eBay sellers to strike

Last summer, I wrote that the labor movement should begin organizing online workers.  It appears that a group of eBay sellers are about to start striking boycotting, without any help from labor unions.  At issue is the sudden imposition of policies by eBay which sellers deem harmful to their business.  The policies will be imposed starting Feb. 20, and the strike boycott will go from Feb. 18 - 25.


There are a couple of issues at play.  One is that fees will increase by as much as 66% for some sellers.  Another, apparently far more explosive, issue is that eBay will soon turn off negative and neutral comments, requiring sellers to go through eBay's Security & Resolution Center to report bad behavior.  This move will almost certainly tie up sellers in needless bureaucracy, in place of today's simple system for resolving disputes.  CNN and Mashable have more.  Follow me across the flip for some thoughts on how the labor movement should respond to this development...

Update (2/18): There are a lot of interesting comments below; sorry I didn't get to them earlier. Some of the commenters are pointing out that this action is technically a boycott, not a strike, and that's a fair point; I've corrected the text here accordingly. Note, however, that there's a fine line between the two in this case, and I think that's pretty interesting. More this weekend.

There's more...

Internet Freedom: They Are Still Just Politicians

There's a scene in Deep Blue Sea, a stupid but fun movie about super smart sharks, in which one of the main characters sacrifices herself to prevent a shark from escaping to the ocean out of a penned-in area.  She cuts herself to leak blood into the water and says, "It may be the smartest animal in the world, but it's still just an animal." The shark smells the blood, turns around and goes back into the pen, eats her, and is destroyed by explosives.  This reminds me of modern politicians; sure they seek money and are corrupt and out of touch, but they are still just politicians.  They do respond when millions of people engage.

Which brings me to net neutrality, of course, because now eBay has chimed in on internet freedom with a bang:

eBay this week unleashed a political machine that should make politicians envious: a national e-mail blast over Net neutrality.

Meg Whitman, chief executive of the Internet auctioneer, called on more than a million eBay members to get involved in the debate over telecommunications laws and "send a message to your representatives in Congress before it is too late."

"The telephone and cable companies in control of Internet access are trying to use their enormous political muscle to dramatically change the Internet," Whitman wrote. "It might be hard to believe, but lawmakers in Washington are seriously debating whether consumers should be free to use the Internet as they want in the future."

This is the first time that eBay has used e-mail to urge its members to weigh in on a national issue and the first time Whitman has sent an e-mail to members under her own name, the company said Thursday.

This is a big deal.  People like companies like eBay and Google.  You don't see them running stupid ads about how hard their employees work for you, because they aren't billing services attached to publicly subsidized infrastructure and their services actually deliver added value.  Now there are of course problems with each company, but broadly speaking people like their Google's and eBay's and are at best ambivalent about their Verizon's.  This is because Google and eBay emerged from communities - Google from the academic world of computer science/venture capital and eBay from the early message board culture of the internet.  Verizon is a regulatory creature, borne of and for lobbyists and insiders, as are the cable companies.  They have a grassroots component in the form of their employees.  It's a little understood element of right-wing lobbying and GOTV operations that corporate intranets are powerful tools for electoral work.  But their electoral muscle is nothing compared to that of companies that people actually like and rely on, such as Google and eBay.

Now that eBay is moving into this fight with a very public grassroots lobbying campaign, the stakes have changed.  Net neutrality is no longer a nice-to-have in a telco reform bill.  It has become an issue that millions of ordinarily apolitical individuals that have a commercial and cultural interest in the internet are engaging on.

I have a few other updates that I'll get to later.  The telcos are running TV ad campaigns all over the country, and there are more new bamboozlement flacking points to knock down.  The House vote on the net neutrality issue is quickly approaching, next week, and it looks like there will be some fireworks around the rules for the votes on the floor.  The House has always been rigged, and though we've managed to jiggle some pieces loose, it's still largely a done deal there.  The Senate though is paying attention very closely because of the work we've done.  And now that millions more are engaged anything's possible.

The telcos may have these politicians in their pocket, but they are still just politicians.

There's more...

Putting my TV up for auction on Ebay

I just don't need it anymore. It's my greatest source of anxiety in the house. My blood pressure will drop dramatically once it's gone. Corporate hacks, faux journalists and talkingheads will no longer have access to my living room. It'll be dark and peaceful when I fall asleep on the couch. My electric bill will decrease. No more venturing out in the middle of the night in a driving rainstorm to turn the antenna six inches to switch from NBC to CBS (It's the truth boys and girls: No cable out here in the hollers and I've never been willing to pay for a dish). Nothing but good things can happen from this.

