Tag Archives | Labor

Human Workers Whose Boss Is An Algorithm

We envision a future in which the repetitive, manual labor is performed by robots with human overseers. But suppose we are headed for the reverse? Computers are brighter than us, after all. Via Technology Review:

Stephanie Hamilton is part of something larger than herself. She’s part of a computer program.

The 38-year-old resident of Kingston, Jamaica, recently began performing small tasks assigned to her by an algorithm running on a computer in Berkeley, California. That software, developed by a startup called MobileWorks, represents the latest trend in crowdsourcing: organizing foreign workers on a mass scale to do routine jobs that computers aren’t yet good at, like checking spreadsheets or reading receipts.

According to company cofounder Anand Kulkarni, the aim is to get the crowd of workers to “behave much more like an automatic resource than like individual and unreliable human beings.” The value of tasks is set so that workers can reasonably earn $2 to $4 an hour; payments are on a sliding scale, with lower rates for poorer countries.

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Who Creates Jobs (and Other Critical Questions)

Help WantedTom Matlack writes on The Good Men Project:

The web is abuzz with TED’s decision not to let a former Amazon.com investor make his case for middle-class job creation. Meanwhile Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gets ready to watch his $20 or so billion become liquid when his company opens trading this morning. The French and Greeks have elected liberal leaders who campaigned against austerity as the answer to the Euro debt crisis. And here in the United States the general election is kicking into high gear with the Romney campaign releasing this ad yesterday in key swing states.

Let’s try to get a few things straight here before resorting to mud slinging.

1) Any way you slice it we have a debt problem threatening to kill us.

Government spending here in the United States and across much of the developed world is completely out of control. As of March 2012, debt held by the public was $10.85 trillion or approximately 70% GDP, while the intragovernmental debt was $4.74 trillion or approximately 30% GDP.… Read the rest

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Why Are You Working So Hard?

WorkingAnnie-Rose Strasser writes at Think Progress:

The 99 Percent Movement is bringing May Day, the worldwide annual celebration of labor, to the United States today with protests in over 135 cities. The theme of the protests is “A Day Without the 99 Percent,” and occupiers are encouraging people to spend the day outside of the U.S. economy. According to the May Day organizing site for New York, “It’s a day to recognize the value of our work, and the power we have to collectively change our working conditions and our world.”

It’s true that the 99 percent make up the majority of workers in all the industries for which America is known. Farming, manufacturing, and transportation, to name just a few, wouldn’t survive without the working people who carry the burden of productivity in those fields. Manufacturing alone makes up 20.3 percent of the labor force. But rewarding those workers is a different question.

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What Research Says About Working Long Hours

90 HRS/WK AND LOVING IT!Via DevOpsAngle:

Facebook COO Sharyl Sandberg has kicked up a mini-controversy by admitting to Makers.com that she leaves the office at 5:30PM every day, and has done so for years. In the Valley, where work is a religion, leaving early is heresy.

Earlier this week “Jon” published The 501 Developer Manifesto, a call for developers to spend less time working.These calls for less time at the office are counter balanced by a recent talk by Google executive Marissa Mayer at an 92|Y event. Mayer dismissed the phenomena of “burn out” as resentment and boasted of working 130 hours a week at times.

Research suggests that Sandberg is probably the more productive executive, and those 501ers may be on to something. In a lengthy essay titled “Bring back the 40-hour work week,” Alternet editor Sara Robinson looks at the history of long working hours and reminds us why the 40 hour limit was imposed in the first place: working more than 40 hours a week has been shown to be counterproductive.

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‘Fair Trade’ iPhones?

iPhonesFair Trade labels, are an increasingly a common sight on food stuffs like coffee, bananas, sugar, tea and chocolate. While the labeling system is an imperfect mediator to global disparity and injustice, it does help traditional farmers moderate their standard of living. However, given the complex and multiple processes involved in the production of new technologies like phones, mp3 players, and laptops — is ‘fair trade’ technology even possible? Reports Ryan Huang on ZDNet Asia:

There may be a market for more ethically sourced and produced electronics driven by the increased public scrutiny and awareness over labor issues and related concerns over the sector, say industry observers. However, some express reservations over the feasibility of implementing a fair trade model in the industry.

