WORKERS' RIGHTS

&

HUMAN RIGHTS

Workers' Rights:

Google Urged the U.S. to Limit Protection for Activist Workers

Bloomberg

Google, whose employees have captured international attention in recent months through high-profile protests of workplace policies, has been quietly urging the U.S. government to narrow legal protection for workers organizing online.

During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board broadened employees’ rights to use their workplace email system to organize around issues on the job. In a 2014 case, Purple Communications, the agency restricted companies from punishing employees for using their workplace email systems for activities like circulating petitions or fomenting walkouts, as well as trying to form a union. In filings in May 2017 and November 2018, obtained via Freedom of Information Act request, Alphabet Inc.’s Google urged the National Labor Relations Board to undo that precedent.

Citing dissents authored by Republican appointees, Google’s attorneys wrote that the 2014 standard “should be overruled” and a George W. Bush-era precedent—allowing companies to ban organizing on their employee email systems—should be reinstated.

Google Employees Fight Forced Arbitration: Social Media Campaign Is The Next Step

Forbes

Just two months after taking to the streets in protest of Google’s sexual harassment policies, employees at the internet giant are now doubling down on their criticism through social media.

 

A group of Google employees are launching a public awareness campaign on Tuesday to highlight the issue of forced arbitration among tech companies. Forced arbitration, also known as mandatory arbitration, effectively strips workers of their right to sue employers over workplace issues and keeps internal disputes behind closed doors.

 

Campaign organizers argue that this practice discourages workers facing harassment and discrimination from speaking up or taking legal action.​

We are not robots’: Amazon warehouse employees push to unionize

The Guardian 

 

As Amazon’s workforce has more than doubled over the past three years, workers at Amazon fulfillment center warehouses in the United States have started organizing and pushing toward forming a union to fight back against the company’s treatment of its workers.

 

 

Amazon’s global workforce reached more than 613,000 employees worldwide according to its latest quarterly earnings report, not including the 100,000 temporary employees the company hired for the holiday season

 

Working The Holidays As An Amazon Worker

National Public Radio 

 

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: It's just a couple of more days until Christmas. And if you are like other last-minute shoppers, you may be wondering how on earth you're going to get those last gifts on time. And if you just cannot stand the thought of a crowded shopping mall - and, frankly, even if you can - you're probably thinking about turning to Amazon. Amazon is now the 800-pound gorilla of e-commerce, accounting for some 60 percent of purchases on Black Friday, according to the web traffic analyst Hitwise. And, yes, it is an NPR sponsor.

 

But we were wondering what it's like to work at an Amazon warehouse during the holidays, so we called Chavie Lieber. She's written extensively about working conditions at Amazon for Vox, and she's with us now. Chavie, thanks so much for joining us.

The Year Tech Workers Realized They Were Workers

Wired

 

2018 WAS THE year that Big Tech’s mission statements came back to haunt it. When employees felt that their products were damaging the world and that management wouldn't listen, they went public with their protests. At Google and Amazon, they challenged contracts to sell artificial intelligence and facial-recognition technology to the Pentagon and police. At Microsoft and Salesforce, workers argued against selling cloud computing services to agencies separating families at the border.

 

Technology’s unintended consequences were also central to the most disruptive labor action in the Bay Area this year, a strike by nearly 8,000 Marriott employees, including many in downtown San Francisco, just a dockless scooter ride from the headquarters of many major tech firms. Unite Here, the union representing strikers in eight cities, including San Jose and Oakland, demanded limits on automation like facial recognition at the front desk or the use of Alexa in lieu of a concierge. Marriott agreed to notify workers 150 days before implementing new technology and to give workers committee representation while the technology is still in development, among other protections.

Amazon warehouse jobs push workers to physical limit 

Seattle Times 

 

On an average day, 51-year-old Connie Milby covered more than 10 miles in her tennis shoes, walking and climbing up and down three flights of stairs to retrieve tools, toys and a vast array of other merchandise for Amazon.com shoppers.

 

She filled online orders for more than a decade, working through summer heat and winter chill inside the company’s south-central Kentucky warehouse.

 

One constant was the pace that Milby tried to keep to avoid write-ups from her supervisors that could put her $12.50-per-hour job at risk.

Thousands of Amazon workers receive food stamps. Now Bernie Sanders wants the company to pay up.

The Washington Times 

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will soon introduce legislation that would require large employers such as Amazon, Walmart and McDonald’s to fully cover the cost of food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their employees. The goal, he says, is to force corporations to pay a living wage and curb about $150 billion in taxpayer dollars that go to funding federal assistance programs for low-wage workers each year

.

