Bloomberg: Apple Pledges $1 Billion for New North Carolina Engineering Hub
Apple has announced that it will open a new engineering hub in North Carolina, part of a $1 billion investment in an area referred to as the "Research Triangle" between Durham and Chapel Hill. The hub will be Apple's first major campus on the East Coast and join hubs for IBM, Cisco Systems Inc., and GlaxoSmithKline Plc which are also in the area. The new hub is estimated to create 3,000 new technical jobs.
Jason Fried: Changes at Basecamp
In a strange Monday evening post, Basecamp CEO Jason Fried has laid out his new vision for the company. The memo, which manages to reach a quote from The Doors of Perception (a book about mescaline) in its first few paragraphs, was posted as a blog post on Jason Fried's site world.hey. In it, he forbids "societal and political discussions" on company accounts, the removal of "paternalistic benefits" like an existing wellness allowance, the rolling back of "bureaucracy," and amorphous action items, like "no more lingering or dwelling on past decisions." It's hard to tell which commands are directives for employees or mere utterings from his digital soap box — read it to decipher for yourself.
Buzzfeed: Facebook Stopped Employees From Reading An Internal Report About Its Role In The Insurrection. You Can Read It Here.
Last Thursday, Buzzfeed reported out findings of an internal investigation into how Facebook groups helped incite the January 6th insurrection. The report Buzzfeed accessed had been uploaded to Workplace, an internal messaging board accessible to most employees. However, when Buzzfeed's story gained significant attention, moderators made the report inaccessible to most employees without citing a reason. Buzzfeed has now published the report in full.
The Nation: How Sexism is Coded into the Tech Industry
Tech has scrambled the way we conceptualize work, argues Adrian Daub, a Stanford professor and director of the Michelle R. Clayman Institute for Gender Research. As an example, he focuses on Yelp — a company that, he says, mirrors care work in that its "gamification" tricks people, and mostly women, into doing free labor such as writing reviews. Though gender representation in tech is a major issue, Daub says media outlets have paid insufficient attention to how work itself is gendered in Silicon Valley, coded through organizational hierarchies and who is given tasks dependent on emotional and "people" skills. This issue, he says, is deep seated in tech culture, and cannot be solved by pipeline programs or by shoehorning women into positions of power.
Insider: Travis Kalanick’s Stealth $5 Billion Startup, CloudKitchens, is Uber All Over Again, Ruled by a ‘Temple of Bros,’ Insiders Say
Hundreds of employees have left Kalanick's new company in its third year, citing a toxic workplace culture mimicking Kalanick's infamous reign at Uber. Notably, the company has chosen to follow many of the same mission statements, like "Always be Hustlin," and "Super Pumped." The company is built on both a real estate business and innovative software, in which CloudKitchens renovates facilities with multiple kitchens, partners with food entrepreneurs, and then connects those entrepreneurs with hungry customers through their platform. The facilities have popped up in 29 US Cities and host major clients like Wendy's. Such facilities have already alarmed local authorities, and are costing as much as five times their expected price to build according to multiple employees. Much like at Uber, Kalanick is also having employees work 12 and 14 hour days at CloudKitchens. Workers also cite a pervasive culture of sexism and racism, with managers branding a dessert at an Asian restaurant "Happy Ending," for example. Pressure to keeps costs low has forced some managers to begin hiding invoices. And many workers say they're being coerced out of bonus payments promised to them when they signed on in favor of equity shares, so the company can preserve their liquid assets.
Insider: Google’s College-Alternative Programs Have Already Trained 50,000 People. Silicon Valley Needs to Catch Up
Google's professional certificates, which aim to train people without college degrees in tech, have already been taken by over 50,000 people. The $39-a-month professional certificate programs prove beneficial when graduates land a job, too, as most of them see a raise within a half a year of completing coursework. But whether they will actually gain that entry-level job, or any promotion thereafter, is much more uncertain. Major tech firms, including Google itself, have done little to actually increase diversity at their companies. While improving the pipeline is important, sources say little changes if hiring managers don't actively hire more people without college degrees.
