Gig worker bill AB-5 passes in California – gpgmail


Assembly Bill 5, the gig worker bill opposed by the likes of Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, has passed in the California State Senate. This comes shortly after California Governor Gavin Newsom officially put his support behind AB 5 in an op-ed.

The bill needed 21 votes to pass in the State Senate. It passed in a 29 to 11 vote this evening.

The next step is for Governor Newsom to sign the bill into law, which he is expected to do. If he signs the bill, it will go into effect at the beginning of 2020.

“AB 5 is only the beginning,” Gig Workers Rising member and driver Edan Alva said in a statement. “I talk daily to other drivers who want a change but they are scared. They don’t want to lose their only source of income. But just because someone really needs to work does not mean that their rights as a worker should be stepped all over. That is why a union is critical. It simply won’t work without it.”

The bill, first introduced in December 2018, aims to codfiy the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors based on the presumption that “a worker who performs services for a hirer is an employee for purposes of claims for wages and benefits…”

Those who work as 1099 contractors can set their own schedules, and decide when, where and how much they want to work. For employers, bringing on 1099 contractors means they can avoid paying payroll taxes, overtime pay, benefits and workers’ compensation.

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

In short, AB-5, which has already passed in the California State Assembly, would ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits.

Uber and Lyft, two of the main targets of this legislation, are adamantly against it. Last month, Uber, Lyft and DoorDash amped up their efforts to do whatever they can to prevent it from happening. That’s in part due to the fact that the companies cost of operating would increase.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash each put $30 million toward funding a 2020 ballot initiative that would enable them to keep their drivers as independent contractors.

Assuming Gov. Newsom signs the bill, it will go into effect Jan. 1, 2020.




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Teaching ethics in computer science the right way with Georgia Tech’s Charles Isbell – gpgmail


The new fall semester is upon us, and at elite private colleges and universities, it’s hard to find a trendier major than Computer Science. It’s also becoming more common for such institutions to prioritize integrating ethics into their CS studies, so students don’t just learn about how to build software, but whether or not they should build it in the first place. Of course, this begs questions about how much the ethics lessons such prestigious schools are teaching are actually making a positive impression on students.

But at a time when demand for qualified computer scientists is skyrocketing around the world and far exceeds supply, another kind of question might be even more important: Can computer science be transformed from a field largely led by elites into a profession that empowers vastly more working people, and one that trains them in a way that promotes ethics and an awareness of their impact on the world around them?

Enter Charles Isbell of Georgia Tech, a humble and unassuming star of inclusive and ethical computer science. Isbell, a longtime CS professor at Georgia Tech, enters this fall as the new Dean and John P. Imlay Chair of Georgia Tech’s rapidly expanding College of Computing.

Isbell’s role is especially given Georgia Tech’s approximately 9,000 online graduate students in Computer Science. This astronomical number of students in the CS field is the result of a philosophical decision made at the university to create an online CS master’s degree treated as completely equal to on-campus training.

Another counterintuitive philosophical decision made at Georgia Tech — for which Isbell proudly evangelized while speaking at conferences like the MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Next, where I met him in June — is to admit every student who has the potential to earn a degree, rather than making any attempt at “exclusivity” by rejecting worthy candidates. In the coming years all of this may lead, Isbell projected at EmTech Next, to a situation in which up to one in eight of all people in the US who hold a graduate degree in CS will have earned it at Georgia Tech.

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Isbell speaks to Gideon Lichfield, Editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review, at its EmTech Next conference in June. Image via MIT Technology Review.

“What they’ve done is pretty remarkable,” said Casey Fiesler, a 3x recent graduate of Georgia Tech and a founding faculty member and CS professor at the University of Colorado’s College of Media, Communication, and Information.

And it’s promising that Fiesler, who has become known in the tech ethics field for her comparative study of curricula and teaching approaches, told me, “ethics can be integrated into online [CS] courses just as easily as it can be into face to face courses.”

