5 Actions You Can Take RIGHT NOW to Advocate for a Better Workplace
A recent conversation with a friend reminded me how important it is to emphasize that remote work alone won't save us from the problems of capitalism. Remote work isn't going to curtail our society's insistence that our value is determined by our productivity. Remote work certainly isn't going to convince all employers to pay a living wage to their employees. Remote work won't automatically gain us more free time or a reduced work week. Remote work won't even guarantee that you get more time with your loved ones if we don't do it right.
Indeed, a spate of recent articles have pointed out that remote work can actually make these problems worse! Employers feel justified in paying their employees less. Remote workers feel pressure to prove that they are productive at home and thus put in more hours than they would in an office. Remote workers bring work on vacation or have to attend meetings in the early morning or late evening.
None of these problems are new, and advocates for and against remote work have been calling attention to them for a long time.
Remote work, especially in our current pandemic-driven context is not in and of itself a solution. It's a portal. One entryway that could lead us to a different workplace structure and workplace culture. But if we don't demand a better workplace, the portal could just as easily lead to an even worse workplace system than the one we've already created.
As I've said here before, making remote work work for us is going to take an organized and diffuse effort by workers, a labor struggle. We need to demand realistic work hours, restrictions on surveillance, benefits (or better yet, universal healthcare), and living wages for all workers, not just salaried or white collar workers.
This means that not only do we need to dream of a healthier future, but we also need to take concrete action to ensure that we access the portal--and do it in a way that will leave us in a better situation that our current one. In the spirit of immediate action, here are 5 ways you can demand workplace changes, today:
Send a letter to your representatives, asking them to support the Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (FAMILY Act), which would guarantee all workers, including part-time or self-employed workers, partial wages when they need time off for family or medical reasons (birth of new baby, caretaking responsibilities, illness).
Support a workplace justice organization in your region, or a national organization. If you're in Texas, consider giving to Workers Defense Project. Note the contributing at a local or regional level is always a good idea since these groups receive less funding than national organization and often target issues that can have a direct impact on your community.
Sign the Jobs with Justice Pledge, and commit to supporting workers across the country.
Commit to mentioning caretaking or self-care responsibilities at least twice per week at your workplace. The sooner we can normalize caretaking as an important priority, one that is (dare I say) more important than workplace productivity, the better.