Tech at Work: Amazon caravan protest, Genderify’s algorithmic bias and using ‘BIPOC’

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Welcome back to Tech at Work, where we look at labor, diversity and inclusion. Given the amount of activity in this space, we’re going to ramp this up from bi-weekly to weekly.
This week, we’re looking at the latest action from a group of Amazon warehouse workers in the San Francisco Bay Area, how to avoid Genderify’s massive algorithmic bias fail and the rise of the use of BIPOC, which stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color, and how to properly use the term.

Stay woke

Amazon warehouse workers stage sunrise action
Amazon delivery drivers in the San Francisco Bay Area are kicking off the month by protesting the e-commerce giant’s labor practices related to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of a caravan, workers plan to head to Amazon’s San Leandro warehouse this morning to pressure the company to shut down the facility for a thorough cleaning.
“They are having COVID cases reported and they’re not being truthful about how many, and they’re not being reported right away,” Amazon worker Adrienne Williams told TechCrunch. “We’re seeing this pattern of Amazon finding out and then not telling people for two weeks so they don’t have to pay anyone.”

Join us as we deliver a petition demanding Amazon shut down DSF4 for deep cleaning in defense of Black and Latinx lives. Systemic racism has led to BIPOC folks being most impacted by COVID. Solidarity with our communities means protecting us from it.
— Bay Area Amazonians (@AmazonArea) July 27, 2020

In a statement to TechCrunch, Amazon said:
Nothing is more important than health and well-being of our employees, and we are doing everything we can to keep them as safe as possible. We’ve invested over $800 million in the first half of this year implementing 150 significant process changes on COVID-19 safety measures by purchasing items like masks, hand sanitizer, thermal cameras, thermometers, sanitizing wipes, gloves, additional handwashing stations, and adding disinfectant spraying in buildings, procuring COVID testing supplies, and additional janitorial teams.
In addition to shutting down the warehouse for sanitizing, workers are asking for better communication.
“The drivers have no idea if there are ever any cases because we don’t have access to the internal warehouse A to Z communications they have,” Williams, who works at the Richmond warehouse, said. “So we never get the alerts if there are COVID cases. We’re not on that internal communication but we go in those warehouses twice a day to get our shifts and packages.”
Because drivers are generally employed by delivery service partners, Amazon says it does not have direct communication with them. However, Amazon says it immediately notifies the delivery service partner who then communicates with the drivers.
By staging the action so early, the hope is to prevent workers from being able to load delivery vehicles, Williams said.
“If the vans are left in the warehouse, Jeff Bezos takes the financial hit,” she said. “Halting deliveries and keeping them in the warehouse means Amazon gets hit with the bill.”
Lesson for startups: Treat all of your workers with dignity and respect.

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