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Old 02-14-2014, 05:58 AM
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Default General Labour Issues Thrad

We have Walmart, video game industry and internship-related thrads, but if we already have a thrad for general labour issues I wasn't able to find it with a quick search. Maybe there's a really old one.

I open with this lovely piece about how the Tennessee GOP would rather have Volkswagen move its plant to Mexico than let its workers unionise. Silly German socialists, don't you realise that if you let your workers unionise they'll begin to think they actually have rights? What's the point of being Tennessee if you can't oppress your poors? Really now.

I'm sure this thrad will fill up with more poasts quickly because if there is one thing Americans are screwed up with (other than sex) it's labour issues.
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Old 02-16-2014, 02:38 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Inevitable depressing follow-up: A Titanic Defeat - Lawyers, Guns & Money

I don't want to summarise or excerpt the entry; there's too much worthwhile analysis in there. Go read it.
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“If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.” -Mikhail Bakunin

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Old 02-16-2014, 03:26 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Our public school teachers are going on strike next week (most likely) because the district refuses to limit class sizes. Even though the strike isn't for several days the district is fucking with our schedule and closing the schools for several days. Way to get the parents to sympathise with the teachers, assholes. Training scabs takes time.

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/i...l#incart_river
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Old 02-18-2014, 01:44 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Robert Reich on labour, globalisation, and technology, excerpted from Inequality for All. Has significant relevance to this thread so I'm dumping it here, although it could also go in a number of other places. There are several other excerpts from this film on Upworthy as well; here's another one.
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“If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.” -Mikhail Bakunin

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Old 03-01-2014, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Via LGM:

TN Republican Admits Bill Attacking Free Speech Is Designed to Take “Preemptive Measures” Against Union Growth « Smart Union
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“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” -Adam Smith

“If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.” -Mikhail Bakunin

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Old 03-12-2014, 10:22 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Oh hey, Obama is doing something good for workers.

Obama Will Seek Broad Expansion of Overtime Pay

Quote:
President Obama this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated.

On Thursday, the president will direct the Labor Department to revamp its regulations to require overtime pay for several million additional fast-food managers, loan officers, computer technicians and others whom many businesses currently classify as “executive or professional” employees to avoid paying them overtime, according to White House officials briefed on the announcement.

Mr. Obama’s decision to use his executive authority to change the nation’s overtime rules is likely to be seen as a challenge to Republicans in Congress, who have already blocked most of the president’s economic agenda and have said they intend to fight his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour from $7.25.
I'm far from a defender of the Democratic Party, as I think anyone who's read this board for more than a few weeks will probably realise, but anyone who tries to pretend the two parties are the same is full of bovine excrement.

In other news, this piece on the conditions in the Nissan plant in Smyrna, TN is well worth reading. Erik Loomis has some Thoughts too.

Finally, it's probably worth pointing out that Ford is moving the production of two truck lines from Mexico back to Ohio. Presumably part of this is due to a two-tiered wage system that results in newcomers getting far less in wages, but baby steps, I guess.
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“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” -Adam Smith

“If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.” -Mikhail Bakunin

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Old 03-12-2014, 11:29 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

With the Great Recession still ongoing for most of us, the "job creators" have the workers right where they want them, willing to do jobs that actually pay less money than they did 30 years ago. Jobs like those at Nissan used to pay well over $20 an hour, plus decent benefits. I noticed the trend with meat packers, whose wages have declined from over $16 per hour in 1982 to an average of less than $12 per hour now. Those are not adjusted for inflation, they're actual dollars.

I'm luckier than most people with my background and [lack of] education, I'm making the same money I was 30 years ago, after adjusting for inflation. In actual dollars, I make a little over twice what I did then. That also means my standard of living has not changed one iota in 30 years. I even slid backwards for a while in the latter half of the 80s, having to take a 33% cut in pay just to keep a job.
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Old 03-12-2014, 07:40 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

It's kind of crazy to think I was paid $10/hr as a co-op engineer back in 1990. I was the cheap labor and they let me go home at night and not work on weekends. Most of the time. There were occasions where we had to work during outages for days on end and all hours of the day. Usually, not more than 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for a couple months. But they paid all extra hours at time and a half for me and straight time for all other employees.

