News & Commentary

September 25, 2018

Vail Kohnert-Yount

Vail Kohnert-Yount is a student at Harvard Law School.

The New York Times reported that thousands of workers at Marriott hotels from Hawaii to Massachusetts have voted to authorize their union, Unite Here, to strike over the past two weeks. But alongside the usual demands, like higher wages and better workplace practices, the union is also asking for protections for workers affected by new technologies and innovations, like facial recognition and drone delivery. “It seems they know they will be eliminating our jobs,” said Jean Te’o-Gibney, a front desk worker at Marriott’s Royal Hawaiian in Waikiki. Some research projects that technology could drive a 30% decline in jobs in food service and lodging over the next 15 years, echoing the 38% decline in manufacturing jobs from 1960 to 2012. “We are trying to get ahead of that,” said Anand Singh, president of Unite Here’s local in San Francisco. “We are not Luddites, but we are seeking a real voice at table.”

ReCode wrote that “the gig isn’t as good as it used to be” for many workers in the U.S. gig economy, especially those working through online transportation apps. According to a study by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, drivers who transport people or things via apps like Uber, Lyft, Uber Eats, and Postmates made 53% less in 2017 than they did in 2013. The study was based on online gig economy payments into Chase checking accounts. Meanwhile, the share of the working population that has participated in the online gig economy at any point in a year more than doubled, from less than 2% in 2013 to nearly 5% in 2018.

The Washington Post reported that Amazon has been calling workers around the country into “all-hands” meetings in the past week where they’ve been given raises of 25 to 55 cents an hour. Some employees said the raises were their first in four years and described them as “damage control” in response to recent reports of poor working conditions. Amazon’s warehouse worker wages now run between $11.50 and $15.05 an hour depending on the region. Meanwhile, according to a paper published this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Amazon continues recruiting its management ranks from elite academia, hiring more graduates from Harvard’s most recent class of MBAs than any other company and has brought on 150 Ph.D. economists over the past five years.

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