As we approach a series of anniversaries relating to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are musing on how much has changed in work, play, and politics over this long and never-ending year. This late-winter Monday, pull up a seat and have a Big Think type of Afternoon Snack with us.
For those who spend a lot of time in public or indoors with other people, NPR has all the tips you need to up your mask game as extra-contagious strains of COVID-19 spread throughout the population.
Today’s a historic day for labor in the US: the first day of the first union election of Amazon workers, in Bessemer, Alabama. Despite Amazon’s attempts to force an in-person union election in a pandemic, the vote will be conducted by mail-in ballot starting today, with vote counting scheduled for March 30. The American Prospect covers the solidarity from unionized workers in other industries that helped make this historic campaign hospital; The Guardian reports on Amazon’s underhanded (but entirely legal and not uncommon) union-busting efforts.
POME fave Anne Helen Petersen — who has been so on fire lately that we seem to share a post of hers almost every week — writes on “the diminishing returns of productivity culture,” which continues to wring more work from us with ever less pay, decades into the age of automation.
For Protean Magazine, C. M. Lewis explains “Why We Strike,” providing clear rundown of both the history of the tactic, and its steady re-emergence as the labor movement in the U.S. grows:
What’s missing from the prevailing conception is that our understanding of the strike lacks a credible discussion of power. The strike itself is of course necessarily an exercise of power within the contest between labor and management. But while striking to secure a bigger raise may reap immediate economic gains, it does less to shift the balance of power. A raise doesn’t make workers more powerful, and once the contract is signed and “labor peace” restored, the fundamental dynamic can remain as it was, even as the union and its supporters celebrate a victory. In short: strikes won’t fundamentally change anything if they’re not informed by a theory of how change occurs.
If you come away from that strike essay thinking, “postal workers and teachers are incredibly badass,” you may be heartened to hear that lawmakers have introduced legislation to do away with the heavily financially burdensome mandate, unique to Postal Service, that the USPS has to fund retirement decades in advance. In less heartening news, EdWeek discusses that in addition to the dangers of burnout in teaching, teachers increasingly face demoralization during the pandemic.
You know who has really got the right idea about work-life balance? This teenager who is managing their depression through horny fanfic. Thanks to Nicole Cliffe for standing up for the kids’ rights to channel their frustration into their AO3 accounts.
Signing off this week with a reminder that if you’re struggling to get things done, you’re not alone (just look at all the people who can relate)! Stay sane and take care of yourselves until next week, POMEs!