Still, it is as daunting as it is impressive to think about how one public school like Georgia Tech might be able to successfully and ethically educate such an enormous percentage of the students in arguably the most influential academic field in the world today. So I was glad to be able to speak to Isbell, an expert on statistical machine learning and artificial intelligence, for this gpgmail series on the ethics of technology.

Our conversation below covers the difference between equality and equity; cultural issues around women in American CS, and what it would look like for ethics to be so integrated into the discussion of computing that students and practitioners wouldn’t even think of it as ethics.

Greg Epstein: Around 1/8 of Computer Science graduate degrees will be delivered by your school in the coming years; you’re thinking inclusively about providing a relatively huge number of opportunities for people who would not otherwise get the opportunity to become computer scientists. How have you achieved that?

Charles Isbell: There’s an old joke about organizations: don’t tell me what your values are, show me your budget and then I’ll tell you what your values are. Because you spend money on the things that you care about.


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Uber proposes policy that would pay drivers a minimum wage of $21 per hour – gpgmail


On the heels of a driver-led protest outside Uber’s San Francisco headquarters where drivers showed their support for gig worker protections legislation Assembly Bill 5 and demanded a union, Uber is circulating a petition urging people to “protect ridesharing in California.” In the petition, Uber advocates for a policy that would offer drivers a minimum of $21 per hour, paid time off, sick leave and compensation if they are injured while driving, as well as a collective voice and “the ability to influence decisions about their work.”

Uber has also created a new website called “Independent Driver” to showcase stories from drivers who want to remain independent contractors. Lyft, similarily, is circulating a petition urging people to demand legislators “fix AB 5.”

“We agree with the bill’s goal to protect workers, but we don’t agree that this protection should come at the cost of the flexibility our community relies on to supplement their income, support their families, and set their own schedules,” Lyft wrote in its petition. “After talking with thousands of California drivers and listening to experts in labor laws, we’re proposing a revision that protects driver earnings and the flexibility to earn when and how you want. Our proposal includes additional workplace protections for drivers and a minimum earnings floor.”

I’ve reached out to Gig Workers Rising, one of the organizations responsible for bringing drivers together to support AB-5 and demand the right to unionize. I’ll update this story if I hear back. But, based on the organization’s recent tweet, what Uber is offering isn’t enough.

“$21 isn’t a living wage for any category of worker in the San Francisco metro area except a single adult or two adults living together,” Gig Workers Rising tweeted. “What they’re offering is the floor, while hoping to kneecap any efforts to raise wages down the line & create a real union.”

These petitions are clearly hail marys by Lyft and Uber to try to prevent the passage of AB-5, which seeks to codify the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors based on the presumption that “a worker who performs services for a hirer is an employee for purposes of claims for wages and benefits…”

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

In short, AB-5, which has already passed in the California State Assembly, would ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits.




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Ready, Set, Raise — the Y Combinator for female founders — announces second cohort – gpgmail


About one-fourth of the startups in Y Combinator’s summer batch had a female founder. Not the most disappointing statistic if you consider this: Companies with at least one female founder have raised only about 11% of venture capital funding in the U.S. in 2019, according to PitchBook. Companies with female founders exclusively have raised just 3%.

There is so much room for improvement.

To close the funding gap, programs tailored to female entrepreneurs are working tirelessly to mentor and incubate upstarts in hopes of impressing venture capitalists. Ready, Set, Raise, an accelerator program built for women, by women, is amongst the new efforts to help female and non-binary founders raise more dollars, or, at the very least, build relationships with investors.

The accelerator program, created by the Seattle-based network of startup founders and investors called the Female Founders Alliance, is today announcing its second batch of companies, a group that includes a sextech business, an AI-powered tool for podcasters and a line of workwear created for women who work on farms, construction sites and factory floors.

Ready, Set, Raise has partnered with Microsoft for Startups to provide entrepreneurs $120,000 in Azure credits, as well as technical and business mentoring from executives of the Redmond-based software giant. Other new partners include Brex and Carta, two well-funded companies that plan to lend the support of their executives to teach entrepreneurs about startup finance, valuation and fundraising terms. 

