Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Last Call For Look For The Union Pixel

The nation's largest tech workers' union is launching a major project to organize one of the most powerless groups of labor professionals out there: video game coders.

The Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE for short) is a new project of the Communications Workers of America aimed specifically at unionizing video game and tech companies.

It grew out of conversations between the CWA and Game Workers Unite, a grass-roots organization that sprang up in 2018 to push for wall-to-wall unionization of the $43-billion video game industry, alongside conversations with organizers across the larger tech industry.

Separate from the new initiative, the Toronto chapter of GWU has also signed a formal partnership agreement with CWA to work on organizing in the area. (CWA is also the parent union of the NewsGuild, which represents workers at the L.A. Times and most major newspapers in the country.)

“We’ve been watching the amazing organizing of workers across the industry,” said Tom Smith, CWA’s lead organizer. “And workers themselves reached out to us while doing that amazing self-organizing, and said, ‘Can we do this in partnership with the CWA?’”
The union declined to specify how much money it was putting behind the new effort, but has put two organizers on payroll to lead the push with support from dozens of CWA staff members across the country.

One of the new staffers, Wes McEnany, comes from a more traditional labor organizing career with Boston-area unions and the labor-backed campaign for a $15 minimum wage. CWA also hired Emma Kinema, who co-founded Game Workers Unite and organized the Los Angeles and Orange County chapters of the group.

The dedicated staff and national ambition set the CODE project apart from other efforts to organize tech workers, such as the United Steelworkers-backed Pittsburgh Assn. of Tech Professionals, which successfully unionized Google subcontractors in September.

“In my experience self-organizing in the game industry, people are very bottlenecked by the lack of resources and lack of legal know-how and a lack of funding — it’s very tough,” Kinema said. “The decades of experience and resources that come from partnering with an organization like CWA can take it to the next level.”

Working conditions in the video game industry have brought the question of unionization to the forefront in recent years. At a 2019 video game developer conference, the industry’s practice of making employees work 100-hour weeks for months on end to finish a game in time for the preset delivery date, often without extra pay — a practice known as “crunch” — came under fire in discussions among workers, as did the rolling layoffs that come when companies staff up and shed jobs to fit cyclical production schedules.
And in the tech industry writ large, workplace actions have extended beyond concerns over bread-and-butter issues such as pay and severance to questions of ethics and culture. The worldwide Google walkouts, and the walkout at Los Angeles game studio Riot Games that followed, grew out of employee demands to end the practice of forcing workers into private arbitration instead of allowing them to sue over claims of sexual harassment and workplace discrimination.

Other actions, such as the walkout at online furniture seller Wayfair and a number of petitions filed by workers at Amazon, Microsoft and Salesforce, have pushed back against corporate decisions to work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Defense. And Irvine-based Activision Blizzard faced internal and external protests in late 2019 after it punished a professional gamer who made statements supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

The organizers behind the new effort see the push for better working conditions and corporate ethics as one and the same.

“I think it’s a false dichotomy to frame the activism of a lot of tech workers around the impact that the work they do has on society as something other than a fundamental working condition,” Smith said. “For a lot of folks, that’s what led them to do this work in the first place, and people are feeling a disconnect between their personal values and what they’re seeing every day in their working lives.”

This is long, long overdue.  The nation's tech companies are collectively worth trillions, and the game segment of that industry makes tens of billions every year.  80-100 workweeks for "crunch" are the norm, they are expected from game giants like Activision Blizzard, EA, and Ubisoft.  Organizing labor is absolutely needed in 2020, even when you're making video games.

Here's hoping this goes far, fast.

It's About Suppression, Con't

This piece in The Atlantic by American University professor Ibram X. Kendi absolutely captures what I've been trying to say for years: the real swing voter is the young black voter and the young Latino voter who is deciding whether or not the Democratic candidate is worth wading through all the GOP voter suppression and disinformation in order to vote in the first place.

The common conception of the swing voter is one who shifts between voting Republican and voting Democrat. These center-right or center-left voters are typically white and older. Meanwhile, people of color and young people, and especially young people of color, are more likely than white people and older people to swing between voting Democrat and not voting (or voting third party). These are America’s other swing voters. Othered because they are typically young and not-white. Othered because they are hardly recognized at the table of political agency. Othered because they are primarily recognized at the table of political shame when they don’t vote. Othered because Americans refuse to recognize how voter suppression and depression affect their agency. Quietly, though, they are voicing their agency, declaring the Democratic Party irresponsible for the candidate choices it makes, swinging, and deciding elections.

Americans use many names for these other swing voters, other than swing voter. Irregular voter, occasional voter, or other such labels fail to capture how those vacillating between voting Democrat and not voting at all are swinging elections. Nonvoter conflates many distinct groups. There is a profound difference between the nonvoter who doesn’t assess the Democrat (or Republican), because she has no intention of voting, and the other swing voter who assesses the Democrat, dislikes her, and decides not to vote (or votes third party). There is a profound difference between the nonvoter who refuses to vote no matter what, and the other swing voter who ended up not voting, because her original dislike for the Democrat prevented her from overcoming being purged from the voting rolls, the difficulties of registering to vote, the appeals of anti-Democrat Russian trolling, the loss of already low wages, and the long lines on Election Day. 
Among registered black voters, 19 percent who did not cast a ballot in the 2016 election said it’s because they disliked the candidates or their campaign issues, up from 3 percent in 2012, when Obama was on the ballot, according to the Pew Research Center. Disliking the candidates or their campaign issues was also the reason given by 25 percent of those “Hispanic registered voters” who did not cast a ballot in 2016, up from 9 percent in 2012.

