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Techworker Podcast: Amazon succeeds in crushing union effort

In this week's episode of the Techworker podcast, Paul and Dan discuss Amazon's success in crushing the effort by union workers in Alabama. Also: A tough week for Google, Uber, and Deliveroo.


New Letter from Alphabet Workers Union Condemns Google Management of Workplace Harassment

After an Op-Ed in The New York Times from former-Googler Emi Nietfeld made waves, the Alphabet Workers Union demanded real changes from CEO Sundar Pichai.


BBC: The Woman Who Took on Google and Won

At the end of last month, Google began posting public notices at facilities for the contractor Modis that employees could discuss wages and conditions. The notices were a way of Google settling a charges with the National Labor Relations Board. The woman behind those charges is named Shannon Wait, and the fight began when she started discussing pay transparency with her peers.


The New York Times: Amazon Union Vote Count Pauses For Night: Live Updates

When the vote count was paused late Thursday night, results appeared to be going Amazon's way. When voting paused, 1,100 workers had voted against unionization, while 463 had voted in support.


Insider: Hundreds of Deliveroo Riders in the UK are Striking on its First Day of Full Trading Over Pay and Working Conditions

At least 400 UK Deliveroo riders striked Wednesday demanding better pay and working conditions. The riders are represented by the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB), who is also challenging Deliveroo over the riders' work classification in the UK Courts. Last month, the UK Supreme Court ruled against Uber in a case over driver's rights.


Insider: Uber is Spending $250 Million to Persuade Drivers to Get Back on the Road

Many Uber drivers have stopped driving during the pandemic - so many so that despite the decreased demand, there still aren't enough drivers to respond to all riders' requests. Thus, Uber announced on their corporate blog Wednesday that they would be spending $250 million on incentives to get drivers back on the road.


Insider: Engineers at Marcus by Goldman Sachs “Quitting in Droves”

Marcus started as a model startup within Goldman Sachs, having a distinctly different ethos, driven by work-life balance, than Goldman's infamously cut-throat culture. But in a rush to engineer a new suite of products, Marcus workers began working 12 to 14 hour days. There are 1,000 engineers at Marcus out of 2,500 total employees, and one worker estimated that the mass exodus means Marcus has lost about 25% of its original engineers. The company was first founded in 2016.


Washington Post: Emails show Amazon pressed Postal Service for mailbox, a move a union believes violates labor law

The Washington Post expressed its independence from its owner today, publishing new revelations of Amazon's Bessemer, Alabama union-busting shenanigans. Apparently, after asking the NLRB to place a mailbox at the site and being denied, Amazon went directly to the US Postal Service to pressure it to place a drop box there, and subsequently both USPS and its biggest customer lied about it. The Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union has previously complained that the on-site mailbox amounts to intimidation and provides Amazon undue control, and today's revelations bolster those claims.


Vice: Amazon Workers in Chicago Strike Over Ruthless ‘Megacycle’ Shifts

As the world waits for the final tally of the union vote at the Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, workers at an Amazon warehouse in Chicago have walked out in protest over grueling shift policies. Shockingly, Amazon's clapback intimidation on Twitter doesn't seem to have quelled workers' appetite for a place at the table.


The New York Times: After working at Google, I’ll never let myself love a job again.

When Emi Nietfeld was a software engineer at Google, she says she "couldn't imagine life beyond its walls." Google provided her gym, her doctor, her social life, and her job. That she built her life around the company, however, she says was a mistake. Through the process of reporting sexual harassment, she says she learned that Google always put the company's best interest ahead of the needs of employees.


Bloomberg: Doordash drivers are gaming the app’s algorithm to increase pay

The Facebook group #DeclineNow has over 40,000 members, all of whom are Doordash drivers attempting to raise their minimum pay. The members have all decided to decline any orders that pay less than $7 in delivery, more than twice the minimum $3. This, in turn, forces the algorithm to raise pay rates to meet demand. However, the Facebook page is also plagued with problems: mainly a toxic culture, which shames drivers who aren't on board with $7 or show uncertainty.


The Verge: Gimlet and Ringer unions detail their first historic contracts with Spotify

Spotify negotiated contracts with the Writers Guild of America, East, representing workers for The Ringer and Gimlet Media. The three-year contract includes base salaries, guaranteed annual increases, diversity hiring and a provision limiting the use of contractors beyond ten months. The union was unable to secure intellectual property rights for the workers to the content they create.