“Both FFA and Microsoft recognize a major lapse in opportunities given to women and non-binary founders,” writes Ian Bergman, a managing director of Microsoft for Startups, in a statement. “We look forward to our continued work together to promote this necessary shift in the VC landscape.”

FFA’s founder and chief executive officer Leslie Feinzaig, who launched the organization in 2017, has been an outspoken advocate of diversity in entrepreneurship and venture capital, and well as providing awareness and resources for founders who are also parents.

“My experience fundraising was undeniably shaped by the fact that I am a woman, and at the time was a new mom,” Feinzaig, who previously founded an edtech startup, told Seattle Business Magazine earlier this year. “A year later, I was about to give up. Instead, I started a Facebook group, including all of the founders and tech startup leaders I knew. It was the group that I needed, made up of people who knew exactly what I was going through. That’s how the Female Founders Alliance was born.”

FFA’s Ready, Set, Raise provides its companies childcare throughout the six-week program, in which companies work one-on-one with experienced coaches ahead of a demo day that will take place on October 16th. 

Here’s a look at Ready, Set, Raise’s sophomore class of startups:

  • Echo Echo: AI-powered tools for podcasters.
  • Give InKind: Coordinates support through major life events.
  • Honistly: A provider of extended auto warranties to help with short-term cash needs.
  • Juicebox It: Modernizes erotica with a chatbot that is arousing and educational. 
  • Panty Drop: A personalized intimates shopping experience for women sizes XS-6XL.  
  • The Labz: A platform that protects and memorializes creative content development in real time.
  • Tougher: Functional, well-fitted workwear for women in the skilled trades. 


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Uber and Lyft drivers are not letting up on the fight for AB-5 and a union – gpgmail


A number Uber and Lyft drivers are protesting outside of Uber’s San Francisco headquarters to demand the passage of Assembly Bill 5 and the right to unionize.

“What do we want? AB-5! When do we want it? Now!” That was one of the phrases drivers chanted outside of Uber’s HQ this afternoon.

This is part of a three-day caravan across California organized by Gig Workers Rising and Mobile Workers Alliance. As part of the protest, drivers are circling the blocks around Uber’s HQ honking their horns and sporting signs that say “AB5 + a union.”

“The journey is inspired by the United Farm Workers 1966 pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento, led by Cesar Chavez,” MWA wrote on its blog. “Like gig workers in California, farm workers were thought to be impossible to organize and their exploitation was taken as a given by the public at large. The UFW proved the doubters wrong and we will too.”

The aim of the caravan is to rally drivers throughout California to advocate for their collective rights and make it clear to legislators they want AB-5 to pass. AB-5 seeks to codify the ruling established in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v Superior Court of Los Angeles. In that case, the court applied the ABC test and decided Dynamex wrongfully classified its workers as independent contractors based on the presumption that “a worker who performs services for a hirer is an employee for purposes of claims for wages and benefits…”

Those who work as 1099 contractors can set their own schedules, and decide when, where and how much they want to work. For employers, bringing on 1099 contractors means they can avoid paying payroll taxes, overtime pay, benefits and workers’ compensation.

According to the ABC test, in order for a hiring entity to legally classify a worker as an independent contractor, it must prove the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity, performs work outside the scope of the entity’s business and is regularly engaged in an “independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.”

In short, AB-5, which has already passed in the California State Assembly, would ensure gig economy workers are entitled to minimum wage, workers’ compensation and other benefits.

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Today represents the third protest at Uber’s HQ since May, when drivers protested ahead of Uber’s IPO. Their demands have remained consistent, asking for better wages, benefits, transparent policies, a voice and the right to form a union.

The protest also comes shortly after Jalopnik found discrepancies between how much Uber and Lyft say they pay their drivers versus how much they actually do.

