Thursday, April 9, 2015

Big Brother

I just finished an excellent articles in Harper's magazine about the issue of retail/service industry and the growth of the use of scheduling software, the most common or prevalent is Kronos. The idea is to glean data once again to determine by actual keystrokes, dollar receipts or some inputted data that tells the scheduler the times staffing hours needed to reduce costs and enhance profits.

What is also does is it takes absolutely no personal data and relevance to an individual into account. So if someone has a schedule that is not "conventional" the program cuts their hours to fit a predetermined time frame. So if on Tuesday you have a standing class and can't work until after 12 they just cut Tuesday out. No half day no alternatives just zero. This is in use in many retailers regardless of Unions as the article mentions the Century 21 stores. After the union intervened they found that the store could easily circumvent this and schedule people and keep them full time with flexible needs not as mandatory but optional. And could provide a schedule that was more than one week at a time.

This issue was brought up also in the New York Times recently with regards to Starbucks and I have spoken to many barista's locally and they said it depends on the store and the team manager. But in a word - no. Then we have the programs that make the NSA seem like an interloper. That every movement, breath and variation to the work schedule expectation is duly noted and used to rate and evaluate employees and in turn contribute towards compensation or termination.

This is most famously used by Amazon and now UPS also has highly scheduled to the minute GPS and software installed in the Trucks and scanners to ensure maximum delivery with the guise of cost efficiency. The article discusses how UPS drivers circumvent that program and do so at the rate of risk for drivers safety or in factor customer satisfaction.

Yet the cable company seems to avoid that I find that hard to believe they still need a 4 hour window. Contact a repair man lately? Sears is one of the largest and they have little to no supervision with regards to time frames, cost analysis or even common courtesy. Yet I have to have my package thrown at my door by a driver racing up the street and a coffee made in 2.2 seconds with no time for pleasantries with the idiot making minimum wage. Ever tried to do that even the customer become enraged.

You wonder why we are angry nation. But what I found interesting was the story of the car washers from Los Angeles in the American Prospect. This was both a reflection of organization, patience and verisimilitude. I think this is also what the 4/15 movement is embracing. Even European companies have moved into the South truly changing the concept of the tragedy that is Detroit and while they pay substantial wages they don't pay the union equivalent. That said there has been some resistance but most of it from the employees.

In fact Volkswagen welcomed the idea of organization . And while some auto manufacturers have been less inclined much of the problems fall to the UAW, the United Auto Workers own inability to effectively recruit members. Unions much like labor need to change and evolve as well.

The American Prospect article is here. And is a lengthy article about the work between largely illegal underpaid workers and how that movement grew and now is a fantastic prototype of the possibilities.

But I do recommend reading the The Spy Who Fired Me by Esther Kaplan in the March 2015 edition of Harper's. She does an excellent job following the trails of tears that are left by those employees out in the cold. She includes her own experience on ODesk which merged last year with Elance I believe last year, and I have used both in the past myself and often worked via them as well. I quit doing so about 2 years ago as I became uncomfortable with the odd system of documentation and prefer flat fees for work produced. That said another company Freelancer has appeared and there are many more who all use some type of odd almost bizarre childlike like constant observation as a way of determining merit and job worth. There is little discussion, negotiation or actual communication. I simply prefer quality and it also reminds of billable hours that Attorney's use and defraud people as well.

So none of this seems to actually work nor has a history of it but let's keep our eyes open 24/7 for that one errant stroke. And much like the bullshit around protecting Voter fraud and those strange laws that were enacted to stop about less than 1% of a problem the same is being used here under the aegis of stopping employee theft another minor issue.

The reality is that it has created a new kind of thief, the wage thief. In our incarceration nation it seems this is one where a law is needed and again you read the below article you can see how laws when done right with the right intentions actually do protect and serve. And how a union can actually do the same. The UAW could use a car wash right now.

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