Uber settles arbitration claims

This settlement of a series of arbitrations might prove educational for some readers here:

Uber Settles ‘Majority’ of Arbitrations for at Least $146M

Total settlements are between $146 million and $170 million A “large majority” of the more than 60,000 Uber Inc. drivers filing arbitration claims for employment misclassification will receive settlement payments as part of agreements reached by the company, Uber said in a regulatory filing May 9.

12,501 arbitration claims filed out of a potential 60,000. The filing fees alone could have cost Uber $75 million. Since the arbitrators can get paid as much as $9k a day, well, it’s not exactly hard to figure out why Uber quickly decided to settle for 2x the amount of the filing fees.

Interestingly enough, Uber initially tried to avoid paying the filing fees for the very process they contractually required. Check out this article from December 2018.

Uber fought as hard as any company in America in the past few years to assure the enforceability of its contractual arbitration provisions. When drivers who had signed contracts with Uber attempted to sue the company for wage and hour violations, Uber and its lawyers at Gibson Dunn & Crutcher won key rulings from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that effectively ended the drivers’ quest to litigate their claims in court – or even to arbitrate their claims as a class. For Uber drivers, the only way to go after the company for alleged state and federal employment law violations was to file an independent arbitration claim.

Amazingly, thousands of Uber drivers did just that. Between August and November of this year, about 12,500 drivers, many of whom had been class members in cases in which Uber successfully moved to compel arbitration, served individual arbitration demands on Uber, claiming the company failed to pay them the federally-mandated minimum wage and failed to pay overtime wages. These thousands of drivers filed their arbitration demands at JAMS, as mandated in Uber’s contracts.

But nothing has happened in almost all of the drivers’ cases. Of the 12,500 arbitration demands filed by Uber drivers, the company has paid the requisite JAMS initial filing fee in just 296 cases, according to a newly filed petition by drivers seeking to compel Uber to pay the fees JAMS requires to launch arbitration. So far, arbitrators have been appointed in only 47 of the cases drivers have brought against Uber – and Uber has paid the arbitrator’s nonrefundable $1,500 retainer fee in a mere six cases.

In other words, Uber caved after paying out $67,750, then doing the relevant math and realizing that they were already on the hook for an absolute minimum $34,375,000, which would almost certainly have exploded into at least $318 million even if every single arbitration was kept to three days or less… not including legal fees.

More interesting information, courtesy of an exhibit that quotes the JAMS general counsel and explicitly points out that corporations can’t avoid playing by the rules they impose on their employees and users.

In a Jan. 23 notice to Uber and the drivers, JAMS general counsel and national arbitration committee cochair Sheri Eisner noted Uber’s request that JAMS review the role of the drivers’ firm Keller Lenkner in a consolidated proceeding, before Uber is required to pay initiation fees in all of the cases.

Eisner said that’s not how JAMS procedures work. “While it is not our preference to force the parties to litigate these issues seriatim, our policies and procedures, absent party agreement otherwise, require that we collect a filing fee in each case to be pursued,” she wrote. “Further, the parties’ arbitration agreement appears to clearly prohibit collective determination of any issue absent party agreement … Therefore, absent party agreement otherwise, JAMS must proceed in the normal course, following receipt of filing fees by commencing and appointing an arbitrator to each case.”

As Eisner said in the notice, JAMS had put a hold on arbitration demands for about 8,500 drivers in California while a single arbitration weighed Uber’s opposition to the post hoc vice admission of Keller Lenkner in 40 cases in which Uber has already paid initiation fees. The hearing officer, according to the JAMS notice, has determined that his decision on the pro hac vice application will apply only in the 40 cases before him, not across all of the 8,500 arbitration demands. The JAMS GC said that the hold on thousands of other California arbitrations is now lifted.

Eisner’s notice ended with language that’s extremely important for the future of mass arbitration. “JAMS is mindful of the significant resources (both in time and expense) expended by all parties and counsel in determining the best path forward to resolve these matters in multiple jurisdictions,” she wrote. “JAMS strongly encourages the parties to consider engaging a third party (whether a mediator, arbitrator or administrative representative) to assist the parties in addressing the variety of process issues presented by numerous cases proceeding in multiple jurisdictions.”