But neither Lyft nor Uber wants AB-5 pass. Uber says drivers tell the company what they value most is the flexibility to work whenever, wherever and for whomever they want.

“We believe that independent, on-demand workers should not have to sacrifice security to enjoy that flexibility,” an Uber spokesperson told gpgmail. “That’s why we’ve been working with stakeholders to find a path forward that provides a minimum earnings guarantee for drivers; a robust package of portable benefits they can access no matter which rideshare company they drive for; and meaningful representation that gives them a say on matters affecting their lives and livelihood.”

Similarly, Lyft says it’s advocating for an approach that is in line with the interests of its drivers, which would entail flexibility and benefits.

“That’s why we’ve been working with lawmakers and labor leaders on a different solution, so drivers can continue to control where, when, and how long they drive, while also having some basic protections like a minimum earnings floor, a system of worker-directed portable benefits, and representation,” the spokesperson said.

It’s worth noting that Gig Workers Rising and Mobile Workers Alliance do not represent all drivers. Lyft has shared thousands of messages it says drivers have sent to legislators demanding they protect their flexibility. However, as driver and protest organizer Annette Rivero previously told gpgmail’s Greg Epstein, “AB5 doesn’t take away anybody’s flexibility, it’s the companies that take away the flexibility. Because I know that that’s something that everyone’s stuck on right now, and it’s a lie. There’s no truth to it.”

Developing…


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Exhibit at gpgmail Disrupt SF 2019 – gpgmail


Nonprofit groups and NGOs are now invited to apply for exhibit space in Startup Alley at gpgmail Disrupt SF on Friday, October 4th.

Founded in 2014, gpgmail Include leverages our extensive network to support underserved and underrepresented groups in tech. Two years ago, we began to invite nonprofit and NGO groups to exhibit at the conference, as well as provide tickets for the event. This year, gpgmail will host 10 nonprofits or NGOs at the Moscone Center at Startup Alley inside Disrupt SF.

gpgmail Disrupt’s Startup Alley is the heart of the conference show floor. Filled with early-stage startups, Startup Alley is the prime location to connect with startups, network with investors and engage with more than 100 corporate partners at the show. Participation in the Alley will give nonprofits and NGOs a unique opportunity to engage with the brightest tech talent, entrepreneurs and prominent investors from around the globe. Not to mention hundreds of press in attendance!

Nonprofits and NGOs are eligible if they support an underrepresented or underserved community in tech, have registered 501c3 or an equivalent status for at least three years and did not participate at a TC Disrupt in 2018. Organizations that are selected will be asked to engage with their communities regarding the conference after selection. Preference will be given to local organizations.

Applications are open now til Wednesday September 4th. Groups will be notified of their participation status September 6th. If you have additional questions, please email startupalley@Gpgmail.com.

Apply now!


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mobile and social media users in emerging markets have more diverse social networks – gpgmail


The latest study from Pew Research Center takes a look at the impact mobile technology, including the use of smartphones and social media, is having on the diversity of people’s social network in emerging markets. For the purpose of the study, Pew surveyed mobile users in eleven key markets: Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, South Africa, Kenya, India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon. It found that users in these markets had broader social networks than those without smartphones and social media.

In the U.S., we’ve been concerned with social media’s ability to create “filter bubbles” — meaning how we surround ourselves online with people who hold the same opinions as us, which is then reinforced by social media’s engagement-focused algorithms. This leads us to believe, sometimes in error, that what we think is the most correct and most popular view.

According to Pew’s study, emerging markets are experiencing a somewhat different phenomenon.

Instead of isolation, the study found that smartphone users in these markets, and particularly those who also used social media, were more regularly exposed to people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, different religious preferences, different political parties, and different income levels, compared to those without a smartphone.

In Mexico, for example, 57% of smartphone owners regularly interacted with people of other religions, while only 38% of those without a smartphone did. And more than half (54%) interact with people who supported different political parties. They were also 24% more like to interact with people of different income levels, and 17% more likely to interact with people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds.

