Working to live

We’re all working to live.

I complained about my job already¹ (and I have an update — the huge, evil tech giant rejected me), but whenever I’m unhappy with work, I think about the advice I constantly see from Social Democrats who claim “mutual aid is a waste of time, we should be organizing workplaces instead.”

Obviously this is a false dilemma, but it underscores how inexperienced most people are with workplace organizing. It is HARD. Based on my experience, you’re more likely to help your friend get elected to a major political office than you are to successfully win a union and negotiate a contract.

“Organizing” tech workers is harder still. Any one of us is going to have a much easier time leaving a bad job for another (hopefully less bad) one than successfully challenging the bosses for power. The terrain is so different than the classic “shop floor” situation, so there’s no template to follow. Nobody knows where to start.

It is heartening to see that workers at some of the huge, evil tech giants are getting organized enough to stage walkouts and occasionally cause the bosses to reverse a decision², but as far as I’m aware we haven’t seen tech workers change their material conditions or fundamentally tip the balance of power.

Power is what’s at stake here. The workers I’ve been talking to are hesitant to make commitments because we’re well-paid, but they’re also completely miserable because they have little control over a big part of their lives. Together we have the power to take back that control.

¹ Fighting burnout
² How the Google walkout transformed tech workers into activists