VideoApril 22 2020

Labor, Tech, and Now

Network Power Hour

How is the COVID-19 shutdown impacting workers and organizing in the technology industry? Guest speakers Wendy Liu (author of the new book Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology from Capitalism) and Meredith Whittaker (Google walkout organizer and co-director and co-founder of AI Now) discuss labor and tech practices in a time of crisis with Data & Society economist and postdoctoral scholar Brian Callaci. In addition to describing the structural factors of the economy that gave rise to Silicon Valley as we know it, Liu’s book proposes a more radical way of developing technology, where innovation is conducted for the benefit of society at large rather than to enrich a select few. Pre-order a copy here.

Topics discussed:

  • What is the relationship between outsourcing supply chains and Silicon Valley, both historically and in the current pandemic?

  • How do charismatic (and often hubristic) CEOs influence policy and perspectives? How are industry leaders reacting to the rapidly shifting the balance between labor and management, including the stakes of even going to work in person?

  • How does one organize tech workers and build solidarity between programmers, low-wage workers, and other stakeholders in new technologies? Why does the misclassification of workers matter?

About the Speakers

Wendy Liu is a software engineer and startup founder who left the tech industry to pursue a master’s degree in inequality from the London School of Economics. Her debut book, Abolish Silicon Valley: How to Liberate Technology from Capitalism, is a memoir and a manifesto about the tech industry She has written about technology and politics for Logic Magazine, Dissent, and Tribune, and has been featured in articles on tech worker organising for The Atlantic and CNBC. Twitter: @dellsystem

Meredith Whittaker is a Distinguished Research Scientist at New York University, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the AI Now Institute, and a core organizer of the Google Walkouts. She founded Google’s Open Research group and co-founded the M-Lab. She worked at Google for 13 years, and resigned in July 2019. Twitter: @mer__edith

Brian Callaci is a postdoctoral scholar at Data & Society and an economist researching how business firms pursue innovations in law and technology to change the boundaries of the firm under vertical dis-integration strategies, such as franchising and subcontracting, and how these often leave workers, small businesses, and other stakeholders outside the walls of the firm that controls their economic lives, unable to participate in its decisions or demand shares of its profits. Brian received his PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2019. Prior to his graduate work in economics, he worked as a researcher for labor unions including UNITE HERE, Workers United, and Change to Win. Twitter: @brian_callaci


Shared Resources

From Data & Society:


Meredith Whittaker | AI Now Institute:




Wendy Liu | Abolish Silicon Valley:


Silicon Valley, labor, and the pandemic:

Connected Track