Bloomberg: Uber and Lyft are Spending Millions on Driver Bonuses to End Shortage
As parts of the country begin to reopen, people across the country are again pulling up their Uber and Lyft apps to get a ride home. But drivers, many of whom are turned off by Uber and Lyft's business practices and others who are still wary of COVID risk, are reluctant to return to the app. Now, the companies are both giving out hefty bonuses they haven't in years. Riders on Uber are now making double their normal rates, while Lyft drivers are averaging $40 an hour. The bonuses, however, will likely be short lived.
Bloomberg: Google Ethical AI Group’s Turmoil Began Long Before Public Unraveling
When AI researcher Timnit Gebru was fired in December of 2020, it set off a media firestorm about a culture of discrimination inside the company. But according to Gebru, Mitchell, other members of the Google ethical AI team, and peer researchers in the space, tensions had run high for four years prior. This deep-dive traces how divisions escalated, from when Mitchell arrived at Google in 2016 to now, months after Gebru and Mitchell's firings, with the resignation of Samy Bengio. According to the researchers, Google had a preexisting reputation for racism and sexism, and both of them had expected to face discrimination at the company. But the promotion of a colleague accused of sexual harassment, systemic undervaluing of women employees, and research disputes made for a working environment even worse than expected.
Asana Blog: Reuniting and Thriving in a Distributed World with Asana
Asana laid out their return-to-work strategy in a blog post Tuesday, April 20th. In the post, they re-commit to an ethos prioritizing in-person collaboration, and say that employees will be returning to the office four days a week. However, their "no meeting Wednesday" policy will be converted to an optional work-from-home policy on Wednesdays, while the company will continue without set hours as they had before the pandemic. In the interest of acknowledging employee concerns, quick polls will evaluate worker's feelings across teams and offices throughout the transition.
Insider: Uber and Lyft are Desperate for Drivers. Here’s What Drivers Say is Keeping Them Off the Road
Many drivers have stopped working for Uber and Lyft during the pandemic. Now faced with a rising demand, these companies are trying to lure drivers back with bonuses and higher rates. However, these perks aren't proving as attractive as they have before, likely because drivers are concerns are now more severe. Insider spoke to a group of app-based drivers and asked them why they were hesitant to return to the apps. According to Insider, drivers' concerns are multi-layered. For one, drivers are both worried and offended by how apps have managed the pandemic, instituting few safety protocols and using strict eligibility requirements for coronavirus "sick pay." Food, grocery, and package-delivery apps have provided safer work amongst the coronavirus crisis, luring drivers away from Uber and Lyft. Drivers also are still upset by the companies' manipulative claims about Prop 22, and many say they were too angry with the companies to return. Last, drivers say that they are now earning too much money from unemployment, stimulus checks, and other side jobs to return to work for Uber and Lyft's low rates. These drivers say Uber and Lyft will need to offer far more bonuses than they are now to bring them back to the app.
Defector: When Gig Workers Die on the Job, They Die Alone
On March 29, DoorDash delivery driver Francisco Villalva Vitinio was killed following an altercation with a stranger over his bike. This is not the first time violent crime targeted an app-based worker: violence against gig workers is common, and because companies don't consider them employees, they have little protection. In some states workers aren't entitled to worker's compensation, and even under laws like Prop 22, workers aren't entitled to paid leave or family support in case of death. This harsh reality has inspired some workers to organize behind groups like the Gig Workers Collective to campaign for worker reclassification and better protections and benefits.
Bloomberg: Union Appeals Amazon Election in Complaint Claiming Misconduct
The Retail Warehouse and Department Store Union has filed a formal complaint and demand for a redo of the Bessemer Amazon warehouse vote, citing 23 distinct violations including threatening workers with unemployment and loss of benefits if the union prevailed.
