Integrity work on social media

Understand "Integrity" Work In Social Media Companies To Make Them Change

Companies like Facebook are causing a lot of harm. Integrity work is the key to addressing it there – and for many other companies as well.

By Sahar Massachi

This is a quick and dirty little post — I tried to explain a theory of integrity to a friend via a series of texts. Wonder what you think of it:

Everyone is asking “how do I understand feeds and algorithms?” Well, luckily we don’t have to start from scratch. How do the companies themselves understand these systems that they created?

They do it through metrics. Every time a change is teed up, it’s tested in a randomized controlled trial. By comparing the changed metrics from control vs the new feature, they get a sense of how well the feature does.

Those changed metrics are the skeleton key to understanding these companies. Each team has their own particular metrics, but the entire company shares a set of top metrics — every experiment in every team is evaluated in regards to those company metrics. Those core metrics matter. The top metrics generally measure two things — growth, and engagement. Let’s simplify for the moment and shorthand it to “growth” for now.

Integrity work on social media
Photo by Mitchel Boot on Unsplash

We can think of the news feed (or twitter feed, or whatever) as being shaped by a *search*. To simplify just a bit, engineers are turning knobs of settings slightly, then checking the output — did growth go up? It’s hill-climbing. Just a slower process of what machine learning is — finding local optima in n-dimensional space. We can think of the entire platform as being shaped by that same search — not just the ranking algorithms but the design choices of features themselves!

The job of an integrity team is to *not* optimize on that metric. In a heavily optimized platform, that means that to do their work well, they’ll almost always have to erode growth somewhat. (Again, it’s not *necessarily* true, but in a world that is heavily optimized, that means that every setting is tuned perfectly to only growth). Imagine that they’re able to successfully fight the internal battles to be able to make the change that moves the company off the top of that hill. Now, every other team is heavily incentivized to roll back those changes and move back up that hill.

It doesn’t have to be conscious — often it isn’t! It’s just that there’s a juicy ability to get lots of growth impact by moving the settings back. They won’t necessarily even know they’re doing it — but it’ll probably happen.

This is why integrity work is so hard — and why organizational design needs to be part of the discussion.

Sahar Massachi is co-founder and executive director of the Integrity Institute.

This article is Cc-by-sa 4.0

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rikers island sign

Hunger Strike At Rikers Island Jail Continues

Prisoners at Rikers Island are protesting unsafe conditions and lack or adequate healthcare especially during the pandemic. Too many have died in custody as violence and lack of services persist.

By Matt Katz, Gothamist

Incarcerated men living in a jail facility on Rikers Island say they are on hunger strike, protesting conditions such as lack of medical care and access to other services that have persisted since last year due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of staffing at city jails.

While the Department of Correction pushed back on the severity of the strike, now in its fifth day, over the past year more than a dozen inmates have died in custody, violence has increased and backlogs in the courts due to the pandemic have kept people behind bars for longer periods.

rikers island sign
Photo by Matt Green

Detainee Ervin Bowins reported that his unit has been denied access to mail and packages, recreation, mental and medical services, and the law library to work on their cases. In a voicemail Bowins left with an attorney, he said these are “mandatory minimum standards for a human being.”

The attorney, Christopher Boyle of the New York County Defender Services, estimated about 200 people at the Robert N. Davoren Center on Rikers Island have not taken meals since Friday at midnight. He said staffing shortages mean fewer services, and the unit where they’re housed is particularly cold during this week.

“Everything is limited to a degree that’s never been seen before,” Boyle said. “And they’ve had enough. They’ve finally said this is what we’re going to do to get some attention.”

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Is Hochul addressing climate change in New York?

New York Gov. Hochul Making Big Climate Promises - Will They Be Kept?

On Wednesday, Governor Hochul outlined several major climate promises in her State of the State address including accelerating offshore wind development, decarbonizing millions of homes and spurring the adoption of electric vehicles throughout the state.