JAMS, in other words, isn’t going to help Uber out of the jam it’s facing as a result of imposing mandatory individual arbitration agreements on its drivers. Based on Eisner’s notice, Uber can’t rely on a consolidated JAMS proceeding to decide even recurring threshold issues, such as whether the drivers can rely on the law firm that filed their arbitration demands. For Uber – and any future mass arbitration defendant – hoping to cut the cost of litigating thousands of individual arbitrations by resolving across-the-board concerns in one proceeding, the JAMS letter makes it clear that the arbitration service isn’t going to bend its rules and overlook contract language to allow that.

The lesson, as always, is this: even if you write the contract and stack everything in your favor, you’d better not break it with thousands of people or you’re going to pay a lot of money for the privilege.


What else did you expect?

Alexa has been playing Stasi since her inception:

Would you let a stranger eavesdrop in your home and keep the recordings? For most people, the answer is, “Are you crazy?”

Yet that’s essentially what Amazon has been doing to millions of us with its assistant Alexa in microphone-equipped Echo speakers. And it’s hardly alone: Bugging our homes is Silicon Valley’s next frontier.

Many smart-speaker owners don’t realize it, but Amazon keeps a copy of everything Alexa records after it hears its name. Apple’s Siri, and until recently Google’s Assistant, by default also keep recordings to help train their artificial intelligences.

So come with me on an unwelcome walk down memory lane. I listened to four years of my Alexa archive and found thousands of fragments of my life: spaghetti-timer requests, joking houseguests and random snippets of “Downton Abbey.” There were even sensitive conversations that somehow triggered Alexa’s “wake word” to start recording, including my family discussing medication and a friend conducting a business deal.

But don’t worry. They totally mean well and would NEVER deplatform you simply because they have you on record committing crimethink.


Indiegogo plays science police

They were already playing thought police, but now they’re branching out into policing science:

The last year has been the worst on record in the US for measles outbreaks since the disease was declared ‘eradicated’ in 2000. Even though vaccination rates across the country are still high, (according to the CDC) there remains some communities where disinformation campaigns which claim that ‘vaccines are dangerous’ (often called ‘anti-vaxx’ campaigns) have led to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. Sadly, this can lead to a deadly outbreak when members of the public are exposed to someone who has picked up the disease, often overseas. Measles is highly contagious and can be fatal, especially amongst children.

And despite President Trump telling Americans to “get their shots”, 45 has previously appeared to link vaccines and autism. Public health experts say there is no link.

At the same time, over half a million children in Britain have been left unprotected against measles in the past decade and Unicef has called for a renewed focus on immunization.

It’s with this background that some tech companies are starting to realize they may have been part of the problem.

Yesterday Crowdfunding site Indiegogo said it would no longer allow anti-vaccine fundraisers or similarly unscientific, so-called “health campaigns”, to use its platform.

The move came after $86,543 was raised for a documentary, called Vaxxed II, based on the false claim that vaccines cause autism. Although the organization behind it, The People’s Truth, will still get their cash, minus the site’s 5{e8a4cc2da20ae907408fc668f824b0c1c953618ed39cb8b4e4c88688f9991565} fee, Indiegogo said it was now planning a new policy to keep similar anti-vaccine projects off its site, a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News Friday.

The fundraiser did not violate IndieGoGo’s existing policies on untruthful campaigns, but Indiegogo never promoted it on its site, said a company spokesperson. Executive directors of the “documentary”, Polly Tommey and Brian Burrowes, have criticized tech companies’ ‘de-platforming’ of their film as “censorship”.

Indiegogo is the latest in a line of tech companies coming round to the idea of cutting off the oxygen of publicity and cash to such campaigns.

The unmentioned elephant in the room is the I-word. Immigration. That’s the real reason for the increase in measles everywhere, along with the increase in a whole host of other diseases for which there is no vaccination.

The fact that none of these pro-vaccine activists will even mention the word serves to demonstrate that their professed concerns about measles, and their professed concerned about children’s health, is entirely false.


Consistent with their values

Disgraced director James Gunn is back at Disney:

James Gunn has certainly been on a roller coaster of a ride with Disney and his role on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. First, he was fired. Then, Disney wouldn’t hire him back. Then, Gunn’s script was going to be used. Now, Gunn has been hired back to direct.

