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Innovative gig for Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow: ‘I hit the lottery’



Mike Krukow was in midseason form. At the yard. Calling others “meat.” Telling anyone within the sound of his voice, “This is awesome.”

Yes, it is.

Saturday was a delightful day for Krukow, a day after it was announced the popular Giants broadcaster got a two-year contract extension and will call 22 road games from NBC Sports Bay Area studio in San Francisco, a creative way for the color commentator to keep partnering with play-by-plan man Duane Kuiper.

“I seriously feel I hit the lottery,” Krukow said, “because I got a big chunk of the season given back to me.”

During Saturday’s FanFest at Oracle Park, the broadcast team was gathered in a perch just outside the right-field foul pole, and fans lined up by the hundreds to meet the announcers and get autographs.

Krukow was the first of the broadcasters to greet fans, and many wanted to know about his new arrangement on the network’s so-called “SplitKast,” which allows Krukow to provide commentary in real time while watching a monitor of the game and maintaining a conversation with Kuiper, who’ll be in the stadium broadcast booth.

In 2014, Krukow made public he has inclusion-body myositis, a progressive muscle disorder that affects the legs, arms, fingers and wrists. He uses a golf cart to get around Oracle Park, where he’ll call all 81 home games this season.

Krukow said this studio idea was broached three years ago by director Jim Lynch and producer Jeff Kuiper, Duane’s kid brother.

“It wasn’t the time,” Krukow said. “This year, when I negotiated with Larry (Baer), it was for 81 games. I walked out of the office, and I just felt like I gave up the deed to my house. I was really bummed out about it.”

A few days later, Krukow got a call from NBC Sports Bay Area and was asked to consider the idea of calling games in the studio when the team is in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix, 22 in all. Those were the cities he traveled to last year.

“I said, ‘Don’t tell me this because you’re going to get me pumped up about this,” Krukow said. “They set it up. They went back to Larry. He OKd it.”

Krukow was explaining his new gig to a reporter and momentarily halted the interview whenever fans approached, one by one.

“Can you sign my purse for me?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”

Asked if he can capture the same vibe as he would at the ballpark when he’s alongside his buddy Kuiper and appreciating the views and gazing into the crowd, Krukow said, “Well, we’re going to make it work. I mean, that’s just the deal. Because the alternative is, we don’t do it. That, to us, is no alternative at all.”

“What’s up, meat? You a ballplayer? You any good? Attaboy. Nice going, left-hander. You raised ’em right, Mom.”

“I’m a grandma.”

“Really? Well, nice to meet you.”

“If you ever watch me do the game, Duane does the game looking out the window at the field …”

“How ya doin’? Happy new year. Enjoy the season.”

“… When I watch the game, I watch a monitor. That’s how I watch a game. So I’m not changing at all.”

“How you doing? Have fun today.”

“So I went over and saw the booth, Duane was there Thursday. It’s doable. They’re going to have a camera on him, and I can cue him. He can look at me when he’s done talking like we always do. I was really impressed with what they did to set this up. It’s the big leagues, man. I sat in this room, and I’m going, ‘We can do this.’ Until that point, I had a little trepidation.”

I’m a die-hard Braves fan. I’ve been watching the Giants for so long because of you.”

“You can’t give me a better compliment than that. Thank you.”

“Sixty-four’s a big number. That’s how many steps there are from my booth to the bathroom. I’m good for one trip.”

“How ya doin’? Welcome.”

“So it’s funny. When we get older, we need this game more than ever. The thing about it …”

“How are you? I like your jacket. Are you a skier or a snowboarder?”

“… I think it’s going to be something you’ll start seeing more teams do. Steve Blass, I’ll never forget when he started doing half the season, quit doing road games. He could’ve kept doing ’em. Marty Brennaman might still be in the game. Hawk Harrelson, he might not have quit. If this works, it’s going to create opportunity for some voices that people just don’t want to see walk out of the booth.