By Mark Armao, Grist

New York’s new Governor, Kathy Hochul, is charting an ambitious course toward reaching the state’s emission-cutting goals. On Wednesday, Governor Hochul outlined several major climate goals in her State of the State address including accelerating offshore wind development, decarbonizing millions of homes and spurring the adoption of electric vehicles throughout the state.

The commitments are intended to help the state meet goals set by the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, or CLCPA, which requires the state to cut its net emissions to zero by 2050. The law also requires that New York generate 70 percent of its electricity through renewable sources by the end of this decade.

Is Hochul addressing climate change in New York?

Building on the state’s investments in offshore wind energy in recent years, Hochul announced a $500 million investment to advance the nascent industry while creating more than 2,000 green jobs. The state plans to procure new wind projects capable of generating at least 2 gigawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.5 million homes. In the coming months, New York will start construction on the state’s first offshore wind project, the South Fork Wind Farm.

“With this investment, New York will lead the nation on offshore wind production, creating green jobs for New Yorkers, and powering our clean energy future,” Hochul said. “We must harness the potential of offshore wind to fuel our economy forward and meet our ambitious climate goals.”

Governor Hochul said she will propose legislation that would require all new buildings to have zero on-site emissions by 2027. If passed, New York would be the first state to enact such legislation, essentially banning the use of gas for heating buildings, which account for more than one-third of the state’s climate pollution.

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Green New Deal

What 2022 Needs Is A Global Green New Deal

The Global Green New Deal can pave the way for the formation of a united left front in 2022.

By C.J. Polychroniou, Common Dreams

2021 was a year marked by destruction, frustration, and perplexity. The pandemic killed more people in 2021 than in 2020, while also deepening inequality and worsening living conditions for poor people across the world; Trump supporters invaded Capitol Hill; the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan; democracy continued to backslide across the world; supply chains faltered;  the global refugee crisis continued with unabated force; and countries kept failing the climate crisis challenge.

2021 also offered us a ray of hope. Neofascist attempts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 presidential election failed; billions of people were vaccinated; activists scored some significant victories for conservation and climate; and Latin America’s politics made a decisive turn to the left.

Green New Deal

What the new year will bring to the world depends on a myriad of action-outcome contingencies that sometimes are even difficult to imagine, let alone predict. However, what we do know is that transformative change requires collective effort. Only through determined, long-term, energetic efforts can we hope to make the world a better place. And that, as far as the vision of the political left is concerned, requires strategic unity, especially on the climate front.

The left remains deeply divided across the world. True, the left has a long history of failing to keep its ranks together, which is not the case with the rightist and reactionary forces. Yet, this is no time to engage in battles over ideological purity. We need a United Left Front. In the age of neoliberalism and global warming, progressive forces need to mobilize behind a shared vision of democracy, equality, justice, security, and sustainability. Issues of race, class, gender and the environment must be structured around the vision of a society beyond capitalism and with an understanding that socialism is about democratic participation, human dignity, and freedom.

To be sure, the challenges ahead are daunting. We have to deal with massive inequality, authoritarianism, systemic racism, widespread environmental destruction, and climate breakdown. Moreover, there is no magic formula for tackling all of these problems simultaneously. But there are good reasons to believe that an effective strategy for dealing with the climate crisis can also tackle economic inequality, racism, and authoritarianism.

The global Green New Deal is a sweeping plan to shift away from dirty fossil fuels towards clean, renewable energy sources. Its implementation requires international cooperation, yet both the know-how and the financial resources are available to create a green economy which will keep the global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. But as if saving the planet is not enough, a global Green New Deal will also create more than 24 million green jobs, according to the International Labour Organization.

study at the renowned Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst found that every $1 million dollars shifted from fossil fuels to green energy results in a net increase of 5 jobs. PERI researchers have also produced specific studies that develop just transition programs, which are absolutely essential for the successful implementation of the green economy project.

A global Green New Deal will not merely expand job training for skilled workers, but will also revitalize the role of trade unions, shrink income inequality and do away with environmental racism since poor air and water quality affect disproportionally racial minorities.

