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Voters in California say gig economy drivers are contractors
by Paul Hill
While most people’s attention has been on the Presidential election, voters in California got to vote on something called Proposition 22 too. It asked voters whether app-based drivers should continue to be classified as contractors or whether they should be considered employees and gain extra rights; 58.42% said they should continue to be classified as contractors while 41.58% were in favour of changing their status.
Unsurprisingly, the big tech firms with a stake in the measure such as Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash backed the bid to classify workers as contractors. The firms were so invested in keeping their costs low, in fact, that they invested more than $200 million, which is a record, trying to convince people to vote in their favour.
Drivers and unions were hoping the public would vote the other way. Nicole Moore, a driver and organiser at Rideshare Drivers United, said that tech firms outspent the competition by 20:1 but ultimately, the decision will not stop workers and unions from demanding better working conditions. Had drivers been classified as employees, they would have been eligible for the minimum wage, unemployment benefits, and health insurance.
While the result is not what a lot of drivers wanted, Proposition 22 still requires some concessions from the likes of Uber and Lyft. They will have to provide some benefits such as vouchers to access subsidised health insurance and guarantee hourly earnings. The companies will also bolster safety by performing more background checks on drivers.
Source: The Guardian
Global Privacy Control is a new initiative to help people enforce their rights
by Paul Hill
Several companies and individuals have today launched the Global Privacy Control (GPC), an initiative that seeks to help users enforce their rights under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The backers say that the new rights mean nothing if it's too difficult for people to benefit from them.
Those backing the Global Privacy Control include Ashkan Soltani from Georgetown Law, Sebastian Zimmeck from Wesleyan University, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Financial Times, Automattic (WordPress.com and Tumblr), Glitch, DuckDuckGo, Brave, Mozilla, Disconnect, Abine, Digital Content Next (DCN), Consumer Reports, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The GPC’s backers said that the CCPA gives Californians a legal right to opt-out of the sale of their data, they can do this by having their browser signal to businesses that they’ve opted out. Unfortunately, there’s no defined or accepted technical standard for these signals so users don’t have an easy way to inform businesses of their preferences.
The group has launched an experimental phase where people can download browsers and extensions from Abine, Brave, Disconnect, DuckDuckGo, and EFF in order to tell participating publishers that they do not want their data to be shared. Going forward, those behind GPC want to develop an open standard that many organisations can finally support; they’re now in the process of finding the best venue to make this proposal.
The GPC’s backers said they look forward to working with California’s Attorney General to make the GPC legally binding under CCPA. In addition, they’re looking to make the GPC applicable under other laws around the world such as the GDPR.
Apple announces more money for Californian housing crisis
by Paul Hill
Apple has announced that it is allocating more than $400 million towards affordable housing projects and a selection of other programs that will assist homeowners. The $400 million is the amount allocated for 2020 alone but over several years is looking to spend a total of $2.5 billion. Over the years, with tech firms based in California, housing costs have risen making it expensive to live in the state.
One of the projects is a housing development in partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley which will create 250 new units of affordable housing in the Bay Area. Another project is the creation of a mortgage and down payment assistance fund as well as an affordable housing investment support program. Both of these initiatives were created with the help of the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA). Finally, Apple is working with Destination: Home to build affordable housing units for Silicon Valley’s most vulnerable.
Commenting on the news, Kristina Raspe, Apple’s vice president for Global Real Estate and Facilities, said:
Apple first announced the $2.5 billion housing investment in November 2019. Over several years, the money will allow for the establishment of a $1 billion affordable housing investment fund and a $1 billion first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund with a particular focus on essential service personnel, school employees, and veterans.
In addition, $300 million in Apple-owned land has been made available for affordable housing, there’s a $150 million Bay Area housing fund in a public-private partnership with Housing Trust Silicon Valley, and finally, $50 million going to Destination: Home’s effort to address homelessness in Silicon Valley.
By Usman Khan Lodhi
Elon Musk defies lockdown order and asks to be arrested
by Usman Khan Lodhi
In defiance of local county officials, Tesla is asking employees at its Fremont car plant to return to work. Last week, Elon Musk, CEO Tesla, planned to resume operations at the site, but Alameda County health officials stated that the factory didn't meet the criteria for reopening and must remain closed.
Musk then threatened to pull the company headquarters out of the state in addition to filing a lawsuit against Alameda County seeking injunctive relief. This scuffle comes amidst the gradual reopening of businesses across the U.S., as the coronavirus pandemic has put millions of Americans out of work.
Referring to an order by California's governor permitting manufacturers to resume operations, Tesla said that as of Sunday, previously furloughed employees are back to work. The email titled “Furlough Has Ended And We Are Back To Work in Production!” informed workers that "very detailed plans" have been put in place to ensure their safety. (via Reuters)
Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Treasury Secretary, also encouraged the state to do whatever is necessary to ensure the reopening of the Fremont car plant.
By Usman Khan Lodhi
Elon Musk threatens to pull Tesla factory out of California
by Usman Khan Lodhi
Tesla hoped to resume operations at its Fremont car plant on Friday; however, Alameda County health officials said that the factory doesn't meet the criteria for reopening and must remain closed. Now, Elon Musk, CEO Tesla, is threatening to move the company headquarters out of the state in addition to suing the county. He wrote on Twitter:
Musk also said that Tesla is filing a lawsuit against the county, and actions taken by local health officials were contrary to "the Governor, the President, our Constitutional freedoms & just plain common sense!”
Musk had hoped that the factory, which was closed in mid-March due to the coronavirus lockdowns, would be restarted with 30% of the normal workforce. Tesla manufactures around 415,000 cars yearly at the Fremont plant, and moving operations elsewhere would be an arduous task. This threat comes amidst the firm's desire to increase the production of Tesla Model Y, which has been the most profitable car in the firm's history.
A spokesperson for Alameda county stated that its health department is recommending the automaker to wait at least another week before resuming production (via Reuters). Meanwhile, local infection rates would be monitored, and the necessary safety productions can be discussed.