It's International Worker's Day, so here's a look at a day in the life of a labor organizer

Nastaran Mohit is the organizing director of the NewsGuild of New York, which represents more than 24,000 journalists and media workers in the US and Canada. I've met her through her work with the Wirecutter Union, and she's also helped to organize workers at The New Yorker, New York Magazine, Buzzfeed, and more.

Teen Vogue recently published a great piece on Mohit, breaking down a day in her life — which is, as one might imagine, made even more complicated by the coronavirus pandemic. But Nas keeps fighting the good fight, doing crucial work at a time when media layoffs are more and more common. Solidarity matters, and there is power in a union.

Nastaran Mohit: A Day in the Life of a Union Organizer [Allegra Kirkland / Teen Vogue] Read the rest

Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy officially deemed "essential workers" by New Zealand Prime Minister

From the Washington Post:

During a time of global crisis, climbing death tolls and widespread uncertainty, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been hailed globally for her compassionate handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

She continued to win hearts Monday when she clarified who exactly has made a list of “essential workers.”

“You’ll be pleased to know that we do consider both the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers,” she said, smiling. “But as you can imagine, at this time they’re going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well and their own bunnies.”

It's not clear if these essential workers are also deserving of a living wage like all other essential workers, or if trickle-down economics will impact the income of Tooth Faeries across the globe. In my humble opinion, even immortal cryptids deserve fair compensation for their labor.

Tooth fairy and Easter Bunny are ‘essential workers,’ New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern confirms [Jennifer Hassan / Washington Post]

Image: Public Domain via NeedPix Read the rest

Apple cleans up Siri's privacy problems, screwing over workers in the process

Good news everybody: Apple's really sorry about recording our conversations with Siri. In a statement issued earlier today, the company's talking heads stated that they realized that the '...haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals'. The letter goes on to say that, to make up for their eavesdropping shenanigans, Apple's going to be making a few changes to how Siri does its thing.

From Apple:

First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve.

Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time.

Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri

This of course, is great news for anyone that uses Apple's Siri voice assistant. Unfortunately, that less people will be needed to snoop on the conversations between the companies customers and their tech likely means that some resources will need to be shifted around in order to accomoda—wait, what?

From The Guardian:

Hundreds of Apple workers across Europe who were employed to check Siri recordings for errors have lost their jobs after the company announced it was suspending the programme earlier this month.

Read the rest

Uber drivers in Toronto unionizing to take on The Man

Working for a ride-sharing company like Uber or Lyft can be a tough gig that offers low pay, long hours that keep drivers on there road and away from the people they love and, at times, wheeling under dangerous working conditions. In some parts of the world, pissed off drivers have walked off the job and protested their crappy working conditions and demanded--and I know this is crazy--a living wage. Up here in Canada, we tend to do things with a little more of a socialist flare.

From Gizmodo:

First announced on Monday, Uber drivers based in Toronto expressed their intention to join the United Food and Commercial Workers, a 250,000-strong trade union which operates in both Canada and the U.S. The actual number of drivers who had signed cards was not released, but during a press conference this afternoon, UFCW Canada staffer Pablo Godoy claimed their support had hit the “high hundreds” and were growing rapidly.

The move comes at a time when Toronto's city counsel is attempting to sort out a balance between cab companies and the ride share operations that have been drinking their milkshakes. With this in mind, there couldn't be a better time for Uber drivers to invest in the power of a union. That said, there's still a number of legal issues to be ironed out before Toronto's Uber drivers are rubber stamped as a bona fide part of the union and afforded the protections that membership in UFCW provides.

Given the amount of trouble that Uber has had in recent years in locales like New York where the city has implemented strict living wage laws for ride share drivers and in Cancun, where they were forced to suspend operations to keep their people safe from pissed off taxi and colectivo drivers, its possible that the company might just consider not giving it's Toronto employees a tough time, at least in the short term: even giant, plundering corporations need a breather from all the bullshit they generate, every now and again. Read the rest

New York City taxi and rideshare drivers to receive a living wage

We've talked before about how hard it is for folks driving for Lyft and Uber to break even. Things aren't so hot for cab drivers, either: as ridesharing becomes more prevalent by the day, those who own their own taxi or drive for someone else are finding it harder to make a living. The drop in revenue going into the pockets of New York City Taxi medallion owners has been so extreme that drivers have been forced to work 100-hour weeks just to stay out of the red. Others, feeling that their lives were ruined by mounting debt, out of desperation committed suicide. Today, New York City's Taxi and Limousine Commission decided that they'd do something about it.

From Gizmodo:

Today, New York’s City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved measures to enact minimum pay requirements for app-based for-hire vehicles (FHV) like Uber, Lyft, and Juno. The new pay structure is set to take effect early in the new year.

The $26.51 per hour gross pay floor (estimated to amount to $17.22 per hour, less expenses) comes after “growing evidence of declining driver pay” was confirmed by a labor study, commissioned by the TLC, which concluded that 85 percent of drivers in NYC were earning less than the local minimum wage of $15 an hour. The new requirements will increase the average driver’s take-home pay by an estimated $9,600 per year.

Advocacy groups like the Independent Driver’s Guild and Amalgamated Transit Union have celebrated the change. “All workers deserve the protection of a fair, livable wage and we are proud to be setting the new bar for contractor workers’ rights in America,” Conigliaro, Jr.,

Read the rest