union busting at "progressive" non-profit

A couple of hours ago, I broke the news that Sunrise Movement, the climate change NGO known for confronting Sen. Dianne Feinstein for her inaction on the Green New Deal, fired one of its staffers for trying to organize a union.

Akshai Singh, a regional organizer based in Cleveland, alleges that they were fired for organizing a union and has filed an unfair labor practice with the National Labor Review Board.

You can read that here at The Strikewave.

Bait and switch

Failed companies, failed state

Like a lot of other app-based companies, Uber offered two weeks of paid sick leave to its drivers when the coronavirus pandemic started to anyone who either had COVID-19 or pre-existing conditions that put them at risk of contracting it and could no longer drive as a result. However, as drivers Steve in SF and James in Texas told me, they tried to apply for the leave and were rejected, nor do they know of anyone else who qualified for it. Three other Instacart Shoppers and two Shipt shoppers told me the same thing. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that these companies run on low labor costs and so they likely can’t actually afford to pay out sick leave. I wrote about Steve and James’s runaround for The American Prospect last week.

Russell-Uber 050520.jpg

“Even before the crisis began, Uber looked as if it was on its last leg. Since going public in May 2019, the company has hemorrhaged billions of dollars every quarter, propped up by investors such as the Saudi royal family and ousted chief executive and founder Travis Kalanick.”


Jia Tolentino wrote about the concept of mutual aid for The New Yorker and how the increase in popularity of such networks is itself an indictment of the failed U.S. state during the pandemic.

“Community itself is not a panacea for oppression,” Kaba told me. “And if you think that this work is like programming a microwave, where an input leads to immediate output, that’s capitalism speaking.” It will be a loss, Spade told me, if mutual aid becomes vacated of political meaning at the moment that it begins to enter the mainstream—if we lose sight of the fundamental premise that, within its framework, we meet one another’s needs not just to fix things in the moment but to identify and push back on the structures that make those needs so dire.

Crossing streams

I wrote about Animal Crossing and how even more nebulous the concept of “home” has gotten for renters during the coronavirus pandemic, for Curbed. While the game does require you to pay back a landlord and spend money on housing upkeep and building infrastructure, it’s much lower-stakes. As Ilica, who I interviewed said, “You don’t have to stress out in the game over your debt. There’s no time limit on the debt, which is not the same in real life. You can just keep making money and paying it off. In real life, the longer you wait to pay off something, the more it will cost you.”

Animal Crossing island with orange tones.

Rents have been skyrocketing for years in cities across the country, but it feels like even those who could “afford” to not pay attention to the out-of-control state of the real estate market are starting to wake up to it.

San Francisco and Washington, D.C., where I live, have both enacted temporary eviction moratoriums for tenants who can’t pay rent due to lost wages stemming from the coronavirus. A few months before this, Moms4Housing - a group of women with children drifting in and out of housing security - successfully claimed a house that had sat empty at the end of their Oakland block for years.

The outcry from landlords and homeowner-sympathizers was almost immediate, sparking fears that now anyone could claim an empty house was theirs for the taking. In a few short months, people have begun fighting for the right to stay in their homes (regardless of whether they can pay the rent) and sparked a conversation about the crisis of housing affordability. I hope this raises a further question about the viability of being a full-time landlord and/or developer and whether it’s moral to profit off of amassing or building luxury real estate stock which more often sits empty while thousands of people are left to scramble for cover on the street.

I also hope this pandemic makes the U.S. wake up to the reality that we can’t support full employment anymore, nor should we have to. When this crisis is over and we go back to work, workers should demand a 32-hour or even a 25-hour or 20-hour workweek (with full-time wages). I’ve spoken to hundreds of employees who have had to juggle childcare and other domestic duties as a result of school closures while teleworking full-time jobs. The eight-hour day, 40-hour work week is a thing of the past. Workers deserve much more than a pittance and the threat of losing health care if they’re as vital to the economy as we’ve seen over the past few weeks.

Instacart strike -> general strike?

Today I published an explainer piece for TalkPoverty about the Instacart strike that started today. Shoppers are walking off the nationwide and not coming back until their demands of complimentary personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer, extended paid sick leave for all Shoppers with a preexisting condition or whose doctors have advised them to isolate/quarantine, and an added $5 of hazard pay per order.

Instacart shopper checking phone

Instacart’s usual playbook is to hedge and draw attention to some other new policy they’re rolling out that happens to always come right after Shoppers make some kind of demand, and this strike was no exception. On Sunday, after Shoppers had spent hte weekend hyping up fellow strikers and spreading the word about Monday’s strike, Instacart PR put out a press release saying that they were working with a third party to create hand sanitizer and disseminate it to Shoppers, and that they were extended paid leave to workers who had tested positive for coronavirus through May 6.

As Vanessa Bain said, “We all have the potential of becoming vectors. Everyone’s a stakeholder. The stakes are very different from normal working conditions. Nobody should be against the idea of workers having safety measures to keep their customers alive and themselves safe.”

You can read that at Talk Poverty, here.


Bain also told me that she hoped the Instacart strike would be a moment of inspiration for other sector workers and lead to a general strike.

Here is a list of workers either striking, walking off, or threatening some sort of collective action as of today, March 30:

-Amazon warehouse workers (NPR)

-Whole Foods grocers (CommonDreams)

-Pittsburgh sanitation workers (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

-GE workers are demanding they be allowed to make ventilators while their factories idle (VICE)

-University of California-Santa Cruz graduate student workers (I wrote about this for The Strikewave back in January)

-Bath Iron workers in Maine (WGME)

-Bus drivers in Detroit and Alabama (NYT)

Tell me what to write.

I’m on Day 6 of social isolation and have a lot of pent-up creative energy. Drop some ideas for stuff you’d want to read about?

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