Issue 19: Worker, protect your health

28 Sep 2018

Over two hundred Telltale Games workers (all but 25 of the company) were laid off this week with no explanation and no severance. One worker has filed a class action lawsuit against the company for breaking state and federal WARN laws, which requires most businesses to give 60 days notice in advance of mass layoffs.

The response from our friends at Game Workers Unite is a beacon of truth and encouragement, and a challenge to workers throughout the tech industry that the time to demand change is now. Here are a few excerpts from the powerful statement: 

Let us be clear. The executives at Telltale are incompetent. They are exploitative. They knew that this was coming and failed to warn anybody. We know that the management disregards their workers.

Take the time you need to rest and recover, but know that we are here for you when you need the support. We as workers can forge a better industry with sustainable, fair, and dignified working conditions. An industry that provides safety nets and holds our companies accountable. An industry where no worker lives in fear of being exploited by the executives of the company.

As long as workers are isolated from each other when standing up against exploitative patterns within management, we as an industry will suffer. We are here to unite workers - to leverage our collective strength to make a difference in the industry. We stand with the staff who have been thrown aside by Telltale’s management and are here to help in any way that we can.


Upcoming Events

Tech Workers Coalition is getting East Coast active! A Boston local of TWC is officially off the ground and holding their first event in October. Heck yea!

And peeps in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Philadelphia: turn out next week to meet and greet other workers who are organizing to fight for positive change in their workplaces, communities, and society.

Here’s the details about upcoming events from coast to coast.

Introduction to the TWC (NYC) 
Wednesday, 10/3 6PM at Sixth Street Community Center in New York

TWC: Workers’ Café 
Thursday, 10/4 7PM at Verso Books in Brooklyn

Organizing Tech Workers: An Intro to TWC (Philly)
Friday, 10/5 7PM at Friends Center in Philadelphia

TWC Monthly General Meeting 
Thursday, 10/11 6:30PM at Seattle Labor Temple Association in Seattle 

Learning Club: Chinese Workers are “Striking to Survive” 
Thursday, 10/11 7:30PM at Stanford
Facebook • Meetup • Reading materials

Learning Club: No Wall They Can Build
Saturday, 10/13 2PM at Omni Commons in Oakland
Facebook • Reading materials

Learning Club: How are tech workers workers?
Sunday, 10/28 2PM at Cambridge Public Library 

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

In The News

This week at Dreamforce, workers and community groups including FightForTheFuture and Mijente protested Salesforce’s refusal to #CancelTheContract with Customs & Border Protection by bringing a giant, real-life cage to the event, attracting massive attention from the crowd of attendees.

On Wednesday night during the mainstage Metallica concert, projectors flashed messages of support for the protesters, including #CancelTheContract and Text BENIOFF to 384-387 to learn his secret.

In typical fashion, Benioff’s response to being held accountable is to retreat back into his wealth and privilege. Instead of keeping his engagement with the Executive Director of RAICES, Benioff excused himself with this tone-deaf e-mail: “I am sorry, I’m actually scuba diving right now.”

But just as the protests were starting to wrap up, we got word that Salesforce executives agreed to a meeting to discuss the CBP contract. In the words of FightForTheFuture, “To be true leaders for ethical tech [Salesforce] must #CancelTheContract.”

Google bosses forced employees to “delete a confidential memo” that contained “explosive details” about Dragonfly’s censorship features.

Eric Schmidt announced his philanthropy fund’s new project exploring “ideas that can increase the wages of 100,000 low and moderate income workers by at least $10,000” saying he was “delighted to support call for ideas for a ‘unicorn for the middle class’.” Twitter took him to school with a labor history lesson on why unions, not unicorns, are what workers need.

Facebook’s hate speech and white nationalism policy is undergoing internal review following meetings in which civil rights leaders and lawyers educated the corporate bosses on “centuries of history, legal precedent, and expert scholarship that all establish that white nationalism and white separatism are white supremacy”.  

A former Facebook content moderator is suing the company for PTSD inflicted by daily review of psychologically traumatizing material. The moderator’s subcontracting agency will also be charged in the suit for violating California workplace safety standards. The worker’s lawyers will also dispute their NDA so that more details of their day-to-day work will be brought to light. Related: a new documentary, “The Cleaners”, explores the work and lives of content moderator contractors in the Philippines who review graphic content and “scrub social media”.

The latest in the big tech sex panic that is punishing workers and threatening their livelihoods: PayPal has banned ASMR content creators and frozen their funds for 180 days. 
The Independent Drivers’ Guild holds customer service trainings for Uber drivers who have been deactivated after their rating dropped below 4.5. In the trainingsdrivers help each other shed light on the hidden aspects of the algorithm and ways Uber controls drivers. Critics say the Guild is in the pocket of Uber, citing that they’ve taken money from the company and have agreed not to push for employee status for drivers. 

Even the WSJ agrees: The business model of tech is broken, and needs greater regulation and scrutiny into data control and usage.

Tesla’s HR chief is out after the company’s embarrassing missteps in its NLRB investigation. In an email exchange with Musk, the CHRO suggested promoting organizing workers to management so they wouldn’t be union-eligible (promoting organizing workers is illegal).  

You don’t need a union to exercise your worker muscle. Where even two workers act collectively, you are protected under the concerted activity clause of the NLRA. Car wash, hotel and restaurant workers in New Mexico have formed small worker committees to safely raise demands at their workplaces; in instances where they were fired they were reinstated with back wages after filing complaints through the NLRB.  

Six hundred members of Teamsters Local 853 who drive for Apple, Tesla, Amazon, Twitter, LinkedIn, Salesforce, Electronic Arts, Facebook and others have ratified a contract that will raise wages, pay vacation and training time, and give better retirement options. 

Image below: Leaked Amazon training videos educate managers on how to spot and squash union activity. “You would never threaten to close your building just because associates joined a union. But you might need to talk about how having a union could hurt innovation which could hurt customer obsession which could ultimately threaten the building’s continued existence.” Warning signs managers should look for that workers are organizing include “workers who normally aren’t connected to each other suddenly hanging out together” and “associates raising concerns on behalf of their coworkers”, and we suppose, any kind of esteem for humanity or privileging freedom over alienation.

Still from an Amazon anti-union training video showing a list of 'union words'

Song Of The Week

Habibi Funk // حبيبي فنك : Kamal Keila - Agricultural Revolution (Sudan, 1992)

I’m feeling hungry
But I need nobody to get me something
I’m going to dig the land
We need nobody to give us something
Everybody have to dig the land