Finally, it is quite conceivable that stronger, fairer economic growth, combined with a just transition, will contain the spread of authoritarianism. People across the world are dissatisfied with the functioning of society and politics in the age of neoliberalism. The social-psychological effects of neoliberalism haven’t yet been widely studied, but they could very well be related to the apparently inexplicable support granted to authoritarian rulers by a large segment of the citizenry across the world.

The climate crisis is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. This fact alone should be sufficient to bring about the formation of a United Front Left in the second year of the third decade of this century. Environmental and labor movements need to join forces by embracing the global Green New Deal. Climate activists need to speak to coal miners because both sides are facing a common challenge: survival.

We have just 12 years to limit a climate catastrophe, according to a much publicized United Nations report.

The global Green New Deal is possible. And it can indeed pave the way for the formation of a United Front Left. After all, we have a world to win.

Violence crime is rising

Public Fear Of Violent Crime Will Sink The Left - Even If Crime Isn't Rising

Progressives need to address violent crime, not just criminal justice. Failure on this front will only strengthen the right wing backlash.

By Sasha Abramsky, The Nation

Last week, my daughter and I masked up and went to the cinema to see Steven Spielberg’s revamped version of West Side Story. The film is pretty good—though the singing, at times, leaves something to be desired. But one part of the plotline struck me as conspicuously quaint: that of the single gun in circulation between the two rival gangs.

The rumble between the Jets and the Sharks is terrifying, and the imagery of clashing gang members in the salt-filled warehouse is dazzling in its intensity, capturing the raw fury, the hatred, and, yes, the fear exhibited by the teenagers squaring off against each other. Spielberg captures the drama first of fists, then of knives, and, finally, of guns—or rather, of a gun.

Violence crime is rising

In 1957, when the classic musical premiered in Washington, D.C., the murder rate in the United States was about 4.5 per 100,000. Data from earlier in the decade showed roughly 8,000 murders in a given year. That was a murder rate of less than half of what it had been in the first few years of the Great Depression, at the culmination of a 20-year upward trend in murders during the period that encompassed World War I, Prohibition, and the vast economic dislocation triggered by the Wall Street crash of 1929.

America’s murder rate rose again from the late 1960s through the early 1990s, peaking in 1993 at 9.5 per 100,000—fairly close to where it was in the years immediately following the economic collapse unleashed in 1929. But by 2012 it had decreased by half, down to 4.5 murders per 100,000 people.

Today, the murder rate is turning sharply upward once more: It is roughly eight per 100,000. The number of people killed per year has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, rising a historically unprecedented 30 percent from 2019 to 2020, and increasing significantly again in 2021. Many major cities are now seeing murder rates that surpass even the darkest, most violent years of the crack wars in the 1980s and early ’90s. On the West Coast—the terrain over which this column wanders—Portland has seen record murder rates in 2021, with more than 80 people killed in the first 10 months of the year. Seattle has also seen sharp increases in gun deaths. In Oakland, the number of murders increased 40 percent in 2020 compared to 2019, and have increased significantly again this year. Statewide, California’s murder rate increased 30 percent in 2020, and has continued its sharp rise through 2021.

In much of the country, murder rates are right back to where they were at the peaks of 90 years ago and, again, 30 years ago.

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The Climate Emergency Demands Immediate Action From Biden

Despite the cold, this coalition of climate activists has been camping all week near President Biden’s home in Delaware. They are demanding he use his executive power to declare a national climate emergency.

By Jon Queally, Common Dreams

A small group of climate activists has established an encampment near President Joe Biden’s private home in Delaware where they are demanding he declare a national climate emergency and immediately order the end to fossil fuel development in the United States.

Establishing the camp on Christmas Day and sleeping overnight in tents or cars on a roadside area not far from the family’s Wilmington residence, the campaigners operating under the “Occupy Biden” banner say if the president truly recognizes that the world is in a “code red” situation when it comes to soaring global temperatures then he must act accordingly.