Shockingly, Disney has changed its tune about Gunn, according to Deadline. He will both write and direct Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which currently does not have a release date.

Back in July 2018, Gunn was fired by Disney when controversial tweets, from many years prior, resurfaced where Gunn made joked about pedophilia and rape. Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn said, “The offensive attitudes and statements discovered on James’ Twitter feed are indefensible and inconsistent with our studio’s values, and we have severed our business relationship with him.”

It would appear those “offensive attitudes and statements” are no longer inconsistent with Disney’s values. As if they ever actually were.

UPDATE: Disney never even considered getting another director. The whole Gunn “firing” was simply a charade performed for the public in order to take the heat off Disney.

James Gunn is back as director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — and it sounds like Disney never seriously explored a replacement after all.

Gunn, who was fired from the Marvel superhero sequel last summer when old tweets of his joking about rape and pedophilia were resurfaced, on Friday confirmed reports that he has been rehired for the project.

Vol. 3 was originally expected to be released in 2020, but preproduction was put on hold last August after Gunn’s firing. Reports suggested that Disney was launching a search for his replacement so the movie could go forward, with The Hollywood Reporter writing that the studio was taking a “measured approach in their search for a director.” Rumors swirled for months about who was being considered, and Vice director Adam McKay suggested in an interview that he had discussed possibly taking over the project.

But The Hollywood Reporter now reports that “what almost no one knew” until today was that Marvel and Disney had actually “never undertaken a search” for another director at all and, in fact, had “gone back to Gunn and made a deal…in secret.” Deadline similarly reports that the decision to bring back Gunn was made “months ago” and that Marvel “never met with or considered any other director.”


Dividing and conquering

The attempts to defend the reprehensible, misandric Gillette commercial are just another form of trying to prevent white men from forming a political identity of their own to compete with all the other identity groups striving for power in the West:

When did simply suggesting that people conduct themselves with common decency become enough to spark public outrage? As part of a new campaign against toxic masculinity, Gillette have decided to put some weight behind their 30-year-old ‘the best a man can get’ tagline by putting out an advert that encourages men to be the best people they can be as well. Smart, right? Well, actually, it turns out that they have potentially lost themselves a fair few customers, with men’s rights activists and far right campaigners crying on Twitter over claims of ‘emasculation’, while threatening to never purchase a Gillette razor again.

But, as their advert and accompanying statement so aptly points out, ‘turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best.’ And, while it may be a bit exploitative of the #MeToo movement, their prompt to their consumers to try to change this seems entirely reasonable. As marketing campaigns go, it’s probably one of the most poignant that we’ve seen in a while. From the handling of the classic ‘boys will be boys’ excuse for misbehaviour to the notion that men should be working to set a new example for the younger generation, the advert’s proposals for a revised understanding of what it means to be a ‘good’ man navigate the thorny issues of gender inequality extremely well.

So, to be frank, if people are offended by the advert, then they are probably part of the problem. Gillette’s campaign isn’t an attack on masculinity or men; it’s simply an attempt to eradicate the toxic behaviours that have become commonplace and assumed as ‘normal’ in our patriarchal society. No one is taking away the beer, the barbeques or whatever else men have seen in the advert that has caused them to have meltdown over razor blades. They’re just telling men to be nice.

Notice how everyone from Jordan Peterson to this Gillette defender are telling white men to be INDIVIDUALS, to refrain from embracing their evil IDENTITY and engaging in any COLLECTIVE attempts to defend themselves and their interests.

This is not an accident. This is not about helping those men. This is about neutering and neutralizing white men. This is about dividing and conquering white men, often with the assistance of foolish white women.

Don’t fall for it.


How Google covered its tracks

The alleged Googler describes this “How Google Screwed Over James Damore” but it really explains how Google covered its tracks and manipulated both the media, the legal system, and even a government agency as part of its coverup.

I was involved in the internal decisions involving James Damore’s memo, and it’s terrible what we did to him.

First of all, we knew about the memo a month before it went viral. HR sent it up the reporting chain when he gave it as internal feedback, but we did nothing. There wasn’t anything we could do, except admit to wrongdoing and lying to our employees. We just hoped that no one else would see his document.

