During my first days in Istanbul last month, I found myself navigating through expanses of Istanbul’s subway system so new that they did not appear in my 2013 transit map. A few days later, the country's new bullet-train service, connecting Istanbul to Ankara, was launched by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister and presumed favorite in Turkey's upcoming presidential elections, to well-orchestrated fanfare. Election campaign hyperbole aside, the country's thriving economy and growing confidence in its future was evident in the ambitious infrastructure projects—bridges, tunnels, canals, airports—and large-scale construction that seemed to be remaking the entire city. (It was also evident in Erdoğan’s decisive victory at the polls [...]
Astra Taylor’s forthcoming book The People’s Platform, about who has power and who gets paid in the age of the Internet, mentions the following quote about the virtues of “open-source” (read: unpaid) labor from Internet guru Yochai Benkler:
“Remember, money isn’t always the best motivator. If you leave a fifty-dollar check after dinner with friends, you don’t increase the probability of being invited back. And if dinner doesn’t make it entirely obvious, think of sex.”
That quote, unsurprisingly, is from a TED Talk. The talk's audience chose to reflexively laugh rather than actually think about sex or about work. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone in the audience [...]
Congratulations to the 592 current and former New York Times employees, from the dudes in security to customer service representatives to a few brave news assistants to web producers to editors to critcs, who signed the open letter to Arthur Sulzberger Jr. at the behest of their Guild. It is now 19 months since the Guild's contract expired at the paper. Yesterday, the Times dismissed a Guild offer and—this is a good one!—the Proskauer lawyer who represents the Times suggested to the union that they "waive collective bargaining rights." The session was scheduled for four hours and lasted 30 minutes. So that's going well! As we know, [...]
Yesterday we noted the details of a bill introduced by Wisconsin's new Tea Party Republican Governor Scott Walker that would increase payments from public sector employees while eliminating collective bargaining powers for unions (including teachers)—while also introducing unprecedented executive powers to terminate state employees with little due process. In passing, Walker mentioned plans to call in the National Guard, if necessary. It's an announcement that rankled many (maybe intentionally), including the 100,000-member "voice of America's 21st century patriots" organization VoteVets: "Veterans are strongly objecting to Governor Scott Walker's inappropriate threat…."
Today, response to Walker's bill has been… unfavorable. About ten thousand currently surround Walker's capitol office and [...]
It has been brought to our attention that there is another publication called The Awl! Unfortunately, it seems to have ceased publication sometime in the mid to late 1840s, even though it was only first published in 1843. Documented in Norman Ware's fantastic The Industrial Worker, 1840-1860: the reaction of American industrial society to the advance of the industrial revolution, which was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1924. This bit of history was brought to our attention by the widely-read Aaaron Swartz, praise his name. Let's do some reading!
The Times has published its third or so major piece on the part-time and gig economy in nearly as many weeks—this one focussed on those employed by apps, commonly known as members of the "sharing economy." Predictably, the founder of a car-sharing marketplace that will be crushed by Uber, called RelayRides, describes it as "transformational.” And yet:
“On average, you’re going to make $7 per favor,” [Kelsey Cruse] Cruse explained, using the company’s euphemism for a delivery. “If you are running two favors in an hour, that’s $14 an hour. It’s pretty awesome.” She hadn’t yet racked up enough “favors” to earn that much consistently. So far [...]
Our government runs on unpaid internships. During the recent shutdown, as many federal staff members were laid off, unpaid interns filled in the gap. Although considered volunteers, they were doing the work of a five or six figure salary just for the heck of it. That exciting opportunity to work for free may sound appealing to eager college graduates wanting to climb up the career ladder, pad their resume, and avoid working at the local plastic flower factory, but from a labor perspective it’s abominable. There’s no reason why they shouldn’t be paid. If the government can’t pay the people it takes to run the government, then there [...]
Tonight at midnight, the three-year contract at the Village Voice expires, so Voice workers held a strike benefit at Williamsburg's Public Assembly last night. The bands were really loud and the crowd drank a lot.
