Pluralistic: 27 May 2021

Today's links

1912 IWW placard advocating for an eight-hour work-day: 'All will have work. Wages will go up. Short hours. Long wages. Eight hours work. IWW.'

Workers want real jobs (permalink)

"Saying the quiet part out loud," is a cliche, but like so many shopworn phrases, it has its roots in real truths that bear repetition.

Back in 2017, a bunch of Wall Street bros shouted the quiet part out loud.

The occasion was an American Airlines earnings call in which management revealed that the company had recorded solid profits and was going to use some of them to bring pilots and flight-attendants wages up to parity with Delta and United.

Wall Street lost its shit. The iconic example was Citi analyst Kevin Crissey, who whined:

"This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again."

Wall Street agreed with Crissey. AA's share price plummeted.

Crissey was voicing a fundamental truth:

Irrespective of how much profit a company makes, the investors' earnings go up when the workers' earnings go down.

Now, it's true that happy, secure workers can be more productive and secure higher profits, but that doesn't automatically mean that paying higher wages will make more money for shareholders.

If the additional sums needed to make workers happy and secure swallow the excess profits that security generates, then investors are better off with miserable, scared, unproductive workers.

Not only that: if the investors' position is short-term, looking for the highest yield over a single quarter or even less, the fact that higher wages will lead to long-term advantages, like worker retention and productivity, is irrelevant to the investors' interests.

That's the quiet part: between workers and investors, there's a zero-sum game. Forty years of anti-labor policies (undermining unions, workplace protections) culminating in the "gig economy" all-out assault on the idea of employment itself have papered over this core truth.

While gig economy companies were spending $200m in deceptive scare-ads to pass California's Prop 22 – which formalized worker misclassification, allowing bosses to fire employees and re-hire them as union-ineligible "independent contractors" – they insisted this was good for workers.

"Worker flexibility" has been the rallying cry of the shareholder class for decades – even as they maximized employer flexibility and bound workers in legal and economic shackles.

The number one source of noncompete agreements in America today is fast-food chains – where a sub-starvation minimum-wage (or tipped minimum) job is likely to come with a legal prohibition on taking a better job in the industry for three years after you quit this one.

Thus bound over to their employers, workers were subjected to zero-hours contracting terms, where you are not guaranteed any shifts in a given week, but must take all shifts you are offered.

If you're scheduled for a graveyard shift until 3AM and then a morning shift the next day that starts at 6AM, you have two choices – take the double-shift or look for work elsewhere (just not in the same industry).

This "flexibility" transfers all the value from the employees' side of the ledger to the bosses'. Bosses get to schedule based on demand, or in order to ensure that workers don't cross the weekly hours threshold that would entitle them to benefits.

Workers, meanwhile, can't schedule another job, or childcare, or continuing education. There's a tiny minority of legit freelancers (including me) for whom contract work is genuinely beneficial – but almost every "independent contractor" is actually a misclassified employee.

A new McKinsney-Ipsos poll shows up the myth of the happy, flexible contract worker. 62% of gig workers overall want real jobs – that number rises sharply for PoCs in gig jobs: for immigrant workers, the figure is 76%.

As striking as that figure is, it is even more significant when places alongside another finding: 70% of employers want to fire their workers and replace them with part-timers, temps and gig workers.

Employers have always been comfortable with waging class war – they just don't like to talk about it.

The poll found that most Americans have a poor economic outlook and half of US workers are "on the brink of financial ruin."

Despite neoliberal rhetoric, a firm that replaces jobs with gig/contract/temp roles is not engaged in "job creation."

That is literal job destruction – turning "jobs" into precarious, sub-starvation contracts with no rights or protections.

Workers do want "flexibility" – like protection from noncompetes (the flexibility to take a better job), from arbitration waivers (the flexibility to sue your abusive boss).

Workers want protection from arbitrary shift assignments (the flexibility to plan your family and other work and life activities), universal health care, child care and sick leave (the flexibility to take care of your health without losing your job and home).

Flexibility is great, but like wages, it's zero-sum. The more flexibility workers have, the less flexibility their employers have. Giving workers flexibility means depriving employers of the flexibility to abuse, underpay and fire those workers.

