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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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Techworkers are powerful. In recent months they’ve forced change on harassment, discrimination, election interference and countless other shady business practices inside the world’s richest companies. When they speak, CEOs panic.

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

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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.

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The News Feed

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.


Bloomberg: Amazon Warehouse Worker Dies in Bessemer, Alabama

At the same Amazon warehouse site where workers attempted to form a union in defense of better conditions earlier this year, an Amazon worker has collapsed and died. The worker was sent to the hospital last Thursday after he was found in a warehouse bathroom.


Insider: Google’s Childcare Workers are Furious About the Company Ordering Them Back Into the Office Without Paying Their Transportation Costs

Google has ordered childcare workers back to the office starting today, despite the fact that company shuttles have not restarted regular operations. The company is only moving corporate employees back to a "hybrid" model this September, and the company has gotten a lot of press in recent weeks for the accommodation's it's making to ensure those employees feel comfortable when they return. Childcare workers have therefore started a petition asking Google leadership for a $1500 a month transportation stipend, saying it's the least they could do considering how far many employees live from the Google campus, the short notice, and the fact that most workers only make $20 per hour.


Bloomberg: Coinbase Plans to Close Its San Francisco Headquarters in 2022

The announcement isn't a huge surprise, given that CEO Brian Armstrong announced last year that the company would be "remote first." Their San Francisco office was at risk of becoming an "unofficial HQ," according to a company statement. Decentralization is crucial to cryptocurrency, and it appears that same mentality is being reflected on the way Coinbase employees work.


Vice: Amazon Drivers are Instructed to Drive Recklessly to Meet Delivery Quotas

A new safety app Amazon is requiring delivery drivers to download monitors drivers speed and whether they appear distracted. However, drivers often must exceed safe speed limits to meet their delivery quotas, and also say that the app sometimes marks small things like moving the phone a little as "distracted driving." According to texts obtained by Vice, some dispatchers are instructing drivers to turn off the app so that they can meet the company's delivery quotas.


East County Today: Senator Levya’s “Silenced No More Act” Clears Senate

California Senate Bill 331 would expand California's existing prohibition of broad confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses to cases where workers are required to sign them as part of a severance agreement. Former Pinterest employee Ifeoma Ozoma, who alleged racial and gender discrimination against the company, is co-leading the legislation with Senator Levya.


Protocol: Amazon’s Non-Compete Agreement ‘Unfairly Handcuffed’ Her: How One Manager is Pushing Back

Charlotte Newman first came forward about harassment and discrimination at Amazon in early March. However, many may be surprised to know that she is still working for the company whilst suing them, because the company's non-compete agreements would keep her from taking on any similar positions for 18 months. Though non-compete agreements are uncommon in most of Silicon Valley because California does not enforce them, tech workers in other major hubs, like Seattle, are still vulnerable.


Bloomberg: Amazon Work Rules Govern Tweets, Body Odor of Contract Drivers

Despite the fact that they drive Amazon-branded vehicles, Amazon delivery drivers work for independent businesses contracted to deliver packages for the company. Amazon has exacting rules for these drivers, including strict personal grooming policies, mandated surveillance, and social media restrictions. Yet, they also claim to not be liable in the case of accidents or driver misconduct, expecting smaller companies to shoulder the blame. Legal experts say this relationship may be unlawful, and expect the Biden administration to examine it closely. Skeptics, however, point out that the Biden administration appointed an Obama administration veteran who wrote a book outlining arguments companies like Amazon use in court.