These sorts of trends help up across the nations studied, Pew noted, with a median of 66% saying they interacted with people with different income levels, 51% saying they interacted with a those of different race or ethnicity, 50% saying they interacted with those having different religious views, and a median 44% saying they interacted with those who supported a different political party.

PI PG 2019.08.22 Social Networks Emerging Economies 2 03 1

The use of social media and messaging apps was found to be a huge contributor here, as it made people more likely to encounter people different from them, the study also said.

PI PG 2019.08.22 Social Networks Emerging Economies 2 04

The report, however, isn’t claiming that smartphone and the related social media use are the cause of this increase in diversity in these people’s lives. There may be other reasons for that. Smartphone owners, in general, may have more resources and money — they own a smartphone, after all — and this alone could help expose them to a more diverse group of people.

That said, smartphones are helping people stay connected to distant family and friends, and build out online networks of people they don’t ever see in person.

More than half of people in most of the surveyed countries said that only see half — or fewer — of the people they call or text in person. 93% said they keep in touch with far-flung contacts. And a median of 46% said they see their few or none of Facebook friends regularly.

PI PG 2019.08.22 Social Networks Emerging Economies 2 01

All this connecting isn’t seen as being fully positive, however.

An earlier Pew report found that users in these 11 countries believe the internet and social media are making people more divided in their opinions and only sometimes more accepting of different views. Exposure to diversity and acceptance of it are different things.

The new report also gets into how smartphones are used. For example, a median of 82% said they texted, 69% took photos or videos, 61% looked up health information, 47% looked up news and political information, and 37% looked up information about government resources.

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It also examined smartphones’ impact on digital divides, noting that people with access to these devices and social media, as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education and men, were gaining more benefits than others.

PI PG 2019.08.22 Social Networks Emerging Economies 0 04

The study is based on in-person interviews conducted by D3 Systems, Inc. and the results are based on national samples, notes Pew.

The full report is available here, with deeper dives on activities and data by individual countries.


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Tech leaders condemn tech’s role in elevating white supremacy – gpgmail


A group of tech leaders has banned together to speak out against white supremacy and rampant hate speech on tech platforms. The group, Build Tech We Trust, refers to itself as a collective of tech CEOs, activists, changemakers and workers who are committed to countering hate and terrorism.

In a public letter published today, Project Include CEO Ellen Pao, Code 2040 CEO Karla Monterroso, ReadySet CEO Y-Vonne Hutchinson, Project Include Founding Member Erica Baker, Block Party CEO Tracy Chou and others make a call to hold tech platforms accountable and “build tech we trust.”

Despite platitudes by tech CEOs that their respective platforms are designed to bring the world together and foster connection, these platforms too often cause harm and “are radicalizing and fragmenting communities by providing an unprecedented ability to coordinate attacks and amplify hate,” the letter states.

That’s not to say that tech companies have done nothing to try to combat hate speech and white supremacy, but what they’ve done just hasn’t been enough. In June, former ACLU Washington Director Laura Murphy said Facebook’s white supremacy policy, despite some changes, was still too narrow. Meanwhile, stories have recently emerged regarding how people become radicalized on YouTube.

The letter comes shortly after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio where many of the victims were either Latinx or black. Tech leaders in the letter also note other shootings where people were targeted because of their race, sexuality and/or religion, like Pulse Nightclub shooting and Charleston church massacre.

“White supremacist terrorism and violence, fueled by racism and misogyny, and empowered by technology, is on the rise,” they write. “They’ve moved beyond their white robes and hoods to social media and public rallies where they radicalize and fund their growing membership. Our government leaders at the highest levels encourage and spread it. Our industry leaders enable and profit from it. Four of the five worst gun massacres in modern history have taken place over the past two years. Evidence shows that many of these shooters are inspired by white supremacist ideology and targeting marginalized people.”

The aim of the letter is to serve as a call to action to encourage their fellow technologists to build ethical and responsible tech platforms.

