the landmark Fair Housing Act of 1968, the U.S. government had spent half a century battling discrimination in offline rental markets. Through regulation and enforcement, the efforts had succeeded in reducing rates of discrimination, both in hotels and long-term rentals. Airbnb now raised the prospect of erasing some of these hard-won gains.” What’s Airbnb doing about #AirbnbWhileBlack

What’s Going on in the Workforce

Uber has started selling its ride-hailing tech to public transportation providers.  Not a good look, given that it’s also recently been proved that their algorithm has been putting a higher price on rides to neighborhoods where people of color dominate. Meanwhile, Mexican Uber drivers struck the company on Monday. 

“…for cities and towns experiencing a population decline, or those that have seen the departure or closure of a major employer in recent years, offering cash to remote workers is a relatively simple way to diversify and expand a local economy.” In the wake of COVID-19, even more cities are getting into the game of offering remote workers relocation bonuses

“What’s hot on-screen…doesn’t need to be hot on set.” The relatively new world of onscreen intimacy coordinator is bound to be disrupted by COVID, as tv shows and movies return to filming

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

Black organizers and Latinx immigrants banded together to rise up against police and ICE violence in one small North Carolina town. 

Sarah Jaffe talks to folks from the unions at my alma mater, Rutgers University, about their efforts to build a joint table to bargain for the common good of all—faculty, staff & students. 

“Direct action is as ancient as human conflict.”

Organizing Theory

“Direct action is as ancient as human conflict.” Mobilisation Lab takes a look at how direct action strategies can translate for digital organizers

Consumer Reports (no, really), on how to safely take video and photographs to document police behavior, during protests and in other situations. 

From Partners

We’re mostly concerned with how delivery apps like Uber Eats, GrubHub, Door Dash & others hurt their delivery drivers. Here, ILSR looks at why they’re also bad for restaurants—and at what some cities are doing about it. 

What’s Going on in the Workforce

“If you’ve had Black employees, but they don’t tend to stay, did you treat it like any other churn problem and learn why?” Tiffany Ashley Bell, with questions for tech folks, some of which are relevant for all organizations. 

Migrant caregivers are stuck with their bosses 24/7 because of coronavirus. 

“The nation’s meatpackers along with federal and state officials have for years planned for pandemic flu outbreaks that could wipe out herds and flocks and threaten America’s food supply. But those efforts focused on animals rather than the army of humans—mostly immigrants, refugees and African Americans—hired to slaughter them and cut them up for restaurants and groceries.” Mother Jones looks at the response of meatpacking processors, to the coronavirus epidemic, and how they have worked to avoid local and state regulation of their plants

Uber continues to lay off office staff—last week, 200 Dutch workers found out they were being let go. 

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“As millions of people experience a sudden collapse of their income at the very moment their landlords are allowed to start kicking them out, other bills will also come due. Payments on millions of paused student loans will begin again at the beginning of October; the more than 4 million homeowners who received a six-month pause on their mortgage after April’s mass layoffs will need to start making payments again at the end of October.” The economy is likely to get a lot worse this fall.  

The ILWU is getting ready to shut down West Coast ports on Juneteenth, in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives.

The New York attorney general is interviewing workers in Amazon warehouses about company retaliation against whistleblowers


You might find it hard to believe, but it’s been less than three months since we suspended the weekly newsletter. I’m bringing it back for now. Hope you have all been well, and I know you have all been busy, as the twin impacts of the pandemic and police violence have been felt so hard by the working people of our country–particularly the Black and indigenous people of color in all of our communities. Thank you for everything you are doing to fight for a more just society & economy.

Sharing, Solidarity & Sustainability

“…there’s a reason why so many elected officials relent when police contracts come up for renewal. The unions have political clout — offering politicians a big voting block of their members and those who support them. They also raise campaign contributions for elected officials who support their agenda.” Buzzfeed takes a look at how police unions influence efforts to reform the behavior of police.  Meanwhile, IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business, citing concerns about how the technology is being used for mass surveillance and racial profiling. 

Today in headlines that would have been hard to explain six months ago: “Uber will bail out food-delivery drivers arrested past curfew.” 

Reputation, reputation, reputation

Workers have filed a lawsuit against Amazon, alleging that the company’s efforts at contact tracing to stop the spread of coronavirus in warehouses. One specific point of contention is that the company is only using surveillance from video cameras (which don’t cover all the areas where people might interact, just the places the company is worried about theft) to inform other workers that they may have been exposed. 

