Issue 40: 135 ways to stop the boss

15 Mar 2019

News broke on Monday of a second case of Google’s multi-million dollar payout for a perpetrator of sexual harassment. The next day workers across the industry took to Twitter under the hashtag #GooglePayoutsForAll to shed light on a system that allocates wealth to abusers at the expense of the workers on the bottom.

The payouts—that we know of—given to the two execs asked to quietly leave after instances of sexual abuse against their employees now total $135 million. Google walkout organizers asked and Tweeters answered: How else could we use that money if the bosses couldn’t use it to empower their abuses?

While we’re on the subject of “135”s that should be redistributed, the $135 billion that is Jeff Bezos’s net worth is also on our minds this week as we read accounts from the workers who are nickled-and-dimed while surviving—and sometimes not surviving—the hell on earth that is an Amazon warehouse.

Reporters who culled through 911 logs across the country determined that from 2013 to 2018, emergency response teams were summoned “at least 189 times for suicide attempts, suicidal thoughts, and other mental-health episodes.” That number represents 46 warehouses in 17 states, or the only 25% of US Amazon warehouses for which data was made available.

The reports include devastating images of workers attempting suicide with box cutters at their work stations; depression made worse from clocking in before sunrise and clocking out after sunset for days on end; chronic, day-long, aching pain; chapped, raw, open skin; “burst blood vessels in the backs of my knees, my fingertips grayed and eerily smooth, as if my fingerprints had worn away”.

Workers get two 15-minute and one 30-minute break on their 10.5 hour day shifts, those increments are also roughly about as long as it takes to walk across the warehouse and get frisked on their way in and out of security. The breaks are also the best time to use the bathroom since the packers’ and pickers’ targets are unceasingly monitored; their work is simultaneously grueling, boring, mentally-taxing and pressure-driven with quotas like 120 packed boxes in a single hour, over and over again.

Amazon has acquired a patent for employee-tracking wristbands that “monitor workers’ movements and vibrate to nudge them when it thinks they’re slacking off.” Relentless is the best word to describe it, one worker says, and as he points out, “Relentless” was Bezos’s preferred name for Amazon before starting the company; even today redirects to

It is a work environment designed to burn out and expire workers so they can soon be replaced with more disposable workers in a continuous cycle of being disposed of. And it’s how Bezos accrues $135 billion in personal wealth at a company now worth $1 trillion.

Upcoming Events

Seattle Writing Club at Victrola 
Sunday, 3/15 1PM at Victrola on 15th in Seattle

Chasing Innovation w/ Lilly Irani (Silicon Valley Uncovered)
Tuesday, 3/26 4PM at McLaren 251 at University of San Francisco 

🔥Burn Contract Burn: The Rise of Tech’s Contingent Workforce
Saturday, 3/30 3PM at Capitol Hill Branch of The Seattle Public Library in Seattle

TVC (Temps, Vendors and Contractors) Learning Club
Sunday, 3/31 2PM at San Jose Peace & Justice Center in San Jose
Facebook  •  Meetup

Alexis Madrigal on Containers (Silicon Valley Uncovered)
Tuesday, 4/9 4:45PM at TBD in San Francisco

TWC Monthly General Meeting
Thursday, 4/11 6:30PM in Seattle

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

Organizing Tip Of The Week


This is a pretty common trap for organizers to fall into: someone on the organizing committee is incredibly passionate, they’re doing one on ones like it’s their job. They want more responsibility, they’re stepping up; sure they have some personal conflicts with folks, but that will work itself out soon enough, right?

Not necessarily.

Organizing isn’t just measured in one on ones or in assignments completed. It’s also measured in collaboration and teamwork. We’re all complicated people with our own issues to work through, but when someone’s issues end up affecting other organizers, you have a problem on your hands that needs to be addressed immediately. On the one hand, you have someone who may need direction to learn how to work with others; on the other hand, you have the other organizers and maybe even potential organizers who are carefully assessing whether you’re worth the time, energy, and risk. Every situation is different, but no interpersonal conflict can lie forever—and when you do address it, bear in mind the inequities in broader society that may exacerbate the issues. We’re organizing for the liberation of the entire working class, after all.

In The News

Amazon is lobbying to prevent workers who make over $100,000 exempt from labor protections

Facebook’s data deals are under criminal investigation this week. Meanwhile, media theorists have critiqued Zuckerberg’s March 6 privacy manifesto and seconded calls to break up the Facebook monopoly, saying he “doesn’t understand what privacy means” and that “he can’t be trusted to define it for the rest of us”.  News also broke of milllions of Facebook’s facial recognition photos were scraped from Flickr’s database without consent.

Spurred by Spotify’s $230 million acquisition of Gimlet Media, workers at Gimlet Media are coming together to form the first union in a podcasting company.

Slack removed 28 accounts with known affiliations to hate groups yesterday.

Artists and musicians, mostly of color, hired to play in Apple’s San Francisco flagship store are not paid.

Mijente has connected the dots from ACLU’s recent revelations showing that the drivers licenses that ICE tracks are already integrated with Palantir’s database. This allows them to track us in real time.

The Labor Office of San Francisco is pursuing an investigation against DoorDash after city supervisor Aaron Peskin filed a complaint following awareness of DoorDash’s continued practice of tip theft.

Tech reporters debate the “question of how to build, deploy and regulate artificial intelligence technologies in an ethical way — and whether it’s even possible.” One recounts Dow chemical’s development of napalm as a cautionary tale for firms pursuing military contracts and tells a tale of a moment of resistance when students would lock up in their classrooms the Dow personnel sent to recruit so often that one recruiter got so used to it and started to pack a sandwich. 

Anduril, the AI weaponry startup founded by former Oculus Rift founder, was awarded a portion of the Project Maven defense contract.  

The Service Employees International Union’s own employees authorized a strike against the union. SEIU is one of the biggest unions in the United States.

While many executives and engineers will cash in big with Lyft’s IPO, they are withholding any significant cash bonuses to drivers unless they’ve completed at least 20,000 rides which is an absurdly high bar and applies to an extremely tiny fraction of drivers.

Minority report is real. AI that can supposedly detect if you’re a shoplifter before you steal.

The US Department of Homeland Security is in progress setting up facial recognition scanners at the top 20 US airports, “despite questionable biometric confirmation rates and few, if any, legal guardrails”. 

Song Of The Week

D.R. Hooker - Forge Your Own Chains - YouTube

Can’t dig what you’re doin’
I won’t know you pretty soon
Got to try to improve your brain
To see. It’s clear you forge your own chains
Forge your own chains

Maybe one more cigarette to clear your head
Today you’re living; tomorrow you’re dead
Consequences aren’t always the same
A link… I think… You forge your own chains
Forge your own chains

You’re thinking the hard stuff ain’t so bad
Stick with it and believe me you’ll wind up sad
Stop it now. Don’t do it again
You see, it’s clear you forge your own chains
Forge your own chains

Drown you sorrows in a drink
Don’t hurt anyone. That’s what you think
Your reason and your mind are getting mighty lame
I know you know you forge your own chains
Forge your own chains
Forge your own chains
Forge your own chains
Forge your own…