Issue 12: The boss needs you, you don’t need the boss

10 Aug 2018

The boss is starting to fight back.

The usual suspects – Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, Postmates, TaskRabbit, Square, and Handy – just cosigned a letter addressed to Governor Jerry Brown’s labor secretary, begging him to overturn the CA Supreme Court “Dynamex” ruling, that would require these gig platforms to recognize their “contractors” as full-time employees. That means companies like Uber would have to start following minimum wage and overtime laws, in addition to paying workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and payroll taxes.

Amazon, Google, Facebooks lobbying brobilizer front

Amazon, Google, Facebooks lobbying brobilizer front / Source

In their letter, the gig companies claim that the ruling will “[stifle] innovation and [threaten] the livelihoods of millions of working Californians,” leading to “decimated businesses.”

In other words, the Dynamex ruling has these platforms shaking in their boots.

While the gig economy giants put direct lobbying pressure on Sacramento, a mysterious association called the I’m Independent Coalition has sprung up alongside them, targeting gig workers themselves with the message that healthcare and overtime pay are actually an “assault on worker freedom.”

Who’s funding this PR campaign? Amazon, Google, and Facebook, among others. You may recognize this as a new evolution in “user lobbying” or what has been aptly termed “brobilizing” to describe how tech companies are organizing consumers to their own political ends.

Screenshot of a blog post at with the title, 'Resilience that inspires'

Corporate exploitation reaches a new low / Source

These companies will stop at nothing to protect their profits and keep workers trapped, spinning the image of the dehumanized gig worker into something to aspire to. We can barely make it through Amazon’s blatant PR exploitation of retiree Rick Reefer’s story:

For Reefer, “make a difference” means embracing Amazon’s culture of customer obsession. It also means trying to be a positive force in the lives of his coworkers. He never wants to see anyone give up on themselves. And he knows by now that just being around him can help people keep a sense of perspective and foster some optimism. Reefer has stayed positive, despite nine bouts of cancer that have dropped his weight below 100 pounds and despite the 2014 death of his wife that cut short the global travel that was supposed to be their victory lap after a half century together. “Even today, I’ll be sitting here in my den or something like that — maybe 7:00, 7:30 — and I’m sure she’ll be coming home from a walk. Then all of a sudden it hits me that she’s not coming back, you know? But that’s normal.

Upcoming Events

Bay Area National Prison Strike Call to Action / Mobilization
Saturday, 8/25 11AM at San Quentin State Prison

Seattle Learning Club: No Wall They Can Build
Saturday, 8/25 3:30PM at Capitol Hill Branch of The Seattle Public Library in Seattle
FacebookReading materials

The Code of Conduct is in effect at all TWC events.

In The News

Last weekend, the Berkeley Police Department actively instigated doxxing and abuse by tweeting images of arrested counter-protestors at an alt-right rally, most of whom would never be charged with a crime. Cal law professor and former Berkeley police review commissioner Veena Dubal called the decision “very disturbing.” She added:  “It seems like a public-shaming exercise, which is not the role of the police department….They are making it really accessible for folks who might wish these people harm to locate them.”

Are engineers the only ones who understand the future economy’s looming threats? No. Are engineers the only ones responsible for implementing it? Definitely not. Are engineers the only ones with the power to organize against those threats? Not even close! Aside from all that, we can still enjoy the insights from Susan Fowler on the particulars of Uber’s evil and the universals of exploitation in the gig economy.

Facebook will partner with big banks and provide user data in exchange for financial data.

Powered by Microsoft “Cognitive Services”, Uber’s identity verification feature for drivers flags and deactivates trans drivers

New evidence shows that wellness programs have no significant impact on employees aside from “limitless worker surveillance”.

HackerNews forums on “What is the most unethical thing you’ve done as a programmer?

Good news for drivers in New York: legislation passed on Wednesday will bar Uber and Lyft from adding new vehicles to the road for 12 months as well as allow the city to enforce a minimum wage for drivers—a move that was pushed for by the Independent Drivers Guild as a way to allow the city to collect info on where drivers are getting the most screwed in the gig economy. Ride share companies can add vehicles, however, if they are wheelchair accessible. Read NYTWA’s full release and remembrance of workers who were harassed, exploited, or killed in the struggle to get here.

Association for Computing Machinery released a Code of Ethics to help “technologists engage with ethical questions”; they liken the code to the Hippocratic Oath.

Engineers are turning down tech recruiters by citing concerns about corporate values”.

Ryanair pilots are striking today.

How workers are coordinating across sectors to shut down Trump’s immigration apparatus.

From The Guardian: An unprecedented wave of rank-and-file rebellion is sweeping Big Tech

Our digital world is deeply undemocratic. People have little power to shape the tools that shape their lives. Technology treats them as pockets of data to be mined, as parcels of attention to be harvested, as cogs of a labor process to be rationalized, as members of a community to be criminalized.

The workers who create that technology can help push it in a more democratic direction – not by acting on behalf of people, but in coalition and in solidarity with them. This is already happening: the tech worker campaigns have been strengthened by alliances with scholars, community organizers, immigrant rights activists, and groups like the ACLU. Tech workers have also played an important role in supporting the unionizing efforts of tech’s other workers: the service staff on Silicon Valley campuses, who struggle to make ends meet despite working for some of the richest companies in the world.

“These relationships offer a promising starting point for building broader coalitions. The aim should be to bring the creators, users, and targets of technology together, from the Amazon software engineer to the Amazon warehouse worker to the immigrant deported with the help of software running on Amazon Web Services. These are the kinds of solidarities that can empower tech workers to put people over profit, and serve society rather than shareholders.”

Song Of The Week

The Business - Real Enemy

Reality punk is all together
Fighting each other just ain’t clever
You’ve got the wrong enemy picking on a friend
If we don’t stand together then this is the end

Today’s youth stand together
In your combat and leather
There’s a cause a cause to fight
Not each other we must unite

Fight the real enemy

Banned from the pubs every night
Same old story will you ever see the light
Everyone together now listen to me
Don’t fight each other fight the real enemy