So what happened to cause this revelation? Check it out below the fold.    

There's more...

Weekly Mulch: Would You Eat Bugs to Fight Climate Change?

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Maybe it’s time for environmentalists prioritize do-it-yourself climate fixes instead of looking to politicians. There are all sorts of options, including, for those dedicated enough, switching to an insect-based diet, as Change.org reports.

But in the private sector, inventors, corporations, and small businesses — farmers in particular — are finding more palatable ways to scale down their environmental impact. In short, politicians aren’t the only ones with the power to make high-profile statements and strong choices on climate change.

No solar on the White House

Environmental crusader Bill McKibben had already given up on Congress; now the White House has disappointed, too. McKibben and other leaders in the climate change movement are eschewing lobbying on legislation in favor of pushing for more visible, direct action on climate issues. To that end, McKibben, along with three students, asked the White House last week to reinstall one of Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the roof. The answer was no.

McKibben describes the Obama administration’s response to his request as “uncool…Asked to do something easy and symbolic to rekindle a little of the joy that had turned out so many of us as volunteers for Obama in 2008, they point blank said no,” according to Truthout.

The administration officials that they met with, though, wanted to make sure that the climate activists knew something was being done to improve the country’s environment. They touted the president’s initiative to green the federal government—federal buildings in particular. One official, McKibben says, spoke more than once about a Portland, Ore., building that would soon have a “green curtain,” likely a hanging garden.

It’s not that McKibben disapproved. “Actually, it’s kind of great,” he wrote. “Still, I doubt many people are going to build their own vegetated fins.”

The talking cure

That’s the ultimate question: What will people build on their own? Solar panels could be one answer, although they haven’t quite caught on yet. There are all sorts of technologies, though, that could help us minimize our carbon footprint. Grist’s Ashley Braun checks out one new idea: drawing energy from sound waves:

Using that standby found in sunscreen, zinc oxide, to turn sound waves into electricity, these scientists have heard the bells of success starting to ring in their ears. Similar to other technologies aimed at harvesting energy from walking or dancing, this concept could also turn the roar of traffic into the hum of low-carbon electrons. How sweet the sound of renewable energy.

Scientists are considering using this technology in cell phones, creating, ideally, a device that would never have be plugged in, assuming, of course, that its owner used it frequently enough, and used it as a phone, rather than an e-mail/web-surfing/GPS device.

Go private?

Another option for climate reformers could be focusing on the private sector. Corporations have gotten the message that consumers buy green products, and more are churning out sustainable, climate-friendly offerings.

Care2’s Emily Logan points to Nestle, eBay, and Sunny D as three companies that have heard the green gospel. Nestle is investing in sustainable coffee; eBay is pushing out reusable shipping boxes; and Sunny D, the beverage company, met its zero-waste goal three years ahead of schedule.

“Of course, like most large corporations who are making efforts toward sustainability, some of these companies have a long way to go,” Logan writes. “But giving credit where credit is due is increasingly important when it comes to the environment.”

You are what you eat

The farm sector is one private industry that deserves more scrutiny and pressure. Recall that agriculture interests ran one of the most successful campaigns to be exempted from the cap-and-trade bill, when it was working its way through the House. Even among liberals, the industry has its defenders: local, sustainable agriculture just won’t work to feed the masses, the argument goes.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that we still haven’t seen how large sustainable farms can grow. Take Joel Salatin, the crusading farmer made famous by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin has been running a successful operation, Polyface Farm, for years while relying on organic and sustainable methods. As David E. Gumport reports at Chelsea Green, Salatin’s farm has only grown:

Standing in front of a group of about 50 romping pigs, [Salatin] proudly revealed that Polyface has hit the the $2 million annual sales level, while sticking to Salatin’s policy of not shipping food outside a 100-mile radius. The effect, he says, has been to strengthen local businesses–everything from a local breakfast diner serving visitors to his farm to local feed and supply companies.

Salatin is convinced his methods can be used to feed the entire population. What’s certain is that there is room for more of this sort of growth in the agricultural system.

Here, too, would-be reformers run back into politicians: Salatin’s food safety practices are not exactly FDA-approved, and to reseed his methods elsewhere, the government would need to relax safety standards for smaller, alternatives operations.

