Issue 13: One struggle, one fight

17 Aug 2018

After years of working multiple jobs and putting their lives on the line just to make ends meet, Silicon Valley security guards have finally won a union contract.

“We began this organizing effort because officers in Silicon Valley were really struggling, some of us were homeless, and many of us were living on the edge and…working more than 40 hours a week,” Elizabeth, a Silicon Valley security officer and bargaining committee member, said in a statement.

“Silicon Valley is one of the wealthiest places in the world, and the most expensive. We need to keep fighting to improve our situation so that we can live life with some safety and dignity.”

While the union contract is a huge win for the security officers, it still lacks some of the protections they were fighting for.

We need to continue to organize and build power across job classifications - security officers, programmers, all of us. That’s the only way we can win.

Photo of the Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco with the TWC logo projected onto it

The brand new Salesforce Transit Center in San Francisco. We love the new look! artwork by @aemarling / Source

We learned this week that over 1,400 Googlers signed a letter demanding the following changes from management:

  1. An ethics review structure that includes rank and file employee representatives;
  2. The appointment of ombudspeople with meaningful employee involvement in their selection;
  3. A clear plan for transparency sufficient to enable Googlers an individual ethical choice about what they work on; and
  4. The publication of “ethical test cases”; an ethical assessment of Dragonfly, Maven, and Airgap GCP with respect to the AI principles; and regular, official, internally visible communication and assessments regarding any new areas of substantial ethical concern.

These demands come in response to news reports that Google has been planning to launch a censored search engine in China, internal code name “Dragonfly,” along with the company’s earlier decision to develop AI drone surveillance software for the Department of Defense under “Project Maven.” Among other concerning revelations, the New York Times reported that “Dragonfly” would censor air pollution information. This is the result of a continued lack of transparency and worker input, even in a company that claims to “not be evil.”

At a company-wide meeting on Thursday, execs reportedly told staff the product was at an “exploratory” phase and declined to address the asks the workers made in the above letter.

The only way we build power is by continuing to organize. We send our support to workers inside Google who are holding their bosses accountable.

Upcoming Events

TWC South Bay: Info Session
Saturday, 8/18 3PM at Silicon Valley De-Bug in San Jose

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

An in-depth investigation into Facebook’s propagation of genocide in Myanmar reveals an engine of evil with no end in sight. “For many in Myanmar, Facebook is the internet.”

Also see a computer science professor’s research into hate against Muslims on the Facebook platform.  

Customs and Border Protection rolls out facial recognition at Mineta San José International Airport.

Amazon’s lobbying for the $10B JEDI contract may have crossed over into criminal collusion behavior. “We recently became aware of serious and possible criminal violations related to the Amazon cloud DOD contract process,” says a high-ranking congressional staffer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “We are concerned about the implications of the appearance of conflicts of interest and impropriety related to how Pentagon personnel with close ties to Amazon may have influenced multi-billion-dollar cloud contracts.”

A former Google exec disclosed algorithmic bias in facial recognition software that kept Black faces from being recognized in video conference software. We’re not surprised by these disparities, which only reflect the lack of diversity in the design room. But tweaking an algorithm will do nothing to  answer the real problem of systemic anti-Black racism.

The fight continues to hold gig bosses responsible for violating workers’ basic rights.

The freelance platform Upwork uses surveillance tactics that include counting keystrokes and random screenshots. “To measure “Activity Level,” the program counts mouse movement and keystrokes. If a 10-minute period goes by and the tracker doesn’t record any clicks or taps, the freelancer is marked inactive.” There is no freedom in this future of work.

YouTube’s top video stars are crumbling under the relentless pressure of producing new content for the site.

Facebook patents technology to help lenders discriminate against borrowers based on social connections.

Organizing workers have tech CEOs “on the run”.

The failure of the open source movement and the undoing of the free software movement, explained.

On Monday, unionized journalists at Thrillist voted to authorize a strike over stalled contract negotiation with the food and travel website’s management. 

Striking workers can now get unemployment benefits in New Jersey.

The roadmap to worker power at Amazon.

Song Of The Week

This Little Light of Mine by Aretha Franklin