Google Workers Create Union

Interview

Unions are a reaction to poor working conditions, and it’s clear that some Silicon Valley companies have created the need for unions. Google, which has been actively suppressing workers who stand up against injustices are now seeing their workers unionize. This is a symbolic victory for the labour movement in the tech world and a clear success for the people working at Google.

From afar it looks like the tech unions in the States are going to be modelling themselves more like the Screen Actors Guild than the more popular conception of unions like those at auto plants.

“This is historic—the first union at a major tech company by and for all tech workers,” Dylan Baker, a Google software engineer, said in a statement.

“We will elect representatives, we will make decisions democratically, we will pay dues, and we will hire skilled organizers to ensure all workers at Google know they can work with us if they actually want to see their company reflect their values.” 

Google workers have some history of collective action. In 2018, thousands of the workers signed a petition protesting Project Maven, a contract to help the Department of Defense track individuals in video footage captured by drones. That pressure campaign was ultimately successful, as the contract was terminated.

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Thanks to Greg!

Tired of Google’s Control Over Your Life? Try These Instead

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I’ve been using Duck Duck Go instead of Google search for years and don’t regret it. There are less ads and the search results include more diverse sources – plus I don’t get trapped in Google’s filter bubble. Over at No More Google they have compiled a list of services you can use to get Google out of your life. Like reducing meat in your diet, reducing Google in your life doesn’t have to be absolute. Just do what you’re comfortable with, maybe that’s no longer using Chrome or maybe it’s switching away from Gmail.

Richard Stallman outlined many reasons you shouldn’t use Google, here’s a snippet:

Censorship

  • Amazon and Google have cut off domain-fronting, a feature used to enable people in tyrannical countries to reach communication systems that are banned there.
  • French blogger Claims YouTube Tried to Censor Juncker Interview.
  • Google has agreed to perform special censorship of Youtube for the government of Pakistan, deleting views that the state opposes.This will help the illiberal Pakistani state suppress dissent.
  • Youtube’s “content ID” automatically deletes posted videos in a way copyright law does not require.
  • YouTube has made private deals with the copyright industry to censor works that are fair use.More information.
  • Google shut off Alexa O’Brien’s Google Drive account, denying her access to it, because her reporting on Chelsea Manning’s trial included copies of al-Qa’ida propaganda that was presented as evidence.
  • Never trust a remote storage company to keep anything but a spare backup copy. When you store that, put your files into an archive and encrypt it so that the company can’t tell what’s in them — not even their file names.
  • Vox lawyers got Youtube to take down criticisms of a video published by Vox, and threaten the critics with punishment, too.
  • The videos were almost surely fair use, but Youtube decided against the critics anyway. This shows how Youtube’s general submission to the copyright industry constrict’s people’s rights.

Check out No More Google.

Truly Smart Cities are Actually “Dumb”

Montreal

Earlier this year Sidewalk Labs (Google) opted out of building a “smart” neighbourhood in Toronto due to local pressure (protests work!). What the “smart” neighbourhood wanted to do was monitor and control the activities of occupants and visitors, which would have likely violated many laws. The business plan was even more outrageous since it set out to mire the city in debt by loaning money to the government to pay for the construction. These so-called smart initiatives are really the privatization, through surveillance capitalism ,of the urban space by massive corporations.

If we want resilient, robust, and nice places to live then we ought to get inspiration from the past. Ice in the desert without AC? That’s possible with technology dating back hundreds of years. We need to take a look at work at the past and implement those solutions in modern ways.

As for dumb transport, there can be no doubt that walking or cycling are superior to car travel over short urban distances: zero pollution, zero carbon emissions, free exercise.

And there’s a dumb solution to the spread of air conditioning, one of the greatest urban energy guzzlers: more plants. A study in Madison, Wisconsin found that urban temperatures can be 5% cooler with 40% tree cover. Green roofs with high vegetation density can cool buildings by up to 60%. Or you could just think like a bug: architects are mimicking the natural cooling airflows of termite burrows. Mick Pearce’s 350,000 sq ft Eastgate Centre in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, completed in the 1990s, is still held up as a paragon of dumb air conditioning: all it needs are fans, and uses a tenth of the energy of the buildings next door.

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Governments Reacting to the Failures of the Gig Economy

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According to economists the economy is the labour market is fine as unemployment is relatively low. The truth is different from the on-paper measurements. High employment numbers don’t mean much if the jobs don’t pay well and the working conditions are miserable. The modern “gig economy” is to blame for this counterintuitive economic situation. Governments are starting to catch on that these “modern” jobs aren’t nearly as beneficial to workers or the economy as more traditional jobs were. As a result new laws are being passed to prevent workers from being exploited by the likes of Uber and other gig economy giants.

AB 5’s reclassification provision would also allow gig workers to unionize, granting them a modicum of protection. Big Tech greeted previous unionization efforts with outright hostility. In November, Google publicly fired five engineers involved in union activity. Other companies, like Uber, use antitrust law to bar drivers from collective action to address their concerns.

A more radical approach would be to break up the Big Tech monopolies that have such a tight grip on California and its economy, making it more difficult for these companies to dictate the terms of employment. Presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have vowed to dismantle giants like Facebook and Google if elected. Sanders’s plan, arguably the most ambitious, would order companies to offer workers more benefits and higher wages and pensions. Workers would also need to make up at least 45 percent of companies’ board memberships, ensuring that they would have a seat at the table when executives make decisions that affect their livelihood.

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Watch Streets Evolve From Car-Focused to People-Focused

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Streets were for people, then cars took over and ruined cities. For the last hundred years cities transformed themselves from walkable places to sprawling buildings which were designed for heavy car use. Now, cities have seen how that’s a mistake.

A design firm, Urb-i, has used Google street view to catalog how cities are making themselves good places to be. Hopefully this trend of making cities human-focused instead of car focused continues!

In São Paulo, Brazil — which boasts over 10 million residents — a third of the people travel by car, another third takes public transit, and another walks. Yet cars take up a majority of the roads and public spaces.

Seeing that, a Brazilian urban planning collective called Urb-i set out to demonstrate that imbalance and show off examples of more people-friendly design. They scoured Google Street View images to find the most stunning public space transformations from around the world. The results give us hope that our cities are becoming more beautiful places to live.

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