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Editorial Team
10 Jul 2019

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Mass worker protests are back again and this time in greater fury!

Social media is rebirthing mass protests that were earlier choked up by the system

7 unprecedented strikes in 2017, 20 work stoppages in 2018 and unending grumble ¾  Last time the US workers were this unhappy was in the remote 1940s. They had been singing their sad song and nobody listened. System rather took this discontent for the wailings of pampered child and responded with silent spanking and hush! The US Supreme Court has made it harder for worker groups to fund themselves and restricted them from bringing a class action.

Social Media Shoulder to Cry:

But, system rebukes of yesterday aren’t as prickly as they used to be. Moaners have the soft and cushy social media pillow to dull the blunt. They can hold on to it and cry their hearts out and for sure there is an audience waiting, someone/somewhere:  a pal, a fellow wronged co-worker, a disgruntled human being who wants to blame something somewhere for all the wrongs life has handed over to her, a politically motivated idle bum, a masochist seeking pleasure in the world’s pain or just an idle teenager looking for some conflict-fun punching slangs and emoji’s at random. And together this motley-crew can throw supports or arguments day-in and day-out, 24/7 for weeks and months adding more mass to the towering hunk of global wasted hours. This caterwauling gains pitch and volume until it overgrows the online territory and seeps out in the real world.

The brouhaha gains momentum in the streets and reaches its crescendo. Media picks up the music in it and prepares its quick waltz steps and social work agencies ready up for their jingles. Through the cracks and crevices, this rattle enters corporate glass castles, shakes them to clatter and disturbs the sleep of catnapping corporate ninjas. They open their eyes in a daze, lick their paws and yawn and stretch. Daylight streaming through their skylights. They lazily walk up to their high glass windows to see this Broadway performance that has reached their doorstep.  The sun on their heads reminding them that they have missed most of the ceremony. “Such a shame”. They call their kibitzers to get a recap of the rumpus. That’s when their remote forgotten declaration dawns upon them and they respond in hums and strums “Oh Yes that, Um. Hmm. Is it?”

Discontent Bursting at the Seams:

This scene recaptures recent incidences at Google, McKinsey & Co., Toys R us, Starbucks Corp and many other corporate giants. Under social pressure, Google and McKinsey & Co. had to drop contracts for Government employees, Toys R Us had to give severance package to thousands of laid-off workers and Starbucks had to extend its leave policies. Following up in the line were other companies who were forced to take corrective actions under the growing social influence:

  • In 2014, workers of Market Basket united on Facebook and demanded the company to reinstate the CEO. The CEO was back at his post within a few weeks.
  • Michelle Miller and Jess Kutch, tech-savvy activists with labor background, introduced co-worker.org, a portal that connects employees and equips them with tools to raise their demands.
  • Brandon Wesley, a Publix Super Markets Inc. worker, collected 20,000 signatures for his “Let us wear beards” petition. The supermarket had to reconsider its dress code.
  • Instacart Inc. workers started a campaign against the company’s pay practices. The company had to change its policies.
  • #MeToo campaign brought the downfall of many senior executives.
  • A Banana Republic’s employee post claiming that her manager called her box braids “too urban” and “unprofessional” received 16,000 shares. The manager was terminated after the incidence.
  • Labor union-backed “Fight for $15” pushed 18 states to increases their minimum wages.
  • Buzzfeed employees took to Twitter to ask their company to pay accrued vacation time.

Heading Toward a Bigger Boomerang:

In a survey conducted by Kochan and colleagues, 2 out of 3 workers from a lot of 4000 workers said that they don’t feel heard enough and that they would want to join a union. A Gallup 2018 survey says 36% of Americans have the urge to protest. This fraction is far greater even from the times of the civil rights movement in 1965 when only 10% of Americans wanted to protest.  

In the past decade over 230 new workers’ groups have mushroomed and together they have formed alt.labor. Retail and restaurants workers have been difficult to organize because of their physical disconnect. Social media has emerged as a new bridge for them and now they are raising their voices against long hours and working conditions. Protests like Black lives matter and Women’s march have paved the way for future mass protests. Jess Kutch of co-worker.org says “this is only going to spread... It’s starting in a few parts of the workforce, but in 10 to 20 years it’s going to be the norm for independent digital communities to be present in every major company.”

Is 2019 the year of American workers’ resurrection?

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