Photo by: Rae Bailey

“The president has the power to declare a climate emergency, but has not done so,” said Echo Alford, a local resident and member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, in a statement Thursday. “The president knows that we are occupying land right outside his home, but he hasn’t addressed us or our demands.”

Earlier this week, some of the activists invoked the blockbuster film “Don’t Look Up”—currently among the most viewed movies on Netflix and which satirizes humanity’s inaction in the face of the climate threat—to argue that fictionalized version is not far from the what’s really happening:

With Democrats in control of the House, Senate, and White House, added Alford, “they have the power to enact sweeping change to protect our earth and our futures, but they haven’t. I stand in solidarity with this multigenerational working-class movement for environmental justice because this inaction by lawmakers is inexcusable.”

With the Democrat’s signature climate legislation contained in the Build Back Better Act now stalled in Congress, the activists say that grassroots pressure must be intensified to ensure the opportunity to take meaningful action is not lost.

Karen Igou, the small business owner and founder of Extinction Rebellion Delaware who is lead organizer of the encampment, said the stakes are too high for inaction to be accepted. “Our youth are scared, angry, and smart,” Igou said. “They know we could do better and they demand that we do so now. If our government does not do all in their power to stop our climate emergency then, I believe, they are committing genocide on our grandchildren. The scientists have stated our dire situation. The [International Energy Agency] has stated it. And Build Back Fossil Free has a Biden Executive Blue Print that he could be following, but is not.”

The group is planning a New Year’s Day rally on Saturday to lift up their demands.


“I am here, all day and all night, from Christmas morning to New Year’s Day, sleeping in a car, because of what our president said is a worldwide, ‘code red’ emergency situation,” said Ted Glick, a veteran activist whose has written books on the climate crisis. “When it’s ‘code red’ you do things you’ve never done before. I and others here are doing that. President Biden must too, using the powers he was elected to use.”

Christmas Truce, 1914

Memories Of The Christmas Truce, 24-26 December, 1914

This Christmas, spare a moment for everyone trapped by war. Imagine a world where all are at peace.

Compiled by Charles Lenchner

“Dear Mother, I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o’clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a ‘dug-out’ (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench, but frozen elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say. But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench. Oh dear, no! From a German soldier. Yes a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvellous, isn’t it?” (Henry Williamson)

Christmas Truce, 1914

“[I] grabbed my binoculars and looking cautiously over the parapet saw the incredible sight of our soldiers exchanging cigarettes, schnapps and chocolate with the enemy”. (Johannes Niemann)

“The Boches waved a white flag and shouted ‘Kamarades, Kamarades, rendez-vous’. When we didn’t move they came towards us unarmed, led by an officer. Although we are not clean they are disgustingly filthy. I am telling you this but don’t speak of it to anyone. We must not mention it even to other soldiers”. (Gervais Morillon)

“On Christmas Day the Boches made a sign showing they wished to speak to us. They said they didn’t want to shoot. … They were tired of making war, they were married like me, they didn’t have any differences with the French but with the English”. (Gustave Berthier)

“I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything…. I spotted a German officer, some sort of lieutenant I should think, and being a bit of a collector, I intimated to him that I had taken a fancy to some of his buttons…. I brought out my wire clippers and, with a few deft snips, removed a couple of his buttons and put them in my pocket. I then gave him two of mine in exchange…. The last I saw was one of my machine gunners, who was a bit of an amateur hairdresser in civil life, cutting the unnaturally long hair of a docile Boche, who was patiently kneeling on the ground whilst the automatic clippers crept up the back of his neck.” (Bruce Bairnsfather)

“[We] ended up with ‘Auld lang syne’ which we all, English, Scots, Irish, Prussians, Württenbergers, etc, joined in. It was absolutely astounding, and if I had seen it on a cinematograph film I should have sworn that it was faked!” (Edward Hulse)

