CODE-CWA Newsletter: October 16

Solidarity with the Meow Wolf Workers Collective! Workers at Meow Wolf, an artsy collective based in Santa Fe that’s been profiled by The New York Times Magazine and even once got $2.7 million from George R. R. Martin, are voting to join CWA on Monday, and we could not be more excited.

We could say Meow Wolf workers make “immersive arts experiences,” or that they design psychedelic forests or trippy art projects or interactive weird spaces, but it’s probably best if you just see for yourself.

But they’re also making politics, and a month ago voted to start the unionization process, which is coming to a head on Monday when a vote will be called. There are about 130 workers in the bargaining unit voting for the union contract, and we give them our full support heading into this union vote.

So watch out for that, and follow us (and the MWWC) on Twitter to be the latest to hear the news.

#SolidarityForTheMultiverse, as the Meow Wolf workers say.

Events

We’re still offering free, online training courses from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. PT on Sundays for the next two weeks (and we have more scheduled on weekends after that).

We'll walk you through the 101 of how to start talking to your coworkers and organize your first campaign. Enroll online today!

Worker News

Google cracks down on antitrust talk among workers. Though Google workers have, in the past few years, organized unlike almost any other tech workforce, fighting against payouts following sexual harassment and shutting down unethical military contracts, they’re apparently free to discuss almost anything but antitrust. A half-dozen employees, current and former, say that Google routinely silences talk amongst workers on antitrust—the one thing that Congress thinks could lead to the breakup of Big Tech. (Read more at The New York Times)

National Labor Relations Board says Google contractor illegally suppressed unionizing. Last fall, a group of Google contractors in Pittsburgh voted to unionize, a rare example of white collar tech workers voting to join a union. But it looks like HCL, the subcontractor, had other thoughts and has attempted to stifle their unionizing since, interrogating workers and telling them they’d suffer more after joining a union—a violation of federal law. (Read more at The New York Times)

Uber, Lyft, and other gig companies spending big $$$ on Prop. 22 in California. The biggest gig companies—Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and PostMates (now owned by Uber, of course)—have spent a whopping $184 million on the most expensive ballot measure in California history: an attempt to make their drivers independent contractors, in violation of current state law (which the companies have so far refused to follow). The law would be almost impossible to amend if it passed and, if their millions are successful, could provide a template for gig work across the country. (Read more at The Washington Post)

Plus, Instacart forced shoppers to include pro-Prop. 22 flyers in orders. Shoppers were told to include stickers and flyers in orders urging customers to vote yes on Prop. 22, with one worker pointing out the new dynamic succinctly: “Because companies have direct access to workers and customers, they're at a huge advantage.” (Read more at VICE)

The Trump administration battles Microsoft’s attempt to add diversity. The Labor Department, in early October, sent Microsoft a letter warning it that its attempt to “double Black leaders” might be illegal, the latest move by the administration to fight diversity efforts at companies, universities, and federal agencies across the country. In fact, the administration has blocked all federal agencies from enacting diversity “training programs,” and explicitly prevents government employees (and their contractors) from teaching that the United States is racist or sexist. (Read more at Bloomberg)

Gravediggers trying to unionize. A fascinating story about gravediggers trying to join a union in the middle of the pandemic, during which they’ve had to bury scores of people as a result of the coronavirus. “We did 10 to 14 burials every day for six weeks,” said one worker, with others adding that there was so much work that burying everyone was “at times impossible.” The gravediggers work for StoneMor, apparently the second largest cemetery operator in the country, and detail some disturbing working conditions, including racial harassment. (Read more at VICE)

And some quick hits:

  • “More Companies Are Using Technology To Monitor For Coronavirus In The Workplace” (NPR), plus this look into how civil rights groups are demanding an investigation into Amazon’s surveillance practices (VICE)

  • “Amazon's 2020 Prime Day start amid Covid-19 offers great deals — but at what price?” (NBC Think)

  • “Facebook Widens Ban on Political Ads as Alarm Rises Over Election” (The New York Times)

  • “Why Facebook Can’t Fix Itself (The New Yorker)

This Week in Labor History

The right to strike was guaranteed 180 years ago this week. In a case called Commonwealth v. Hunt, a group of shoemakers with the Boston Journeyman Bootmakers’ Society were sued by a former member who, while the details are a bit complicated, was essentially doing free labor and was fined by the union. Irate, he sued, alleging a conspiracy against non-union shoemakers, and the shoemakers union defended themselves, saying that coordinating their actions as they had was perfectly legal and perfectly common.

But the right to strike didn’t yet exist in the United States at this time, since English common law barred actions that would negatively impact trade—a precedent U.S. courts also adopted.

So the shoemakers were unsuccessful at first, appealed their way to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and then won, with a judge writing “We cannot perceive, that it is criminal for men to agree together to exercise their own acknowledged rights, in such a manner as best to subserve their interests.”

And the right to strike was born.

(Read more at Lawyers, Guns, & Money)

Song of the Week

Remember My Forgotten Man” by Joan Blondell and Etta Moten, from the film “Gold Diggers of 1933,” a Depression-era movie that features a lot of economic hardship and post-WWI anxieties. The song is dated, but a good look at how the government treated even veterans at the time.

I don't know if he deserves a bit of sympathy

Forget your sympathy, that's all right with me

I was satisfied to drift along from day to day

Till they came and took my man away

Remember my forgotten man

You put a rifle in his hand

You sent him far away

You shouted: "Hip-hooray!"

But look at him today

Remember my forgotten man

You had him cultivate the land

He walked behind the plow

The sweat fell from his brow

But look at him right now

And once, he used to love me

I was happy then

He used to take care of me

Won't you bring him back again?

'Cause ever since the world began

A woman's got to have a man

Forgetting him, you see

Means you're forgetting me

Like my forgotten man