“Good morning. How are ya?”

“So, I mean, I’ve had something taken away, and it got back. How cool is that? The road’s no longer an option. It’s not safe. So I’m looking forward to it.”

“How you doin’? Where y’all from?”

John Shea is The San Francisco Chronicle’s national baseball writer. Email: Twitter: @JohnSheaHey

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‘We need an economy that works for people’: Albanese pushes gig workers reform




Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese met with rideshare drivers as part of his push to give these workers better pay and conditions, spruiking “we need an economy that works for people, not people working for an economy”.

“It’s a fundamental difference of where we are as a society and my view is that customers as well would be prepared to acknowledge it’s just not fair if they knew that people were working sometimes for under $10 an hour without any rights whatsoever,” Mr Albanese said.

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Europe kicks off bid to find a route to ‘better’ gig work – TechCrunch




The European Union has kicked off the first stage of a consultation process involving gig platforms and workers. Regional lawmakers have said they want to improve working conditions for people who provide labor via platforms which EU digital policy chief, Margrethe Vestager, accepted in a speech today can be “poor” and “precarious”.

Yet she also made it clear the Commission’s agenda vis-a-vis the issue of gig work is to find some kind of “balance” between (poor) platform work and, er, good and stable (rights protected) employment.

There’s no detail yet on how exactly regional lawmakers plan to square the circle of giving gig platforms a continued pass on not providing good/stable work — given that their sustainability as businesses (still with only theoretical profits, in many cases) is chain-linked to not shelling out for the full suite of employment rights for the thousands of people they rely upon to be engaged in the sweating toil of delivering their service off the corporate payroll.

But that, presumably, is what the Commission’s consultation process is aimed at figuring out. Baked into the first stage of the process is getting the two sides together to try to hash out what better looks like.

“The platform economy is here to stay — new technologies, new sources of knowledge, new forms of work will shape the world in the years ahead,” said Vestager, segueing into a red-line that there must be no reduction in the rights or the social safety net for platform workers (NB: The word ‘should’ is doing rather a lot of heavy lifting here): “And for all of our work on the digital economy, these new opportunities must not come with different rights. Online just as offline, all people should be protected and allowed to work safely and with dignity.”

“The key issue in our consultations is to find a balance between making the most of the opportunities of the platform economy and ensuring that the social rights of people working in it are the same as in the traditional economy,” she also said, adding: “It is also a matter of a fair competition and level playing field between platforms and traditional companies that have higher labour costs because they are subject to traditional labour laws.”

The Commission’s two-stage consultation process on gig work starts with a consultation of “social partners” on “the need and direction of possible EU action to improve the working conditions in platform work”, as it puts it.

This will be open for at least six weeks. It will involve platforms talking with workers (and/or their representatives) to try to come up with agreement on what ‘better’ looks like in the context of platform working conditions, either to steer the direction of any Commission initiative. Or — else — to kick the legislative can down the road on said initiative if they can come up with stuff they can agree to implement themselves.

The second phase — assuming the “social partners” don’t agree on and implement a way forward themselves — is planned to take place before the summer and will focus on “the content of the initiative”, per Vestager. (Aka: what exactly the EU ends up proposing to square the circle that must be squared.)

The competition component of the gig work conundrum — whereby there’s also the ’employer fairness’ dynamic to consider, given platforms aren’t playing by the same rules as traditional employers so are potentially undercutting rivals who are offering those good and stable jobs — explains why the Commission is launching a competition-focused parallel consultation alongside the social stakeholder chats.

“We will soon start a public consultation on this initiative that has another legal base since it is about competition law and not social policies. This is the reason why we consult differently on the two initiatives,” noted Vestager.

She said this will aim to ensure that EU competition rules “do not stand in the way of collective bargaining for those who need it” — suggesting the Commission is hoping that collective bargaining will form some part of the solution to achieving the sought for (precarious) balance of ‘better’ platform work.