They really have managed to decrease people's expectations and pacify the "non-banking" employee population.
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Old 03-13-2014, 12:52 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

But we're all rich because we have smart phones, televisions, and refrigerators (all of which have gotten ridiculously cheap compared to 20-30 years ago).

eta: oh, and air conditioners.
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Old 03-14-2014, 11:24 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Fortunately, modern conveniences have not been used by employers to make additional demands on our time or extract additional work out of us, ensuring that these improvements in technology purely benefit consumers and employees.

Last edited by erimir; 03-15-2014 at 07:47 AM.
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Old 03-15-2014, 01:34 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine | The Nation

I did something like this setup with the old Google Answers. I figured I already did freelance work a lot, but I couldn't take really big jobs because of my regular job. So I figured I could just do little research projects instead. It was better than this, but it was still ridiculous in a lot of the same ways. I only did a few because most of them were so low paying or ridiculous that it wasn't worth it, but there were people there who'd bust their asses for some lousy $2 question and then still get their answer rejected, and there were people who were doing it because they really needed the money.

That was some kind of bullshit, but these things are a worse bullshit.
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Old 03-15-2014, 01:53 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Remember whenever a conservatarian or 'job creator' bitches about how raising minimum wage a few dollars will destroy their company and send the economy into free fall, Wall Street gives out more bonuses than all minimum wage workers combined. Based on these numbers minimum wage could be tripled with only the bonuses of the 1%.
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Old 03-15-2014, 02:41 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Quote:
Originally Posted by lisarea View Post
How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine | The Nation

I did something like this setup with the old Google Answers. I figured I already did freelance work a lot, but I couldn't take really big jobs because of my regular job. So I figured I could just do little research projects instead. It was better than this, but it was still ridiculous in a lot of the same ways. I only did a few because most of them were so low paying or ridiculous that it wasn't worth it, but there were people there who'd bust their asses for some lousy $2 question and then still get their answer rejected, and there were people who were doing it because they really needed the money.

That was some kind of bullshit, but these things are a worse bullshit.
This weirds me out, in the way it's both a labor thing and a my vision of the singularity thing. At the google, we had a cube farm of temps that were called "raters" and they were paid by the hour to click yes or no on some screens all day and train the machines. It just super creeps me out (but also thrills me) to see human beings reduced to such specialized tasks and integrated into this artificial intelligence system, doing the human thinky parts the machines can't do.

One day I wondered aloud at a coworker, "what kind of job is that?" because it certainly didn't exist when I was temping, and he was all offended on their behalf like I was being a snob. Slow down, child, I've done my share of entering time cards and typing checks by hand, this is something different. This is some sci-fi ghost in the machine crazy shit.

How Google Uses Human Raters in Organic Search - Search Engine Watch (#SEW)
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Old 03-15-2014, 09:01 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Quote:
Originally Posted by lisarea View Post
How Crowdworkers Became the Ghosts in the Digital Machine | The Nation

I did something like this setup with the old Google Answers. I figured I already did freelance work a lot, but I couldn't take really big jobs because of my regular job. So I figured I could just do little research projects instead. It was better than this, but it was still ridiculous in a lot of the same ways. I only did a few because most of them were so low paying or ridiculous that it wasn't worth it, but there were people there who'd bust their asses for some lousy $2 question and then still get their answer rejected, and there were people who were doing it because they really needed the money.

That was some kind of bullshit, but these things are a worse bullshit.
So I'm actually working on a paper that uses Mechanical Turks to judge metaphors in message board posts... We posted a sample amount, and it turned out that we were not paying minimum wage (more like $6/hr) but we did not know how long the task would take the average Turker to do before we posted it. It was only a few dozen instances though, so we will adjust the task based on this. I know in one of the classes here the professor tells the students in the crowdsourcing assignment to adjust the payment to match at least minimum wage.

Crowdsourcing is exciting because it can render possible many tasks that would be too time-consuming for a handful of people, and it would be an impractical pain to hire more permanent workers just for this task only to no longer need them a couple weeks later. It also seems that some of these tasks might be mind-numbingly tedious for someone to do full-time, but are quite bearable or even interesting for much shorter bursts.

I will also be doing some similar annotation personally as a comparison point, and it's really not bad at all... until you've been doing it for 30 minutes or more. Ten minutes is not a problem at all.

It's also great for things like collecting, say, linguistic data that in the past you might have had to go out into the field for hours to get, or you would have to pay people primarily for the trouble of coming to you rather than the task itself (of course a lot of linguistic data is now freely available when publicly posted anyway, but there are stilll some types of data that are elusive). When people are working from home on their computers, these costs aren't saved just because you're paying people less, but because the cost to them and you is just lower since travel time and effort of finding them has been reduced.

