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Kickstarter Employees Win Historic Union Election

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Kickstarter employees voted to form a union with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which represents more than 100,000 white collar workers. The final vote was 46 for the union, 37 against, a historic win for unionization efforts at tech companies.

Kickstarter workers are now the first white collar workers at a major tech company to successfully unionize in the United States, sending a message to other tech workers.

“Everyone was crying [when the results were announced],” Clarissa Redwine, one of the Kickstarter United organizers who was fired in September, told Motherboard. “I thought it would be close, but I also knew we were going to win. I hope other tech workers feel emboldened and know that it’s possible to fight for your workplace and your values. I know my former coworkers will use a seat at the table really well."

"Today we learned that in a 46 to 37 vote, our staff has decided to unionize," Kickstarter's CEO Aziz Hasan said in a statement. "We support and respect this decision, and we are proud of the fair and democratic process that got us here. We’ve worked hard over the last decade to build a different kind of company, one that measures its success by how well it achieves its mission: helping to bring creative projects to life. Our mission has been common ground for everyone here during this process, and it will continue to guide us as we enter this new phase together."

The union at the Brooklyn-based crowd-funding platform arrives during a period of unprecedented labor organizing among engineers and other white collar tech workers at Google, Amazon, Microsoft and other prominent tech companies—around issues like sexual harassment, ICE contracts, and carbon emissions. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of protest actions led by tech workers nearly tripled. In 2019 alone, tech workers led more than 100 actions, according to the online database “Collective Actions in Tech.”

“I feel like the most important issues [for us] are around creating clearer policies and support for reporting workplace issues and creating clearer mechanisms for hiring and firing employees,” said RV Dougherty, a former trust and safety analyst and core organizer for Kickstarter United who quit in early February. "Right now so much depends on what team you’re on and if you have a good relationship with your manager... We also have a lot of pay disparity and folks who are doing incredibly jobs but have been kept from getting promoted because they spoke their mind, which is not how Kickstarter should work.”

In the days leading up to Kickstarter vote count, Motherboard revealed that Kickstarter hired Duane Morris, a Philadelphia law firm that specializes in labor management relations and “maintaining a union-free workplace.” Kickstarter confirmed to Motherboard that it first retained the services of Duane Morris in 2018 before it knew about union organizing at the company, but would not go into detail about whether the firm had advised the company on how to defeat the union and denied any union-busting activity.

Dating back to its 2009 founding, Kickstarter has tried to distinguish itself as a progressive exception to Silicon Valley tech companies. In 2015, the company’s leadership announced it had become a “public benefit corporation.” “Benefit Corporations are for-profit companies that are obligated to consider the impact of their decisions on society, not only shareholders,” the senior leadership wrote at the time. The company has been hailed as one of the most ethical places to work in tech.

Indeed, rather than dedicate its resources to maximizing profit, Kickstarter has fought for progressive causes, like net neutrality, and against the anti-trans bathroom law in North Carolina.

But in 2018, a heated disagreement broke out between employees and management about whether to leave a project called “Always Punch Nazis” on the platform, according to reporting in Slate. When Breitbart said the project violated Kickstarter’s terms of service by inciting violence, management initially planned to remove the project, but then reversed its decision after protest from employees.

Following the controversy, employees announced their intentions to unionize with OPEIU Local 153 in March 2019. And the company made it clear that it did not believe a union was right for Kickstarter.

In a letter to creators, Kickstarter’s CEO Aziz Hasan wrote in September that “The union framework is inherently adversarial.”

“That dynamic doesn’t reflect who we are as a company, how we interact, how we make decisions, or where we need to go," the company’s CEO Aziz Hasan wrote to creators in September. "We believe that in many ways it would set us back.”

In September, Kickstarter fired two employees on its union organizing committee within 8 days, informing a third that his role was no longer needed at the company. Following outcry from prominent creators, the company insisted that the two firings were related to job performance, not union activity.

The two fired workers filed federal unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Review Board (NLRB), claiming the company retaliating them for union organizing in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. (Those charges have yet to be resolved.) Days later, the company denied a request from the union, Kickstarter United, for voluntary recognition.

The decision to unionize at Kickstarter follows a series of victories for union campaigns led by blue collar tech workers. Last year, 80 Google contractors in Pittsburgh, 2,300 cafeteria workers at Google in Silicon Valley, and roughly 40 Spin e-scooter workers in San Francisco voted to form the first unions in the tech industry. In early February, 15 employees at the delivery app Instacart in Chicago successfully unionized, following a fierce anti-union campaign run by management.

By some accounts, the current wave of white collar tech organizing began in early 2018 when the San Francisco tech company Lanetix fired its entire 14-software engineer staff after they filed to unionize with Communications Workers of America (CWA). Later, the company was forced to cough up $775,000 to settle unfair labor practice charges.

Update: This story has been updated with comment from Kickstarter.



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14 Americans Taken Off Cruise Ship And Flown To U.S. Test Positive For Coronavirus

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American evacuees from the Diamond Princess cruise ship arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland on Monday in San Antonio, Texas.

U.S. officials said the people infected with the virus were isolated from the other passengers. The two evacuation flights landed at military bases in California and Texas.

(Image credit: Edward A. Ornelas/Getty Images)

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Who Said It: Mike Bloomberg or Lucille Bluth?

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1. “I never lie, so if someone asked me a question, I told them.”

2. “You can’t define what’s middle class, what is wealthy, what is poor.”

3. “Today, you’re a piranha if you are seen having coffee with somebody from the other party in many cases.”

