This week: Uber drivers, low wages, carnies, $2, and the other side.
That’s quite an efficient algorithm they have there
Seattle City Councilmember Mike O’Brien unveiled a proposal this week to ensure professional drivers have the right to organize, even if they drive for Uber, Lyft, or another app-based company that doesn’t just point to The Fountainhead or a pink mustache in lieu of an employee handbook. It’s a groundbreaking idea for a city to protect basic rights for workers who are classified as contractors — so groundbreaking that the proposal has already been variously described as “hair-brained” and “something crazy”… in the same tweet.
But then Uber stepped in on the day the proposal was announced to provide a teachable moment: they “deactivated” a driver who appeared on TV and in the newspaper speaking out about his lack of rights on the job… and they did it just a couple hours after he his name and photo first showed up in the news. Five stars for making the case, Uber!
Falling down on the job
A new data analysis shows that workers' real, inflation-adjusted take-home pay has actually declined over the last several years — and has fallen the most for the poorest people working in some of the largest and fastest-growing jobs. Despite substantial job growth and ongoing long-term productivity gains across the whole economy, the lowest-paid fifth of workers saw a 5.9% decline in their real wages from 2009 - 2014 (aka “the economic recovery"). Restaurant cooks saw an 8.9% drop over those five years. And the nation’s 4.6 million retail sales clerks and 3.4 million cashiers saw drops of 5% and 3.9%.
So is there any good news? Yup: Jasmin Almodovar, the Cleveland home health aide featured in the New York Times story on this new research, made a point of wearing her Home Care Fight for 15 T-shirt for the photo session.
More than a tempest in a teacup ride
Carnie is one of the only jobs left that exists in the popular imagination more as an insult than an occupation. (The fast food strikes eliminated fry cooks from the list.) But it turns out that many carnival workers are migrant laborers from Mexico, are exempted from the minimum wage for no fathomable reason, are paid salaries averaging about $350 for well more than 40 hours of a work a week, and are charged fees to be housed in filthy trailers, even though much of this is illegal.
Further contributing to the workers rights freakshow: a union which popped up to represent some of these workers turns out to be closely tied to the industry itself. The power behind it is known to require migrant workers to pay up to $500 to secure one of these carnival jobs, and the contracts it negotiates appear designed to avoid pay standards. And to top it all off: cotton candy is just not that good.
The article that refers to this as “living on less than a latte a day” is going to be terrible
An extraordinary combination of Census data analysis and ethnographic research turns up a startling 1.5 million households in the United States who are living on less than $2 a day. Only half receive food stamps or any other public benefits.
The research shows that many of these households typically identify as working people, but their only sources of income are things like selling plasma, and gathering scrap metal. What about “all those programs” Tea Partiers love to talk about? After two decades of harsh attacks on the safety net, only 25 of every 100 families with children living in poverty receives any TANF benefits at all.
Getting to the other side
An overgrown Merino ram lost in Australia was sheared after several years and produced 89 pounds of wool, obliterating the previous 63-pound record set in New Zealand last January. After his shave, the record-setting sheep “looks like a new man” and reportedly “actually wants a pat.”
Several macaque monkeys went through a month’s training to learn how to efficiently destroy nests one twig at a time when so commanded. The monkeys have been deployed to clear out birds who had sought to build homes near a fighter jet base.
And a chicken that ran through San Francisco Bay Bridge traffic is now subject to a custody dispute, with three different people claiming ownership. Many more area animal lovers have attempted to craft a joke about why it crossed the road, but to date, all have failed.