For the workers and drivers of Homegrown, a sustainable sandwich maker based in Seattle, Washington, there have been some shady actions taken by their employer recently. I don’t know about you, but asking for a fair wage one day and getting those driver-facing tattletale cameras the next is awfully mean-spirited, in my opinion.
Another instance of driver-facing cameras being used as punishment
I’ve been to Seattle a few times over my driving career. I had a deal to haul Cummins cooling systems from Port Charleston, South Carolina, to the Kenworth truck plant in Renton, on the southeast side of the city.
You see a lot of smaller van trucks scurrying around the side streets, bringing in fresh food and catering to businesses. Drivers for Homegrown operate mostly short refrigerated box trucks, bringing in loads of meals to the five stores around the city.
Homegrown drivers currently make $16 per hour and recently decided it was time for a raise. They held a unionization vote and the city council sent a letter to CEO Brad Gillis to honor it. The drivers also requested a pay floor of $20 per hour.
What they got in return was a notice of intent to install driver-facing cameras, in the purview of almighty safety concerns. The four-inch-wide, AI-powered overlords would track eye movement, watch for drowsy or distracted driving and listen for text notifications, music or talking to oneself.
Drivers had previously complained about poor, or sometimes illegal, vehicle conditions. No headlights, poor or inoperative brakes and busted tail lights were commonly reported, but not serviced. Again, the company installs overlords instead of fixing trucks. Why, you ask? The driver is held responsible for equipment malfunctions, not the company.
The Hawk is always watching you
The digital overlord in question is the Hawk, a product of Foresight Analytics of Toronto. It is part of a toolkit where they use AI to compare real driver responses to an AI driver and grade the flesh and blood driver on how different they were from the machine.
Another problem is ready access for drivers to see the evidence themselves. The data is in another country, subject to that nation’s laws. And going to Canada is not as simple as driving from Seattle to Tacoma.
I want to personally thank the Seattle Times for running this story. We need more media outlets blowing the whistle on outrageous counterattacks by employers against drivers trying to get honest pay for the work they do.