Happy Prime Day, everybody!
That’s right: on July 16, the world witnessed a half-priced online commerce holiday, as Amazon slashed rates so online shoppers could know, in concrete terms, how little the company values/pays its workers. While some of the world was shopping, many were resisting, as Amazon warehouse workers went on strike against low pay and bad working conditions. Supporters across the world followed suit, boycotting Amazon’s big sale.
This is just the most recent installment in a trend of increasing politicization from Silicon Valley and tech and e-commerce workers at large. While it’s easy to lampoon Silicon Valley as the place capitalist bros who think they’re not capitalist bros go to invent products that rid them of the dirty, dirty task of domestic labor, since the 2016 election the seeds of insurrection have been sprouting.
From Microsoft workers refusing to help ICE to Amazon workers striking on Prime Day, the past few months have seen renewed political organizing from within the tech world. Here’s a roundup of recent tech organizing, led by workers at various tech companies and organizations like the Tech Workers Coalition.
Tech Workers Protest ICE
Today’s oh-so-modern anti-immigrant sentiment does not run on racism alone: it also needs technology. Companies like Google and Microsoft are already rather well-positioned to build the technological foundations of a white ethnostate, first of all ’cause they’re pretty white themselves, and second of all because they already know everything about all of us (oh yeah, and they have the technology).
Workers are fighting back. Most recently, Microsoft workers have been organizing against Microsoft’s contracts with ICE following Trump’s child separation policy. As Alex Press reports, the most recent round of organizing builds on earlier protests by Palantir workers in 2017 against the possibility that the company would build Trump’s Muslim registry. But it also goes in a new direction: tech workers are starting to refer to themselves as “workers” rather than employees, a trend that hopefully reflects a growing labor consciousness.
Microsoft isn’t the only tech company prompting protest for providing technology to America’s racist policing and immigration enforcement systems. The ACLU, for example, is currently leading a campaign against Amazon’s attempts to market and sell facial recognition technology to police departments.
Tesla Workers Speak Out (And Elon Musk is a Capitalist Baby Obsessed with his Miniature Sub)
In a revelation that stuns absolutely no one (especially anyone who has ever read his truly alarming biography), it turns out that Elon Musk is an evil capitalist man child obsessed with his miniature submarine, which is totally not a penis anxiety thing.
His weird tantrum about the submarine is nothing, however, compared to the serious labor violations at Tesla, which the good folks at Reveal uncovered (…revealed!) in a recent investigation. From underreporting injuries to bizarre workplace safety violations due to Musk’s weird personal preferences (apparently he doesn’t like the color yellow and that is more important than worker safety), Tesla’s space-age rhetoric masks some pretty Gilded-Age labor violations.
Of course, Musk himself responded to the report by having a temper tantrum and calling it “fake news.”
Google Workers Protest Lethal Drones
Over at Google, workers have won a major battle against the tech giant’s participation in “Project Maven,” which uses machine learning to improve drone strike targeting – thereby permitting the United States government to murder civilians with more accuracy and less remorse.
After serious organizing from workers , Google was forced not to renew the Project Maven contract. It’s an enormous victory. As one movement leader said about the politicized Google employees in an interview with Jacobin that will make you feel fantastically optimistic, “People feel their power now.”
Amazon Warehouse Workers Strike (And Amazon Engages in Rape Apologia)
As The Intercept reports, while “taxpayers have generously subsidized the build-out of Amazon’s warehouses” and while Jeff Bezos has just been named the wealthiest person ever alive, many Amazon factory workers – one in three in Arizona – are forced to rely on food stamps. Just to repeat: the 2018 increase in Jeff Bezos’s wealth is more than the GDP of Lebanon (and a hundred other countries), but his workers still can’t afford food.
To add sexist insult to capitalist injury, Amazon has also been engaging in some fun rape apologia lately. When the Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar protested the rape and murder of 8 year old Asifa, Amazon caved to an online mob of ethnocentric rape apologists and deleted Bhaskar’s Amazon endorsement Tweet. This reminds us that most giant companies are inherently evil and the surface progressivism Amazon has adopted in the United States is just for the photo ops.
In response to the bad pay and poor labor conditions that plague this inequality, Amazon workers in Europe have used Prime day as a prime (heh) opportunity to go on strike. The section of the internet that is not busy maxing out their credit cards putting money in Jeff Bezos’s pocket is expressing solidarity with the strikers, vowing to boycott Amazon.
All I can say is, GOOOO TECH WORKERS! And I apologize for all the times I have made fun of you. Well… I apologize for making fun of some of you, and I still reserve full rights to ridicule men who believe we should get all our meals in a pill.
Cover photo: German activists protest Amazon’s food service, 2017. Wikimedia Commons.
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