The Mercury News: Google’s downtown San Jose transit village project offers $200 million in community benefits

The City of San Jose and Google have struck a deal and defined the scope and plan to develop a massive chunk of the city surrounding Diridon Station, future terminus of the California high-speed rail (fingers crossed). The plan, four years in the making, includes 4,000 housing units –half of them designated affordable – 15 acres of open space, shops, restaurants and office space for 20,000 Google workers. It also features $200 million in community benefit funds and labor agreements for its construction and maintenance. Labor groups including Silicon Valley Rising call the plan a victory. It heads to the San Jose Planning Commission later this month and could go into effect as early as May.


The Verge: Alphabet shareholder pushes Google for better whistleblower protections

Trillium Asset Management, which holds 63,078 Alphabet shares and calls itself a "sustainable investment firm", has filed a shareholders resolution to review the corporation's whisteblower policies and questioning the ostensible rationale behind the firings of Margaret Mitchell and Timnit Gebru. "Whistleblowers protect investors, not management." Welcome to the struggle, asset managers.


Bloomberg: Google AI Research Manager Resigns After Two Fired From Group

The winter continues to come at Google AI, Samy Bengio is the latest prominent team member to go, this time apparently of his own accord.


SF Chronicle: Uber reigning in drivers’ ability to set prices and preview destinations

As part of their legal push in opposition to California Assembly Bill 5, Uber began letting drivers to set their prices and preview destinations before accepting a ride. AB5 was intended to make app-based workers, like Uber drivers, employees rather than independent contractors in the state. By giving drivers the ability to set their rates and pick their gigs, Uber argued that it was defending drivers' status as independent contractors. Now protected by Prop 22, Uber is threatening to curtail those liberties in order to increase profits and reliability.


The Washington Post: How Facebook’s recruiting practices hurt people of color

Rhett Lindsey, who is Black, was a recruiter at Facebook for only 11 months before he quit. He was hired to recruit high paid engineers during a time when Facebook claims to be increasing their diversity, with a goal of hiring 30% more people of color into leadership roles by 2025. But factors like "culture fit," which Facebook no longer explicitly looks for but measures implicitly in several ways, as well as a system which requires recruiters to guess at ethnicity and categorize applicants by "affirmative action" categories, get in the way of those goals.


Buzzfeed: Data leak shows widespread use of Clearview AI with little oversight

On Tuesday April 6 Buzzfeed published a startlingly large data leak showing that Clearview AI had been used by over 7,000 people across nearly 2,000 public agencies. Clearview AI was most commonly distributed via a 30-day free trial emailed to thousands of emails tied to law enforcement, allowing officers to begin using the technology immediately and without oversight or approval from their supervisors. In many cases, police chiefs weren't aware that subordinates had used the technology before Buzzfeed's inquiry. In one particularly concerning example, Alameda police were found to be using Clearview AI for months after elected leaders banned the use of facial recognition. Other public agencies using Clearview AI included schools, ICE, the Air Force, healthcare organizations, and offices of state attorneys general. Clearview AI has been shown to be both inaccurate and racially bias, though CEO Hoan Ton-That refutes these findings and says he is proud public agencies can use the tech to solve serious crimes.


Tech Workers Coalition: Civis’ pro-labor, pro-union claims should apply to its workers

In the recent Tech Workers Coalition newsletter, workers at the 'progressive' data analytics firm Civis Analytics explain how they were fired after trying to organize. The story highlights how companies touting progressive goals don't always have worker's best intensions in mind.

Bloomberg: Amazon apologizes for tweet denying that drivers have to pee in bottles

Well, "apologizes." In a blog post published April 2nd, Amazon apologized to Representative Mark Pocan for denying that their delivery drivers had to pee in bottles. The March 24th tweet received intense backlash, particularly after The Intercept published internal documentation showing that Amazon knew about the problem since at least 2018. The blog post, however, says that the problem of delivery drivers not having time to find and use the restroom was "industry-wide," due to traffic, rural routes and pandemic bathroom closures. Not, you know, working conditions at Amazon.

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