“I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I’d heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices. But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted ‘Merry Christmas’, even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.” (Alfred Anderson)

“Friday (Christmas Day). We are having the most extraordinary Christmas Day imaginable. A sort of unarranged and quite unauthorized but perfectly understood and scrupulously observed truce exists between us and our friends in front. The funny thing is it only seems to exist in this part of the battle line – on our right and left we can all hear them firing away as cheerfully as ever. The thing started last night – a bitter cold night, with white frost – soon after dusk when the Germans started shouting ‘Merry Christmas, Englishmen’ to us. Of course our fellows shouted back and presently large numbers of both sides had left their trenches, unarmed, and met in the debatable, shot-riddled, no man’s land between the lines. Here the agreement – all on their own – came to be made that we should not fire at each other until after midnight tonight. The men were all fraternizing in the middle (we naturally did not allow them too close to our line) and swapped cigarettes and lies in the utmost good fellowship. Not a shot was fired all night… They [the Germans] are distinctly bored with the war…. In fact, one of them wanted to know what on earth we were doing here fighting them.” The truce in that sector continued into Boxing Day; he commented about the Germans, “The beggars simply disregard all our warnings to get down from off their parapet, so things are at a deadlock. We can’t shoot them in cold blood…. I cannot see how we can get them to return to business.” (Robert Miles, from letters published in the Daily Mail and the Wellington Journal & Shrewsbury News in January 1915, following his death in action on 30 December, 1914)

Joe Biden Manchin and BBB

White House: Manchin Is A Liar

In an unusually sharp statement, the White House claimed that Sen. Manchin is a liar. Political combat is rarely this straightforward.

By Igor Bobic, Huffington Post

The White House accused Sen. Joe Manchin of going back on his word to President Joe Biden after the West Virginia Democrat announced he could not support the Democrats’ proposed social spending and climate bill, the Build Back Better Act.

“Senator Manchin’s comments this morning on FOX are at odds with his discussions this week with the President, with White House staff, and with his own public utterances,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a long, heated statement on Sunday after Manchin publicly announced his opposition to the bill.

Joe Biden Manchin and BBB

Psaki said Manchin had pledged his support for a framework of the bill in person to Biden at the president’s home in Delaware. Manchin on Tuesday also gave Biden an outline for a Build Back Better bill that was the same size and scope as the president’s, she noted.

“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate,” she added. “Just as Senator Manchin reversed his position on Build Back Better this morning, we will continue to press him to see if he will reverse his position yet again, to honor his prior commitments and be true to his word.”

The sharp tone of the statement is unusual. For months, the White House refrained from commenting on negotiations with holdout senators like Manchin. When asked about his repeated gripes about the bill, spokespeople for the Biden administration disagreed politely and offered fact-based arguments rebutting the claims.

It’s unclear whether Manchin’s opposition to the legislation closes off the possibility of some sort of deal on a narrower package, but the knives coming out between the two sides suggests the fate of Build Back Better as it stands now is over.

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visions of the future

Visions Of A Future We Want Will Help Us Get There

We can envision a thousand ways that humanity might destroy itself and the rest of the world, but visions of the future we want remain severely lacking in comparison. Why is that?

By Films For Action

Our present moment is saturated in dystopian, apocalyptic fantasies of the future.

As the late Mark Fisher said, “It’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” We can envision a thousand ways that humanity might destroy itself and the rest of the world, but positive visions of the future remain severely lacking in comparison. Why is that?

visions of the future

The Dark Ages led to the Renaissance. Feudalism led to capitalism. No era remains stagnant forever. But there’s an invisible meme in our culture today that says capitalism is the greatest economic idea humanity has ever invented and it will never be surpassed. That’s why a thousand dystopian visions of the future all imagined that capitalism stayed the same, our economic paradigm never evolved… and then the world was eventually destroyed. Could the two be connected? Is our failure to imagine something better than capitalism going to be what actually leads to “the bad ending” for humanity?

