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.
Bloomberg: Uber Says Costs to Recruit Drivers Will Weigh on Results
Uber stocks took a hit Wednesday evening after Uber said spending to recruit drivers back to the platform will make it harder to reach their goal of profitability by the end of the year. Uber said last month that it would be spending $250 million on bonuses and other incentives, and said in the earnings call that this spending increased costs in the first quarter. It's adjusted lost was $359 million.
Reuters: Uber, Lyft Have a California Playbook to Fight Proposed U.S. Rules on Workers
As appointments within the Biden administration forecast a new effort to reclassify app-based workers as employees, companies like Uber and Lyft will likely turn to a lobbying playbook that proved successful when California voters passed Proposition 22. Amongst the most successful strategies from gig companies Prop 22 campaign included mass texts, emails, mailings, and push-notifications targeting app-based workers, threatening to end ubiquitous food-delivery and ride-hail services, and heavy advertising. Companies banded together last winter to form the App-Based Work Alliance, which is now promoting the statements of workers who say they want to remain independent contractors and do not support the PRO Act.
Bloomberg: Lyft Loss Narrower Than Estimates as Riders Start to Return
Lyft said that rider demand is rebounding significantly in a quarterly results announcement Tuesday. Airport rides alone were up 65% in April compared with January of this year, and earnings are beating analyst estimates by $143 million. Lyft has been offering additional driver incentives in recent weeks in an effort to meet demand.
SEC: Trillium Asset Management Files Proxy Memo in Support of Proposal to Adopt Whistleblower Protections
The memo urges for a third-party review analyzing whistleblower policies at the company because of what Trilliam Asset Management calls multiple "red flags," in recent months. These "red flags" include the firings of Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell of the Google Ethical AI Team, the formation of the Alphabet Workers Union, and media reports of sexism and racism in the workplace. Trilliam Asset Management asserts that these "red flags" are "threatening the company's reputation and it's ability to attract top-tier talent and posing a human rights risk."
Yael Eisenstat: Tech CEO to Workforce: Shut Up, Get Back to Work, and Ignore Those Annoying Critics
In a recent Medium post, Techworker advisor Yael Eisenstat discusses how Basecamp founders' new rules on political discussion are in some ways symptomatic of a larger problem in tech culture. Though Basecamp doesn't have the same potential to cause societal harm as her former workplace, Facebook, she believes that the Basecamp founders are influential enough to spark a trend throughout the tech industry, as evidenced by the support of Coinbase's Brian Armstrong. She also compares the new rules at Facebook to behavior she saw exhibited while at Facebook, where she says she had difficulty thoroughly dissecting problems and the product's consequences on society because of a resistance from her manager.
Thomson Reuters Foundation Long Reads: Risks for South Africa’s Food Couriers Surge During the Pandemic
Road accidents involving food couriers in South Africa jumped 30% during the pandemic, according to data obtained by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. 70-95% of a total 6,400 active food delivery drivers in the country are migrants, many of whom traveled to the country for work over the last 15 months. Categorized as independent contractors, these workers are mostly ineligible for protections like workers compensation or overtime pay.
Insider: IBM Is Hunting for a Smaller NYC Office Now That 80% of its Employees Won’t Come In Every Day. It’s a Sign of the Times.
Vice President of Enterprise Operations for IBM, Joanne Wright, told Insider that the company was searching for a 300,000 square foot office space in Manhattan — a 40% reduction from the 500,000 square feet they said they were seeking last summer. The change is a sign that IBM is serious about their commitment to remote work.
Insider: The Gourmet Free Food that Facebook Lavished on Employees Won’t Be On the Menu When They Return to the Office
Many workers choose to work at companies like Facebook and Google at least in part for their lavish perks, including free food. However, executive chef for Facebook's New York offices Eton Chan said the company will be offering only an abbreviated menu of prepackaged meals and snacks when workers begin returning to work in July. Before the pandemic, Chan was serving 50,000 free meals per week at the New York office.
Konnor Rogers: An Ongoing List of Basecamp Employees Who Publicly Quit After CEOs Banned ‘Political’ Discussions
According to Insider, the list comprises about one third of employees at the company.
Insider: Amazon Was Ranked by LinkedIn as the Best Place to Grow Your Career. But the List Omitted Major Factors Like Pay and Race.
Though LinkedIn listed Amazon as the #1 place for young techworkers to grow their careers, an investigation by Insider showed that LinkedIn didn't account for crucial criteria like racial diversity. Two months ago, diversity managers at Amazon told Recode that Black employees were promoted less frequently and rated more harshly than peers.