And naturally the cost of monopolizing someone's time ought to be higher than asking only for a minute or two here and there when they want to.

So there are definitely reasons to want to use crowdsourcing that aren't just based around exploiting a cheap, global labor pool.

But I myself certainly wouldn't work for $3/hour or even $6/hour. And they're clearly performing a core business activity for the crowdsourcing companies, so treating them as contractors who the crowdsourcers have no responsibility to can't be right.

The problem I see is that some of the solutions to these problems may remove the benefits of crowdsourcing or render them unusable for requesters, or wouldn't work very well, etc.

So, for example... Overtime would simply mean that they would cut you off once you've worked 40 hours. There's no way that wouldn't happen. The labor pool is too large for them not to do that. Under what conditions would it be worth it for them to pay overtime? A glut of requests from requesters who aren't expecting them to be fulfilled immediately immediately anyway? This would have the effect of pushing request prices up a bit though, as the crowd would be a bit smaller at any particular time. I suppose they could always allow requesters to specify that they're willing to accept overtime work (and thus Amazon would take a higher fee for any such work).


At the same time, there are some features of crowdsourcing that make it have some disadvantages to employers. These currently aren't much of a problem since the balance is so skewed to them anyway, but the fact is that Turkers are not supervised. Crowdsourcers could guarantee a minimum wage, and allow requesters to still pay piecemeal. But then they would instead pressure Turkers heavily to work more quickly, and cut Turkers off who don't work quick enough. But if requesters instead had to offer payment by the hour, how would I ensure that workers are not simply opening tasks and letting them run to get extra pay? The shitty place I used to work tried to use Turks to perform email harvesting. Now, they, of course, offered a shitty rate, offering only 5˘ a hit for a task that I knew personally could take a couple minutes or more, even if it was usually much faster. So inevitably, what happened is that we got a bunch of shitty, useless data and wasted hundreds of dollars because we did not follow up on requests quickly enough to reject work that was clearly just someone pasting "none@none.com" over and over, and we ended up having to do it ourselves anyway. But even if I was offering a decent rate, how would I ensure that I wasn't getting similar results? If they had offered 25˘ or 50˘ per hit, given our low accountability, it would've been even more attractive to take that option. So a reputation metric that punishes harshly for doing such things seems necessary to prevent that.


But anyway, to give an example of how one could handle some of these problems without trying to force it to fit into normal employment scenarios...

For larger requesters, it would seem to me that the best approach would be statistical - at the end of the month, calculate the average rate per hour they paid, and Amazon or whoever would charge them an additional fee to be disbursed to the workers who did their tasks, one disproportionate to the amount they underpaid. Similarly, managing all rejections would require a whole nother Mechanical Turks in itself, but with large requesters, you can simply take a random sample of their rejections to determine whether they're trying to screw over workers and assess them an additional fee again (this one would probably need to be even more disproportionate). This would allow flexibility in task pricing, maintain incentives to perform tasks more quickly and correctly, and simultaneously reduce exploitative behavior.

I'm not sure how best to handle smaller requesters (like me and my research partners), but at the very least, larger requesters would clearly be more attractive to do tasks for in such a situation, requiring smaller requesters to increase compensation to compete.

But I don't know whether that kind of scheme could fit into existing employment laws... It seems to me that if we think that crowdsourcing is a worthwhile type of work, the regulations need to be written for it specifically.

The worry is that this means that they won't get written unless they're favorable to the crowdsourcing companies and clients. I suspect if there's a major court case against them, it will either kill off the field or Amazon and others will lobby until the decision is reversed legislatively.
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Old 03-17-2014, 04:45 AM
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Old 03-18-2014, 07:43 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Via LGM, a rundown of wage theft in fast food and the role franchising plays in it.

Quote:
What’s unusual here aren’t the claims of labor law violations, which are common enough, but rather, who’s being blamed. The wall that fast food workers hope to blast through with these class-action suits is the franchise system. All of the lawsuits name McDonald’s itself as a defendant, even though most of the targeted restaurants are owned not by McDonald’s but by McDonald’s franchisees.

