The new labor movement in technology is leveraging the lessons learned from a century ago


The rise of tech workers

Even in the early 1990s, when Lerner went to war with Apple as the organizer of the Cleaners Justice Movement and won the union rights for subcontracted cleaners in the entire technology industry, the question “Who are the tech workers?” It seems very big. Through these successful activities, Lerner helped extend the definition of a tech worker to almost everyone who runs a tech company. Cori Crider, a lawyer Foxglove, A company that aims to challenge the power of large technology companies, has been working with subcontracted content moderators-real people screen violent, racist, and sexually explicit posts every day, trying to determine what violates the ever-changing set of rules .

These workers are usually bound by non-disclosure agreements, which prohibit them from talking publicly about their working conditions. This allows companies like Facebook to deny their existence – even if there were reports that moderators who worked for the outsourcing company Accenture during the pandemic were pushed back to the office, the company still insisted on this statement last year.

Technical workers beyond the normal definition of “employee” are still looking for ways to organize and protect themselves. ColleagueA labor organization movement platform is using donations from FE technology workers to establish a “solidarity fund” to distribute to workers at the other end of the technology supply chain.Gig workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform are using the site Turkic Unite and strive for better conditions.

A wave of rebellions and wildcat strikes within the union challenged the idea that automation would make their jobs easier.

At the other end of the range of skilled workers are those who make electric cars at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California.Before Elon Musk’s company bought the Fremont factory, it was called New united automobile manufacturing co.Or NUMMI, the cooperation between General Motors and Toyota, brought Japan’s “lean production” to the United States. NUMMI failed to survive the bankruptcy of General Motors in 2008 and was snatched by Tesla.

Cooperation with the American Federation of Auto Workers is one of NUMMI’s major innovations, but Tesla has gone another way. Recently, an administrative judge of the NLRB ruled that several of the company’s actions in response to workers’ organizations were illegal-including several tweets by Musk and harassing workers in distributing union pamphlets, prohibiting pro-union T-shirts and buttons, and Interrogation and dismissal of organizers. The NLRB’s punishment is tantamount to pointing fingers-Musk must read a statement telling workers that they have the right to form a union and re-employ dismissed workers. In any case, he has appealed the decision.

Factory workers, even supporters of the union, are keen to produce electric cars, but they point out that the technological advancement of the factory does not prevent a lot of heavy manual labor or injury.One of the leaders of the union movement and former NUMMI worker Jose Moran wrote A blog post About the things he wants to improve, including the hard work pace and some poorly designed machines.

Since Henry Ford’s time, auto workers have been dealing with machines. But the story of Tesla workers echoed the complaints of auto workers in the 1960s, fighting “acceleration”—management would use new technology to speed up work—in Lordstown, Ohio, and Detroit, among other places. A wave of rebellions and wildcat strikes within the union challenged the idea of ​​automation making their jobs easier.

As machines speed up the manufacturing process, workers have to speed up to keep up. Tesla’s auto workers are far from representing the labor aristocracy among auto workers. They say their income is lower than the union workers of General Motors and Ford. As Moran writes, “I often feel that I am working for a future company under previous working conditions.”

Long game

In the Amazon warehouse, everything that is old is new again. “As early as the 80s and 70s, the auto industry tried to automate a lot, but they were basically at a standstill and couldn’t do it anymore. Tesla basically tried to do the same thing,” Amazon from Minneapolis Said warehouse worker Taylor Hamilton. “Amazon is the same. Automation can only do so much.”

Hamilton’s colleague Mohamed Mire explained that most of the technology Amazon touted is used to track workers, not to increase productivity.The scanners that workers use to scan packages will also track what they call “Ask for work,” They will be recorded if they productivity decline. Hamilton compares it to a “giant Roomba” robot that transports merchandise around the warehouse, but it often breaks down-his recent work includes setting it up correctly when the robot stops working. Data from Amazon It shows that the injury rate of facilities with robots is higher than that of facilities without robots.


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