I recently had the chance to sit down with the Technology Policy Institute for their Two Think Minimum podcast, discussing all manner of issues related to tech and the pandemic, and also appeared yesterday on Cheddar to discuss the recent story I did on domestic violence amid the outbreak.
Today's Login is 1,225 words, a 5-minute read.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
Tech and gig economy workers are talking to unions about organizing as they worry the industry isn't doing enough to protect them from the coronavirus, Axios' Kyle Daly reports.
Why it matters: The crisis could breathe life into a tech labor movement that has had trouble gaining traction — though skyrocketing unemployment could also erode workers' leverage.
What's happening: Unions that have previously pushed for the tech and gig economy labor force to organize are seeing an uptick in engagement as the coronavirus' spread puts people like e-commerce fulfillment workers, ride-share drivers and gig shoppers on the front lines of a deadly pandemic.
The Teamsters have been fielding calls from both full-time tech company employees and contractors, said Rome Aloise, head of the union's Northern California chapter.
The Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) has seen "an increase in inquiries from non-union workers over the last couple of weeks who want advice about their options for delivering safety and economic demands to their employers," said Cindy Schu, director of organizing.
The Communications Workers of America recently heard from a group of tech company contractors that successfully pushed to work from home as the pandemic escalated, according to a transcript of an organizing call obtained by Axios.
The big picture: Tech workers fall into several categories that form an almost caste-like employment system:
The other side: Unions have long sought entree into Silicon Valley. Tech has successfully kept them out by arguing that unions hamper the flexibility needed to thrive in a fast-changing industry — and by lavishing valuable perks on employees.
Context: The fresh organizing push comes amid high-profile coronavirus-centric clashes between workers and tech companies.
Yes, but: An unprecedented spike in U.S. unemployment claims thanks to the pandemic could dilute workers' bargaining power. But labor activists say they're not seeing that impact yet.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
As the coronavirus continues to paralyze much of American daily life, startups that aren’t directly affected by the sudden shift in consumer behavior are now laying off employees too, worried that their products and services won't be in demand anytime soon.
Why it matters: Startups create a lot of jobs — in 2015 alone they created 2.5 million — and their pain could make a recovery from the virus downturn harder, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
Driving the news: More young companies are announcing cutbacks, including buzzy retailers like luggage maker Away, and software plays like restaurant service provider Toast, which in February announced $400 million in new funding. Others making cuts as the economic ripples pick up include:
Between the lines: Restaurants, stores, hotels and airlines were among the businesses to immediately suffer as a result of the pandemic. Now, we're seeing companies whose revenue relies on such businesses feel the pain.
Moreover, some startups are taking precautionary cuts as the fog over the economy makes it hard to predict the future.
The big picture: Similar dynamics are playing out beyond startup land. News companies — especially local newspapers — are cutting staff as local businesses stop purchasing ads. Travel agencies are taking a hit, as are ticketing and event businesses.
The Senate Commerce Committee will examine how companies and the government are using consumer data in response to the coronavirus pandemic through a so-called paper hearing Thursday, Axios' Margaret Harding McGill reports.
The big picture: Lawmakers' efforts to pass a bipartisan federal privacy law have stalled, but expect privacy considerations to be a key driver in questions about data use.
"The collection of consumer location data to track the coronavirus, although well intentioned and possibly necessary at this time, further underscores the need for uniform, national privacy legislation."— Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, in his opening statement
What's happening: The committee will post testimony on Thursday from witnesses, including Kinsa Smart Thermometers CEO Inder Singh; Stacey Gray, senior counsel for the Future of Privacy Forum; and Dave Grimaldi, Interactive Advertising Bureau's executive vice president for public policy.
Alex Stamos. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images
Why it matters: The moves come as companies and government entities have started to ban the video chat service citing security concerns.
Driving the news:
Zoom, which has seen a surge in usage amid pandemic-related closures, has paused product development to focus on security and repeatedly apologized for various lapses.
Go deeper: Zoom's tarnished moment of glory
Credit to this person for making their Zoom Passover seder extra awesome.