What this points to, in our view, is a crisis of imagination.

Humans at heart are storytellers, and we enact the stories we tell ourselves. As we’ve written before, our culture is enacting a story that’s destroying the world. If humanity is going to unlock “the good ending,” we’ve got to imagine it first. We’ve got to imagine ten thousand localized versions of it. That’s how things change.

Fortunately, visions of a more beautiful, compassionate, regenerative future already exist. But since they’re not being broadcast daily on the evening news, we’ve got to dedicate a little more energy towards broadcasting them ourselves. This is what this list of films is for. These films decided that the apocalypse is canceled. Climate change is canceled. Biodiversity loss is canceled. A comeback of this scale has never been attempted before, but that’s why it’s going to work. Ya dig? The people in these films aren’t listening to the folks that say it’s too late. They’re imagining the future they want, not the future they’re afraid of, and they’re bringing that future into being.

Whether we’re ultimately successful is not the point, and beyond anyone’s ability to truly know. The point is that our true nature calls us to choose determination over defeat, and resilience over despair.

We hope these films inspire the former – that place in your heart that knows a better world *is* possible, and is ready to make it happen.

Bioregional Living: A Permaculture Guide to Food and Energy Independence | Andrew Faust (2020)

Andrew Faust shares his inspiring vision for greater food and energy independence. It’s a guide to feeding and providing power for our local communities in ways that are not just “sustainable” but truly…

The Evolution of Ecological Consciousness | Andrew Faust (2013)

Permaculture designer Andrew Faust gives us an inspiring and heady narrative about the evolution of all life and human consciousness on Mother Earth.

The Economics of Happiness (2011)
Economic globalization has led to a massive expansion in the scale and power of big business and banking. It has also worsened nearly every problem we face: fundamentalism and ethnic conflict; climate chaos and species extinction…

Renewables Can’t Power Capitalism, But They Can Power Ecosocialism
This is a fantastic video essay. Sit back, relax, and enjoy it like a podcast for some serious knowledge gems.

The Sequel: What Will Follow Our Troubled Civilisation? (2020)
Opening with a powerful ‘deep time’ perspective, from the beginning of the Earth to our present moment, BAFTA-winning director Peter Armstrong’s new film recognises the fundamental unsustainability of today’s society and dares to ask…

A Simpler Way: Crisis as Opportunity (2016)
79 min · A Simpler Way follows a community in Australia who came together to explore and demonstrate a simpler way to live in response to global crises. Throughout the year the group built tiny houses, planted veggie gardens, practised simple…

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (2011)
162 min · A feature length documentary by Peter Joseph that presents the case for a needed transition out of the current socioeconomic monetary paradigm which governs the entire world society.

A New Story for Humanity (2016)
102 min · A New Story For Humanity presents a beautifully and sensitively woven tapestry of the rich diversity that is the human family. Featuring interviews on the essential topics of our time: from cosmology to ecology, from ancient wisdom to…

Money & Life (2013)
86 min · Money & Life is a passionate and inspirational essay-style documentary that asks a provocative question: can we see the economic crisis not as a disaster, but as a tremendous opportunity?

Feeding Ourselves (2017)
96 min · Feeding Ourselves weaves intimate stories from the hopes and convictions of rural BC farmers and producers as they navigate undercurrents of uncertainty with our food system. Their commitment to local food culture inspires us to…

Singapore: Biophilic City (2012)
44 min · A whirlwind week in Singapore exploring the amazing story of how Singapore came to be one of the most ‘biophilic’ cities of the world, on the cutting edge of ecocity design and innovation. Did you have any idea? There has been…

Tomorrow: Take Concrete Steps To A Sustainable Future 
120 min · “Without question, this is absolutely the best and most creative film on the future of humanity and the environment”. — Paul Hawken

Within Reach: Journey to Find Sustainable Community (2013) 
87 min · Within Reach explores one couple’s pedal-powered search for a place to call home. Mandy and Ryan gave up their jobs, cars, and traditional houses to ‘bike-pack’ 6500 miles around the USA seeking sustainable community. Rather than…