Workers are wise to that fact. The quiet part has been said out loud, forcefully and for a long time. campaign graphic: 'May 27. National Day of Action. Stop the gov't from blocking websites. #NoSiteBlocking.

Canadians! #NoSiteBlocking (permalink)

Canada's Bill C-10 is a federal regulation of Canadians' online expression, from podcasts, social media and blogs to other user-generated content.

Despite claims from the ruling Liberals that opposition to this bill is Tory partisanship, this is a universal issue.

As always, Michael Geist has had the best analysis of how C-10 goes well beyond the government's claims of modest and sensible rules of the road, instead empowering the CRTC to order blocks and takedowns of otherwise legal content.

Here's Geist on why the bill does not pass muster with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms:

On why it covers user-generated content:

On the true scope of the bill, including "News Sites, Podcast and Workout Apps, Adult Websites, Audiobooks, and Sports Streamers."

On the inevitability of site-blocking under C-10:

On the incompatibility of C-10 with Net Neutrality:

and on the bad faith, Trumpian cries of "fake news" by the Liberal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.

Contrary to M Guibeault's smears, opposition to C-10 isn't a Tory conspiracy. I have never carried water for the Tories – I've rung doorbells to campaign against them federally, provincially, municipally, and internationally, when I lived in the UK.

The Liberals' track record on internet regulation is terrible (remember Sam Bulte's jeremiad against "user-rights zealots"?), but the Tories are even worse. Long before Tony Clement was caught sending pictures of his junk to random women, he was ramming through Canada's DMCA.

Indeed, it's precisely because I know how Stephen Harper would have weaponised C-10 that I want it staked through the heart.

(And if you think Harper's C-10 would be bad, imagine PM Doug Ford wielding it – or PM Faith Goldy)

The Heritage Ministry is accepting comments on C-10 until May 31. Today is the #NoSiteBlocking national day of action, organised by

They've got a page of bilingual resources for filing your comments:

Bill C-10 is a gift to Canada's outrageous telecoms monopolies: Bell, Shaw and Rogers. Canada has spent decades treating telecoms and internet laws as political conveniences, ignoring the digital divide, monopolism and the consequences of mass surveillance.

It's time the country treated the care, maintenance and growth of its digital nervous system with the gravitas and public interest it warrants – even if that means slight reductions in profits to the monopolists who have served Canadians so poorly.

This day in history (permalink)

#10yrsago Bernie Sanders introduces anti-pharma-patent bill, aims to replace drug monopolies with prizes

#5yrsago Wealthy families are most responsible for American wealth segregation

#5yrsago Wells Fargo, who preyed on black borrowers, sponsors Black Lives Matter luncheon

#5yrsago Scott Walker, saddled with $1.2m debt from failed presidential bid, pawns his own donors

#5yrsago US trade rep threatens Colombia’s peace process over legal plan to offer cheap leukemia meds

#5yrsago Security researcher discovers glaring problem with patient data system, FBI stages armed dawn raid

#1yrago Ammosexuals point their guns at their crotches

#1yrago West Virginia's governor Jim Justice: billionaire, deadbeat

#1yrago Hertz's bankruptcy was caused by private equity looting

#1yrago Facebook shelved research that showed they were sowing division

#1yrago Youtube is automatically blocking criticism of the Chinese Communist Party

Colophon (permalink)

Today's top sources:

Currently writing:

  • Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. Yesterday's progress: 385 words (2813 words total).

  • A short story about consumer data co-ops. PLANNING

  • A Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. PLANNING

  • A nonfiction book about excessive buyer-power in the arts, co-written with Rebecca Giblin, "The Shakedown." FINAL EDITS

  • A post-GND utopian novel, "The Lost Cause." FINISHED

  • A cyberpunk noir thriller novel, "Red Team Blues." FINISHED

Currently reading: Analogia by George Dyson.

Latest podcast: How To Destroy Surveillance Capitalism (Part 06)
Upcoming appearances:

Recent appearances:

Latest book:

Upcoming books:

  • The Shakedown, with Rebecca Giblin, nonfiction/business/politics, Beacon Press 2022

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