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.
VentureBeat: Black Women, AI, and Overcoming Historical Patterns of Abuse
A trio of MIT researchers published a report earlier this year titled the Abuse and Misogynoir Playbook, breaking down how the intersection of sexism and racism impacts Black women in professional spaces. In it, they lay out an easy-to-understand 5-step process which describes how Black women are systematically silenced and reprimanded. As a case study they analyze the events leading up to Timnit Gebru's firing from Google. Their research shows that misogynoir is not only all-too common, but also reflects a larger historical pattern rooted in colonialism.
The Conversation: Post Office Scandal Reveals a Hidden World of Outsourced IT the (UK) Government Trusts But Does Not Understand
Hundreds of UK residents were charged with unwarranted convictions of theft, fraud, and false accounting between 2000 and 2014. On April 23, the UK court of appeals reversed convictions of 39 Post Office workers accused of causing the mistake, squarely placing the blame instead on the organization's Horizon IT System. The scandal reveals the way the UK government has systematically outsourced responsibility to external IT companies and the consequences of scapegoating these it company's workers.
The New York Times: The Googleplex of the Future Has Privacy Robots, Meeting, Tents, and Your Very Own Balloon Wall
When Google surveyed their employees about how many days they wished to return to work, numbers were evenly split between 0 and 5 days a week. For that reason, Google is pursuing a fully hybrid remote work model, and redesigning their office spaces to make people more comfortable in a post-pandemic world. Some of the most nifty features include desks which adjust to individual employees' preferences with the swipe of a badge and robots that detect whether work is confidential and inflate balloon walls to block other workers' view.
Bloomberg: Amazon Spending $1 Billion on Early Pay Bump for Hourly Workers
Amazon will be introducing raises ranging from 50 cents to $3 an hour for over 500,000 workers in their logistics division, a move intended to boost hiring in their fastest growing sector. Amazon was criticized during the failed campaign to unionize in Bessemer, Alabama for having wages lower than competitors in the logistics industry, despite starting at $15 an hour. Workers also report increased overtime shifts in recent weeks, a sign that Amazon may be short staffed.
Bloomberg: Google Is Saving Over $1 Billion a Year by Working From Home
According to a recent company filing, Google saved $268 million in travel, entertainment, and other perks for employees during a period in the COVID-19 pandemic. On an annualized basis, that would be more than $1 billion a year. Google has said they will pursue a partially in-person "hybrid" model starting later this year.
David Heinemeier Hansson: Let it All Out
In a Wednesday blog post from Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson, he detailed recent reporting in The Verge about internal conflict at the company over DEI issues. In it, he shared some of the emails that have been sent to employees about the matter and explained 'his side' of how events transpired. He also announced that, upon hearing many employees were looking to leave, Basecamp would offer generous severance packages of 3 or 6 months' salary depending on how long the employee had worked there. The move seems to signal that the founders are not interested in changing their new policy banning political discussions in the work place.
The Verge: Breaking Camp
The founders of Basecamp sparked debate in Silicon Valley this week when they banned political discussions in the workplace. According to six employees who spoke with The Verge, however, the political discussions happening at Basecamp all focused on the company itself. For example, workers discovered a 10-year-old list in 2009 which early employees used to keep track of customers they thought had funny-sounding names. Many employees found the list not only irresponsible, but often racist. In another instance, a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) committee's report, which connected the list to broader systemic oppression, led to founder David Heinemeier Hansson publicly humiliating an employee in front of the entire company. Given that most "political" discussions intersected with those of the company, workers are left confused about what parts of their lives and opinions they can share. They also describe the move as a 180 degree turn in the company's culture, which praised "opinionated software" and "opinionated people." Many of Basecamp's employees are already looking for new jobs.
Politico: Gig Companies Seek to Sway Biden’s Pro-Union Task Force
In Politico's morning tech newsletter, new reporting revealed that industry groups are attempting to influence Biden's newly appointed Pro-Union Task Force, signed in via executive order Monday. The task force is set to advise on whether the federal government can reclassify workers as full-time employees. Chamber of Progress, an industry group made up of members like Lyft, Doordash, Lime and Uber is just one of the groups trying to exert their influence. In a statement, Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich said "I hope that the task force can encourage more experimentation...that can help achieve many of [the goals of unionization] and take into account how people want to work."
All Access: NPR Voluntarily Recognizes Union of Tech Workers
63 workers in NPR's Digital Media Division have decided to unionize under NABET-CWA Local 31. On Wednesday morning, NPR voluntarily recognized the union, formally titled "Digital Media United." The union said in a statement, "we hope the success of our campaign is part of a greater wave in tech organizing that will positively impact the efforts of fellow technologists across the industry."
Insider: Basecamp Employees are Distraught Over the Company’s Policy Changes. And a Diversity Council had to Shut Down Before its First Meeting.
After Basecamp CEO wrote a controversial blog post outlining new codes of conduct for employees Monday, several of those employees took to social media to express their frustration. Most controversial of the new rules is that which bans political conversation in the workplace. "Todays policy changes are disheartening and fill me with sadness. I'm angry for my friends that have lost their voices," wrote one employee, named John Williams, on Twitter. The changes also came just days before the company's diversity council held their first official meeting, giving them just two weeks to wind down their work. Basecamp cofounders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have responded to the criticism by doubling down in new blog posts, and Heinemeier Hansson told Insider employee reactions are split.
SEC: Alphabet Proxy Statement Filed; Recommend Voting Against Whistleblower Proposal
An Alphabet proxy statement was filed with the SEC Friday evening, including different shareholder proposals before the board of directors this year, and including the company's recommendation for each proposal. Notably, the board recommends voting against proposals urging whistleblower protections at the company and another urging the company to hire a board member focused on civil rights. In a particularly notable assertion, the board chairmen writes that "the company has made significant progress in continuing to build products, especially in AI, ethically and responsibly" — despite the highly controversial firings of AI ethics co-leads Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell.
NBC: Gig Workers Fear Carjacking, Other Violence Amid Spike in Crimes
Across the US, gig workers are facing an increased threat of carjacking, gun violence, and even kidnapping. Many of these workers are looking or already care firearms, tasers, and knives despite being prohibited by most gig company's rules. Gig companies consistently state that driver's safety is a top priority, with Uber in particular recently instituting new safety measures like additional verification requirements for customers using anonymous payment methods. However, app-based workers demand better protections.
Variety: ‘The Gig is Up’ Review: The Perils of Platform Work, Personified
A new documentary directed by Shannon Walsh investigates work dictated through online platforms. In it, she grapples not only with the treatment of workers, but the nature of the work itself - often lacking inherent meaning, but given value by the gig corporation's pitch to "be your own boss." However, Variety critiques the documentary for being a "scattered primer," displaying why solidarity is so difficult to achieve with few suggestions as to how to organize it.
US Senate: Gig Workers Rising Representative Chase Copridge Speaks to Senate about Perils of Gig Work
Bay Area Gig Worker and organizer Chase Copridge spoke to the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Thursday as part of a briefing on how American workers are impacted by the broader financial system. The hearing is the first time since the passage of Prop 22 in California that a gig worker has been able to speak to US Senators. Copridge says that he lives in his van to keep his "head above water" after facing poor pay, a lack of support and benefits, and losing his car after driving it "into the ground without money back," from the various gig companies he's worked for. He also says he is further impacted by racism through Instacart's review processes in particular, which forces workers to complete 100 orders before dropping their lowest review. Gig workers have only lost money since the passage of Prop 22 according to Coprdige, who supports the passage of the PRO Act. He has worked for Amazon Flex and DoorDash, and now works for InstaCart.