As the proportion of white voters and older voters declines in the electorate, and if Democrats continue to lose non-college-educated whites, the other swing voter’s importance will only increase for Democrats in 2020 and beyond. Today, the other swing voter is prototypically young and black. Tomorrow, the other swing voter will probably be prototypically young and Latino.

Democrats are busy debating which candidate is the most electable, meaning which candidate has the best chance to defeat Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election. Differing forecasts are based on differing autopsies of the 2016 presidential election. Some Democrats say Clinton lost because she lost the swing voter; therefore, Democrats need a candidate who can win back the swing voter (denoting white people). Other Democrats say Clinton lost due to a decline in turnout; therefore, Democrats need a candidate who can turn out the party’s base (denoting people of color). Still other Democrats are urging their party to focus on both, as they search for another candidate like Obama in 2008, who can woo white swing voters outside Philadelphia and also those young black men waving the enormous American flag before my stunned eyes.

I have long advocated for increasing turnout while being uncomfortable with the terminology of this debate. I could not pinpoint a replacement term for turnout until now. I could not pinpoint the source of my discomfort until now. 
White swing voters are largely treated like political free agents who must be persuaded to vote for candidates they like. People of color and young people are treated like political cattle who must be whipped into shape to turn out for candidates they often don’t like. Whoever compels change is politically free. Whoever is compelled to change is politically captive. Candidates and campaigns routinely change their profile—often by moving to the middle—to better attract the white swing voter in the general election. But people of color and young people usually find that the change has come at their expense. 
Don’t get me wrong: I think all Americans should always vote. I think voting is extremely important. But candidates and their policies are more important. In our political environment, young black voters receive lectures on the importance of voting, while white swing voters receive memos on the importance of candidates. In other words, young black voters are encouraged to vote. White swing voters are encouraged to vote for candidates.

In a word, turnout encapsulates the long-standing paternalism of too many Democrats toward people of color, young people, and especially young people of color who don’t always vote. By contrast, talking about the other swing voter restores their political freedom and agency.

This is one of the most vital and important articles I've read in the Trump era.  This is why our media and our pundits are failing us, because to them the "swing voter" is the older white millennial or Gen Xer in the Midwest who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 but is firmly behind Trump now, when the real swing voter is the young black man who voted for the first time in 2008 for Obama and hasn't cast a ballot since because he's been purged from the voter rolls.

I'm hoping that after four years of Trump, getting rid of the guy will be enough to get people to vote, to overcome voter suppression and disenfranchisement.  These are the people we need to reach.  These are the people we need to help.

These are the people we need to give a candidate to.

But so many have fallen before a single primary vote has been cast.

Meanwhile here in Kentucky, the GOP-controlled legislative session is under way and the first order of business is voter suppression through strict photo ID.  It wasn't a problem when Matt Bevin was governor, not until he lost by under 1% of the vote, and they plan to roll it out in time for November, meaning tens of thousands will be disenfranchised.

Republicans want as few people to vote as possible.

Never forget that.

Impeachment Reached, Con't

Mitch McConnell says he has the 51 votes needed to proceed with the Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump without any votes or input for Democrats and that the trial will start without witnesses, for now.

The Kentucky Republican said Tuesday he has locked down sufficient backing in his 53-member caucus to pass a blueprint for the trial that leaves the question of seeking witnesses and documents until after opening arguments are made.

That framework would mirror the contours of President Bill Clinton’s trial and ignore Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s demands for witnesses and new evidence at the outset.

“We have the votes once the impeachment trial has begun to pass a resolution essentially the same — very similar — to the 100 to nothing vote in the Clinton trial,” McConnell told reporters. “All we’re doing here is saying we’re going to get started in exactly the same way that 100 senators agreed to 20 years ago.”

The GOP leader added that the Senate will "get around to the discussion of witnesses," but not before the Senate trial begins.

Schumer reiterated his pledge to force votes on witnesses and documents and offered his own warning to Senate Republicans Tuesday afternoon: "You can run but you can't hide."

"Large numbers of Republicans have refused to say whether they are for witnesses and documents and that’s why Leader McConnell came up with this kick-the-can down the road theory," Schumer said. "McConnell will never go for it but will four of his Republican colleagues?"

The move is just the latest exercise of blunt political power by McConnell, who since becoming majority leader has found myriad ways to sideline Democrats and move his agenda with narrow majorities. And the partisan impeachment road isn’t without risk: Republicans are doing little to distance themselves from the president even on process questions, let alone the ultimate decision of whether to remove Trump from office.

Yet Republicans say Democrats offered them little alternative: Most scoffed at the idea that Schumer could determine what evidence is heard in the Senate. And McConnell's strategy has key backing from the handful of Republican swing votes heading into the trial, though many senators, like Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), had hoped Schumer and McConnell could come to an agreement.

“We’ve gotten so snarled up with debate over witnesses that the two leaders haven’t been able to come to terms on this first phase so it looks like we’ll go forward with a Republican [package],” said Murkowski, who said she would support McConnell’s proposal.

So the impasse continues.  Pelosi still hasn't sent over impeachment articles, but McConnell has the votes to proceed anyway.  The second Pelosi does send them over, Democrats lose all leverage, and McConnell can do whatever he can get 51 votes for, including dismissing the charges against Trump outright.

We'll see what happens.


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