Alexander Sammon

Alexander Sammon is a staff writer at The American Prospect. His email is asammon@prospect.org.

Recent Articles

Uber Goes Back to Basics: Violating the Law

By announcing it would not comply with a California law reclassifying its workers as employees, Uber is returning to the company’s time-honored tradition as a scofflaw.

California’s AB5, a much-anticipated bill that would reclassify gig economy workers as employees, passed both chambers of the legislature yesterday, and arrived on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law. While the price of passing the bill included several short-term exemptions for various occupations, including psychologists and newspaper carriers , notably absent is any exception for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which have expended considerable resources in a drawn-out fight to keep the proposal from passing. Many of the mantras that have sprung up around Uber’s ascent to becoming the largest ridesharing company in the world—“move fast and break things”; “ask for forgiveness, not permission”—have implicitly been in relation to the company’s long-standing dedication to violating the law. Indeed, the company blithely disregarded state and local laws of all types, paying wrist-slapping...

San Francisco Makes a Charge Toward Public Power

The city’s bid to take over PG&E could mark a turning point in restoring a more environmentally and economically just power grid.

Late Monday, California energy provider Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) filed its long-anticipated reorganization and bankruptcy-avoidance plan in U.S Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco. The investor-owned utility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, owing to the expectation of some $30 billion in liabilities for its role in multiple deadly fires spanning 2017 and 2018. The company has until September 29 to formalize its final proposal, which would allow it to continue operating without heading to bankruptcy auction. The plan sets a hard cap of $17.9 billion for claims stemming from a series of record-setting wildfires in the state that the company’s power lines were found to be culpable for. Aside from the dollar amount, which some observers have suggested may be insufficient, there’s the notable absence of any proposed sacrifices from PG&E’s bondholders or shareholders. And if PG&E resolves its bankruptcy hearings by June 2020, it...

The Republican War on the Capital Gains Tax

Faced with few other taxes left to cut, the Trump administration is innovating new ways to make tax revenue from investment income vanish.

On domestic policy matters, Donald Trump campaigned, like “compassionate conservative” George W. Bush before him, as a different kind of Republican. He vowed to spend money to fix U.S. infrastructure, protect Social Security and Medicare, and ditch business conservative orthodoxy on free trade. Also like George W. Bush, Trump has governed like a bog-standard conservative, with only tax cuts and deregulation to show for his first few years. Only one major piece of legislation is likely to get Trump’s signature in his entire first term: the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The effects of those cuts were predictable. According to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy , two-thirds of those cuts have gone to the top 20 percent of earners. The richest 1 percent are currently reaping more benefits than the bottom 60 percent of Americans. By 2025, those tax cuts will balloon to $10.6 trillion, with some $2 trillion flowing to the wealthiest 1 percent of...

The Jobs Really Most Threatened by Machines

It’s not truckers. It’s cashiers.

In August, Amazon opened two more of its Amazon Go cashierless stores—one in San Francisco, the other in New York. The high tech convenience stores, which were first introduced in 2018, represent one of Amazon’s newest campaigns to alter the brick-and-mortar retail experience. To shop at Amazon Go, customers have to scan in with their Amazon Go app simply to enter; once inside, hundreds of cameras and sensors identify products that customers take off the shelves and put into bags. Their Amazon accounts are then docked accordingly based on the merchandise with which they exit the store (a process Amazon has dubbed “ Just Walk Out ” technology). No checkout, no cashiers, no waiting in line. The company has announced plans to unveil a London location in the near future; in the longer term, they’ve set their sights on opening 3,000 such grocery and convenience stores by 2021. So far, there are just 15 of these stores in operation. For a company with such...

A Bill in California Has Split the Democratic Party

A state bill that would reclassify most independent contractors as employees is revealing fractures between Obama-era Democrats and those seeking to lead the party into the future.

Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press Supporters of California’s AB-5 circle the Capitol during a rally in Sacramento on Wednesday. The legislation would require companies like Uber and Lyft to treat their drivers as employees. On Wednesday, a caravan of Lyft and Uber drivers, some 200 in total, arrived on the steps of the state capitol building in Sacramento. It marked the most recent stop in a multiday demonstration that started Tuesday, as drivers have traversed a route from Los Angeles to Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco, then on to the capitol, all in support of AB-5, a bill currently under consideration in the California State Senate. If passed, that bill would reclassify Uber and Lyft drivers as employees, rather than independent contractors, a decision that could have profound and lasting consequences for both drivers and ridesharing companies themselves, along with numerous other companies that use freelancers or independent contractors. For the 220,000 Uber and...

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