Albeit, a cynical person might predict the end goal of all this solicitation of views will probably be some kind of fudge — that offers the perception of a plug for the platform rights gap without actually disrupting the platform economy which Vestager has sworn is here to say.

Uber for one has scented opportunity in the Commission’s talk of improving “legal clarity” for platforms.

The ride-hailing giant put out a white paper last week in which it lobbied lawmakers to deregulate platform work — pushing for a Prop-22 style outcome in Europe, having succeeded in getting a carve out from tightened employment laws in California.

Expect other platforms to follow with similarly self-serving suggestions aimed at encouraging Europe’s social contract to be retooled at the points where it intersects with their business models. (Last week Uber was accused of intentionally stalling on improving conditions for workers in favor of lobbying for deregulation, for example.)

The start of the Commission’s gig work consultation come hard on heels of a landmark ruling by the UK’s Supreme Court (also last week) — which dismissed Uber’s final appeal against a long running employment tribunal.

The judges cemented the view that the group of drivers who sued Uber had indeed been erroneously classified as ‘self employed’, making Uber liable to pay compensation for the rights it should have been funding all along.

So if the EU ends up offering a lower level of employment rights to platform workers vis-a-vis the (post-brexit) UK that would surely make for some uncomfortable faces in Brussels.

While it may be unrealistic to talk about striking a ‘balance’ in the context of business models that are inherently imbalanced, given they’re based on dodging existing employment regulations and disrupting the usual social playbook for profit, he Commission seems to think that a consultation process and a network of overlapping regulations is the way to rein in the worst excesses of the gig economy/big tech more generally.

In a press release about the consultation, it notes that platform work is “developing rapidly” across various business sectors in the region.

“It can offer increased flexibility, job opportunities and additional revenue, including for people who might find it more difficult to enter the traditional labour market,” it writes, starting with some of the positives that are, pesumably, feeding its desire for a ‘balanced’ outcome.

“However, certain types of platform work are also associated with precarious working conditions, reflected in the lack of transparency and predictability of contractual arrangements, health and safety challenges, and insufficient access to social protection. Additional challenges related to platform work include its cross-border dimension and the issue of algorithmic management.”

It also notes the role of the coronavirus pandemic in both accelerating uptake of platform work and increasing concern about the “vulnerable situation” of gig workers — who may have to choose between earning money and risking their health (and the health of other people) via working and thus potential viral exposure.

The Commission reports that around 11% of the EU workforce (some 24 million people) say they have already provided services through a platform.

Vestager said most of these people “only have platform work as a secondary or a marginal source of income” — but added that some three million people do it as a main job.

And just imagine the cost to gig platforms if those three million people had to be put on the payroll in Europe…

In the bit of her speech leading up to her conclusion that platform work is here to stay, Vestager quoted a recent study she said had indicated that 35% to 55% of consumers say they intend to continue to ask for home delivery more in the future.

“We… see that the platform economy is growing rapidly,” she added. “Worldwide, the online labour platform market has grown by 30% over a period of 2 years. This growth is expected to continue and the number of people working through platforms is expected to become more significant in the years ahead.”

“European values are at the heart of our work to shape Europe’s digital future,” she also went on, taking her cue to point to the smorgasbord of digital regulations in the EU’s pipeline — and perhaps illustrating the concept of an overlapping regulatory net that the Commission intends to straightjacket platform giants into more socially acceptable and fair behavior (though it hasn’t yet).

“Our proposals from December for a Digital Services Act and a Digital Markets Act are meant to protect us as consumers if technology poses a risk to fundamental rights. In April we will follow up on our white paper on Artificial Intelligence from last year and our upcoming proposal will also have the aim to protect us as citizens. The fairness aspect and the integration of European values will also be a driver for our upcoming proposal on a digital tax that we plan to present before summer.

“All these initiatives are part of our ambition to balance the great potential that the digital transformation holds for our societies and economies.”


