CODE-CWA Newsletter: August 27

CODE-CWA Newsletter: August 27

“We've exhausted all internal avenues. We've talked with our leadership. We've gone to the People team. We've escalated through Business Conduct. Nothing has changed.”

— #AppleToo

As Apple employees launch a campaign to openly talk about discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, a California Superior Court judge has ruled that the Uber and Lyft-backed Prop 22 is unconstitutional. Prop 22, which was pushed through a $200 million PR campaign by Uber and Lyft, is not just harmful to gig workers, it's also dangerous for our democracy. By stealing regulatory power from elected officials it has allowed tech companies to act above the law. With many corporations relying on a workforce split between employees and contract workers, the struggles facing gig workers has implications for all of us. And finally, the law seems to be catching up.

While CWA continues to fight for labor protections, big tech companies’ exploitative practices continue to prove how important our work is. Union organizing and conversations around unfair and exploitative practices are picking up steam in the tech, gaming and digital industries. In this newsletter, we give you the latest on worker organizing, from Apple to Amazon, and more.

Through our support of workers across the tech, games, and digital industries we have seen a cultural shift as workers turn to each other to bring the change they seek. This commitment to building democracy in the workplace will impact all of us. Are you looking to organize your workplace? Reach out. We are ready to organize with you.

Events

On August 28, join us for a 12PM PST organizer training where we talk about union basics, the CWA organizing models, and some key ways to connect with co-workers through organizing. The next day you can also attend our class on building a committee.

Worker News

How the Video Game Industry Can Unionize in the Wake of Activision Blizzard

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout on July 28 for better working conditions. This comes after the company was sued for cases of discrimination and sexual harrassment. Many workers have voiced their concerns but game developers must unionize themselves instead of waiting for someone to arrive. A union is a viable solution that would allow workers to speak out without retaliation, and have economic autonomy, such as with transparent pay scales. Tech workers will get the best results by collective action at the grass root level. That means workers should start organizing their studio and the communities they are already involved in. Game workers can also contact CODE-CWA organizers and attend a training. CODE-CWA organizers wrote this piece and since then have received a flood of requests from gaming workers looking to unionize their workplace. Read more on Polygon.

Prop 22 Was Declared Unconstitutional, and It's Just the Beginning

Prop 22 is a ballot written by Instacart, Lyft, Doordash, and Uber that denies their gig workers the protections and benefits of being an employee. Voters were misled into voting in favour of the initiative – which cost $200 million to campaign. In response, the Service Employees International Union petitioned to declare Prop 22 as unconstitutional, which California Superior court judge Frank Roesch agreed with and ruled in favour of the union. Roesch said “A prohibition on legislation authorizing collective bargaining by app-based drivers does not promote the right to work as an independent contractor, nor does it protect work flexibility, nor does it provide minimum workplace safety and pay standards for those workers.” The ruling has yet to take effect. Read more on VICE.

Apple Workers Collecting Stories of Abuse, Injustice in Workplace

Apple workers are rallying to improve working conditions at the company. On the 23rd of August, a group of employees set up a twitter account called Apple Workers (@AppleLaborers) to talk about issues in the workplace. These include issues of racism, discrimination, abuse, harrasement, and sexism. Some 200 workers are also organizing on a discord channel, run by a former Apple Authorized Service Providers employee who goes by Fudge, to discuss their problems anonymously. Fudge said the purpose of the platform is “to aggregate anonymous stories of abuse, misconduct, and other forms of problematic behaviors within Apple as a means to try and bring about some overall positive change for everyone else.” Read more on VICE.

Why Are Remote Tech Workers Facing Pay Cuts?

Tech workers at Google are facing potential pay cuts for moving and working from home. According to a google spokesperson “[Google’s] compensation packages have always been determined by location”, however, even employees who are not moving are also facing pay cuts for living outside city limits if they work remotely. Studies have shown that women and minority groups are more likely to work from home with 67% and 97% respectively. Research has also shown that employees working from home are 13% more productive, work for longer on average, and save the cost of office space. As a result, remote tech workers are confused and unhappy with Google’s new paycut policy – especially when it is seeing record profits. Read more on CNN.

FTC Investigating Uber’s Gopuff Partnership Alongside Drizly Deal

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into Uber’s recent partnership with Gopuff as well as Uber’s planned acquisition of Drizly. The FTC is looking into whether this could restrict online competition of convenience store items and alcohol. While the two probes are technically separate, an FTC team in New York is managing both, and they both involve the same markets, according to the people and the document. The overlapping investigations signal that antitrust regulators are looking to intervene in still-developing industries in an effort to avoid repeating what some at the agencies believe were mistakes—decisions made a decade ago to not bring enforcement actions when companies including Google and Facebook were cementing their dominance in search and social networking. Read more on the Investigation.

Gig Workers Are Increasingly Rated by Opaque Algorithms.

Platforms have started shifting towards algorithms in order to rate individuals and provide scores. This however has proved problematic especially for gig workers, since they do not know how they are being judged. This unknown criteria has caused many gig workers to be constantly on edge – even the successful ones. Hatim Rahman, an assistant professor at Kellogg business school, conducted research on a gig work platform that he has named “TalentFinder” (a pseudonym) from 2013 to 2018. According to Rahman, “Opaque third-party evaluations can create an ‘invisible cage’ for workers, because they experience such evaluations as a form of control and yet cannot decipher or learn from the criteria for success.” He found that paranoid individuals either resorted to trial and error, or limited their exposure to the algorithm, but these were highly dependent on how much they needed the platform to earn a living, and if they experienced a score drop. Read more on Northwestern’s blog.

Amazon Is Telling Sellers That Antitrust Bills Will 'Significantly' Harm Them

Congress has proposed a set of bills called “A Stronger Online Economy: Opportunity, Innovation, Choice” that aims to address loopholes major technology companies use. Amazon is emailing third party sellers to convince them that it is in their best interest to go against the bill. The bill however would be more detrimental to Amazon itself and beneficial to sellers as Stacy Mitchell, co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance advocacy group said, “What concerns Amazon about the legislation in Congress is that it would end Amazon's ability to prey on small businesses, which is an incredibly lucrative part of their business”. Read more on VICE.

This Week in History

August 26, 1920: The 19th amendment of the US constitution took effect giving women the right to vote. This would inspire women to become more politically active and advocate for the abolition movement, as well as women's working rights.

Song of the Week

9 to 5 by Dolly Parton

With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5;

Working 9 to 5,

what a way to make a living

Barely getting by,

it's all taking and no giving

They just use your mind,

and they never give you credit

It's enough to drive you crazy

if you let it