Issue 53: The fight is truly on for gig workers in California. Which side are you on?

30 Aug 2019

Since Uber launched in 2009 they’ve gone out of their way to skirt labor protections and treat workers like mere cogs in their all conquering algorithm. Earlier this year a bill proposed in California tried to change that, it’s called AB 5. This bill would codify into law a ruling by the Supreme Court of California last year, known as Dynamex, which established a three-part test to determine whether someone would be considered an independent contractor or an employee under California’s labor law. Under this test drivers for Uber and Lyft would be considered employees.

This Bill has the gig companies shit scared. This week, we’ve seen them grasping desperately to prevent it from passing: they sent a massive misleading email to drivers and riders begging to help them kill it. For the first time they promised a minimum wage and some basic benefits. The minimum wage they suggested is a non starter. It only applies while drivers have passengers in their car and wouldn’t meet the level of a living wage in California. Only hours later they threatened to spend (alongside their gig work partner in crime, Doordash), $90m on a ballot initiative next year that would aim to kill AB 5 if it passed. $90m from tech billionaires who say they can’t pay their workers a living wage is truly a new low from an industry where we workers have no expectations from bosses.

For drivers: the fight is on. They know they have Uber and Lyft by the balls, however these last pathetic last ditch attempts to salvage their illegal business models cannot be underestimated. The companies continue to pour millions lobbying into California (often a testbed for legislation that later ripples across the country) and are hellbent on continuing their exploitative business practices. As we all know, this is about power and they won’t just give it up. It needs to be taken from them.

Drivers need help from you all who read this newsletter: Figure out the names and phone number of California State Senators and call them up: Tell them to vote yes on AB 5 and demand drivers be allowed to form a union. Tell them there can’t be balance between human rights and business interests. Tell them Uber, Lyft and Doordash are morally reprehensible and if they side with these companies over drivers that you’ll knock on doors to make sure they are not re-elected.

California, and the world, is watching. Let’s be there in solidarity with drivers.

P.S. If you want to stay informed on this battle, follow: Veena Dubal, Christian PereaJohana Bhuiyan, Josh Eidelson, Gig Workers Rising, Rideshare Drivers United and Lorena Gonzalez.

A banner at the Uber protest on May 8, contrasting the income of Uber's CEO and its drivers

Upcoming Events

  • TWC NY: Beating Apathy in the Workplace: Tuesday, 9/3, 6:30-8:30PM @ The People’s Forum, 320 W 37th St, New York. Meetup Event
  • Austin, Texas TWC September Meetup: Saturday, 9/14, 7-9PM. Meetup Event.
  • London TWC Steering Committee Meeting: Wednesday, 9/25, 7PM @ the Newspeak House


Grace Hopper Drops Palantir: Another one bites the dust. So far this year countless tech workers have pledged not to work at Palantir, students have protested, academics kicked them out of a fancy privacy conference, Lesbians Who Tech dropped them, and this week the world’s biggest women’s tech conference said: You are not welcome here. To the bootlickers hired by Karp and Thiel to read this newsletter, please tell your paymasters: The protests will continue for as long as Palantir does business with ICE. 

Wisconsin workers embedded with microchips: Letting your employer embed a microchip under your skin so you don’t have to pull an ID badge out of your pocket. “Company officials said it was for convenience, a way for them to bypass using company badges and corporate log-ons to computers.”

Google Contract Workers File for a Union in Pittsburgh: When will the full timers follow them? 

Apple Lays Off Contractors in Ireland Hired To Listen To Siri: In Cork, Ireland 300 workers employed by a company called Globe Tech. The “AI magic” is not magic at all, it’s the product is countless poorly treated workers around the globe (check out this recent deep dive in the NYT on how it all works). “We’ve all been laid off after the scandal, with no protection against this. More than 300 at once just in Cork, with no redundancy, just one week’s notice.” 😡

Drivers in California Rally for AB 5 and a Union: This week hundreds of drivers made the 600 mile trek from LA to Sacramento, stopping in San Francisco for a protest outside Uber HQ, to demand AB 5 and a Union. In San Francisco, drivers were joined by Presidential Candidate Pete Buttegieg, a moderate Democrat supporting these demands shows how successful the drivers campaign has been. The campaign received further support from Bernie Sanders this week, and even Kamala Harris publicly said she supports AB 5 (despite her brother in law, Tony West, who serves as General Counsel for Uber, and acts as Uber’s most vocal lobbyist seeking to kill AB 5). 

Former Senator Is Now Shilling For Lyft: In the SF Chronicle this week, former Democratic State Senator Barbara Boxer repeated company talking points. As AOC said: “Fmr officials should not become corporate lobbyists, in letter or spirit. It’s an abuse of power + a stain on public service.”

Amazon Ring + the Police are on the same page: Cops in over 400 cities in the U.S. have partnered with Amazon Ring to access neighborhood video surveillance. Law enforcement could never in their wildest dreams pay for all these HD cameras and get people to put them on their door fronts, instead thanks to fear-marketing from Amazon, people are doing this all by themselves and Amazon is sharing that data with cops, and telling them what to say in their press releases and on social media. If you have a Ring doorbell, please get rid of it. Asking on behalf of our shared future.  

More #METOO revelations at Google: This is a powerful first person account about the long term effects of and the systemic culture of treating people like objects at the highest levels of Google. It takes great bravery to write such a personal testimony about a powerful man at one of the most powerful companies in the world. The man in question is David Drummond. Drummond incorporated Google Inc, David Drummond, and continues to this day to be General Legal Counsel for Alphabet. Will David Drummond be held accountable?

Yet Another Pro Silicon Valley-U.S. Military Industrial Complex Op-ed: The DoD comms team must have the op-ed editors at WSJ, WaPo and the NYT on retainer. Nearly every month we read another missive from the warmongers seeking to cajole, threaten, and demand that workers in Silicon Valley build tools of warfare without question. This latest NYT version from a former U.S. marine includes details of war crimes and places his colleagues mental health over the life of an Iraqi. Breakdowns here from @athertonkd and @dellsystem

Google Cloud Already Has a Contract with U.S. Immigration: Google Workers recently demanded bosses not to bid for a major CBP cloud project, the latest from the Verge reports that Google already has a contract with USCIS, now led by a man who suggested changing the sonnet etched on the Statue of Liberty to “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.”

TikTok: High Schoolers Are Using TikTok To Organize a Strike in Solidarity With Teachers

AT&T Workers Show Us How It’s Done: Over 20,000 AT&T workers have been on strike since Sunday across the Southeast

Thought of the week

“The next decade of labor history will be defined by how readily and tirelessly we organize new sectors of workers previously unorganized, revitalize the old, and discover knew ways to organize modern forms of employment.” - Emma Kinema, labor organizer and co-founder of Game Workers Unite

Song of the week

Hag Graef - Which Side Are You On?

Come all of you good workers
Good news to you I’ll tell
Of how the good ol’ union
Has come in here to dwell
My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won
Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?
Don’t scab for the bosses
Don’t listen to their lies
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance
Unless we organize