The Nature of Cities (2010)
40 min · THE NATURE OF CITIES follows the journey of Professor Timothy Beatley as he explores urban projects around the world, representing the new green movement that hopes to move our urban environments beyond sustainability to a regenerative…

In Transition 2.0: A Story of Resilience & Hope in Extraordinary Times (2012)
66 min · This film is an inspirational immersion in the Transition movement, gathering stories from around the world of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. There are stories of communities printing their own money, growing food…

Communities Of Hope: Discovering the Ecovillages of Europe (2020)
29 min · COMMUNITIES OF HOPE is a film born from a quest to discover a regenerative culture.

Inner Climate Change: The Change Starts Within You (2020)
66 min · How do we navigate the intensity of emotions and reactions stirred up by climate change, or COVID-19 for that matter? How do we come to a place of peace, compassion, forgiveness and life-affirming action?

Rundown Apartments Reborn as Food-Forest Coliving Agritopia (2021)
55 min · In 2007, Ole and Maitri Ersson bought the rundown Cabana apartment complex in the city and immediately began to de-pave parking spaces to make space for what today is a huge permaculture coliving space and urban food forest. Today, the…

The Hardest Thing I’ve Ever Loved: Creating a Transformative Culture (2020)
36 min · “The Hardest Thing I´ve ever loved” follows the lives of 5 young explorers through their journey of the 5 weeks Ecovillage Design Education program, which navigates today’s challenges as opportunities to build a regenerative future for all.

Living the Change: Inspiring Stories for a Sustainable Future (2018)
85 min · Living the Change explores solutions to the global crises we face today – solutions any one of us can be part of – through the inspiring stories of people pioneering change in their own lives and in their communities in order to…

The Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy (2018)
105 min · The global economy is in crisis. The exponential exhaustion of natural resources, declining productivity, slow growth, rising unemployment, and steep inequality, forces us to rethink our economic models. Where do we go from here? In…

Beyond Elections: Redefining Democracy in the Americas (2008)
95 min · From Venezuela’s Communal Councils, to Brazil’s Participatory Budgeting; from Constitutional Assemblies to grassroots movements, recuperated factories to cooperatives across the hemisphere — this documentary is a journey, which takes…

What’s a Colloquium? An Oral History of the Natural Building Movement (2020)
76 min · A small band of natural building enthusiasts and outlaws met in a field over 20 years ago at something they called a ‘colloquium’. The movement they created has grown uncontrollably ever since; reviving and innovating ancient building…

India’s Healing Forests: Come Home, Be Healed (2019)
51 min · All our knowledge comes from nature and yet nature is a source of many mysteries.

A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil (2006)
51 min · Cities should be a solution not a problem for human beings. The city of Curitiba has demonstrated for the past 40 years how to transform problems into cost-effective solutions that can be applied in most cities around the world. A…

Prout: Economic Democracy in Practice (2004)
30 min · Economics of Prout covers the basic economic principles of Prout, which offers a viable alternative to the materialistic, anti human philosophies of Capitalism and Communism.

Fantastic Fungi (2019)
80 min · This is the film of the century! – Films For Action When so many are struggling for connection, inspiration and hope, Fantastic Fungi brings us together as interconnected creators of our world. Fantastic Fungi, directed by Louie…

70 years ago Costa Rica abolished its army and committed itself to fostering a peaceful society. It has been reaping the benefits ever since.

This work is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Starbucks: workers rising

Starbucks Workers Have a Billionaire On The Defensive

The current Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, last year took home 1,211 times more compensation than the company’s most typical employee, a part-time barista annually making $12,113.

By Sam Pizzigati,

The cream always rises to the top. Howard Schultz must love this folk maxim. And well he should. Understanding the ways of cream has helped make Schultz — the two-time former CEO and current chairman emeritus of Starbucks — a billionaire almost five times over.

