CODE-CWA Newsletter: February 12

“In the fifth-largest economy in the world, it is shameful that working parents are forced to make decisions like bringing their children to work with them.”

 

Lauren Casey, an organizer with Gig Workers Rising, said that in reaction to a DoorDash Dad whose car was hijacked with his kids in it. “Times are hard. If you’re going to have to resort to stealing, that’s a different matter, but please don’t hurt my kids,” the father pleaded in an interview with ABC7 News. The children were recovered within a few hours, but the hard choices the father had to make--in a pandemic economy, where gig workers are not protected--still stand. And it’s not just gig workers,  Amazon has quietly been transitioning workers at warehouses nationwide to a 10-hour graveyard shift, known as the "megacycle”, in order to improve delivery times. 

 

It’s been a rough few weeks, but seeds of organizing are being sown. Amazon’s  inhumane new shift is happening while mail-in voting in the first union election ever in the company’s history has begun. And the Alphabet Workers Union has already filed an unfair labor practice charge against a Google contractor, Modis, for illegally telling workers not to talk about wages and retaliating against a union member because of her advocacy. “We won't stand for mistreatment of any Alphabet worker,” they said in a statement. Due to the strong show of solidarity, the worker was invited back to work. 

 

Unions are popping up everywhere as workers from Medium’s engineering, editorial, design, and product departments proudly announced that they were unionizing with CWA, forming the Medium Workers Union as a part of the CODE-CWA campaign. 

 

Also, a former Pinterest employee is co-leading new legislation with California State Senator Connie Leyva called the Silenced No More Act, which seeks to ban use of NDAs in situations involving harassment or discrimination.

 

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 waiting to organize with you. 

 

Events

 

On February 13, learn from Gig Worker Organizing. This free event will be held on Zoom. A link will be sent out via email the day before the event. What is the future of work post-COVID-19, and how do recent struggles to organize gig workers speak to broader challenges of organizing for a just recovery from the pandemic? This webinar brings together two organizers to consider the lessons learned and the implications for the future of work and worker organizing as we exit the pandemic. Sign up here. 

 

Are you in love with worker organizing? Then join us on Valentines Day, February 14, at 12PM PST for a class on how to build a strong organizing committee, maintain it, and build a strong foundation from which you can run a successful campaign. This is Class 2 in a series. So while ideally students should take Class 1 first, it's not required. Sign up here. 



Worker News

 

Workers at Medium announced a wall to wall union this week as a part of the CODE-CWA Campaign. More than 70 percent of eligible employees have signed union cards and are working towards voluntary recognition from management. In their vision statement, Medium Workers Union cited the importance of equity and support for employees amid a changing media and tech landscape as reasons for organizing. "This is the age of newsroom buyouts, startups folding, tech companies shifting more jobs to contractors, and the general implosion of independent media," they said in the statement. "Tech and media companies alike are constantly changing direction, dissolving and reforming, pivoting and refocusing. This often creates business advantages, but it also upends workers' lives." Read more on CNN Business.

Alphabet Workers Union accused Google vendor Adecco of violating U.S. labor law by trying to silence employees. In a complaint filing with the National Labor Relations Board on February 5, the union explained that Google contract workers were banned from discussing their pay, and one was suspended for her labor activism. Management forbade employees at a data center in South Carolina from discussing their pay, according to the complaint. The managers also suspended a data technician because of a pro-union Facebook post, according to the union. The treatment of subcontracted workers and independent contractors, who in 2018 became the majority of Alphabet’s global workforce, has been another long-running topic of controversy. Google software engineer Parul Koul, the union’s executive chair, said. “They do have a responsibility to make sure that folks who are doing really mission-critical work for the company are treated fairly.” The worker was invited back to work following the filing, thanks to the strong show of worker solidarity. Read more on Bloomberg. 

