While the media contends with a wave of Americans leaving their jobs — often describing the phenomenon in irritating, tone-deaf tweets — millions continue to work at the jobs they’ve had for years. The Great Resignation has passed by those happy in their positions and well-treated by their employers (shout-out to mine), but probably more are riding out the pandemic with the best available gig, even if it means suffering incompetent management, hazardous conditions, low pay and long shifts. Applauding their labor or labeling them “essential” isn’t good enough: They deserve a break. The good news is that you can personally give them the slack they need.
This is what solidarity looks like. Not just one photo of a tire with a nail embedded in it, but an entire thread of cars rendered temporarily inoperable. Pick one that could pass for your own vehicle, send it to your boss and they’ll have to accept that you’re not making it in on time.
As COVID continues to ravage the U.S. with the government unwilling to impose the kind of restrictions we saw at the beginning of the outbreak, calls for a general strike have grown louder among a growing trend of unionization and other types of labor activism. There is a sense that workers finally have some leverage in the market, with businesses understaffed and finding that the usual benefits won’t draw applicants. It would be nice to see the entire country mobilize to hold feckless political leadership to account, but until that happens, crowdsourcing excuses for skipping work is an appealing strategy for chipping away at the rickety foundation of capital. And if you don’t commute by car, then you can fake a medical emergency. Go big and stay home.
Or maybe you don’t want the hassle of faking an injury or illness. In that case, get on Twitter to search phrases like “my apartment flooded” or “our ceiling collapsed.” People always share images of the destruction from this sort of catastrophe, and I’m sure they won’t mind you borrowing the pics to avoid another double at the restaurant. This should cover the work-from-home gang as well — can’t get anything done in an unsafe room with a waterlogged laptop. A sneakier solution, however, is sending proof of an internet outage in your area:
Absolutely inspiring to see ordinary citizens band together this way, reclaiming whatever it is their jobs have deprived them of — sleep, leisure, decent health, hours with partners and families. The freedom to take a stroll in the park or read a book or have lunch with a friend you haven’t seen in forever. Could asserting our autonomy this way push us toward a society that guarantees a better quality of life rather than forcing us to steal it? Couldn’t hurt.
At the very least, it might further weaken the illusion of control that bosses wield over subordinates. Progressive change in labor norms always begins with the masses recognizing their power. It’s poetic that we’d engineer this epiphany during moments when we felt totally helpless.