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Any inch you give today is a mile they take tomorrow
There’s a reason we give them nothing. Even politicians have to learn the hard way that corporations are not coming through for you. Like those 13,000 Foxconn jobs. Wisconsin coughed up $3 billion in incentives — plus infrastructure — fully believing a for-profit corporation was going to hold up its end of the bargain. All these years later, Foxconn has thrown off a handful of jobs in the state, and the project’s biggest champions — Paul Ryan and Donald Trump — no longer hold office. STILL, the local pols will have you believe it’s all working out in the end, touting new plans from Microsoft to build a $1 billion data center on part of the site. We’re no mathematicians, but $1 billion does seem to be less than $3 billion, especially when you remember that’s the total investment, not the amount put back in Wisconsin coffers. Plus an extra couple of hundred jobs for folks who will watch the stacks of servers.
Maybe the government should take a tip from workers, and organize to make collective demands of corporations, rather than fighting over who will accept the least. Because that strategy seems to be working. Concert promoters Jam are finally being forced to recognize the union its workers formed back in 2016. That’s a long time, but trust, Jam has been telling the city it’s going to rehab the Uptown Theater for longer. And despite offerings of $13 million in TIF funds, $2.2 million in tax incentives, a $3 million grant and a couple of parking lots from the city, we still have yet to see any of those promised jobs materialize.
Maybe City Hall should try picketing? They can ask the 60 newly unionized REI employees for solidarity.
These are great things to keep in mind as, say, a major casino moves into the city with promises of 700 temporary jobs. Given the plans to open a casino seem pretty permanent, perhaps these jobs could be too! Even better, those 700 employees could come together and decide what it is they actually want from Bally’s. Because when the corporate business model is entirely devoted to using false promises to part people from their livelihoods, it’s probably best to get some things in writing from the jump.
Speaking of promises, serial hirer-and-firer United Airlines is once again promising thousands of jobs, a total of 15,000 with the highest concentration — 3,800 — staying in Chicago. Some of these jobs are already unionized, but the others? Buddy, fool us a dozen times and eventually we’re going to start to get wise. We Googled “United corporate layoffs” to drop a link here, but the sheer number of results sent us back to bed.
Speaking of serial layer-off-ers, Groupon has issued a going concern warning to its investors — as in, “We’re not sure Groupon will still be a going concern 12 months from now.” Isn’t it fun to think of how many people made fortunes off of a company that turns out didn’t really have a product at all?? How weird would it be if we just kept letting them run companies?
There’s a chance Bloomfilter, which raised $7 million in the hopes of making software development more transparent, will have a little more to it than that. Less optimistic about DFlow, which raised $5 million to bring a “controversial practice in the equities market” to crypto. Lotta red flags for a little sentence.
If fundraising fails, remember, there’s always private equity ownership. After seeing share prices drop 80% since its initial public offering, tech consultancy Thoughtworks is now entertaining the idea of going private once again, returning full ownership to controlling stakeholders Apax Partners. Deerfield-based Baxter Pharmaceuticals, meanwhile, plans to sell its biopharma unit to a PE firm for $4.25 million, taking it off the public stock exchanges.
Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Executive VP of Research at NORC at the University of Chicago
You know how data is only as good as the people who collect it? Well, NORC collects a lot of data the people in power use to make policy decisions. So if you’ve ever questioned how the hell someone could come to that conclusion with the facts available, well, this is an opportunity to point folks in a different direction.
Senior Analyst, Inflight Entertainment at United Airlines
Or, roll those dice and take United up on its offer of new jobs. There’s something deeply appealing about being able to influence the content a captive audience can access. Nothing but episodes of Queer Eye for all flights headed to Florida.
Inspiration of the Week
“Too many executives in too many industries, such as entertainment, tech and journalism, recognize generative AI for what it is: an opportunity to wield leverage over already precarious workforces.”
—Granted, we’re mostly following the writer’s strike for the fun signs. But, like it or not, it is a bellwether. No executive believes with any seriousness that AI will write a better television show. They believe it will write a television show, however, and that writers can then be hired to “punch up” that script at a lower rate and without any claim of ownership over the intellectual property. Far more profitable to produce work when you can use a character in any permutation in perpetuity without sharing in the spoils.
AI, then, isn’t coming for your job. It’s coming for your bargaining power. Whether you’re a writer, artist, researcher, programmer, it does not matter. In the same way the threat of passing work off to unpaid interns demoralized and disempowered workers through the early ’00s, the threat of AI serves as a constant reminder that, at least to some extent, you’re replaceable.
And that’s just fine — if the government wants to start taxing profits over a certain threshold at 100% in order to fund a universal basic income. But that’s far from the likeliest outcome. So unless you want billionaires to decide just how many crumbs to throw your way in exchange for your labor, it’s a good time to start thinking about what the actual value of your work is — and then demanding it.
Forward this email to anyone who’s ready to make demands. They can sign up here for motivation to do so twice a month.