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London calls for data innovation on gig worker wages and high street revival – Cities Today




London’s £1 million (US$1.42 million) Resilience Fund is now open for applications from businesses. It aims to tap data and technology to solve key challenges identified as central to the city’s recovery from the pandemic.

These include supporting gig economy workers, market traders and people suffering bereavement; advancing smart mobility and renewable energy production; and reducing food insecurity.

The Mayor’s Resilience Fund, delivered in partnership with Nesta and funded by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), will provide grants of up to £50,000 for solutions which boost resiliency.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “The challenges we face as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic affect every area of our lives and the economy. But I know our city is home to a wealth of innovation – and so I have no doubt that many of the solutions we need to drive our recovery will come from right here in the capital.

“This has been a very dark and difficult period for our city and I hope that these funds will bring together the capital’s talent and help build a more resilient city.”

The challenges reflect how the pandemic has prompted a greater appreciation at all government levels of the power of data to address pressing and important problems. The crisis is also reinforcing a shift by many local governments away from a technology-led approach to ‘smart cities’.

As Theo Blackwell, London’s Chief Digital Officer, recently told Cities Today: “We need to start with what problem we need to solve and what the users need, and approach it from there.”

Gig economy

Partner organisations will work with the Greater London Authority to help funding applicants develop their ideas. Each partner is in charge of one of ten challenges.

London is particularly calling for data-driven ideas to tackle issues such as activating vacant properties on high streets (in partnership with Ealing Council’s High Streets Taskforce); helping local businesses access affordable workspace (with Hackney Wick and Fish Island Creative Enterprise Zone); and reducing vulnerable residents’ exposure to air pollution (with Lambeth Council).

In partnership with campaign organisation the Living Wage Foundation, the city is also seeking ideas which use data and technology to facilitate better pay and conditions for gig economy workers.

Laura Gardiner, Director of the Living Wage Foundation, said: “There are around 4.7 million workers in the gig economy and while many enjoy flexible working patterns, millions are trapped in low pay, with around 700,000 earning less than the minimum wage. The pandemic has shown how essential their work is, and the importance of providing them with greater security. One of the biggest challenges is that the nature of this work makes it hard for those in the gig economy to accurately gauge their take-home pay.

“By partnering with workers and innovators through the Resilience Fund, we hope to spur new tools that enable workers and employers to accurately gauge income and expenses on the gig economy platforms they use. This will allow a clearer picture on whether workers are earning the Living Wage, ultimately encouraging more gig employers to achieve this benchmark and so driving pay rises among low-paid gig economy workers.”

Transport and traders

Mobility is a key focus area and London is seeking solutions which use health and travel data to increase public confidence and enable safe re-opening. A challenge with Better Bankside BID and King’s College London will develop ways to make freight journeys more efficient.

Other challenges are improving bereavement support services for communities disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 (in partnership with Thrive LDN); diverting surplus food to community organisations (in partnership with Groundwork London); and using the river to generate renewable energy (in partnership with the Royal Docks Team).

London is also looking for ideas which can support its market traders, working with Hackney Council.

In addition, Khan launched a new Designing London’s Recovery initiative, which is also funded by LEAP and will bring public bodies, charities, businesses, social enterprises and educational institutions together to collaboratively develop new solutions with the Design Council and the London Office of Technology and Innovation (LOTI).

Three specific challenges will be announced soon and will focus on vulnerable residents and those hardest hit by coronavirus. Previous Design Council projects have included addressing issues related to violence in A&E departments, ageing society, and shifting economic needs.

Successful applicants will receive a share of £500,000 as well as support from the Design Council.

Last week, LOTI announced the two successful bids that will share its £150,000 Covid Innovation Fund.

Half the money will go towards a project on using data to better understand digital exclusion and the other half towards a scheme to provide preventative support for vulnerable people affected by the pandemic.

Image: Katie Nesling

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