Everlasting Uncertainty and Agitation
Karl Marx | Biden Should’ve Asked The Surgeon-General | 35-year Childcare Crisis | Unions, Unions, Unions! | Hybrid Work Systems
Quote of the Moment
Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation, distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.
| Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto
Biden Should’ve Asked The Surgeon-General
Vivek Murthy, the Surgeon General of the United States, has released a report that provides a very well-integrated framework for workplace mental health and wellbeing. It’s based on five factors: Protection from Harm, Connection and Community, Work-Life Harmony, Mattering at Work, and Opportunity for Growth. Each factor is linked to two ‘human needs’, such as work-life harmony’s autonomy and flexibility.
This actually goes somewhat deeper than what is conventionally pulled into the discourse about wellbeing, especially the fact that the framework is centered on Worker Voice and Equity.
Apropos of the recent intervention by President Biden and Capitol Hill in the threatened railroad strike — where the federal government compelled the unions to accept a deal that involved no paid sick leave, and allowed capricious scheduling in order to continue operations of immensely profitable railroad companies — perhaps the President should have asked the Surgeon General about the work-life harmony of the railroad workers. After all, the four points under that factor in the framework are these:
Provide more autonomy over how work is done
Make schedules as flexible and predictable as possible
Increase access to paid leave
Respect boundaries between work and non-work time.
But that’s not what happened. At all.
And, oh, by the way, if congress is so quick to mandate labor laws, how about mandating seven days of paid sick leave, nationwide?
35-Year Childcare Crisis
Jessica Grose came across the cover of Cosmo from November 1986 (above) and noticed the When Mother’s Work section included The Shameful Day-Care Crisis. She bought the issue on eBay and discovered that nothing much has changed in 35 years, except we no longer hyphenate daycare.
The article was written by Claudia Bowe, who wrote in part,
Though we live in an avowedly profamily society, one that touts the values of family life above all others, our politicians have done very little to provide this essential family service. In fact, of all the world’s industrialized nations, we’re the most backward in terms of government-provided child care.
Still, every working woman perceives the day-care dilemma as her own problem, because she’s been made to feel that if she ‘chooses’ to work, it’s her responsibility to make arrangements for her children. (The truth is that no one’s doing us a favor by allowing us to work. Without female labor and female paychecks, this country would grind to a halt.)
Grose quotes Bridgid Schulte, who ‘wrote the 2018 version of Bowe’s 1986 article for Slate’:
Unlike in other advanced economies, where child care is paid for by some combination of families, the government, and the private sector, American parents shoulder more than 60 percent of the cost of child care, according to an analysis by the Alliance for Early Childhood Finance. The government covers about 39 percent through subsidies to low-income families — though not nearly enough to cover all eligible children.
And corporations and philanthropies? They provide a scant 1 percent.
Our antediluvian policies — or their lack — around daycare are preposterous, and the idea that fundamentally nothing has changed in 35 years is a travesty.
Working women should create a national association and create a general strike for universal childcare. (Although President Biden might force them back to work…)
Elsewhere: Unions, Unions, Unions
We are witnessing a surge in union activities, not just the Railroad Strike recently averted. Here are some links to good pieces elsewhere on the subject:
Apple violated federal law fighting Atlanta union | Brandon Vigliarolo — Apple has been found to violations of the National Labor Relations Act by ‘holding employees as a captive audience, making intimidating statements and interrogating staff, all of which are violations of NLRA provisions intended to prevent coercion of employees.’ This led to a group in Atlanta abandoning their unionization attempt.
My friend Arvind Dilawar writes in Storm King management refuses to recognize workers’ union, saying ‘Management at the [Hudson Valley] outdoor museum forces workers to petition the National Labor Relations Board for union election.’
In Britain Is Miserable, but Britons Are Fighting Back, Rachel Shabi writes that public sentiment in the UK is strongly opposed to the Conservative government’s plans for a return to Thatcherite austerity:
According to the National Center for Social Research, 52 percent of [UK] people now think there should be more government support, not less. What’s more, fewer people now agree that welfare is too generous and prevents people from standing on their own two feet. After all, it’s hard to blame individuals for financial woes that are so widely shared.
Instead, another narrative is taking hold. In this version, the profound economic pain afflicting Britain is not acceptable or inevitable. Union leaders describe the cost-of-living crisis as a class war, effectively a money-siphoning opportunity for profiteering companies, facilitated by the government. The government’s refusal to countenance raising taxes on the very wealthy — something that, according to Tax Justice UK, an advocacy organization, could raise 37 billion pounds, or $45 billion, a year — in favor of stealth tax increases that hit low- and middle-income people is a case in point.
Abandoned by the government, people are stepping up. The Enough Is Enough campaign, started in August by trade unions, community organizers and legislators from the Labour Party’s left, has signed up 750,000 people and staged packed-out nationwide rallies. The campaign has five key demands: a real pay rise, an end to food poverty, slashed energy bills, decent housing for all and higher taxes on the highest earners. Organizers say they are reaching unlikely corners of the country, including Conservative strongholds, and the campaign is channeling supporters onto picket lines.
The grass-roots group Don’t Pay UK, set up in June, has taken things a step further. Undergirded by hundreds of support groups nationwide, 250,000 people pledged to start a coordinated national payment strike on energy bills on Dec. 1, joining the estimated three million who simply cannot pay their bills. Against criticism that nonpayment would inflict heavy penalties on the most vulnerable, the campaign seeks to provide collective support for people whose individual situations are often terrifying.
I wonder what the equivalent survey results would show in America? How many are in favor of the cutbacks in social programs that the Republican leadership has in mind as they take over the House? I doubt it’s a majority.
Hybrid Work Systems
The always-on-point Lee Bryant makes the case that companies need to move past the ad hoc hybrid work setups they cobbled together during the early days of the pandemic and replace that with more intentional and comprehensive hybrid work systems:
Designing a Hybrid Work System
To design a good hybrid work system is neither difficult nor expensive, but it does requires connected thinking and co-ordination across domains, for example:
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