Unfortunately, the memo started spreading within the company. The floodgates opened and previously silent employees started talking. To quell dissent, we: told executives to write to their employees condemning the memo; manipulated our internal Memegen to bias the ratings towards anti-Damore posts (the head of Memegen is an “ally” to the diversity cause); and gave every manager talking points on what to tell their reports about the memo. In all our communications, we concentrated on how hurt employees purportedly were and diverted attention from Google’s discriminatory employment practices and political hegemony, never mind the science.

We needed to make an example of Damore. Looking for some excuse to fire him, we spied on his phone and computer. We didn’t find anything, although our spying probably made his devices unusably slow, preventing him from organizing support within the company. When we did fire him, our reputation and integrity took a hit, but at least other employees were now afraid to speak up.

Firing him without an NDA was a huge risk though. He was a top performer and knew too many compromising secrets, like Dragonfly, the secret censored search project in China. He had also reported several legally dubious practices in Search that still exist. Only God knows why he never leaked Dragonfly or the other issues, but I think it’s because he actually cared about Google.

Our response after we fired him was equally disgraceful. We were supposed to have a Town Hall TGIF to answer employees’ questions about the controversy. However, after questions started coming in that we couldn’t reasonably answer, we had to cancel it. We shifted the blame onto “alt-right trolls” and have avoided talking about it openly since then.

To control the narrative, we planted stories with journalists and flexed Google’s muscles where necessary. In exchange for insider access and preferential treatment, all we ask for is their loyalty. For online media, Google’s ads pay their paycheck and our search brings their customers, so our influence shouldn’t be underestimated.

We dealt with his NLRB case in a similar way. People are ultimately lazy, so we found a sympathetic lawyer in the NLRB and wrote the internal NLRB memo for her. No one wanted to spend the effort to oppose it, despite it being laughably weak. Then, after Damore dropped his NLRB case and filed a class action lawsuit, we had the NLRB publicly release their memo. Our PR firms sent press releases saying “the NLRB ruled the firing legal”, which was, of course, manufactured bullshit.

All of our scheming was over the phone, in deleted emails, or through an external PR firm, so we can deny all of it. Now that we’ve forced him into arbitration, we’re close to screwing him over completely.

The connection here is that Sundar Pichai blamed the canceled Town Hall TGIF on this very blog, due to my exposure of various internal communications during the Damore defenestration. It’s intriguing to learn that was merely a diversion and the real reason was that the executives simply wanted to avoid answering questions from the employees. It also shows that the mainstream news narrative can NEVER be trusted. Never. Not even if they report that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

However, this attempt to sweep their evil and illegal doings under the rug may yet fall apart, as James Damore has already begun looking into verifying the redditor’s claims. And while I don’t know what arbitration system they are using, I know the major ones all have a broad range of options for discovery.

Whoah, this would explain a lot. I can’t verify its authenticity, but the OP is correct that I was one of about 100 employees that knew about Dragonfly. I also did report several legal issues in Search that they probably haven’t fixed. My phone and computer were also extremely slow after the document went viral. Other parts of the post include knowledge that only a Googler would know.

One ex-Googler finds the charges legitimate, if not necessarily true.

Even though this is obviously written by either a current or ex-Googler, strictly speaking that’s not a guarantee that any of it actually happened.

That said, as a former Googler myself I find this account believable. The internal atmosphere for anyone who disagrees with any aspect of the current liberal dogma is quite suffocating, and there are significant numbers of very vocal people who just post SJW bullshit on internal Google+ and seemingly do little else. The list of grievances and positions labeled as wrongthink grows more and more ridiculous by the day. Attacks on people who disagree intensify. Because manufactured outrage culture is rewarded by making a person essentially non-fireable (especially if they’re female and/or black and/or LGBTQ), offense is taken liberally, with lots of histrionics, and at the slightest provocation.

People deadass come into the office expecting to wage social justice war against their co-workers, who on the whole are quite sympathetic to the cause already, but may have slight disagreements along the more extreme margins, like James did. And no, as an employee you don’t get a chance to ignore all of this BS. It’s a constant, unending barrage that only gets worse over time.

I also don’t doubt for a second that the response to the Damore incident was strictly coordinated, especially after his memo became public, and so was his firing. Anyone who thinks otherwise is naive beyond belief.

