Doreen Ford worked in retail stores in the Boston area for 10 years and hated it.
So in 2017, when Ford’s grandmother suggested that she give up her traditional job altogether and use her love of dogs to get over it, she went for it. Ford walks part-time with dogs, but has not held a traditional job since then, saying she has never been happier.
“Usually, at best, [working was] pointless, ”said Ford, 30,“ and in the worst case, it was humiliating, humiliating and exploitative ”.
Ford is an early pioneer of the “counter-work” movement, which encourages followers to work as little as possible in traditional works or to abandon them altogether for self-employment, with the aim of prioritizing leisure time.
She is also a moderator of r / antiwork, the influential thread on the internet forum Reddit. Its membership has risen from 180,000 in October 2020 to 1.6 million this month, as the coronavirus crisis has led many to reevaluate their careers.
Large numbers of Americans resigned last year, including 4.5 m in November, the Department of Labor reported Tuesday. This was the highest “stop rate” since the department began tracking it in 2001. Data shows that many workers probably left their work after receiving better offers.
But the labor force participation rate has fallen below pre-pandemic levels, indicating that some workers still have not returned to the labor force, despite record jobs. Many may be concentrating on their care responsibilities, or are afraid to take on Covid-19. But it seems some at least during the pandemic became disillusioned with conventional jobs, like Ford.
Their numbers are sufficient to warn Goldman Sachs in a November research note that the anti-labor movement poses a “long-term risk” to labor force participation.
“I think there are a lot of positions that just do not make sense, that do not have to exist,” Ford said. “You just push papers around without good reason. It really does not help anyone. “
“Leaders”, as members of the anti-labor movement call themselves, largely believe that people should strive to work for themselves as little as possible and preferably. Many who have stopped working say they run their own micro-businesses, such as Ford, or work as few hours as possible in part-time jobs to survive. Some adopt roommates or strip garbage cans for food to reduce their cost of living, according to Ford.
The anti-labor movement traces its ideology back to Marxist texts which suggest that humanity can evolve beyond the requirement to work for a living. A parallel has emerged in the popular “lying flat” trend among Chinese millennials, where they renounce ambitious careers in favor of simpler, less materialistic lives.
Antiwork first appeared on Reddit in 2013. A survey of nearly 1,600 members of the “subreddit” administered by its moderators found that they were very masculine and based in North America. Half of the respondents say they still have full-time jobs.
The subreddit is filled with stories that, according to workers, prove that their bosses do not care about them.
One poster, going through amethysttt07, quoted the case of a promised wage increase that instead went to an employee without explanation: “Unfortunately we are just a friendly reminder, we are all disposable and can in an instant be replaced. Even if you try your best and slave away for hours, it will not bear fruit. ”
Another tried to work from home while infected with Covid-19, but “[playing] video games 85 percent of the time ”. “Boss makes a dollar, I make a cent. That’s why I fuck around at company time baby, ”Brotendo88 wrote.
But his most celebrated postings are screenshots of resignation letters and text messages. They were so popular that moderators limited their publication to Sundays.
“We may think there may be an alternative to forcing our lives for the richest among us, to serve their profits,” said historian Benjamin Hunnicutt, a professor at the University of Iowa whose books on the history of work appears in r / antiwork’s. library. “Maybe there are other things to do with our lives than picking up profits for those who are ultra-rich, and taking that time and claiming that time back.”
Economists say that it is almost impossible to measure how changing attitudes about work have played out in labor market trends, but that cultural shifts may help explain some of the market’s peculiarities. Employers from Tyson Foods to FedEx complain that despite higher wages, they can not get enough workers.
At the same time, a golf of strikes last fall has led many workers to put pressure on their employers for better benefits after years of stagnant wages and fears of health risks added to their jobs during the pandemic. “Leidelaars” even got involved in some of those labor actions and submitted thousands of false applications to a rental website set up by Kellogg’s to replace striking workers at its grain plants.
With his activism, r / antiwork got comparisons with another productive Reddit sub-thread, WallStreet Bets. Last year, retailers pushed up the prices of “meme shares,” such as the beleagured video game retailer GameStop and cinema chain AMC in a coordinated effort to penalize hedge funds shorting those shares.
“Most of us are just normal people,” Ford said. “We have works we do not like, which is the whole point of why we are in the movement to begin with.”