Today’s News & Commentary — February 25, 2019
Over 150 Microsoft employees signed a letter demanding their employer cancel a $480 million contract with the Pentagon, asserting that they “refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression,” Fox News reports. The letter, addressed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, stated, “We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.” The workers demand that Microsoft stop developing all weapons technologies, set public standards around the acceptable use of such technology, and appoint an independent ethics review board that can enforce such policies. The move comes alongside similar actions by other tech workers: Many Google employees resigned last year over a Pentagon AI project, which Google eventually cancelled; in October, 450 Amazon employees protested against facial recognition software being sold to law enforcement.
Potential Democratic presidential candidate Sherrod Brown declared this weekend that he’ll be “the most pro-union candidate” if he decides to run in 2020, the Columbus Dispatch reports. Senator Brown made the statement in front of Las Vegas casino workers who are members of The Culinary Union, Nevada’s most powerful labor organization. Brown is the first potential or announced 2020 candidate to hold a 2019 event with the Culinary union, which represents about 57,000 workers in casino-hotels in Las Vegas and Reno. Brown said he will make his decision about when to run in the next month.
New Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows the U.S. states with the highest and lowest rates of union membership in 2018, Forbes reports. Hawaii had the highest union density, at 23.1 percent, followed closely by New York at 22.3 percent and Washington state at 19.8 percent. The Carolinas had the lowest union membership at 2.7 percent each. All told, 29 states and D.C. had union density under the national average of 10.5 percent.
The Trump administration has been demanding more evidence in applications for H-1B visas for high-skilled foreign workers, the Wall Street Journal reports. Some 60 percent of companies that applied for visas for their foreign workers received requests for supplemental evidence in the last quarter of 2018, compared with about 28% in the final quarter of 2016. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services director L. Francis Cissna has pledged stricter vetting in the immigration system and policies that he says will protect U.S. workers.