The electronics manufacturing industry came under the spotlight following a series of suicides involving Foxconn workers in a Chinese factory, which manufactures devices for major brands such as Apple, Hewlett-Packard and Samsung.

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Foxconn Has The World’s Largest, And Worst, Internship Program

5678601035_6492c5f4cf_zWhat’s worse than slave labor? Slave internships. About a third of the workers in Foxconn’s iPhone factories are young adults participating in the world’s biggest, most hellish internship program. They are students who have been told that they will not receive their degrees without completing the experience — Foxconn pays kickbacks to their schools. Motherboard writes:

One of the lesser-known aspects of the manufacturing behemoth behind gadgets by Apple, Amazon and many others: a giant internship program rife with abuse. With the help of schools and government officials, the company runs a massive internship program built not on voluntary education but on “compelled” factory work for teenage students. According to Ross Perlin, author of Intern Nation, Foxconn may be running “the world’s single largest internship program.”

Foxconn says it relies on as many as 180,000 interns during the summer months to fulfill the needs of the voracious beast of Western gadget demand — companies like Apple, Amazon, HP and nearly every other major electronics brand.

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Could A 16-Hour Work Week Save Civilization?

The question is:  If Americans wanted to retain compensation and employment gains between 1987 and 2009, how long would the average American be required to work each week?  Answer:  16 Hours. I was a little reticent to publish this one at first, since it does rather smack of classical Libertarianism (i.e., in the sense of being concerned with "free" time, ergo "liberty"). But then I thought, "What the Hell?"  It's only a thought.  If I give the reader access to all the underlying data they could do whatever they wanted with it and make their own decisons. Would you spend more time at Church?  The average employed American only seems to spend about 45 minutes per week on religious activities.  Imagine how many more God points you could rack up if you had another 23 to play with?...
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Breaking Apart An iPhone’s Cost

It’s still shocking to see just how little of the profits from an item go towards those who made it. From a piece on the power of transnational corporations, via Reports from the Economic Front:

The production of the iPhone offers one of the best examples of the logic and operation of these transnational corporate controlled cross border production networks.

Not surprisingly, the division of profits, as shown below, reflects the overall hierarchy that structures this and other cross border production networks.

iphone

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Alabama Looks To Replace Immigrant Workers With Prison Labor

JO3ND00ZA draconian law passed earlier this year has resulted in an exodus of illegal (and legal) immigrants from Alabama, and as a result, crops are rotting in fields on farms across the state. The solution? A return to chain gang days, reports AFP:

Alabama farmers have proposed using prisoners to work their fields to replace migrants who fled the state after it passed the country’s harshest anti-immigration law, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry officials met Tuesday in Mobile with farmers to discuss their proposal. A statement by the department said the meeting with the farmers was convened “to help solve the chronic labor shortages created by Alabama’s new immigration law.”

Known as HB56, the new law requires local police to verify the immigration status of anyone they have a “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally.

The law touched off an exodus of mainly Hispanic workers who moved to other states because of fears of being deported, prompting complaints by farm and construction industry groups of a shortage of workers in one of the poorest US states.

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South Korean Lawmaker Uses Tear Gas to Protest Free Trade with the U.S. (Video)

Now, why would a member of parliament in South Korea object so strongly to a free trade deal with the United States? Haroon Siddique reports in the Guardian:
An opposition MP set off a teargas canister in the South Korean parliament in a failed attempt to prevent the ruling party passing a free trade deal with the US. Proponents said the deal, the largest US trade pact since the 1994 North America Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), could increase commerce between the two countries by up to a quarter. But the opposition claims it will harm South Korean interests, putting jobs at risk ...
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