“Whether it be a walkout, refusing to build or buy tech that accelerates hate, calling out unfair anti-abuse policies that silence marginalized voices, or continuing to demand answers from those in positions of power, the time to act is now,” the leaders write.

You can read the full letter over on Build Tech We Trust. I’ve reached out to Monterroso and will update this story when I hear back.


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Apply to the All Raise AMA to win a free Expo Pass to Disrupt SF – gpgmail


Shouting out to all the fierce female founders. Have you applied to participate in the All Raise “ask me anything” (AMA) sessions at Disrupt SF 2019? No? Women, it’s time to act. Apply for an AMA session by the August 30 deadline and you could win a free Expo Only Pass.

You heard that right. We have 30 free Expo Only passes, and we’ll give them away at random to women founders who get accepted to the All Raise program at Disrupt SF 2019.

All Raise, a startup nonprofit committed to accelerating female founder success, will host a day-long AMA event in a dedicated area in Startup Alley (aka the Disrupt expo floor). They’ll schedule a series of 30-minute sessions throughout the day for roughly 100 women founders.

Each session consists of three founders and one of the All Raise community’s leading VCs. You’ll have the opportunity to ask in-depth questions about the next raise, key hires, the competition or any other business issues that keep you up at night. You can learn plenty from experienced, successful investors like these:

  • Dayna Grayson, NEA
  • Susan Lyne, BBG
  • Shauntel Garvey, Reach Capital
  • Eurie Kim, Forerunner
  • Jess Lee, Sequoia
  • Kara Nortman, Upfront
  • Sara Guo, Greylock,
  • Anarghya Vardhana, Maveron
  • Eva Ho, Fika Ventures
  • Sarah Smith, Bain Capital Ventures
  • Jess Lin, Work-Bench

If you’re a U.S.-based woman founder — and you’ve raised at least $250,000 in a seed, A or B round — you can apply for an AMA session. All Raise gives special consideration to founders from underrepresented groups (e.g. Black, Latinx or LGBTQIA women).

All Raise will review the applications and notify the founders. Acceptance is based on availability for session spots, investor fit with industry sector and company stage, as well as demand for certain categories.

If All Raise selects you to participate — and you don’t happen to win a free Expo Only pass — simply buy any pass to Disrupt SF (including Expo Only). All Raise will send an email to let you know what time they’ve scheduled your session.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to get answers and advice from some of the best investors around. Free admission to Disrupt SF 2019 and free investor advice — that’s a potent combination. Beat the August 30 deadline and apply for an All Raise AMA session today!

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at Disrupt San Francisco 2019? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.


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Which immigration headlines should you care about? – gpgmail


Foreign-born tech workers shouldn’t panic — or bury their heads in the sand

Newsflash! President Donald Trump is planning to deport naturalized U.S. citizens, force H-1B visa holders to return to their home countries, and revoke the green cards of lawful permanent residents. He also wants to deport the Dreamers and evict millions of other immigrants from the country. Or wait — maybe he’s planning to increase visas for skilled workers, open the door to foreign-born researchers, protect DACA recipients, and — for an encore — bar himself from the United States.

Feel like you’ve got whiplash yet? Welcome to the nerve-wracking world of U.S. immigration policy — a strange place at the best of times but one made all the more confusing by the weaponization of immigration issues for political gain and the media’s continuing failure to cut through the spin.

Tech workers are better prepared than most to cope with a torrent of torrid immigration headlines, continuously amplified and distorted by Twitter rumors, Slack chatter, and credulous Facebook reposts. Still, the sheer volume of immigration news makes it hard to know what to pay attention to — and with 71 percent of Silicon Valley’s techies born outside the United States, this isn’t simply a theoretical problem. If you, your loved ones, colleagues, or staff are immigrants, then you need to learn to separate the signal from the noise.

So how can you tell the real deal from the real fake news? There’s no simple answer, but to keep you safe — and keep your heart rate in check — here are a few ground rules to help you figure out which headlines are worth taking seriously:

Whose headline is it anyway?


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