Connect with us

Uncategorized

Human Capital: The biggest labor stories of 2020

Published

on

Hellllooooo, 2021! Welcome back to Human Capital, a weekly newsletter that details the latest in the realms of labor, and diversity and inclusion.

Not a ton happened this week so I figured I’d use the time to look back on some of the more notable labor stories of 2020.

Sign up below to receive Human Capital in your inbox every Friday at 1 p.m. PT. 

Gig workers vs. Uber, Lyft, Instacart et al.

California’s Proposition 22, backed by gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, passed to ensure gig workers are classified as independent contractors. It was an important proposition that resulted in the yes side contributing north of $200 million to its efforts. But the fight isn’t over, which you can read about here

Amazon’s stumbles

Amazon faced a number of labor disputes throughout the year — many of them involving its warehouse workers and surveillance

An example: Christian Smalls, a former Amazon warehouse worker, was fired from Amazon in March after organizing a walkout at one of the company’s fulfillment centers in Staten Island. As a result, New York’s attorney general is investigating if Amazon violated federal worker safety laws and New York state’s whistleblower protections laws by firing Smalls.

Smalls’ termination helped galvanize other warehouse workers who later formed an international organization to demand change inside Amazon’s warehouses. Organizers pointed to worker retaliation as one of the driving factors for the formation of Amazon Workers International. Meanwhile, Amazon executives reportedly discussed discrediting Smalls and making him the face of the organizing movement.

An Amazon spokesperson previously told TechCrunch the company did not fire Smalls for organizing a protest. Instead, Amazon said it fired him for “putting the health and safety of others at risk and violations of his terms of employment.”

In November, Smalls filed a lawsuit against Amazon alleging the company failed to provide PPE to its workers.

Tech workers unionize 

Kickstarter and Glitch became two of the first tech companies to unionize. Kickstarter workers voted to unionize in February. A month later, workers at Glitch voted to unionize.

In September, at least ten tech companies were actively looking to form unions, Grace Reckers, the lead northeast union organizer of OPEIU, told TechCrunch at the time.

“Employees are seeing that they don’t actually have control of how the products they make are being used,” she said. “Even though most of the messaging in Silicon Valley is about creating a better world for us, making our lives easier and innovating, it also moves under the philosophy of move fast and break things.”

Disclosure: My partner works at Glitch and serves on the union’s bargaining committee.

Pinterest finds itself under heavy scrutiny 

Two former Pinterest employees, Ifeoma Ozoma and Aerica Shimizu Banks, spoke out about racial and gender discrimination at the company. Shortly after, Pinterest’s former COO Francoise Brougher sued the company alleging gender discrimination. Pinterest settled the suit for $22.5 million.

But Ozoma and Banks described to me a double standard in their experiences compared to Brougher’s. While Brougher received a $20 million payout, Ozoma and Banks received less than one year’s worth of severance.

“This follows the time-honored tradition in America where Black women come forward, blazing a trail, revealing injustice and white women coming in and reaping all the benefits of that,” Banks told me.

Dr. Timnit Gebru’s departure from Google makes waves

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 07: Google AI Research Scientist Timnit Gebru speaks onstage during Day 3 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018 at Moscone Center on September 7, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Kimberly White/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

Dr. Timnit Gebru, a top AI researcher, said she was fired from Google for sending an email to her direct reports discussing how she was disappointed in her organization’s approach to DEI as well as the approval process around her research paper. Gebru sent that email after Google did not grant her permission to attach her and her colleagues’ names to an AI ethics paper about language models. Gebru had previously sent her superiors an email, detailing that if they would not meet her specific conditions she would prepare to leave. Google proceeded to tell her it accepted her resignation and cut off her access to her work email. 

In December, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said it would review the events leading up to Gebru’s departure. In Pichai’s memo, he said the company needs to “accept responsibility for the fact that a prominent Black, female leader with immense talent left Google unhappily.” He also noted how it’s had a “ripple effect” through underrepresented communities at Google.

Alexis Ohanian makes room for Black people at the table

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian stepped down from the company’s board of directors, insisting that Reddit replace him with a Black person. Reddit took Ohanian’s advice and appointed Y Combinator CEO Michael Seibel.

Troubles at coworking space The Wing

WASHINGTON,DC-APR9: Audrey Gelman, the founder of The Wing, a women’s only co-working space and organization, April 9, 2018 in Washington, DC. The Wing started in NYC and DC is their first location outside of New York. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

The Wing blew up following allegations of racism and other forms of discrimination. Its CEO, Audrey Gelman, resigned as a result and later apologized for not taking any action

In a note sent to former employees, Gelman apologized for not taking action to combat mistreatment of women of color at The Wing. She also acknowledged that her drive for success and scaling quickly “came at the expense of a healthy and sustainable culture that matched our projected values, and workplace practices that made our team feel valued and respected.”

That meant, Gelman said, The Wing “had not subverted the historical oppression and racist roots of the hospitality industry; we had dressed it up as a kindler [sic], gentler version.”

TechCrunch Sessions: Justice is on the horizon

TC Sessions: Justice is hitting your virtual screens this March. You’ll be able to hear from folks like Backstage Capital’s Arlan Hamilton, Gig Workers Collective’s Vanessa Bain, Christian Smalls and others.

Tickets are available here for $5.

Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

Uncategorized

Clubhouse announces plans for creator payments and raises new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz

Published

on

Buzzy live voice chat app Clubhouse has confirmed that it has raised new funding – without revealing how much – in a Series B round led by Andreessen Horowitz through the firm’s partner Andrew Chen. The app was reported to be raising at a $1 billion valuation in a report from The Information that landed just before this confirmation. While we try to track down the actual value of this round and the subsequent valuation of the company, what we do know is that Clubhouse has confirmed it will be introducing products to help creators on the platform get played, including subscriptions, tipping and ticket sales.