If you know that facial recognition software is effective worse at identifying people of color, maybe don’t use it to find photos to go along with robot-generated articles

“Despite its public statements, black users on Nextdoor are being silenced by community moderators after participating in discussions about race. Some are opting to leave the app altogether while others are considering moving out of their neighborhoods based on what they’ve seen on the platform. ‘As a black person, I don’t feel safe at all using it for anything,’ Kalkidan told The Verge. ‘I’m always terrified, thinking “Oh my god. I already know what so-and-so thinks of us.” This is a very horrible situation to be in.’” NextDoor communities expose racism & white supremacy in mixed-race communities. 

From Partners

New report from NELP: How Black workers are silenced when they try to speak out about COVID concerns in the workplace

Webinar, next week, by the Century Foundation: “Tackling child poverty in the wake of COVID-19” Register here

What’s Going on in the Workforce

CA farmworkers fear the spread of COVID in the crowded housing they are offered by farmers. 

CNN wonders—will the gig economy be the new normal for many people, after COVID?

Philly Workers Organizing During COVID-19

This is a guest post by Madison Nardy

Growing up as a student in the Philadelphia public school system, no matter what grade I was in, our teachers would present lectures about the Philadelphia Yellow Fever Epidemic. We would go on field trips to learn about our nation’s history, but hearing about this epidemic terrified me as a child. I remember daydreaming in class, worried that something like this would happen again. Fast forward to today, my childhood daydreams have become my reality. As a child, what I failed to daydream about, is how a global outbreak of such a deadly disease would hurt our most vulnerable people, the working and poor class.  

I began the fight towards economic justice in 2016, while I was approached by a worker organizer at my previous job at Target, where I experienced a reduction in my hours while my manager simultaneously hired new employees, closing one night and opening the very next morning, and forced to stay late or come in early at the very last minute. Working in these conditions was very stressful on myself, my family, and even more stressful now during a pandemic.

Workers all across the nation work in stressful conditions like I did, but since the beginning of the pandemic, these conditions spiraled out of control. Somehow our nation divided “low-wage” workers into two categories, nonessential and essential workers. Regardless of which category someone falls into, everyone is struggling. Workers at nonessential businesses all across the nation, have been furloughed, laid-off, or even fired. Luckily for me, my nonessential business furloughed all of its employees company wide. We were able to collect unemployment, which is not the case for all workers.

 Domestic workers and people who work for cash make up a large portion of our nation’s workforce, and do not qualify for unemployment. Since families are beginning to work from home, they are no longer in need for domestic workers, like house cleaners and nannies. Domestic workers across the city and the nation are out of work and unable to receive unemployment benefits. Our highest priority is to keep our nation healthy, and to provide them with resources to protect their health, feed their families, and keep a roof over their head. 

Essential workers are most at risk for testing positive for Covid-19, and they are the first people we need to protect. Essential workers like grocery store clerks, mass transit workers, and mail carriers, come in contact with hundreds or thousands of customers a day. If we don’t protect them, the pandemic will only get worse. The Philadelphia Paid Sick Leave law provides workers with one hour of paid sick time for every forty hours worked, that gives a maximum of five days per year. This is not enough paid sick time during a pandemic. The recovery time for mild Covid-19 cases is two weeks, and workers need two weeks of paid sick time, and ensured their jobs will be protected once coming back from self- isolation.

The Coalition to Respect Every Worker organized a virtual town hall on March 26th, with two demands to tell City Council. Create an emergency fund for workers who are unable to receive unemployment like domestic workers, and people who work for cash. And to also expand the Paid Sick Leave law from five days to two weeks for all Philadelphia workers. I was in attendance along with 400 other workers, community members, ten City Council members, and supporters. Our turnout goal was 200 people, I was shocked when I logged into zoom and saw 400 other people fighting along with me. It felt powerful to see people all throughout the city support our demands, and the support of City Council. 

Workers like María del Carmen Díaz, who is a Domestic worker, lost all of her work due to the coronavirus shut down. Diaz expressed to the four-hundred in attendance, how important it is for our city to step up and protect those who don’t qualify for unemployment. Several more workers shared their stories about how their essential businesses are not taking any, or as many safety precautions as they should, putting their workers, and customers’ lives at risk. We need city council to expand paid sick leave so workers who test positive for coronavirus can self- isolate, and for workers who want to protect their health, to end the spread of Covid-19. While the City did expand its paid sick leave law to cover public health emergencies, in the first days of the shutdowns, the leave law only provides 5 days of paid time off to workers–far less than the amount many of us need. And many workers were left out of that bill initially, including gig workers, domestic workers, and those workers represented by unions. 

After workers shared their stories, City Council shared their thoughts. Freshman City Council Member, Kenrdra Brooks shared her story of being a domestic worker before running for office, and expressed how important it is to protect domestic workers who do not qualify for unemployment. Helen Gym reminded us of our previous long fights and victories, like Fair Work Week and The Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Our two demands will be a hard fight, but it cannot be a long one. Once these legislations pass, Mark Squilla stressed the importance of labor law enforcement. 

