Categories
apple work

Apple Retail Workers Unionizing

I’m not sure if they’re happy to have their plans leaked to the press, but it is tremendous news (from last month) that workers at some of Apple’s retail stores are working on unionizing according to Reed Albergotti at the Washington Post:

Employees at several Apple Stores across the country are quietly working to unionize, according to people familiar with the efforts, as growing dissent among hourly workers threatens to disrupt one of the most stolid tech giants.

Groups at at least two Apple retail stores are backed by major national unions and are preparing to file paperwork with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in the near future, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential plans. At least a half dozen more locations are at less-advanced stages in the unionization process, these people say.

A little odd to not mention the security checks that held workers up without pay for years in the article, but otherwise this is such great news.

Tim Cook’s compensation was $98.73 million in 2021, hourly workers at Apple retail stores in the United States earn between $17-$30 an hour or more, which means they’re bringing home between about $25,500 to $45,000 a year. An average 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $3,304 a month according to ApartmentList.com, that’s almost $40k a year on an apartment to live near your work if you’re employed at Apple’s retail store in Union Square.

Tim Cook doesn’t make the products, doesn’t sell them, but he takes the profits for the labor of the people working at these stores and is “thankful” that he gets to exploit their labor as he announces on stage any time he talks about the workers in the stores, factories, and the white collar jobs.

I’ve worked retail, and at tech jobs, and I can tell you that I’ve never had to work harder than when I worked retail jobs. The hours are rough, the pay is miserable, and many of the bigger stores force workers to watch anti-union videos and attend meetings that lie about how unions operate. That seems to be the kind of tactic Apple takes as well, which is incredibly shameful. If Tim Cook is truly thankful to the workers at Apple they should be represented on the board of the company and unionized.

Categories
apple work

John Gruber’s Anti-Worker Screed

John Gruber wrote an ugly screed in reply to a letter that got leaked to The Verge’s Zoe Schiffer from Apple workers asking for more flexible time at home options. The office workers were told to return to the office three days a week later this year, and they would naturally prefer more flexible schedules. Gruber’s response is really ridiculous, this statement really sums up his attitude:

Companies are not democracies, but the employees writing these letters sure seem to think Apple is one.

I used to read Daring Fireball but stopped in 2019 after the last time I could put up with this bizarre backwards attitudes published there. At that time Gruber conflated a country and everyone in it with their government. Gruber wrote this in 2019:

“The Chinese are petty and petulant.”

After reading that I sent a polite e-mail asking that this be corrected at least to “The Chinese government is…” which isn’t even something I’d agree with, but at least separates the government from the people. I doubt Gruber would want to be associated with the United States government from 2016-2020 and said as much.

With that incident in the past I am almost completely unsurprised when I see antiquated anti-worker takes on Daring Fireball. A site where the author writes from home every day at his leisure, with no boss or coworkers. Apple’s leadership has been incredibly flawed since the start, but still produced incredible hardware and software products. These days it should be impossible to overlook the wide injustices inherent to the profit motive that corrupts every business and its leaders, but Gruber has been behind the times for years now and needlessly defends Apple leadership.

Let’s be clear: the workers design and make the products and are the people with the skill to distribute and sell them. The executives steal the profits because the workers aren’t organized. That’s the relationship with every business that isn’t worker-owned or at least unionized.

This is reminiscent of the bag check situation where Apple leadership was dead wrong in not paying their workers fairly for time spent waiting while they were treated like thieves, but even Gruber understood part of the situation then and that was just a year ago.

Categories
work

The UK Supreme Court Rules that Workers for Uber are Employees

Mary-Ann Russon for the BBC:

The ruling on Friday was Uber’s last appeal, as the Supreme Court is Britain’s highest court, and it has the final say on legal matters.
Delivering his judgement, Lord Leggatt said that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal that it was an intermediary party and stated that drivers should be considered to be working not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.

Uber has been exploiting workers for years now by pretending the workers aren’t employees. Uber sets the pay rate, decides who is allowed to drive, what kind of vehicles are allowed to be used, when driving may occur, the price charged to the customer, and is definitely an employer even if the relationship happens through a phone application.

Congrats to the App Drivers & Couriers Union for helping to deliver this victory for labor rights for workers in the United Kingdom especially on this part of the win as they describe it:

The court further clarified that working time for the purposes of calculation of the minimum wage and holiday pay would be from logon to log off including stand by time. The court rejected Uber’s argument that if drivers are workers then working time should only be calculated as journey time with a paying passenger. This decision alone has significant implications for reducing urban congestion, pollution and poverty since Uber will now have the correct economic incentive to efficiently utilise driver and vehicle working time.

Categories
work

Amazon Is Forcing Its Warehouse Workers Into Brutal ‘Megacycle’ Shifts

Lauren Kaori Gurley writing for Vice’s Motherboard tech subsite about a new change for Amazon workers:

On January 25, hundreds of workers at an Amazon warehouse in Chicago were presented with a baffling choice: sign up for a ten-and-a-half-hour graveyard shift, or lose your job.

Management informed workers that their warehouse, known as DCH1, would be shut down, and they were being offered a shift that runs from 1:20am to 11:50am, which is known as “megacycle,” at a new Chicago warehouse.

This is the same Amazon that hired Pinkertons to spy on the workers at their warehouses, as reported by Gurley in another article for Vice.

Categories
video games work

Volt’s Treatment of Quality Assurance Teams is Still Miserable

Jason Schreier spoke with 11 people who worked at Treyarch about the Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 development cycle:

They described a company in which contractors, and particularly testers, feel like they’re perceived and treated as inferior. Throughout Black Ops 4’s rocky development, testers said they worked under unfair conditions—a theme that’s common in the video game industry, but one that remains worth scrutinizing. Those who spoke to us for this story said they did so because they hope that public pressure will lead the studio to change.

This whole article reminded me of my time at Microsoft, working on the original Xbox as a QA contractor for Volt/VMC over a decade ago.

I’ve told this story many times on the various sites I’ve run, but the short version is that while working at Microsoft my coworkers I enjoyed the work itself, we were paid incredibly poorly and were treated like completely disposable workers.

Microsoft’s management strategy at the time was to berate and yell at our group if anything happened that could possibly have been our fault. During the development of Halo 2 my group was yelled at for leaking information on some weapon in the game. As far as I know, nobody on my team had done that and the Microsoft manager who yelled at us had no information that lead them to think we were to blame. They just wanted to yell at somebody, and a group of contractors testing their games was the easiest target.

Of course, when something was not right for our team, the issues were given the lowest priority. For example, our time sheets were edited to change our hours and undercut our pay, I complained to my manager at Volt, but nothing was done so I had to scrutinize my pay check and double-check my time sheet to make sure it had not been edited on the shared file server we used.

The final straw for me was when I started a new contract at the Microsoft Game Studios building and we were berated by our new manager because a previous group of testers had apparently sometimes taken “too long” in the restroom. We were told that “too long” was any longer than five minutes. If we were in the restroom for more than five minutes we would be fired. The lines at the rest room could get long, so it was a certainty you would be caught under this rule and fired if management didn’t like you. I went home that day, thought about it, and was in the good position to be able to quit the next morning without worrying that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent.

My experiences weren’t as awful as the ones reported by the people working at Volt today, but the only real solution is the same now as it should have been then, unionization. Collective bargaining is the solution for every workplace where workers are exploited, but it will take a very strong group to form a union, take action, and put an end to Volt’s mistreatment of workers.