The week in work: autoworkers deal; employers lie; techies organize; and animals off-label.
Shifting out of underdrive
The financial crisis & the great recession drove US automakers to the brink of liquidation, and in the restructuring that followed, autoworkers were forced to give up decades of advances on wages and benefits. (Meanwhile, banks emerged bigger & richer than ever.) The UAW even swallowed a 2-tier wage scale, which means that any employee hired since 2007 tops off at a pay rate $9 lower than the top rate for employees hired earlier. And even the top tier isn’t that great — wages for those workers have been frozen since 2007.
US autoworkers are beginning a new round of contract negotiations this year with Ford, GM, and Fiat/Chrysler, and they’re determined to eliminate the tiers and ensure that every worker is paid on the same scale. But it could be a tough bargain: 81% of US auto workers are not represented by a union, primarily at parts makers and in the South.
The second-biggest lie they ever told was convincing the world they would not exist
The founder of LinkedIn offered some insight on the biggest lie employers tell employees: “that the employment relationship is like family.” Sometimes it’s delusional, and sometimes it’s deceptive, he explains. (And sometimes it’s a plea for sympathy in anti-minimum wage testimony, we’d add.) But regardless, there’s a difference, because: “you don't fire your kid because of bad grades.”
Why not just give corporations the right to vote already?
People say that Uber, Task Rabbit, and the rest of the app economy don’t really create traditional jobs — but tell that to the folks at Airbnb. They’re hiring a “community organizer” to build support for making their service legal in places where it might not be totally above board right now. They promise to judge applicants by all kids of metrics (and pay partly in travel coupons), but it appears to be a real, good-old-fashioned job. With benefits.
Meanwhile, Uber continues to run essentially as a political campaign in support of itself and itself alone, most recently launching a “DeBlasio mode” in their app to show New York customers the death & destruction which will rain down on them if the mayor of the city imposes any limits on the service. David Plouffe, formerly of the Obama campaign, is running Uber’s political program — and he too is a real, good-old-fashioned, well-paid employee with benefits. Companies engaging this directly in political mobilization may be unusual, but it’s the lack of innovation here which is truly startling. Why don’t any of these disruptive entrepreneurs just offer piecework based on turnout? Or even cut out the organizing middlemen and just straight-up pay customers a few cents each to contact their own representatives on the company’s behalf?
Off label uses
Live lobsters were used to make a Saison-style beer in Maine. The brewmaster assures us that the lobsters used in the process were later eaten.
Robotic NUSwans have been deployed by the National University of Singapore to monitor reservoirs for water quality. Reportedly “it just looks like a swan swimming around.”
And authorities in Austin, Texas are investigating a death by cobra bite as a possible suicide. The cobra was later found dead on an access road near a Lowe’s, but its head remained intact.