With so much support from City Council members, two weeks later, we see no move for expanding paid sick leave legislation. Legislation of all kinds are being stalled due to the current circumstances of Covid-19, but workers like myself need legislation now more than ever. While I was daydreaming as a little girl, I never would’ve seen myself in the position I’m in now. A struggling college student, on unemployment, fighting for economic justice. I think back to how big of an imagination I had, and an even bigger one now. My adult day dreams include a world where our people are not suffering and we live in peace, and it only forces me to fight harder. Expanding Paid Sick Leave to two weeks, and creating an emergency workers fund is a first huge step our city can take to help our suffering people. 

Madison Nardy is a member of One Pennsylvania and a worker leader of the Philly Worker Power Organizing Project. Madison studies political science at Temple University. She worked at The Philadelphia International Airport before being furloughed due to COVID-19.

Southern public sector workers are fighting to stay safe, while they perform essential services

Public sector workers are more highly unionized than private sector ones, so it’s to be expected that they have some more ability to bargain about working conditions during the COVID-19 shutdown. However, public sector unionization isn’t uniform across the US—in many states, public employees labor under Right-to-Work laws, or work in states that don’t allow collective bargaining in the public sector. 

North Carolina is one of the Southern states that explicitly ban public sector employers and employees from signing a collective bargaining agreement–some have described it as the last relic of the Jim Crow South. To get a sense of how public workers are protecting themselves, as well as the public, I talked to members and staff from UE Local 150, which represents city workers in five cities in the state, as well as the state university system, and other parts of the state government. 

After a Raleigh sanitation worker Adrian Grubbs became the second person in the state to die of the disease, the union pushed for safety precautions and PPE for essential workers around the state—and some cities initially responded proactively. Charlotte, for example, switched their sanitation workers’ schedules to a rotating one, where workers shared shifts by working one week on and one week off—to reduce the number of people in the facilities each morning. However, after complaints from residents that their trash wasn’t being picked up “on time,” the City recently informed the entire sanitation department that they should report for work on Monday, 4/6. 

Dominc Harris, the president of the UE chapter at the City of Charlotte said in a phone interview, “Workers should die so they have a clean curb? It’s out for maybe 12 hours. It makes us feel like they are endangering us. It’s not fair, it’s not right.” On Monday morning, public workers around the city will be wearing stickers to show solidarity with the sanitation department. 

According to UE Local 150 organizer Dante Strobino, the union has launched several petitions supporting workers in both the state university system and in various cities, including this one that supports the Charlotte workers. “We wanted petitions that people could circulate through their cell phones, so they didn’t have to have physical contact, or pass around paper and pens (which could spread disease),” Strobino told me. “It’s attracted a bunch of interest from workers who weren’t previously active with the union. We had 500 university workers sign a petition to UNC and the governor, before it went out to the public.” 

While most students have left the university in order to minimize the spread of disease, UNC has let around 600 students who had no where else to go (mostly international students and students who have dysfunctional family relationships or no other place to go) shelter in place on campus. That means that the kitchens are still open, and housekeepers are still expected to report to work. However, those workers who have small children are finding themselves torn, as many of the daycare centers and schools that watch their children while they’re at work in normal times have closed. 

Greisa Vazquez, a housekeeper who works for the state Department of Health & Human Services at Central Regional Hospital, told me that she’s been at home since the daycare that her three-year-old attends was closed. “I went to HR weeks ago to ask them about the plan for those of us who have kids—and they didn’t have one. Other workers have family members taking care of their children, but my family all live in Puerto Rico, so I don’t have anyone here. My paid time has already been used up. I’m stressed because I can lose my job while I’m waiting for them to figure it out. I just moved into a new apartment, and I’m going to lose it if I can’t pay my rent.”

Strobino told me that the state’s mental health workers, generally, have not been getting hazard pay, even though the hospitals are still accepting in-patient admissions, making it hard to practice physical distancing. “They’re supposed to pay time and half during health emergencies—and they’re not even doing that. They’re not handing out enough personal protective equipment, for instance, not everyone is given an N95 mask yet. The Department is sending home instructions on how to sew your own mask. Some units are taking hand sanitizer off the floors to save it til there is a case—but the (mostly white) nurses get to use it, while the (mostly Black and Brown) blue-collar staff are denied access.” 

The union has recently worked with other movement groups to launch a new coalition: North Carolina United for Survival and Beyond, and is putting pressure on the state legislature to convene a special session to spend about $3.2 billion in Rainy Day & other funds, to address immediate and long-term needs related to the crisis presented by income and social inequality, as well as those directly created by the virus.