4. “He’s an alpaca.”

5. “I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It’s not even close.”

6. “She thinks I’m too critical. That’s another fault of hers.”

7. “I do think there are certain times we should infringe on your freedom.”

8. “They didn’t sneak into this country to be your friends.”

9. “I don’t know why you should be proud of something. It doesn’t make you any better or worse. You are what you are.”

10. “What about this one? She’s got thick arms.”

11. “If you want to get the best people to run for office, we’ve got to make the rules easier, and simpler, and more understandable to get on the ballot.”

12. “I don’t know who that is, and I don’t care to find out.”

13. “If you can’t prove it’s not true then a certain number of people will glom on and say it is true.”

14. “I mean, you know, we don’t live in a perfect world.”

15. “I’ll leave when I’m good and ready.”

16. “They should take all the rapists and all the murderers and put them all together on an island, and all the murderers can be raped, and all the rapists can be murdered, until you’re down to only two rapists or one murderer-rapist, but who cares about him?”

17. “95% of your murders — murderers and murder victims — fit one M.O. You can just take the description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops.”

18. “Forget, but never forgive.”

- - -

Mike Bloomberg: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 14, 17
Lucille Bluth: 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 16, 18

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Carina Nebula Close Up

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Carina Nebula Close Up A jewel of the southern sky, the Great Carina Nebula, also known as NGC 3372, spans over 300 light-years, one of our galaxy's largest star forming regions. Like the smaller, more northerly Great Orion Nebula, the Carina Nebula is easily visible to the unaided eye, though at a distance of 7,500 light-years it is some 5 times farther away. This gorgeous telescopic close-up reveals remarkable details of the region's central glowing filaments of interstellar gas and obscuring cosmic dust clouds in a field of view nearly 20 light-years across. The Carina Nebula is home to young, extremely massive stars, including the still enigmatic and violently variable Eta Carinae, a star system with well over 100 times the mass of the Sun. In the processed composite of space and ground-based image data a dusty, two-lobed Homunculus Nebula appears to surround Eta Carinae itself just below and left of center. While Eta Carinae is likely on the verge of a supernova explosion, X-ray images indicate that the Great Carina Nebula has been a veritable supernova factory.
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Good and Hard

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LOL:

Given how many Brexit voters were voting for the “all of the benefits and none of the costs of EU membership” Brexit they were promised by the grifters and con men who sold the thing, there are going to be a lot of surprises like this.

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12 Signs You’re Working in a Feature Factory

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1 A9HaI7x2MdvkTn48D9a0wg

I’ve used the term *Feature Factory *at a couple conference talks over the past two years. I started using the term when a software developer friend complained that he was “just sitting in the factory, cranking out features, and sending them down the line.”

How do you know if you’re working in a feature factory?

  1. No measurement. Teams do not measure the impact of their work. Or, if measurement happens, it is done in isolation by the product management team and selectively shared. You have no idea if your work worked
  2. Rapid shuffling of teams and projects (aka Team Tetris). Instead of compelling missions or initiatives, teams deal in feature and project assignments. Chronic multitasking and over-utilization
  3. Success theater around “shipping” with little discussion about impact. You can tell a great deal about an organization by what it celebrates
  4. Infrequent (acknowledged) failures and scrapped work. No removed features. Primary measure of success is delivered features, not delivered outcomes. Work is rarely discarded in light of data and learning. Often the team lacks the prerequisite safety to admit misfires
  5. No connection to core metrics. Infrequent discussions about desired customer and business outcomes. Team cannot connect work to key business and customer satisfaction metrics. Impossible to connect iterations to “what matters most”
  6. No PM retrospectives. Product managers do not conduct regular retrospectives on the quality of their product decisions and compare expected benefits to actual benefits. Developers have “passing tests”, but product managers do not. Product managers view velocity and output as their key performance indicator
  7. Obsessing about prioritization. Mismatch between prioritization rigor (deciding what gets worked on) and validation rigor (deciding if it was, in fact, the right thing to work on). Prioritization rigor is designed exclusively to temper internal agendas so that people “feel confident”. Lots of work goes into determining which ideas to work on, leaving little leeway for adjustments and improvisation based on data. Roadmaps show a list of features, not areas of focus and/or outcomes
  8. No tweaking. Once work is “done”, the team moves immediately on to the next “project”, leaving no time to iterate based on qualitative and quantitative data
  9. Culture of hand-offs. Front-loaded process in place to “get ahead of the work” so that items are “ready for engineering”. Team is not directly involved in research, problem exploration, or experimentation and validation. Once work is shipped, team has little contact with support, customer success, and sales
  10. Large batches. Without the mandate to experiment, features are delivered in single large batches instead of delivering incrementally. You might still work in sprints (yay, we’re “Agile”), but nothing new is reaching customers at the conclusion of each sprint
  11. Chasing upfront revenue. Features are implemented to close new deals. While not inherently wrong, the economic justifications are often flimsy (at best), and fail to account for the non-linear increase in product complexity (you make the quarter, but you pay for it many times over later). Again, this reinforces the idea that features are the unit of value measurement. Product decisions lack a sound economic grounding
  12. Shiny objects. Low visibility for refactoring work and debt work-down. Low visibility for overall value delivery capabilities. As mentioned, primary measure of success is new feature output. Little appreciation for the health of the whole product as opposed to shiny new objects. Little awareness around impact of new features on usability (and maintainability and extensibility) of existing product For translations of this post see: Korean

I’ve written about addressing this problem. Check out these posts:


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