But for now, this sort of effort, and others outside of Washington seem to be making the largest impact.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Weekly Mulch: Would You Eat Bugs to Fight Climate Change?

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger

Maybe it’s time for environmentalists prioritize do-it-yourself climate fixes instead of looking to politicians. There are all sorts of options, including, for those dedicated enough, switching to an insect-based diet, as Change.org reports.

But in the private sector, inventors, corporations, and small businesses — farmers in particular — are finding more palatable ways to scale down their environmental impact. In short, politicians aren’t the only ones with the power to make high-profile statements and strong choices on climate change.

No solar on the White House

Environmental crusader Bill McKibben had already given up on Congress; now the White House has disappointed, too. McKibben and other leaders in the climate change movement are eschewing lobbying on legislation in favor of pushing for more visible, direct action on climate issues. To that end, McKibben, along with three students, asked the White House last week to reinstall one of Jimmy Carter’s solar panels on the roof. The answer was no.

McKibben describes the Obama administration’s response to his request as “uncool…Asked to do something easy and symbolic to rekindle a little of the joy that had turned out so many of us as volunteers for Obama in 2008, they point blank said no,” according to Truthout.

The administration officials that they met with, though, wanted to make sure that the climate activists knew something was being done to improve the country’s environment. They touted the president’s initiative to green the federal government—federal buildings in particular. One official, McKibben says, spoke more than once about a Portland, Ore., building that would soon have a “green curtain,” likely a hanging garden.

It’s not that McKibben disapproved. “Actually, it’s kind of great,” he wrote. “Still, I doubt many people are going to build their own vegetated fins.”

The talking cure

That’s the ultimate question: What will people build on their own? Solar panels could be one answer, although they haven’t quite caught on yet. There are all sorts of technologies, though, that could help us minimize our carbon footprint. Grist’s Ashley Braun checks out one new idea: drawing energy from sound waves:

Using that standby found in sunscreen, zinc oxide, to turn sound waves into electricity, these scientists have heard the bells of success starting to ring in their ears. Similar to other technologies aimed at harvesting energy from walking or dancing, this concept could also turn the roar of traffic into the hum of low-carbon electrons. How sweet the sound of renewable energy.

Scientists are considering using this technology in cell phones, creating, ideally, a device that would never have be plugged in, assuming, of course, that its owner used it frequently enough, and used it as a phone, rather than an e-mail/web-surfing/GPS device.

Go private?

Another option for climate reformers could be focusing on the private sector. Corporations have gotten the message that consumers buy green products, and more are churning out sustainable, climate-friendly offerings.

Care2’s Emily Logan points to Nestle, eBay, and Sunny D as three companies that have heard the green gospel. Nestle is investing in sustainable coffee; eBay is pushing out reusable shipping boxes; and Sunny D, the beverage company, met its zero-waste goal three years ahead of schedule.

“Of course, like most large corporations who are making efforts toward sustainability, some of these companies have a long way to go,” Logan writes. “But giving credit where credit is due is increasingly important when it comes to the environment.”

You are what you eat

The farm sector is one private industry that deserves more scrutiny and pressure. Recall that agriculture interests ran one of the most successful campaigns to be exempted from the cap-and-trade bill, when it was working its way through the House. Even among liberals, the industry has its defenders: local, sustainable agriculture just won’t work to feed the masses, the argument goes.

The problem with that line of reasoning is that we still haven’t seen how large sustainable farms can grow. Take Joel Salatin, the crusading farmer made famous by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin has been running a successful operation, Polyface Farm, for years while relying on organic and sustainable methods. As David E. Gumport reports at Chelsea Green, Salatin’s farm has only grown:

Standing in front of a group of about 50 romping pigs, [Salatin] proudly revealed that Polyface has hit the the $2 million annual sales level, while sticking to Salatin’s policy of not shipping food outside a 100-mile radius. The effect, he says, has been to strengthen local businesses–everything from a local breakfast diner serving visitors to his farm to local feed and supply companies.

Salatin is convinced his methods can be used to feed the entire population. What’s certain is that there is room for more of this sort of growth in the agricultural system.

Here, too, would-be reformers run back into politicians: Salatin’s food safety practices are not exactly FDA-approved, and to reseed his methods elsewhere, the government would need to relax safety standards for smaller, alternatives operations.

But for now, this sort of effort, and others outside of Washington seem to be making the largest impact.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment bymembers of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

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