Tag Archives: Amazon

FCC Caving in on Net Neutrality – What Next?

net-neutrality-graphicsbank-FCCNew Orleans  OK, let’s get this straight.  Compared to other developed countries around the world in the United States we already have slower and more expensive internet, and few workable programs to assure equality of access.  Under a Democratic President though we should be able to expect some progress in this area though, right?  Instead we wake up to find that we have a Federal Communications Commission, that is now going to embark on a massive cave-in to corporate media concerns and move to allow the evisceration of “net neutrality,” despite the many FCC pledges to protect the internet and keep it free and open to all.  Pinch me now, this must be a nightmare.  This can’t be happening!

            But, it is. 

            This must be what happens when the President appoints a corporate communications lobbyist as the FCC chair?

            Just as a reminder of what we are on the verge of losing, if the FCC successfully eliminates net neutrality that means that the big cable and internet access companies, like the monopolists at Comcast, can create toll roads requiring companies like Amazon, Netflix, Google or others to pay them for faster access for their products than “regular” internet, and of course in jacking the costs to them, the costs to us will also rise dramatically, pushing monetizing universal access even farther away from equity and more towards income.   Google is trying to lay its own high speed optical networks to hedge against the Comcasts and their rising rates, but such networks will be built in certain cities, not everywhere of course.  Past the issues for consumers, the end of net neutrality means new, upstart tech startups won’t be able to afford the access that allows them to compete against the new, wannabe legacy companies like Facebook, Google, and the like.  Does any of this sound like a win for any of us

            Given this horror, is there any way that the FCC or the Justice Department could ever allow Comcast to consolidate control of cable access through its merger monopoly purchase of Times-Warner cable?  Rationally, we should think not, but it’s scary.  It looks like the fix is in, and when the fix it is in, it’s always about protecting the insiders and penalizing the outsiders, which means the rest of us.

            With all of the big internet moguls visiting the White House recently and repeatedly to complain to the President about the NSA, their lost business, and their weird views of the world and how it suits them, it’s impossible for me to believe the subject of a profound policy pivot on “net neutrality” or the Comcast merger, never made it to the agenda list.  I have a bad feeling that the Silicon billionaires may be talking out of both sides of their mouth and saying to their public that they want “net neutrality,” while signaling to the government that they are OK with it going its own way, as long as their companies are protected and the door is slammed behind them.

            This all just smells bad to me, and worse may be coming if we all become “Comcast country” as well.


Momentum Building against Wage Theft

amazon-warehouse-employeeNew Orleans    Increasingly I get the feeling that there is real momentum building against the standard operating procedure of company’s ripping off their workers on wages. 

            The courts are not necessarily the workers’ friends on these issues though.  For example a recent ruling against steelworkers was surprising to me.  The court denied pay for the time spent by the workers in getting free of the hazardous conditions clothing they were required to wear in the mill. 

Another test is coming up before the Supreme Court in the coming session dealing with the fact that Amazon and its subcontractors in their numerous warehouses have been requiring workers to go through time consuming extra security screening after they have clocked out to make sure they aren’t stealing stuff from the warehouse.  This is a situation where the company seems super cheap since they both want to prevent “shrinkage” but also aren’t willing to hire enough screeners to process the workers out quickly.   The price tag for this wage theft would be huge since it involves a class action of 600,000 workers.

Sadly though, as the steelworkers’ case shows, the legal process may not be our best avenue for justice compared to blunt pressure and the court of public opinion.

Talking recently on Wade’s World on KABF with Anne Janks, the national poultry organizer for the Chicago-based group Interfaith Worker Justice, directed by longtime activist Kim Bobo, it was still shocking to hear how widespread wage theft is in the poultry industry.  Janks indicated it was nothing fancy, just plain holding workers while the production line was down and not paying them, sometimes for hours per day, even with big companies like the giant chicken plucker, Tyson’s.  The fact that much of the workforce are newer immigrants, and according to Janks, not just Latinos but also eastern Europeans, Somalians, and others.

It was hard to tell if the Amazon case originated in the organizing efforts of warehouse workers initiated by Change to Win in Riverside and the Imperial Valley of California, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find that to be the case.  Certainly, beating wage theft for home health care workers has been a consistent organizing handle in unionizing such workers who were simply never reimbursed for time and money spent on travel between clients.   Wage theft is often mentioned in the fast food protests and certainly anywhere immigrant workers are organizing.

The prevalence of these cases makes it clear that we have a moment right now, when some of the inequities have become political issues, to push forward against major companies on the issues of wage theft.  At the same time home care workers should remind us all that informal workers without big, fixed workplaces are the most vulnerable where they can be robbed easily in groups of ones and twos.  When big outfits think nothing of robbing with impunity in workplaces holding hundreds and thousands, all of us can imagine the ease with which pockets are picked in smaller and more isolated workplaces.