Labor blindness

August 10, 2018

Tech companies don't have "labor".

There is no "punching in" or "punching out"; no shift work, rest breaks, or meal periods. There's no overtime and certainly no "time and a half"; everyone is exempt, though I doubt 3/4 of Silicon Valley even knows what that means.

There are no unions; that means no minimum shift lengths, work rules, or closed shops. There are no collective bargaining agreements because there's no collective bargaining; no dues, strikes, card check, picket lines, or scabbing.

By and large, the place is a bunch of Democrats, but not the sort that loves unions; it's not part of their world and they don't understand it.

It's funny to see the trouble this blindness causes.

First, nobody appreciates how hard this stuff is. Minimum-wage labor is the world of missed shifts, multiple jobs, and drug tests. And a lot of complex regulation that leads to class action lawsuits over $100. Disasters like Homejoy are what happens when Silicon Valley tries to do labor.

Second, the problem space is underserved. Amy Hoy's piece on worldview articulates the problem well; we just don't understand that worldview, and don't build for it.

Third, this is probably why SV has punched below its weight in regulation. More labor means more people, which means more votes.

Blind spots cause trouble; it's worth knowing where they are.