The crowd was heavy with, yes, Village Voice staffers and their friends, as well as a handful of former-Voice employees there to show their support. Ex-employees in attendance included: Zach Baron (who left The Voice for The Daily back in March), Foster Kamer (of the New York Observer), and Tom Robbins (the influential writer who left the paper after the departure of long time columnist Wayne Barrett). Robbins' appearance was perhaps the biggest [...]
According to The 1938 Almanac for New Yorkers, excerpted below: 110 years ago tomorrow, hazing was outlawed at West Point! And also this week in 1919, 35,000 dressmakers in New York City went on strike for, among other things, a 44-hour workweek. Later that year, the National Association of Ladies' Hatters went on strike as well. 1919 was a big year for striking! See also: the Seattle General Strike, the Boston Police Strike, the New York Harbour Strike and the Actor's Equity Strike that shut down Broadway. In 1919, the women of the New England Telephone Company shut down New England's telephone service [...]
Today's market idolators don't know much, but they know what they hate. Take libertarian University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein, who in his reliably hallucinatory Forbes.com column uses a wonky John Judis defense of the Obama White House's approach to regulatory policy to divine all sorts of pernicious motives in the Progressive vision of law and policy making.
If this all sounds a bit of a Byzantine route for the sake of some rather pro forma offense-taking on behalf of the molested free market, well, you haven't seen anything yet.
The consequences of human workers becoming just another piece in the long chain of an algorithm optimized for efficiency above all else In Brooklyn, Sandianna Irvine often works “on call” hours at Ashley Stewart, a plus-size clothing store, rushing to make arrangements for her 5-year-old daughter if the store needs her. Before Martha Cadenas was promoted to manager at a Walmart in Apple Valley, Minn., she had to work any time the store needed; her mother “ended up having to move in with me,” she said, because of the unpredictable hours. Maria Trisler is often dismissed early from her shifts at a McDonald’s in Peoria, Ill., when the computers [...]
The world runs a little bit more smoothly without troublesome humans mucking up the works. Consider the least sexy sex scandal of all time, 60-year-old David Patraeus and his various middle-aged twin Florida gal pals and wives and shirtless old FBI agents trying to figure out this whole "sexting" business. Why not just have drones do the war fightin', right? OH WAIT THIS IS OBAMA'S PLAN.
Meanwhile, in China, there is trouble at the factories that produce our beloved iPhones and iPads and those iDevices currently manufactured in a compromise size between that of the iPhone and the iPad. The workers want the jobs, because of the [...]
Last night Philip Glass told this story about how John Cage once emptied the house during a performance. Cage had gotten it into his head to do a spoken performance where he made a cut-up poem out of syllables or something? Man, it sounds like the worst thing ever, just being trapped in a room with John Cage endlessly making vowel noises at you, and so he achieved a 100% audience walkout. Glass' point was that there has to be a place to try and make things and achieve failure along the way (typical Buddhist!) and he was telling this story because this was at the 40th anniversary dinner for [...]
Most news coming out of the American labor movement can be categorized as "depressing." The news of Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern's impending resignation is no exception. It means that Stern's aggressive, and often sloppy, campaign to rehabilitate labor of its unhealthy tendencies-turf wars, stagnation, bankrolling of weak Democrats-was a failure. Throughout his 15-year tenure, Stern has gotten it from all sides. Within the left, the attack most often levied against Stern was that he has been a ruthless union boss, bent on consolidating his own power. In this version of events, Stern squelched union democracy by cobbling together local union chapters, deposing local leadership, turning rank [...]
Blanca, a 50-something nursing assistant, was sitting across from me at the nurses' station at the Intensive Care Unit inside of a Tenet Healthcare Corporation-owned hospital in downtown Los Angeles. It was midnight, and this was 2004. Blanca's patients were gurgling, asleep or comatose. I was there talking to Blanca on behalf of workers at Kaiser, who were bargaining away benefits because Tenet, the for-profit, non-union hospital chain was driving down wages in the county. The argument was that every one would be better off, Blanca and Kaiser workers, if they were all in one union.
During advanced pneumonia the lungs fill with fluid so there's a wet gurgling [...]
You are probably unaware that workers at the Stella D'Oro Biscuit factory in the Bronx have been on strike since August, when the private equity firm that purchased the company in 2006 refused to bargain with their union on a new contract. Yesterday, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ordered their reinstatement, plus payment of back wages.