The bill, which Sanders plans to introduce in the Senate on Sept. 5, would impose a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with 500 or more employees. For example, if an Amazon employee receives $300 in food stamps, Amazon would be taxed $300.

Silicon Valley’s dirty secret: Using a shadow workforce of contract employees to drive profits 

CNBC News

As the gig economy grows, the ratio of contract workers to regular employees in corporate America is shifting. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and other Silicon Valley tech titans now employ thousands of contract workers to do a host of functions — anything from sales and writing code to managing teams and testing products. This year at Google, contract workers outnumbered direct employees for the first time in the company’s 20-year history.

It’s not only in Silicon Valley. The trend is on the rise as public companies look for ways to trim HR costs or hire in-demand skills in a tight labor market. The U.S. jobless rate dropped to 3.7 percent in September, the lowest since 1969, down from 3.9 percent in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Hate Amazon? Try Living Without It

The New York Times 

 

Sharing an Amazon Prime account with loved ones is surprisingly intimate. You’re privy to one another’s impulse buys, fondness for corny ’90s comedies and preferred brands of vaginal suppositories. Like many families, mine shares a login for the ubiquitous delivery behemoth. Every time my dad or my sister orders an item, I see a cheerful red badge pop up on my app: “Your Amazon.com shipment is on its way!”

Lately, those red badges have started coming several times a week. In 2018 alone, my family has spent nearly $7,000 on Amazon.

It’s not that we have extra time and money to shop; we have precisely the opposite. A few years ago, my 85-year-old father had a stroke that forever altered his daily life. Even though he has a generous, old-economy pension, he now barely breaks even each month, thanks to six figures of annual medical expenses, including 24-hour care at home. Often, when my dad needs something, he needs it now. He can’t shop on his own, and his caretaker can’t spend her life going to specialty pharmacies and medical supply stores. So Amazon Prime has been his lifeline.

Human Rights:

Amazon met with ICE officials over facial-recognition system that could identify immigrants

The Washington Post

Amazon.com pitched its facial-recognition system in the summer to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials as a way for the agency to target or identify immigrants, a move that could shove the tech giant further into a growing debate over the industry’s work with the government.

The June meeting in Silicon Valley was revealed in emails as part of a Freedom of Information Act request by the advocacy group Project on Government Oversight; the emails were published first in the Daily Beast. They show that officials from ICE and Amazon Web Services talked about implementing the company’s Rekognition face-scanning platform to assist with homeland security investigations.

Everything you need to know about Google’s controversial China plans in advance of today’s congressional hearing

Recode

On Tuesday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will face a roomful of members of Congress demanding answers. One of the topics he’ll have to address is a growing area of concern from both the political left and right: His company’s previously secret plans to build a censored search engine in China.

Critics fear that the project, code-named Dragonfly, will enable the Chinese government to block its citizens from accessing information it doesn’t like and surveil its political opponents. A prototype of the product blacklisted specific search terms such as “human rights,” “Nobel Prize” and “student protest,” according to the Intercept.

Congress should dig in on Google's China and data issues, not just bias

CNET 

 

At his first congressional hearing, Google CEO Sundar Pichai will likely get a grilling from lawmakers.

The underlying question about Tuesday's hearing is whether House Judiciary Committee members will use their time to actually ask about some of the biggest issues -- like data privacy, China and censorship -- that Google faces.

When the committee announced the hearing, the issue that got top billing was whether the world's biggest search engine and its YouTube video service have a bias against conservatives. That makes sense, given that Republicans control the House of Representatives.​

Google Urged the U.S. to Limit Protection for Activist Workers

Bloomberg

 

Google, whose employees have captured international attention in recent months through high-profile protests of workplace policies, has been quietly urging the U.S. government to narrow legal protection for workers organizing online.

 

During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board broadened employees’ rights to use their workplace email system to organize around issues on the job. In a 2014 case, Purple Communications, the agency restricted companies from punishing employees for using their workplace email systems for activities like circulating petitions or fomenting walkouts, as well as trying to form a union. In filings in May 2017 and November 2018, obtained via Freedom of Information Act request, Alphabet Inc.’s Google urged the National Labor Relations Board to undo that precedent.

Citing dissents authored by Republican appointees, Google’s attorneys wrote that the 2014 standard “should be overruled” and a George W. Bush-era precedent—allowing companies to ban organizing on their employee email systems—should be reinstated.