My friend Dan told me a funny story a few weeks ago. Years ago, he was working at a newspaper. Not a capital N newspaper, but an alternate weekly. The kind that told you what shows to go see that week, kept an eye on the local art house film scene, and told you where to get a good massage. For reasons Dan didn’t go into, and I didn’t ask, the newsroom decided to unionize. Here’s the thing you gotta understand about the people who work at alternate weekly newsrooms: they’re young, they tend to be on the liberal side of things, they probably don’t have a lot of money (Except Brad, who has a trust fund. We hate Brad. But we let him pay for things.), they have opinions about Yo La Tengo albums, they don’t have 5 year plans, and they’re probably holding a little weed.
The gang decided to call a union organizer, who told them where to meet him for a chat. That meeting ended up being at a cop bar, which made the gang nervous. And when the union organizer saw how young they were he decided to break the ice with “I guess I’m not gonna sell you guys on the 401k plan.” That was pretty much the end of the union organizing, according to Dan.
Know your audience.
Here’s the thing. We’re gonna have to learn how to talk to these people, and they’re gonna have to learn how to talk to us. I have a feeling our futures are about to get intertwined.
So I decided to make a thing. A guide for talking to each other. Remember those two-in-one books you had when you were a kid? They had two covers and were split down the middle and if you flipped it you’d get the other book? There had to be a name for those, right? That’s what I’m making. How To Talk To a Union Organizer flip How to Talk to Tech People. It’ll probably be a little Scout Book sized thing.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for the booklet. Because I’ve already written (part of) the first part! And it was published on Modus this morning as part of my Dear Designer column. Have a look. Oh, and they let me publish this piece outside the paywall. So props to them.
Here’s the TL;DR: forming a union can be a pain in the ass, but not as big a pain in the ass as you might think. And it’s easier than dealing with the dread of feeling helpless at work. Trust me on that.
The next column will be about how union organizers can learn to talk to tech people.
Why is this important, Mike?
Good question. Because the tech giants are doubling down on being assholes. The shit that might’ve happened accidentally in 2016 (I’m being generous), will be happening on purpose in 2020. And we’ll be the ones who have to build it. A lot of us don’t want to do that, but we’re finding ourselves in situations where it’s one person against a mega-corporation. We need to tighten those odds up a little bit. Which means gathering our strength, finding our common ground, and speaking with one voice.
Why is your Medium shit behind a paywall, you dick?
Another good question. Yeah, I’ve been doing a bi-monthly column for Modus. It’s Medium’s design magazine. Here’s an archive. Advice for designers, with a bit of an activist slant. It’s behind a paywall because they’re paying me to write it, and the magazine is for members. I earn my living writing, which means I need someone to pay me to write. They were generous enough to do it.
Also, I think we’re finding out the actual price of free. Twitter is free. Facebook is free. Both those idiots needs to make money somehow. So they sell your data to people who want to sell you other shit. Medium is $50 a year, and while cheap is a very subjective word, that’s about the price of a magazine subscription.
Also, because I’m feeling socialist, I’m gonna gift a free membership to the first student who replies to this. If you’re feeling generous, why not gift a membership to someone.
Boiler room shit
Erika Hall has a revised version of Just Enough Research coming out soon. You can preorder it. It’s good. Even if you read the first edition there’s a lot of new stuff.
My buddy Dan Sinker (surprise, he’s the dude from the top story!) has an amazing daily newsletter covering all your impeachment news in a few manageable bullet points. Dan is a saint for doing this. You should subscribe.
I just started reading the new Ronan Farrow book, Catch and Kill, and holy shit. Receipts. Lots of heartbreaking stories of abuse and rape. Proceed with caution.
Oh, buy my book. There’s a new special cover on Amazon encouraging Amazon workers to unionize. Because I am a dick.
Aight. I’m out. Be good to yourselves. Be good to each other. We need you and we love you. Stick around. Forward this to someone who might enjoy it.