Belabored: Work Without the Workers, with Phil Jones

Belabored: Work Without the Workers, with Phil Jones

How do you take industrial action when your workplace is your computer? In his new book, Phil Jones considers the millions of “microworkers” around the world who process data for digital platforms.

(Heath Korvola / Getty Images)

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Around the country (and parts of the world), we’ve been hearing about big strikes and dramatic strike votes. But how do you take industrial action when your workplace is your computer, and your “job” consists of hundreds or even thousands of little tasks for pennies at a time? That’s the challenge for a growing legion of “microworkers” around the world, laboring at the behest of platforms that, as today’s guest Phil Jones points out in his new book Work Without The Worker, would be classified as some of the world’s largest employers if they had to classify the workers using them as employees. It’s a problem, he notes, of a changing global capitalism, and is finding new niches around the world, from developing cities to refugee camps. 

We also check in on the John Deere strike, the Glasgow sanitation workers strike, the New York taxi workers’ struggle for debt relief with Mohamadou Aliyu of the NYTWA, and organizing at Amazon. For Argh, we consider the strike from the point of view of strikers’ children, and call for workers to be allowed to sit down on the job.

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Rory Scothorne, “Why climate activists should support the bin strikes marring Cop26’s elite spectacle” New Statesman

Chris Isidore, “Autoworkers at John Deere will remain on strike after voting down another tentative dealCNN Business

Tyler Jett “John Deere doubles wage increases, boosts retirement benefits in second offer to striking UAW workersDes Moines Register

Alina SelyukhAmazon warehouse workers in New York file for a union voteNPR All Things Considered

Brian M. Rosenthal “N.Y.C. Cabbies Win Millions More in Aid After Hunger StrikeNew York Times



Work Without the Worker: Labour in the Age of Platform Capitalism, Verso Books

Phil Jones, Refugees help power machine learning advances at Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon, rest of world

Phil Jones, Big tech’s push for automation hides the grim reality of ‘microwork’ The Guardian


Argh, I wish I’d written that!

Sarah: Jacqui Germain, “St. Vincent’s Nurses Are on Strike — This Is What It’s Like for Their KidsTeen Vogue

Michelle: Alex N. Press, Jacobin, “Stop Forcing Workers to Stand on the Job” Jacobin