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Apple and Activision Blizzard workers start unionizing

Following a trend that has included Starbucks and Amazon, tech company workers are dipping their toes in the union pool. Last week saw the first Apple store unionization to be recognized, and workers at games software company Activision Blizzard have entered an agreement for Microsoft to recognize their union.

According to Techcrunch. 65 out of 110 employees at the Apple store in Towson, Maryland, voted to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). These employees formed the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees (CORE) and sent a letter to Apple CEO, Tim Cook, saying they intend to “gain access to rights that we do not currently have.”

Other Apple stores are attempting to unionize, but the company is opposed to the trend. Vice President of People and Retail, Deirdre O’Brien, shared a video last month warning of the dangers of unionization. These included the resistance to change in stores that unions may introduce.

Last month, The Verge reported that Apple used intimidation tactics at an Atlanta store to prevent a union election arranged for this month. Since the election was canceled, the wages were raised from $20 to $22 per hour.    

The prospect of unionization within the Apple corporation comes as part of a wider movement towards unionizing in the tech industry. Last year, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, formed a union, and Vodeo became the first company in the gaming industry to unionize. 

Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, workers are unionizing at Activision Blizzard just as Microsoft is acquiring the games company after having announced the $68.7 billion deal in January. 

Employees at Activision Blizzard recently voted to unionize after a lawsuit was brought by California’s department of fair housing that alleged a workplace environment of sexual harassment and discrimination.

Microsoft CEO Brad Smith told the newspaper that they have no intention to pressure, influence, or interfere with the company. This is part of a labor neutrality agreement with the media union, Communication Workers of America (CWA). 

The vote to unionize was brought by just over 20 quality assurance testers at Raven Software in Wisconsin. This is the division of Activision Blizzard that develops the Call of Duty video game series. The vote was 19-3 in favor of unionization. Although this is just a small number for a company of almost 10,000 employees, it marks an important change for employee rights in the gaming industry. 

President of CWA, Christopher Shelton, suggested that the labor neutrality agreement could potentially be used for other Microsoft employees if they decide to unionize.   

Microsoft insists that their changing policy regarding unionization is from fairness and a respect for employee organization in European countries and South Korea. However, it has been suggested that it could be an attempt to win the favor of antitrust regulators.   

Experts suggest that since the pandemic, companies are more open to unions, so it will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

In other news

  • Religious sect at Google at the center of discrimination lawsuit. Kevin Lloyd, a former video producer at Google, has filed a discrimination lawsuit against the search engine giant, claiming he was fired for complaining about a religious sect that has undue influence on the company. According to The New York Times, the religious organization is called the Fellowship of Friends, and it believes that embracing fine arts and culture can bring a higher consciousness. Twelve of its members and close relatives worked at Google Developer Studio at the same time as Lloyd. The lawsuit claims that members of the sect also staffed company events, provided massages, played music, and served wine bought from one of the member’s wineries. 
  • Many coding boot camps could be scams. A Vox report has revealed that many so-called coding boot camps don’t actually teach students coding skills. Such boot camps are usually intensive, immersive coding courses that promise to teach students the skills they need to land a lucrative tech job in an unrealistically short time. The report finds that boot camps are generally too good to be true, overpromising and underdelivering while landing students in debt and income-sharing agreements. Multiple boot camps have found themselves embroiled in lawsuits over the past few years.
  • US TikTok user data repeatedly accessed from China. Leaked audio from 80 internal TikTok meetings suggests that the social media app may have misled the public by downplaying how much access employees in China have to data stored in the US. Buzzfeed News reports that several of the recordings indicate that between September 2021 and January 2022, engineers in China had access to data in the US, despite a TikTok executive’s Senate testimony denying this in October 2021. Most of the leaked meetings concern what is internally known as “Project Texas”, an effort to prevent the flow of protected data from the US to China by opening a new data center in Texas.
  • Scientists invent living skin for robots. Whether you like it or not, humanoid robots are becoming more and more like us. IGN reports that Japanese scientists have created a human-skin equivalent in a lab by using human skin cells. It not only looks and feels like human skin but also repairs itself when wounded and repels water. Researchers believe this could be the solution to giving humanoid robots a more human appearance, which is important in such fields as healthcare and service industries. Researchers believe this will make such robots more approachable to actual humans. 
  • High-rise elevators could be used to store excess energy. Researchers in Austria have proposed a way to utilize underused elevators around the world. According to IEEE Spectrum, this new concept of gravity-based energy storage would involve using elevators to lift heavy weights to store renewable electricity as potential energy and then lowering the elevators to discharge the energy into the grid when needed. For this to work, a building must be at least 50 meters tall, with vacant apartments or corridors at the top and bottom of the building to store the weights. The elevators also need regenerative braking, which is not too common right now. 

Tip of the Week

With increasing concerns over data privacy and new regulations for companies that handle personal information, there’s a growing demand for messaging apps that are more private than older options that are known to collect data. 

The best way to keep your private conversations private is by using an encrypted messaging app like Signal or Telegram. These apps work across multiple devices, and use end-to-end encryption to ensure that even if someone were to intercept your messages, they would be unreadable. 

Unlike ad-funded messengers, Signal has no incentive to sell your private data. It’s a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that’s fully committed to privacy. Telegram’s standard chats aren’t end-to-end encrypted, but secret chats are. The developers of Telegram recently launched a Preimum subscritiption tier, with enhanced features. In addition to animated stickers and faster downloads, premium subscribers can enable a new Privacy and Security setting to automatically archive and mute new chats, helping keep chat lists more private.

If you’re concerned about the privacy and security of your online direct messages, take a look at the privacy settings on each app before using it. Read what permissions are required in the app store description, and once you download, adjust the privacy settings to be as restrictive as possible. 

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Robert O'Sullivan avatar

Robert O'Sullivan

Robert has lived and worked in distant locations around the globe and is currently based in the Balkans. In addition to travel, he has a passion for language, writing, technology, and making sophisticated concepts more appealing and understandable for readers, which are talents he puts to good use at Namecheap. More articles written by Robert.

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