 

A GoFundMe campaign for a DoorDash dad whose minivan was stolen with his kids inside reached more than $100,000 in less than a day. The kids were recovered and reunited with their dad within a few hours. Jeffrey Fang, said he had no choice but to bring his toddlers to work with him on Saturday night. Lauren Casey, an organizer with Gig Workers Rising, a group based in the Bay Area that’s advocated against a law known as Proposition 22, said the incident was a “devastating example of the reality too many gig workers face during the pandemic and a post-Prop 22 gig economy.” She continued, “In the fifth-largest economy in the world, it is shameful that working parents are forced to make decisions like bringing their children to work with them.” Proposition 22 classifies drivers who work for ride-hailing and delivery apps as independent contractors, rather than full employees who can receive benefits such as health care or sick leave. Read more on the Washington Post. 

 

A GoFundMe campaign for a DoorDash dad whose minivan was stolen with his kids inside reached more than $100,000 in less than a day. The kids were recovered and reunited with their dad within a few hours. Jeffrey Fang, said he had no choice but to bring his toddlers to work with him on Saturday night. Lauren Casey, an organizer with Gig Workers Rising, a group based in the Bay Area that’s advocated against a law known as Proposition 22, said the incident was a “devastating example of the reality too many gig workers face during the pandemic and a post-Prop 22 gig economy.” She continued, “In the fifth-largest economy in the world, it is shameful that working parents are forced to make decisions like bringing their children to work with them.” Proposition 22 classifies drivers who work for ride-hailing and delivery apps as independent contractors, rather than full employees who can receive benefits such as health care or sick leave. Read more on the Washington Post. 

 

Amazon is forcing its warehouse workers into brutal ‘megacycle’ shifts. The company has been quietly transitioning workers at Amazon warehouses nationwide to a 10-hour graveyard shift, known as the "megacycle." On January 25, hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Chicago, known as DCH1, were presented with a baffling choice: sign up for a ten-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, or lose your job. Management informed workers that DCH1 would be shut down, and they were offered a shift that runs from 1:20am to 11:50am at a new Chicago Delivery Station. A delivery station is the smallest type of Amazon warehouse, where packages are prepared by warehouse workers for last-mile deliveries to customers' homes. In August, Bloomberg reported that Amazon had plans to open 1,000 new delivery stations to improve on its two-day Prime delivery times, which faltered during the early days of the pandemic. DCH1 Amazonians United in Chicago and another affiliated group of warehouse workers called Amazonians United NYC told Motherboard that newly opened Amazon delivery stations appear to be on the "mega-cycle shift." Workers at DCH1 previously had multiple shift options, including an eight-hour overnight shift that ends at 4:45 am, a five-hour morning shift, and a four-hour morning shift. Read more on Vice. 

 

Workers walked off the job at the site of a future Amazon warehouse in Oxnard, California because Amazon's contractor hired non-union, out-of-state workers for the project. Roughly 75 workers walked off the job at the construction site of a future Amazon fulfillment center in southern California. This comes amid high rates of unemployment stemming from the COVID-19 in the predominantly agricultural, working-class Latinx community. Many unions and community activists in California say that Amazon's warehouses and presence in towns and cities has led to more harm than good. "We're patting Amazon on the back for paying $15 an hour in its warehouses, but this is what I was paid in 1990 to work in a unionized warehouse," said Randy Korgan, the director of Amazon Project, an organizing initiative run by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in communities. He added, "The proliferation of Amazon jobs is a race to the bottom." The standard wage in the area for unionized workers is roughly $30 an hour plus benefits and healthcare, which is significantly higher than non-union construction workers earn. "We have 18,000 people out of work in our community, yet they bring in contractors from out of the area and take our tax base away," an Ironworkers Local 433 official explained. The new fulfillment center, Amazon's largest type of warehouse, will be the first in coastal Southern California, and promises to bring 1,500 jobs to the area. Read more on Vice. 

