The week in work: scheduling, Hollywood, robots, a pony, elephants, and SeaWorld.
An echo chamber takes shape
Coffee and fast food workers in Seattle have moved secure scheduling to the top of the city’s political agenda, so of course the industry lobby groups are getting organized too. The Washington Retail Association is already railing against “the nightmare of restrictive scheduling” and expressing concern that Fox News couldn’t find any business owners to interview about the issue out of concern over “being picketed by zealous people,” which “destroys sales” and could have “a lasting impact on business.” Unremarkably, the Restaurant Association is using the same “restrictive scheduling” terminology.
Fox News never did get an actual business owner (or worker) to sit for an interview, but they still produced at least two different segments over a couple days where business types preached the continued death & destruction of the City of Seattle if such things as 11 hours rest between shifts were passed into law.
Their aim seems a little off though — how else to explain why they landed an editorial in Sunnyside’s newspaper expressing concern about the impact scheduling standards will have when “Westsiders used to these intrusive regulations move to our communities and start work”.
No sleep till Brooklyn
More than 100 movie production workers in New York recently filed class action lawsuits charging that five major studios had stolen wages and enforced inhumane conditions. The plaintiffs report workweeks as long as 120 hours (paid at straight time), and 24-hour workdays with no allowances for rest, no time to get food, and no allowances to use the bathroom anywhere but their cars.
And while #OscarsSoWhite, the employees doing this work for the big movie production houses are overwhelmingly African-American and Latino.
Related: why did George Jetson still have a job pushing buttons, but his maid was replaced with a robot?
It’s worth being suspicious every time you hear about reports that robots are going to steal low-wage jobs. Automation & technology are real and will certainly continue to change the shape of our workplaces, but when professional futurists offer predictions that 83% of workers paid less than $20/hour will lose their jobs to robots, it ought to set off some alarm bells. Partly because of the precision — 83%, eh? And partly because it seems more than a little absurd when the same futurists simultaneously project that the higher a job pays, the lower the chance of being replaced by a robot, all the way down to a 4% chance for workers paid more than $40/hour.
Projections with gradients like these are not actually views on the capacity of computer technology; they’re maps of how much jobs are respected by the economically, culturally, and politically powerful. Because if you look at a workplace from the perspective of anyone who has been paid less than $20/hour for doing actual work while being managed by unending layers of people supervising each other, all paid more than $40/hour, you can see lots of room for automated efficiency there too. Yet somehow nobody can foresee replacing entire HR Departments with Dropcams for monitoring, healthplanfinder.gov for benefits, and an automated forms system for timesheets and compliance. Because if that were to happen, who would be left to hire the futurists?
Wish someone had infiltrated that elephant group instead
Juliette, a pony who is often paid to dress as a unicorn, escaped her home ranch and was tracked by a police helicopter for several hours before being captured. However, despite her taste of freedom, it seems she failed to break loose from the gendered assumptions which inevitably center appearance, identity, and performance: when she was caught, everyone saw fit to comment that her horn remained attached.
A group of Mozambican elephants charged an open Jeep carrying Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who was touring several African nations on a “fact-finding” tour. Upon seeing the Senator’s delegation, the elephants reportedly stuck their trunks in the air, became agitated, and then started to come at him from all sides, as representatives of many other species would have done if presented with a similar opportunity.
And SeaWorld has admitted paying employees to infiltrate animal rights groups campaigning against the for-profit marine mammal prison, and attempting to provoke them into violence with calls to “Burn SeaWorld to the ground and drain the tanks.” BossFeed has no comment on whether or not our apparently random animal uprisings reportage is or is not a project of SeaWorld Enterprises, Inc.