It’s true. I have seen hundreds of examples of absolutely outrageous behavior that would get people fired at any normal corporation. What I posted here last year was just the tip of a very large and ugly iceberg. And if you’re wondering why I haven’t posted all of it already, well, you really just don’t know me at all.


Industrial scale wizardry

From Jordan Peterson to The Last Jedi, you simply can’t believe anything that the media tells you about what is big or smart or successful or popular anymore. Because it’s all just corporate gaslighting for profit.

Director Kyle Newman: You look at The Last Jedi, and honestly, I don’t know anybody out here, maybe two people in my life, out of hundreds of people that I’ve talked to, who liked the movie. All the filmmakers I know that won’t talk about it publicly. All the people I know internally, there’s all these people that won’t, even journalists who gave it positive reviews are like, I do that because I need to maintain my access. Privately, there’s a lot of people who really don’t like it.

Geeks and Gamers: So you’re saying that the ones who gave it good reviews really are phony reviews.

Newman: 100 percent. I can’t name them, but yes, 100 percent.

I find it interesting that despite the constant encouragement to “think different” and “question authority” and engage in “critical thinking”, the media devotes an incredible amount of resources to convincing those who consume its products to do precisely the opposite. This would appear to be the inversive wizardry that Owen Benjamin describes, albeit on a giant industrial scale.


Who would have thought it?

Wait, a large corporation run by an actual Brahmin oversees a literal caste system? What are the odds of that?

Google is a truly unusual place to work.

The campus in Mountain View is dotted with giant statues of sweets representing the company’s Android versions—Eclair, Donut, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich, Marshmallow. Multicolored bikes, unlocked, line the racks outside the buildings, many of which have laundromats, gyms, photo booths, and other funny statues, plus offices with kitchens containing a dizzying array of snacks. There is free lunch (and breakfast, and minimal dinners, too).

On the surface, it all seems delightful. Certainly, I was excited when I got there on a contract as a document review attorney in 2013. But deeper engagement with the company revealed a surprising and widespread disgruntlement. At first I didn’t understand why everyone was so defensive, glum, and sullen at this otherworldly workplace. But I soon learned the reason came down to deep inequality.

Nearly half of Google workers worldwide are contractors, temps, and vendors (TVCs) and just slightly more than half are full-time employees (FTEs). An internal source, speaking anonymously to The Guardian, just revealed that of about 170,000 people who work at Google, 49.95{d8b4b03f7cd10021bc48a627e8e1f7f3430c71153efff7ea4a5b1b0e3fb64988}, are TVCs and 50.05{d8b4b03f7cd10021bc48a627e8e1f7f3430c71153efff7ea4a5b1b0e3fb64988} are FTEs. As The Guardian reported on Dec. 12, a nascent labor movement within the company led to the leak of a rather awkward document, entitled “The ABCs of TVCs,” which reveals just how seriously Google takes the employment distinctions.

The document explains, “Working with TVCs and Googlers is different. Our policies exist because TVC working arrangements can carry significant risks.” Ostensibly, TVCs are excluded from a lot of things because letting them in on the company’s inner doings threatens security. “The risks Google appears to be most concerned about include standard insider threats, like leaks of proprietary information,” The Guardian writes based on its review of the leaked document.

But in the case of the team I was on—made up of lawyers, most of whom were long-term contractors—we reviewed the most important internal documents and determined whether they were legally privileged. In other words, outsiders were deciding what mail and memos from top Google executives, engineers, and other deep insiders should be considered private in lawsuits and investigations. The irony of this bizarre access, in view of our disparate treatment, was not lost on us. And eventually, it wore workers down.

There was a two-year cap on contract extensions and a weird caste system that excluded us from meetings, certain cafeterias, the Google campus store, and much more. Most notably, contractors wore red badges that had to be visible at all times and signaled to everyone our lowly position in the system.

On days when the full-time employees were on retreats or at all-hands meetings, the office was staffed entirely by contractors. We’d nibble on snacks from the office kitchen, contemplate whether to go to the pool or gym or yoga or dance classes, and laugh amongst ourselves at this heavenly employment hell.

