The fight for $15


February 15, 2019

Drivers for Instacart, DoorDash, Amazon Flex, and others are joining together to demand a minimum wage.
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Editor’s Note: It’s Presidents Day weekend, so we’ll be running our typical Sunday feature on Monday. See you back here Monday morning.

Big Gig: Gig economy workers join hands to fight for a $15-per-hour minimum wage 

Last year was huge for IPOs: There were 173 through the end of September 2018 alone (3x 2016’s number), and 2019 is on track to be even bigger.

But companies with an eye on going public will try almost anything to cut costs — even if that means cutting a driver’s take-home (pay for companies within the gig economy).

Fast Company reports that drivers from companies like Instacart, DoorDash, and Amazon Flex have banded together with the labor advocacy organization Working Washington to launch a campaign demanding a $15/hour minimum wage across the gig economy.

The decline that broke the driver’s back

Janssen Sartiga, an Instacart delivery driver, claims Instacart’s new cost-cutting pay algorithm dropped his earnings from an average of $20/hour in May to well under $15/hour in January — and he’s not alone.

Citing pay decreases of between 30% and 40%, nearly 1.6k Instacart gig workers signed a petition in January.

The group’s demands delivered a big victory package weeks later, when Instacart rolled out new minimums for workers between $5 and $10 per assignment, despite what the algorithm says.

But the war’s far from over

Each gig platform uses its own algorithms, which means that pay based on distance, number of items, weight of items, time of day, and other factors varies between each delivery-app service.

Instacart drivers have noticed that the service started bundling multiple customer orders into one batch, leaving a smaller payout for drivers.

And let’s not forget, DoorDash, Instacart, and Amazon have all been called out for counting tips toward user payin other words, the tips you leave your delivery drivers are going to billion-dollar corporations.

The fight for $15

Instacart’s win in January inspired them to team up with DoorDash and Amazon Flex — a company that bills maintenance costs into its advertised $18/hour employee wage — to restructure how workers get paid.

“No matter how the pay works, there ought to be a bottom line they can’t go below,” Sage Wilson of Working Washington said. “The details matter a lot, but we need a baseline that can apply to all apps.”

Talk about on-demand
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Amidst pressure from lawmakers, Amazon cancels plans to build massive HQ in NYC

Who would’ve thought we’d see an Amazon headline bigger than Bezos’ photo scandal… 

After months of debate among Amazon, lawmakers, and lobbyists over the $3B tax incentives offered to Amazon’s expansive Long Island City campus, Amazon has officially pulled the plug on the operation.

The New York Times reports that with many local politicians speaking out against the use of public subsidies to incentivize development and gentrification of Queens, Amazon felt that the political environment had become insurmountably hostile.

The news comes after a yearlong, Bachelor-worthy elimination round of red carpet proposals from over 238 cities. The deal promised to bring 25k jobs to the area, as well as a multibillion-dollar construction investment.

After all those tears… no rose

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio (both of whom have been vocal defenders of the new HQ since negotiating the deal) respectively blamed pressure from Democrats and Amazon’s “my way or the highway” attitude for the plan’s demise.

Meanwhile, Amazon opponents point to the company’s unwillingness to negotiate with local legislators as proof of Amazon’s bullying tactics.

“You used to call me on my cell phone”

NYT reports that de Blasio has attempted to reach out to Bezos to patch things up, but to no avail.

Amazon now plans to spread its wealth across its current offices in places like Boston, Austin, Vancouver — as well as their current 5k-employee office in NYC.

» Be careful what you wish for…

OpenAI says its new robo-writer is too dangerous for public release

OpenAI, an AI nonprofit, developed a text generator so good at creating “deepfake news” that its creators decided the program is too dangerous to release to the public.

OpenAI’s writing won’t end up in your Facebook Feed anytime soon, but robo-writers are already helping other companies write, making it harder than ever for regulators to rein in fake news.

OpenAI-ing Pandora’s box

In 2015, Sam Altman and Elon Musk became worried that the world’s most powerful AI programs were all being developed behind closed doors — that’s why they launched a nonprofit called OpenAI with a mission to make “safe” artificial intelligence publicly available. 

But OpenAI’s program, called GPT2, is so good that it produces writing that’s virtually indistinguishable from real journalism, opening the door for increasingly sophisticated fake news.

“It’s very clear that if this technology matures, it could be used for disinformation or propaganda,” OpenAI’s policy director Jack Clark told the MIT Technology Review. “We’re trying to get ahead of this.”

Robo-reporters are already out there writing

OpenAI’s text generator will be kept under lock and key until its creators understand what it can and can’t do. 

But, robo-writers are already roaming: Bloomberg News uses a robo-writing program called Cyborg in ⅓ of its articles, and The Washington Post, the Associated Press, and The Guardian all produce “machine-assisted” writing.

GPT2 — or something like it — will eventually go public. When it does, researchers hope they’ll have a way to control it. “We’re trying to build the road as we travel…” Clark told The Guardian.

Sounds like something a robot would write…

» The write call or the wrong call?

The beer industry is on track to get a whole lot less boozy

For all the beer snobs out there, here’s a quick quiz: What’s the fastest-growing category of beer? Is it IPAs? Sours? Some European brew with a name you don’t know how to say?

Nope. The fastest-growing beer segment is… non-alcoholic beer. That’s right, O’Doul’s die-hards: According to recent research, non-alcoholic beer sales grew 3.9% last year while boozy beer sales grew just 0.2%.

“I’ll take one beer without the alcohol, please”

Beer isn’t just for German biergartens and American college parties anymore: In the past several years, the sweet wheat has become popular in places like the Middle East, where alcoholic beverages are illegal.

So, to cater to the expanding pool of beer drinkers, large alcohol producers are making beer, well, less beer-ish: Heineken, the world’s 2nd-largest beer brewer, released its first alcohol-free beer in 2017, and its sales have grown more than 10% annually.

The future could be less fuzzy

Due to the success of alcohol-free beers like Heineken’s “0.0,” non-alcoholic beer sales are taking off around the world. 

In China, as much as 30% of new beers released in recent years have been non-alcoholic. Even in Germany — the beer-drinking capital of the world — non-alcoholic beer consumption has increased 43%

Today, non-alcoholic beer accounts for just 5% of overall beer consumption. But AB InBev, the largest beer company in the world, plans for 20% of its beer sales to be low or non-alcoholic by 2025.

» Bye bye buzz
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E-Z-BUILD → shower thoughts
  1. The syllables in “on your mark, get set, go” are a countdown.
  2. Running from the cops is the ultimate double or nothing.
  3. Knowing you have the next day off is more relieving than the actual day off.
  4. When you walk through a grocery store and they are playing good music. You have become their target demographic.
  5. Dragons are just wizard dinosaurs.
  6. via Reddit
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