That classic folk wisdom about cream has another attraction for a billionaire like Schultz. The maxim, metaphorically speaking, neatly serves to help justify all his billions. Why shouldn’t Howard Schultz be sitting way up high and pretty? In business as in beverages, after all, the cream just naturally rises.

Starbucks: workers rising

Starbucks baristas in the upstate New York city of Buffalo might beg to differ. Cream does rise, they understand. But that rising cream never achieves actual separation — physical distance — from the rest of a beverage. Schultz and his fellow Starbucks movers and shakers, on the other hand, have achieved that physical separation. The enormous wealth they’ve extracted out of Starbucks has shifted them into an entirely different sphere of human existence.

The current Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, last year took home 1,211 times more compensation than the company’s most typical employee, a part-time barista annually making $12,113. In effect, Johnson “earned” more in compensation before his first morning coffee break of 2020 than the most typical Starbucks employee made from an entire 12 months of labor.

And the $14.7 million Johnson pocketed in 2020 pales against the rewards his executive predecessor Howard Schultz spent his years at the Starbucks summit collecting. Over the course of his second stint as the company’s CEO, between 2008 and 2017, Schultz realized $553.3 million in compensation, an average $61.5 million annually over the nine years. A typical Starbucks barista would have to work for 50 centuries to earn that $61.5 million.

The baristas of Buffalo have a better idea. At three Starbucks outlets in the Buffalo area, they’ve been organizing to become “the first corporate-owned Starbucks in the country to unionize.”

The about 100 employees at these three Buffalo Starbucks locations have been voting by mail on the union bid. The National Labor Relations Board will be tallying their ballots next week, on December 9.

Starbucks management, to no one’s surprise, has been pressing those employees to vote “no” on union representation, mixing a variety of intimidating approaches. Managers in Buffalo, says Jaz Brisack of Starbucks Workers United, “are singling out people that they think are going to vote no or undecided, threatening them, telling them that they could lose everything if they vote for the union.”

Starbucks has also been carpet-bombing Buffalo with global Starbucks luminaries. On the first Saturday in November, Starbucks even shut down all its Buffalo storefronts early and paid workers to attend a two-hour gala at the local Hyatt Regency hotel that featured the legendary coffee king Howard Schultz himself.

Starbucks didn’t let the news media into the event, but company flacks did circulate afterwards a letter about the get-together that Schultz sent to all his Buffalo “partners,” the standard Starbucks-speak label for employees.

“What the leadership team has done in Buffalo is what we have always done,” the Schultz letter intoned. “We listen. We learn. We get better together. No partner has ever needed to have a representative seek to obtain things we all have as partners at Starbucks. And I am saddened and concerned to hear anyone thinks that is needed now.”

Starbucks will continue to be, Schultz pledged, a “for-profit company imbued with love, social conscience and shared success based on shared responsibility.”

But the Starbucks corporate commitment to sharing success remains as tepid as ever, as the company’s CEO Johnson made plain last month as he detailed his upcoming wage plans in a quarterly earnings conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Starbucks is currently paying an average hourly wage of $14 an hour, significantly below the $15 minimum wage the national “Fight for $15” campaign has been seeking for almost a decade. Schultz and Starbucks have been opposing this campaign all along, but, with the current national labor shortage, the company has now started talking higher wages. Starbucks CEO Johnson announced in his earnings call that Starbucks now intends to up its average hourly pay to $17 by next summer.  The total increase in wages and benefits would add up to about $1 billion for the company’s 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.

How big a chunk of Starbucks treasure does that $1 billion represent? Starbucks registered a $20.3-billion gross profit over the 12 pandemic months that ended this past September 30.

“Shared success” at Starbucks appears quite a ways off. Next week’s vote count in Buffalo could begin rewriting that timetable.

Sam Pizzigati co-edits His latest books include The Case for a Maximum Wage and The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900-1970. Follow him at @Too_Much_Online. This article reproduced under a Creative Commons 3.0 license.