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Techworker Podcast: Sarah Lacy and Femily

In this week's episode, Sarah Lacy talks to Femily - aka Emily Howe - about how (and if) companies should bring their employees back to the office.


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We built to give a voice to those who work on the front lines of the tech industry.

From the senior engineer at Facebook to the Amazon warehouse contractor, TECHWORKER‘s mission was to tell the stories of the people toiling to deliver on Silicon Valley’s promises, for good or ill.

Sadly, we ceased publication in May 2021, but we hope to keep the archives online for as long as possible.

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Listen to our new podcast hosted by co-founders Paul Bradley Carr and Dan Raile!

In last week’s episode, Paul and Dan discussed Amazon's success in crushing the effort by union workers in Alabama. Also: It was a tough week for Google, Uber, and Deliveroo.. Subscribe to the Techworker podcast in your favorite podcast app.

The News Feed

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Worker Info Exchange: Uber’s Anti Fraud Systems and the Failure of Human Review

A new report from Worker Info Exchange examines the issue of drivers who are dismissed from Uber because the company's geolocation data finds that they are fraudulently placing two drivers on the same app. Oftentimes, this is not the case, and drivers are simply logging in from an alternate work phone, allowing a family member to use an alternate phone under their name, or experiencing technical glitches. The report examines the case of one driver, specifically, who was suspended in late 2020 despite having a rating of 4.97 and completing over 15,000 trips. In his case, it appears he was dismissed over a technical glitch. Though the company says it employs human review to protect against these situations, this data suggests that may not be the case.


Bloomberg: Amazon Will Hire 75,000 Logistics Workers in Latest Hiring Binge

After hiring approximately 500,000 logistics workers last year to meet the increased demand for online delivery, Amazon announced Thursday that it would be hiring another 75,000 workers in North America. These workers will receive $100 if they're vaccinated, receive a starting pay of $17 an hour, and be eligible for up to $1000 in signing bonuses. The company currently employs 1.3 million people.


Axios: Apple Parts Ways with Employee Amid Backlash

The hiring of Antonio Garcia Martinez spurred an online backlash Wednesday after employees discovered disparaging things he says about women in his new book "Chaos Monkeys." In the book, he describes Bay Area women "weak" and "naive," amongst other things. The incident is particularly remarkable because, compared to other tech giants like Facebook and Google, Apple employees rarely organize. Apple confirmed to Axios that Garcia Martinez no longer worked for the company Wednesday afternoon.


Reuters: Gig-Economy Riders in Spain Must Become Staff Within 90 Days Under New Rule

The Spanish government approved new rules Tuesday that require food delivery companies to employ their couriers as staff within the next three months. Uber criticized the decision, saying that the regulation "will directly hurt thousands of couriers who use food delivery apps for much-needed flexible earnings opportunities and made it clear they do not want to be classified as employees." Riders associations and Labor experts, on the other hand, say an even more stringent law may be necessary to completely resolve their legal situation.


#StopAsianHate: We Need to Talk About What It Means to Be ‘White-Adjacent’ in Tech

"It's that mix of privilege and exclusion that gives us just enough power to speak up but not enough to gain equitable access to opportunities and safety" write Block Party co-founder Tracy Chou and Project Include Co-founder and CEO Ellen K. Pao in a new Medium article for the #StopAsianHate campaign. The essay examines the role of Asians in tech, describing how the community is both overrepresented in tech generally but underrepresented in positions of executive power. During the pandemic, Asian tech workers have faced significantly more harassment than their counterparts because of rising anti-Asian racism. Pao and Chou encourage the AAPI community to find solidarity with other ethnic groups while fighting for the better treatment of AAPIs in tech and in the US more broadly.


Insider: Read the Essay Shopify’s CEO Sent to Managers to Remind Them They Are a Sports Team, Not a Family. It Shows the Growing Tension Between Leaders and Employees in the Corporate World.

The role of politics in the workplace has become a hot topic in tech news in recent months, mainly because of controversial opinions shared by both Coinbase and Basecamp's CEOs. In separate statements, the companies have said that that politics should be prohibited in the workplace, including the discussion of some DEI issues. A January email sent by Shopify's CEO to company managers now shows how another company chose to approach political speech. The email, albeit significantly less inflammatory than statements from Coinbase or Basecamp, still encourages workers to avoid "Slack trolling, victimhood thinking, us-vs-them divisiveness, and zero sum thinking." Controversy at the company had started when employees expressed concern over the company's use of a noose emoji on Slack, as well as a training video titled "Ten Slack Commandments" after The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ten Crack Commandments." In response, CEO Tobi Lutke had initially just switched the company's diversity Slack channel to read-only settings. This email shows the CEO took further steps to quiet political speech that went previously unreported.


The Wall Street Journal: Google Plans to Double AI Ethics Research Staff

In a speech at the Wall Street Journal's Future of Everything Festival, Vice President of Engineering Marian Croak said she will be expanding the size of the responsible AI team to 200 researchers. She began leading the AI ethics team in February after Google fired co-leads Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell.


Wired: Black and Queer AI Groups Say They’ll Spurn Google Funding

In a joint statement released Monday May 10, Black in AI, Queer in AI, and Widening NLP all said they would no longer take funding from Google. The move is in response to the firing of Ethical AI co-leads Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell, as well as the firing of recruiter April Christina Curley. Queer in AI is also raising issue with a discriminatory renaming process for academic papers listed on Google that often ignores requests from trans and nonbinary people who are misgendered. Though the three groups don't have formal policies on when to revoke sponsorship, it's the first time that any of them has rejected a corporate sponsor.


Bloomberg: Didi Vows to Improve Drivers’ Pay, Users’ Fares After Criticism

Public and state media in China began criticizing the ride-hailing company last week because the cost of rides was increasing while drivers wages were decreasing. In response, Didi Chuxing said they would improve its driver payment structure. According to a company statement, drivers take home about 79% of what customers pay.