Protocol: Forced unemployment and second-class status: The life of Google’s data center contractors
Protocol's Anna Kramer has a deep dive into the context behind the story of Shannon Wait, the Google data center contractor who made a formal complaint to the NLRB with the support of the Alphabet Workers Union earlier this year. Kramer reveals the practice of firing and re-hiring data center contractors to skirt employment law, while dangling the prospect of becoming a full-time Google employee to stifle complaints. The workers in Google's 14 U.S. data centers contract with a company called Modis Engineering and enjoy few of the benefits and perks available to regular employees.
BBC: Facebook says Staff can Carry on Working from Home after COVID
Brynn Harrington, Facebook's vice president of People Growth, said that employees who get approval from a supervisor can continue working completely remotely after the pandemic. CEO Mark Zuckerberg had predicted that 50% of the company's workforce would be working remotely in the next 5 to 10 years last May. Though the company says they're making the shift in the interest of workers' wellbeing rather than to cut costs, they admit that employees salaries may change if they move to a location with a different cost of living.
Bloomberg: Amazon Pledges to Promote More Women, Black Employees
In a new report, Amazon released company-wide diversity data and pledged both a 30% increase of women in technical roles and a 100% increase in Black employees in high-level technical roles. Notably, the company did not release diversity data for technical employees specifically - information that major competitors have released since 2017. The company has historically avoided discussing racial and gender diversity in their ranks, releasing significantly less data than their peers. This data release follows shareholder pressure to audit how the company affects marginalized groups. Amazon asked the Securities and Exchange Commission to block shareholders' proposal in January, though the regulator denied their request.
Insider: Read the Presentation IBM is Giving its Nearly 350,000 Employees to Prepare Them to Return to the Office
IBM plans for 80% of employees to occupy hybrid remote roles after the pandemic. But as the company begins to reopen some of their offices, like their Armonk, New York headquarters, they are attempting to answer employees' questions before they ask. A new visual presentation IBM is expecting all employees to watch shows a woman named Sonia navigating the restroom, getting lunch, or entering an elevator. In the presentation, Sonia explains the different protocols IBM employees will need to follow upon their return. These protocols include staying 6 feet apart, requiring all employees to wear masks unless they are the only person in a room, and, in some cases, only allowing one employee to use a restroom at a time. Insider has obtained the straight-forward presentation, for subscribers to view.
Insider: Leaked Internal Microsoft Poll Results Show How 132,000 Employees Feel About Working There
The internal poll, viewed by Insider, showed that 90% of respondents found the company inclusive. Workers appeared more skeptical of whether they performed well or whether working at Microsoft was a "good deal." The company polls its workers each year, and typically shares the results with employees. This includes telling workers how their specific teams and organizations responded to the different topics.
Technext: ‘We are Reviewing our Rates,’ Bolt Tells Boycotting Drivers in Kenya
Drivers for both Uber and Bolt in Kenya have been threatening a boycott, saying that increased fuel costs and static wages have decreased their incomes to unsustainable levels. A letter sent to both companies threatened that drivers would delete their apps within 30 days if wages were not increased or company commissions decreased. It wouldn't have been the first time there was a drivers strike in Kenya, as they have turned to strikes as a bargaining tactic several times in recent years to fight for better wages. App-based drivers also submitted a proposal to the Senate in 2019 requesting a cap on company commissions.
Uber Blog: Our Return to the Office
Starting September 21, Uber will be following a hybrid model whereby workers only need to be in the office three days a week, and can work remotely two days a week. According to their own internal data, two thirds of employees prefer a hybrid model. However, Uber's 'internal data,' has proven questionable before - particularly in the context of driver surveys they conducted to support Prop 22, which claimed workers preferred to remain independent contractors.
The New York Times: ‘Master,’ ‘Slave’ and the Fight Over Offensive Terms in Computing
The Internet Engineering Task Force began a discussion on their email list serve last year about racist terms in computer code, like "master," "slave," "whitelist," and "blacklist." Yet, the group operates off a consensus structure (rather than approving actions with a majority vote), and aversions to "conversations about community comportment, behavior — the human side of things," have held up action. Others wonder whether a debate over language misses bigger problems in tech, like diversity and human rights.