Unpacking the US's "low unemployment": stagnant wages, bad jobs, high incarceration, discouraged workers back in school

The Trump administration is very proud of the US's historically low unemployment figures (lowest in 50 years), but statistics are deceiving, especially labor statistics. Read the rest

Amazon trained a sexism-fighting, resume-screening AI with sexist hiring data, so the bot became sexist

Some parts of machine learning are incredibly esoteric and hard to grasp, surprising even seasoned computer science pros; other parts of it are just the same problems that programmers have contended with since the earliest days of computation. The problem Amazon had with its machine-learning-based system for screening job applicants was the latter. Read the rest

Amazon will raise its minimum wage for employees to $15 (what about contractors?)

First, Disney announced that all its salaried workers would get a raise to $15/hour (with more raises to come); then Bernie Sanders announced legislation named after Jeff Bezos that would send companies an invoice for any food, housing or other subsidy their sub-starvation-wage employees received. Read the rest

Exploring the ruins of a Toys R Us, discovering a trove of sensitive employee data

When the private equity raiders who took over Toys R Us, saddled it up with debt, extracted $200,000,000 and then crashed it, they took the employee severance fund with them, but that wasn't the final indignity the titans of finance inflicted on the workforce before turning them out on the unemployment line. Read the rest

Quality employers announce that they'll close down on election day so everyone can vote

Patagonia has long given its employees election day off, but now they're calling on other employers to follow suit. The good eggs at Adafruit heard the message: they're giving all their employees a day off to go and vote. Read the rest

What it's like to be personally responsible for automating away someone's high-paid, high-skill job

When Erin Winick was a sophomore, she got a summer internship at a company where her manager offered her the opportunity to use her passion for 3D printing to streamline the company's mold-making process; but when she started consulting with "Gary," a 34-year veteran of the company who was responsible for the complex molding process, she realized that she was about to put him out of a job. Read the rest

Code For Canada fellowships: get paid to hack better public services

Ren from Code for Canada writes, "We launched last year and, among other things, fund "fellows'--i.e. tech-savvy, civic-minded professionals who get embedded in government agencies for 10 months (ed: at a pro-rated salary equivalent to CAD75,000/year) and help make services more efficient, intuitive, and accessible. We are now accepting applications for our second cohort of fellows! If you know of any great coders, big data nerds, designers, or project managers who might be interested the application link is here." Read the rest

Fired by an algorithm, and no one can figure out why

Ibrahim Diallo was eight months into a three year contract with a big company when its systems abruptly decided that he was fired: first it told his recruiter that he'd been let go, then it stopped accepting his pass for the parking and the turnstyles, then his logins stopped working, and at each turn, his supervisor, and that person's boss, and the HR people, were at a loss to explain or reverse the steady, automated disappearance of Ibrahim from the company. Read the rest

David Graeber's "Bullshit Jobs": why does the economy sustain jobs that no one values?

David Graeber defined a "bullshit job" in his viral 2013 essay as jobs that no one -- not even the people doing them -- valued, and he clearly struck a chord: in the years since, Graeber, an anthropologist, has collected stories from people whose bullshit jobs inspired them to get in touch with him, and now he has synthesized all that data into a beautifully written, outrageous and thought-provoking book called, simply, Bullshit Jobs.

Youtubers with millions of followers are dropping out, citing stress and burnout from algorithm kremlinology

Youtube allows people -- some of them not very nice -- to earn incredible livings by performing stunts, playing videogames, creating sketches, anything that attracts an audience. Read the rest

Help Wanted: a new executive director for Simply Secure, a nonprofit focused on usability in crypto tools

For several years, I've been honored to volunteer on the advisory board of Simply Secure (previously) a nonprofit consultancy that does open research on usability in cryptographic privacy tools and consults with firms to help make their tools more broadly usable and accessible, especially for vulnerable groups who are often left out of consideration when secure tools are being designed. Read the rest

Vermont offers remote workers a $10,000 subsidy to relocate to the state

If your boss is willing to let you work from home and you don't mind shoveling snow in the winter, Vermont wants you and will pay you $10K over two years to defray moving costs. The state boasts great outdoor recreation, a high standard of living and a rapidly aging, shrinking tax-base. (Thanks, Fipi Lele) (Image: Chinissai, CC-BY-SA) Read the rest

A dozen googlers quit over Google's military drone contract

Google's "Project Maven" is supplying machine-learning tools to the Pentagon to support drone strikes; the project has been hugely divisive within Google, with employees pointing out that the company is wildly profitable and doesn't need to compromise on its ethics to keep its doors open; that the drone program is a system of extrajudicial killing far from the battlefield; and that the firm's long-term health depends on its ability to win and retain the trust of users around the world, which will be harder if Google becomes a de facto wing of the US military. Read the rest

An upcoming Supreme Court ruling could force all workers into forced arbitration, deprived of the right to class lawsuits

One of the cases that the Supreme Court heard this season was NLRB v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc. which rolls up several cases where employers are hoping to establish that they can force prospective employees to sign a mandatory arbitration waiver as a condition of employment; if they prevail, the majority of workplaces in America will likely adopt the practice. Read the rest

An excerpt from "Bullshit Jobs," David Graeber's forthcoming book about the rise of useless work

Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber made a landmark contribution to the debate about inequality, money, and wealth with his massive 2012 book Debt: The First 5,000 Years (a book that helped inspire my 2017 novel Walkaway). Read the rest

Facebook has repeatedly fired stalker employees, then covered it up

Multiple Facebookers and ex-Facebookers risked lawsuits by revealing the company's longstanding problem with employees who abuse their access to Facebook's databases to stalk Facebook users, and its longstanding practice of binding all concerned to nondisclosure, keeping it a secret from the people who were stalked by its employees. Read the rest

The BBC finally admits that MI5 secretly vetted its employees, an open secret for generations

My wife -- whose father is a TV director who'd worked for the BBC -- learned as a little girl that the British spy agency MI5 secretly vetted people who applied for work at the BBC and denoted possible subversives by putting a doodle of a Christmas tree on their personnel files; people who were thus blacklisted were discriminated against within the Beeb. Read the rest

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