Game Workers Uniting for Better Workplaces

Interview

In creative industries labour exploitation can happen because employers can get away with leaning into the passion creative workers bring to their field. The video game industry may be a young industry, but the tricks of getting free labour from workers are old ones. As a result, movements like Game Workers Unite have popped up to help video game workers get the respect they deserve.

Recently workers at Activision created the largest video game union and in Canada a union has been formed at a game service company. This is the beginning of a larger movement in the industry which is great to see. Professor Johanna Weststar has looked into why this is happening now:

We can trace the history of game worker resistance to see some of these fluctuations. Examples include the Easter Egg planted by programmer Warren Robinett in Atari’s Adventure, the brief formation of a virtual union called UbiFree in France in 1998 and the infamous EA Spouse affair in 2004.

The shine is coming off the rhetoric of “passion” that reinforces individualism, valorizes heroic efforts for the sake of the game and promotes worker alignment with employer interests.

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Thanks to Roger!

Best Tool to Fight Crime is Welfare

The best way to fight crime is to take away motivation to commit crime. It’s been proven time and time again that severe punishments don’t deter crime, so how can we creat conditions which ensure people don’t want to break the law. The solution is welfare.

Economists have proven that when people lose a social security system they turn to the easiest (most efficient) way to make up their losses: crime. Therefore we should fund welfare programs instead of thinking that funding the police will deter crime.

They found that terminating the cash welfare benefits of these young adults increased the number of criminal charges by 20% over the next two decades. The increase was concentrated in what the authors call “income-generating crimes,” like theft, burglary, fraud/forgery, and prostitution. As a result of the increase in criminal charges, the annual likelihood of incarceration increased by 60%. The effect of this income removal on criminal justice involvement persisted more than two decades later.

The researchers found that the impact of the change was heterogeneous. While some people removed from the income support program at age 18 responded by working more in the formal labor market, a much larger fraction responded by engaging in crime to replace the lost income. In response to losing benefits, youth were twice as likely to be charged with an illicit income-generating offense than they were to maintain steady employment.

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Kazakhstan Listens to Protestors, Moves Towards Democracy

Earlier this year the people of Kazakhstan went to the streets to protest the authoritarian government, which was met with lethal force from the government. Now, that same government is loosening their grip on their populace and moving towards democracy in a huge win for the democratic movement. The very recent past has been very tough on the citizens of Kazakhstan but the future sure looks better.

More proof that protesting works! And democracy is more than just being able to vote.

The poll on constitutional changes was seen by many as a chance to close the chapter on the country’s former leader.

According to Tokayev, the proposed changes will empower lawmakers and dismantle the “super-presidential” system currently in place. But the reform also ends a slew of privileges enjoyed by Nazarbayev.

Another amendment nixes Nazarbayev’s right to run for president more than two times.

The reforms will also ban the president’s relatives from holding government positions — another controversial issue in the oil-rich country.

They also significantly strengthen the role of the country’s parliament, restore the Constitutional Court, and abolish the death penalty.

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How Smalls Won Big Against Amazon

vote sign

Chris Smalls took on one of the richest people on the planet and won. Smalls worked at an Amazon warehouse where he led a walkout due to the poor working conditions and treatment from the company, he was fired the day he led the walkout. This only gave Smalls the push he needed to rally the rest of the Amazon workers to unionize. Despite Amazon spending millions and forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings the workers won and became the first Amazon warehouse to unionize.

Smalls had zero \union background, nor did he rely on any established labor groups for funding and organizing power. 

Instead he raised money for the operation through GoFundMe. Smalls and his co-founder Derrick Palmer — who’s still working at the warehouse — reached out to their coworkers. 

The bus stop used by workers became their gathering place. They’d wait there to talk to workers who were heading home from their shifts. They’d have a bonfire going, with s’mores, and get people talking. They invited workers to cookouts.

“We had over 20 some barbecues, giving out food every single week, every single day, whether it was pizza, chicken, pasta,” Smalls said. He even brought home-cooked food from his aunt to some of these gatherings.

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Gender Pay Gap Bot Made an Impact on IWD

Yesterday a wonderful little bot made a big splash during International Women’s Day (IWD). The Gender Pay Gap Bot on Twitter called out deceptive companies which “celebrated” IWD and advertised how much they care. The bot retweeted each corporate IWD tweet with a simple message revealing the median pay gap between male and female workers.

The bot is possible because the British government requires companies to publicly disclose average pay; you can see the data here. The more workers talk about pay the more likely they are to get paid better.

Follow the Gender Pay Gap Bot.

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