 

Silenced No More Act seeks to ban use of NDAs in situations involving harassment or discrimination. Ifeoma Ozoma, a former Pinterest employee who alleged racial and gender discrimination at the company, is co-leading new legislation with California State Senator Connie Leyva and others to empower those who experience workplace discrimination and/or harassment. The Silenced No More Act (SB 331) would prevent the use of non-disclosure agreements in workplace situations involving all forms of discrimination and harassment. Leyva said in a statement. “SB 331 will empower survivors to speak out—if they so wish—so they can hold perpetrators accountable and hopefully prevent abusers from continuing to torment and abuse other workers.” It’s a long road ahead for the bill, which needs to be passed by the legislature and ultimately signed into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom, but it would represent a monumental shift in the tech industry, if passed. Read more on TechCrunch. 

Pinduoduo, China’s second largest e-commerce platform, fired a programmer for “defaming” the company. The US is not only country big tech companies are firing workers for pursuing a just workplace. In January, Wang Taixu, a programmer at Pinduoduo was fired 30 minutes after he anonymously shared a video of a coworker getting hospitalized, most likely from overwork. Pinduoduo is China’s second largest e-commerce platform, and Alibaba’s biggest competitor in the sector. According to Wang, Pinduoduo employees endure horrible working conditions; employees work 300-380 hours each month (roughly 70-87 hours per week), national holidays are illegally shortened, there is a shortage of bathroom stalls, and the food provided for employees is often found to be spoiled. Read more on Collective Tech for Action. 

Indie bosses are still bosses; exploitation is happening at small Game Studios. Robin Trach, a Los Angeles based labor organizer with Game Workers of Southern California, who work in partnership with CODE-CWA, explains how exploitation happens at small Indie gaming companies and made some suggestions for moving forward. She explains, “often these “Mom and Pop” workplaces are idealized as kinder, fairer environments, but nothing about being small precludes the ability to do wrong by your workers — in fact, it often helps. Below I’ll go over four dimensions of exploitation that are exacerbated at small studios — crunch, harassment, underpayment, and wage theft — and how organizing can help us fight back!” Read more on Medium.

This Week in Labor History

 

February 16, 1926. On this day, 12,000 New York City fur workers started a 17-week strike and fought and won significant reforms beating back the bosses’ association, the cops, Mafia gangsters, thugs, and the reactionary International union leadership. They were led by Ben Gold, a member of the Communist Party and leader of the union’s N.Y. Joint Board.  The very next year the fur industry bosses were disregarding the gains won by the workers. Gold organized another strike. Then they went on strike again and again to maintain their gains. The cops charged, but the workers maintained solid ranks, beating back the police, scabs and hired thugs. The cops repeated their attacks on every march. But the unity of these communist-led, Jewish, Black and Greek, women and men workers was unshakeable. When hired Mafia thugs attacked the strike hall, hundreds of strikers overwhelmed them, stripping them of their guns, blackjacks, knives and clubs as they fled. After several weeks of such battles, no gang was willing to attack. The workers went on to win the 40-hour, five-day workweek, a 10 percent raise, 10 paid holidays and more. 



Song of the Week

War on the Workers by Anne Feeney (Rest in Power, Anne)

 

Listen up, we've got a war zone here today

Right in our heartland, and across the USA

These multinational bastards don't use tanks and guns it's true

But they've declared a war on us, fight back! It's up to you

There's a war on the workers

There's a war on the workers

There's a war on the workers

And it's time we started calling the shots

Going to work could be the death of you and me

But we're not unarmed--Our weapon's solidarity

Jim Beals and Karen Silkwood

The list goes on and on

With every year that passes 60,000 more are gone

There's a war on the workers

There's a war on the workers

There's a war on the workers

And it's time we started calling the shots

When they boost your co-pay, (it's a war on the workers!)

Don't you know what to say - (it's a war on the workers!)

When they talk privatization (it's a war on the workers!)

And co-operation (it's a war on the workers!)

When they call you “a team” (it's a war on the workers!)

You’d better learn how to scream (it's a war on the workers!)