This funding round will also support a ‘Creator Grant Program’ being set up by Clubhouse, which will be used to “support emerging Clubhouse creators” according to the startup’s blog post. While the app has done a remarkable job attracting creator talent, including high-profile celebrity and political users, directing revenue towards creators will definitely help spur sustained interest, as well as more time and investment from new creators who are potentially looking to make a name for themselves on the platform, similar to YouTube and TikTok influencers before them.

Of course, adding monetization for users also introduces a method for Clubhouse itself to monetize. The platform is free to all users, and doesn’t yet offer any kind of premium plan or method of charging users, nor is it ad-supported. Adding ways for users to pay other users provides an opportunity for Clubhouse to retain a cut for its services.

The plans around monetization routes for creators appear to be relatively open-ended at this point, with Clubhouse saying it’ll be launching “first tests” around each of the three areas it mentions (tipping, tickets and subscriptions) over the “next few months.” It sounds like these could be similar to something like a Patreon built right into the platform. Tickets are a unique option that would go well with Clubhouse’s more formal roundtable discussions, and could also be a way that more organizations make use of the platform for hosting virtual events.

The startup also announced that it will be starting work on its Android app (it’s been iOS only for now) and that it will also invest in more backend scaling to keep up with demand, as well as support team growth and tools for detecting and prevuing abuse. Clubhouse has come under fire for its failure in regards to moderation and prevention of abuse in the past, so this aspect of its product development will likely be closely watched. The platform will also see changes to discovery aimed at surfacing relevant users, groups (‘clubs’ in the app’s parlance) and rooms.

During a regular virtual town hall the app’s founders host on the platform, CEO Paul Davison revealed that Clubhouse now has 2 million weekly active users. It’s also worth noting that Clubhouse says it now has “over 180 investors” in the company, which is a lot for a Series B – though many of those are likely small, independent investors with very little stake.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

SpaceX sets new record for most satellites on a single launch with latest Falcon 9 mission

Published

on

SpaceX has set a new all-time record for the most satellites launched and deployed on a single mission, with its Transporter-1 flight on Sunday. The launch was the first of SpaceX’s dedicated rideshare missions, in which it splits up the payload capacity of its rocket among multiple customers, resulting in a reduced cost for each but still providing SpaceX with a full launch and all the revenue it requires to justify lauding one of its vehicles.

The launch today included 143 satellites, 133 of which were from other companies who booked rides. SpaceX also launched 10 of its own Starlink satellites, adding to the already more than 1,000 already sent to orbit to power SpaceX’s own broadband communication network. During a launch broadcast last week, SpaceX revealed that it has begun serving beta customers in Canada and is expanding to the UK with its private pre-launch test of that service.

Customers on today’s launch included Planet Labs, which sent up 48 SuperDove Earth imaging satellites; Swarm, which sent up 36 of its own tiny IoT communications satellites, and Kepler, which added to its constellation with eight more of its own communication spacecraft. The rideshare model that SpaceX now has in place should help smaller new space companies and startups like these build out their operational on-orbit constellations faster, complementing other small payload launchers like Rocket Lab, and new entrant Virgin Orbit, to name a few.

This SpaceX launch was also the first to deliver Starlink satellites to a polar orbit, which is a key part of the company’s continued expansion of its broadband service. The mission also included a successful landing and recovery of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first-stage booster, the fifth for this particular booster, and a dual recovery of the fairing halves used to protect the cargo during launch, which were fished out of the Atlantic ocean using its recovery vessels and will be refurbished and reused.

Continue Reading

Uncategorized

Watch SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare rocket launch live, carrying a record-breaking payload of satellites

Published

on

 

SpaceX is set to launch the very first of its dedicated rideshare missions – an offering it introduced in 2019 that allows small satellite operators to book a portion of a payload on a Falcon 9 launch. SpaceX’s rocket has a relatively high payload capacity compared to the size of many of the small satellites produced today, so a rideshare mission like this offers smaller companies and startups a chance to get their spacecraft in orbit without breaking the bank. Today’s attempt is scheduled for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) after a first try yesterday was cancelled due to weather. So far, weather looks much better for today.

The cargo capsule atop the Falcon 9 flying today holds a total of 143 satellites according to SpaceX, which is a new record for the highest number of satellites being launched on a single rocket – beating out a payload of 104 spacecraft delivered by Indian Space Research Organization’s PSLV-C37 launch back in February 2017. It’ll be a key demonstration not only of SpaceX’s rideshare capabilities, but also of the complex coordination involved in a launch that includes deployment of multiple payloads into different target orbits in relatively quick succession.

This launch will be closely watched in particular for its handling of orbital traffic management, since it definitely heralds what the future of private space launches could look like in terms of volume of activity. Some of the satellites flying on this mission are not much larger than an iPad, so industry experts will be paying close attention to how they’re deployed and tracked to avoid any potential conflicts.

Some of the payloads being launched today include significant volumes of startup spacecraft, including 36 of Swarm’s tiny IoT network satellites, and eight of Kepler’s GEN-1 communications satellites. There are also 10 of SpaceX’s own Starlink satellites on board, and 48 of Planet Labs’ Earth-imaging spacecraft.

The launch stream above should begin around 15 minutes prior to the mission start, which is set for 10 AM EST (7 AM PST) today.

Continue Reading

Trending