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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.