Weekend News & Commentary
Civil unrest in France continued and even expanded this weekend, as French police arrested over a thousand protesters. A large police presence seemed better able to control the violence this weekend, the fourth weekend in a row in which the Yellow Vests (as protesters are known) took to the streets. The Yellow Vest movement, which began as a protest against a proposed gas tax, has continued even after French President Emmanuel Macron backed down from that proposal. Rather than subside, the movement has morphed into a “working-class revolt,” as the Washington Post notes. Wages have stagnated in many rural areas of France, even President Macron moves to weaken unions, lower the wealth tax, and deregulate industry. President Trump went to Twitter to blame the unrest on the Paris Accord, which seeks to reduce carbon emissions. But many Yellow Vest protesters challenged that characterization, emphasizing that they took issue only with the burden of the Paris Accords being put on the poor and middle-class. In Jacobin, French author Édouard Louis defends the Yellow Vest protesters against criticism that they are backward-looking “country bumpkins” opposed to progress, arguing that such criticism is motivated by class contempt.
Shortly following the news that Lyft was planning to go public, the Wall Street Journal reports that Uber has confidentially filed for an IPO, setting off a race between the two companies to vie for investor capital. But in Forbes, Erik Sherman notes that while these public offerings will make many people very rich, drivers at Lyft and Uber will not benefit. In fact, the infusion of capital will likely hasten the arrival of a self-driving fleet of cars that make rideshare drivers obsolete. This coming reality casts doubt on the companies assertions that they are merely technology platforms connecting drivers to rides, which has been their position in several court cases challenging Lyft and Uber’s failure to treat drivers as employees.
Mother Jones interviews Mark Luckie, a black former employee at Facebook, whose public post about Facebook’s “black people problem” went viral. Luckie criticized the company for its failure to address rampant microaggressions at the company and for putting the burden of diversification on the backs of the small group of minority employees. Facebook and other tech companies have come under attack for the overwhelming whiteness of their workforce but have failed to make much progress in recent years, despite widely-publicized efforts to do so.
A former TSA employee unsuccessfully sued the agency for retaliation after he says he came forward about a culture of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Though the court found that Mark Livingston was demoted for other reasons, the testimony elicited at trial paints an ugly picture of misogyny, including senior officials who posted pictures of topless women on his office wall and others who spread rumors about women’s sex lives.
The New York Times’ “Neediest Cases” section profiled Kevin Carr, a 46-year old New Yorker who works three part-time jobs after he was laid off a couple of years ago. Mr. Carr received rent assistance from charities and government grants, but has struggled to find permanent work. The Neediest Cases project seeks to elicit donations from Times subscribers to support charities in the New York City area.
In a New York Times opinion piece, Nona Willis Aronowitz describes the difficulty of weaning herself off her reliance on Amazon. Aronowitz notes the irony that her 85-year old father, a former factory worker and union organizer, has come to rely on a company known for its poor labor conditions and low pay. For consumers of an advanced age, or who live in rural areas or who work multiple jobs, Amazon’s low prices and convenience are hugely beneficial, and Aronowitz acknowledges the difficulty of thinking about the big picture when day-to-day survival is a more pressing issue.