But it was also oddly depressing. We were at the world’s most enviable workplace, allegedly, but were repeatedly reminded that we would not be hired full-time and were not part of the club. Technically, we were employees of a legal staffing agency whose staff we’d never met. We didn’t get sick leave or vacation and earned considerably less than colleagues with the same qualifications who were doing the same work.

In time, I learned the patterns for each class of contractor hires. We came in groups on 12-week contracts that were then renewed, usually for six months, until we neared two years. As the two-year limit approached, the optimists in any given class cajoled and negotiated with managers, and the pessimists grew grumpy and frustrated about having to look for new work. Either way, the response was the same. All had to go.

Imagine if the Tech Brahmins made the Digital Untouchables wear yellow stars instead of red badges…. I wonder how long it will be before we are informed that the big technology companies run by Third Worlders are actively engaged in actual human trafficking.


Rethinking corporatism

Corporations are NOT capitalism, as the fact that some of the biggest corporations in the world are Chinese corporations registered in the People’s Republic of China run by the Communist Party. And the more one looks into all of the various aspects of corporatist society, from the mercenary pirate class that runs them to their short-term quarterly focus to their manipulation of the political system to the problems of regulatory capture, the more one has to wonder if they are worth the trouble they invariably cause:

Anyone who uses a computer or television has enjoyed the fruits of Gil Hyatt’s labor. He has pioneered technology and computer programming used by Panasonic, Sony, Philips, and Toshiba. He poured the licensing fees back into the lab where he has continued his research for decades. But beginning in the mid-1990’s, Hyatt said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) began enforcing a blockade against his patent applications. The agency, his suit claims, went so far as to create a dedicated group of regulators committed to delaying numerous applications until the 80-year-old inventor expires.

“The PTO founded what the agency calls the ‘Hyatt Unit’ in 2012 for the purpose of miring all of Mr. Hyatt’s applications in administrative purgatory until Mr. Hyatt gives up or dies,” the suit says….

Hyatt is no stranger to delays. He waited 22 years before the microprocessing tech he pioneered received a patent in 1990—one of the 75 patents has obtained from the agency before seeing his applications go seemingly dormant. The agency treated him as a “submariner”—one who adds small tweaks to existing patents to generate new ones—or worse a “patent troll”—a person who uses patents solely to sue other companies in the same field. Hyatt insists he is neither.

“I believe that the PTO, starting in the mid-90s was very strongly against individual inventors and were being lobbied and to some degree controlled by big companies,” Hyatt said. “I’ve never litigated against a company for infringement—I’ve never sued anyone for patents.”

PTO has argued that Hyatt is inappropriately attempting “to have this Court provide oversight into the complex and ongoing examination of his almost 400 applications comprised of over 115,000 claims.” The agency says the Court cannot issue a review until it renders a final judgment on the worthiness of the applications. PTO blamed Hyatt for the decades-long delay, saying his litigation “only serve to inhibit the agency from coming to a final decision.”

“There is simply no legal basis for the relief Mr. Hyatt seeks beyond the actions the USPTO has already taken,” the agency said in a motion to dismiss. “Agencies need the freedom to deliberate and come to final decisions on their own before the courts step in and review.”

Who watches the watchers? The more things change, the more obvious it is that human nature doesn’t.


Who wants to be Apple’s landlord?

If you’ve got $200, that’s all it takes:

US tech giant Apple became the first company to reach an historic $1 trillion in market capitalization recently, but it still doesn’t like paying more taxes, according to recent reports. Apple has been at odds with California’s Santa Clara County over the value of its property. As the local newspaper San Francisco Chronicle reports, Apple evaluates a cluster of properties around its brand-new Apple Park at just $200. Santa Clara County’s tax assessor says the properties are worth $1 billion.

In California, businesses and individuals pay a property tax. It is calculated according to the value of the land and the buildings on it. Since 2004, Apple has appealed tax assessments in Santa Clara County 489 times. In total, according to the newspaper’s report, the tech giant has disputed taxes on $8.5 billion in property value. Apple is the largest taxpayer in the county, paying $56 million in tax year 2017-18.

It’s a problem that is easily solved with a state law. If a publicly traded corporation values its property at a certain amount, then anyone can purchase it for three times that amount.

Apple really is an awful company.