Gig, service workers gather in town hall meeting
It’s not commonplace to see dozens of monolingual Latinx and Chinese workers getting together to cheer each other on. After all, language is a hurdle in itself.
But when everyone see themselves as working poor, a shared economic unity prevails.
It did last Wednesday night, when some 60 essential workers gathered at the Women’s Building to urge more support from the government as their economic conditions continue to deteriorate.
Interpretation was provided through in-ear headphones but, despite the need for translation, the camaraderie was evident as domestics, dishwashers, gig workers and hotel maids spoke out about their pandemic experiences. No matter the ethnicity, the audience applauded, some nodding their heads.
“The first and foremost challenge during the pandemic is finding work. Second, even if I had a job, I knew I could suddenly lose it, and there’s no stability at all,” said Jian Xiao, a worker leader at the Chinese Progressive Association.
Luis Mejia, who works at a car wash, emphasized how precarious his work remains, post-pandemic. “In my evening shift, I faced a reduction in work hours … from eight hours a day to five or four hours a day,” he said. Consequently, he’s six months behind on rent.
Others complained that even existing laws aren’t properly implemented. Evelin Alfaro, a domestic worker and a leader of worker center Mujeres Unidas y Activas, pointed out that domestic workers are often denied the paid sick leave they are entitled to by the San Francisco Paid Sick Leave Ordinance. This ordinance promises all employees, including those who work temporary and part-time, one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours of work.
“We need [enforcement of] paid sick leave. The fight doesn’t stop here. Workers need to be at the forefront of these movements, because together we can do it,” Alfaro said at the town hall.
The town hall was hosted by the Bay Area Essential Workers Agenda, a coalition of seven groups representing low-wage workers across the Bay Area. The session wrapped up with a chorus of enthusiastic calls from the workers.
But it wasn’t the end of what promises to be an interesting cross-cultural coalition. It was just the first step in a plan that lay ahead, said Joyce Lam, from one of the organizations that belongs to the Bay Area Essential Worker’s Agenda.
Pittsburgh: a battlefield for Chinese food delivery apps
The concentration of distinguished universities in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with accompanying large numbers of Chinese students, has fed into a vibrant Chinese-food scene in the city. But a problem arose as the students began using the delivery apps we all know.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Noelle Mateer said students could not recognize the foods they know and love from China. That problem launched a marketing war between three Chinese-language food delivery apps in Pittsburgh.
The three apps — Fantuan, HungryPanda and Ricepo — allow everyone who speaks Chinese in the town, from restaurateurs to couriers to consumers, to locate each other. Users seem to agree that, compared to other apps, which present the names of dishes in an English translation, the original Chinese is far more appetizing.
With students flooding back to their U.S. campuses after the pandemic, the battle between the apps has resumed.
With so many headlines dominated by self-driving cars, where are we, exactly?
Late last month, in a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, heads of San Francisco’s two main transportation agencies expressed explicit concerns about Cruise’s driverless cars, warning that its recent performance “could quickly exhaust emergency response resources and could undermine public confidence in all automated driving technology.”
Nevertheless, the San Francisco-based and General Motors-owned company remains a rising star in the driverless universe. Cruise is currently providing fully driverless taxi services in the city, with a fleet of roughly 30 cars. Lucky passengers selected from a long wait list are offered the opportunity to experience a journey through certain streets between 10 p.m. and 5:30 a.m, and only when the weather is favorable. There’s no one but the passenger and an algorithm in the car.
And not all goes smoothly. The New York Times’ Cade Metz depicted his journey last week in the back seat of a Cruise. After drawing considerable attention from pedestrians, and cruising through the majority of the journey, the robot driver got confused several times and eventually had to pull over to wait to be rescued.
Still, rivals are circling.
In San Francisco, Amazon-owned Zoox is running its autonomous vehicle pilots. Waymo, backed by Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is already allowing members of the general public to apply to become testers under the Waymo One program.
Thousands of miles away, in Austin, Texas, the other epicenter of the self-driving trend, Lyft claims to be the first ride-hailing service to offer autonomous vehicles for the general public. That’s a bit of a stretch, since passengers will find two live safety operators inside the vehicle to share the ride with them, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Lyft’s autonomous vehicle service is operated under its partnership with Ford and Argo. The latter is an autonomous driving company that has been testing in Austin since 2019. Riders are able to request an autonomous vehicle ride on the Lyft app at the same price as a normal ride. Before Austin, Lyft had already fully autonomous rides (with safety drivers) available in Miami, Florida, and Las Vegas, Nevada.
Cruise also plans to advance its robo-taxi services to Austin by the end of the year. Beyond that, Israel-based self-driving firm Mobileye, backed by Intel, has filed for an initial public offering (IPO). The company is testing in New York City, supplying technologies to BMW, Nissan, Volkswagen, and seeking to get into delivery and ride-hailing services.