Starting with Howard Johnson’s in the 1930s, franchising enabled fast-food companies largely to get out of the food business. Owning and operating the restaurants was mostly left to franchisees – usually mom and pop businesses that paid McDonald’s or Burger King or Dominos for the right to brandish their corporate trademark and prepare food according to their specifications. Today, most fast-food workers don’t work for McDonald’s or Burger King or Dominos; they work for franchisees licensed to sell their products.

Practically speaking, franchising makes it very difficult to hold fast-food corporations accountable for most labor violations that occur in restaurants bearing their name. Those aren’t our employees, the corporations can say; you got a problem with how burger-flippers are treated, take it up with their franchisee bosses. In franchise agreements – the contracts prospective franchisees must sign on a take-it-or-leave-it basis – franchisors explicitly disavow such responsibility. The McDonald’s contract, for instance, stipulates that “Franchisee and McDonald’s are not and do not intend to be partners, associates, or joint employers in any way.”
Loomis at LGM says:
Quote:
Like the subcontracting and outsourcing, franchising exists to increase profit for corporations while protecting them from liability. There is no reason at all why McDonald’s should not be held legally accountable for the actions of its franchisees, much as Wal-Mart and Gap and other apparel companies should be held legally accountable for the deaths at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh last year. In the recent past, judges have thrown these class-action suits out but as Noah points out, this one gathered a lot of evidence of McDonald’s direct involvement with its franchises that might suggest direct involvement in labor practices too that rip off workers.
As Adem has pointed out in the past it's worth reading the comments at LGM as well.
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“If you took the most ardent revolutionary, vested him in absolute power, within a year he would be worse than the Tsar himself.” -Mikhail Bakunin

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Old 03-22-2014, 09:07 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Oooooooooooooh!

The Techtopus: How Silicon Valley’s most celebrated CEOs conspired to drive down 100,000 tech engineers’ wages | PandoDaily
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Old 03-23-2014, 02:37 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Just think, if you were still on the Pinterest, you would have seen that two months earlier! :biggrin:
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Old 03-24-2014, 05:08 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Jesus H Fuck, this sort of thing makes me frothingly angry.

Quote:
As George Lucas explained, ‘I always — the rule we had, or the rule that I put down for everybody,’ was that ‘we cannot get into a bidding war with other companies because we don’t have the margins for that sort of thing.’
And, yet, if labor were to form some sort of cooperative organization where they agreed that they cannot get into a bidding war where they undercut other members of the labor force, inevitably, class warfare, socialism, interference in the market.

This post needs some swears: fuck, shit, ass, capitalism.
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  #20  
Old 03-24-2014, 05:58 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

For reals. I'd love to have George Lucas over and show him what kind of margins I'm dealing with.
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  #21  
Old 03-29-2014, 01:10 AM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

As to Mechanical Turk, I tried it, but I couldn't earn money very fast with it, so I dropped it. One task was to find road markings in pictures of roads, and while I think I was rather good at it, it took me too long to earn money at a reasonable rate, at least a few dollars an hour.
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  #22  
Old 03-30-2014, 06:08 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

It gets worse. lisarea's article underestimated the number of workers affected by Silicon Valley's price-fixing by over 90%.

Revealed: Apple and Google’s wage-fixing cartel involved dozens more companies, over one million employees | PandoDaily
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  #23  
Old 03-30-2014, 06:25 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Quote:
Originally Posted by lpetrich View Post
As to Mechanical Turk, I tried it, but I couldn't earn money very fast with it, so I dropped it. One task was to find road markings in pictures of roads, and while I think I was rather good at it, it took me too long to earn money at a reasonable rate, at least a few dollars an hour.
I've been doing my part to increase those low level wages by lying to those captchas that try to trick you into working for free.

You know those ones, where they have two discrete parts, one known and the other unknown, usually a house number or a sign from a photo or something? I put in the correct information for the known one, and then I tell them that the other one says Motherfucker or 69 or something like that.

So yeah. Not to toot my own horn, but I feel like I'm really starting to turn things around. You're welcome, proles!
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  #24  
Old 03-30-2014, 06:41 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

I've liked the idea of recaptcha (the book/sign captchas) but I've never thought of it as free crowd-sourcing something that's generally paid for.
Motherfucker 69 it is from now on!
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  #25  
Old 03-30-2014, 07:03 PM
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Default Re: General Labour Issues Thrad

Are you able to tell which one is known and which is unknown? I thought they mixed them up on purpose so that we can't tell.
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