The coronavirus pandemic has led millions of people to re-evaluate their working conditions and no longer be willing to tolerate inappropriate behavior from their bosses or the companies they work for. In the United States – where this phenomenon is particularly pronounced, for various reasons – many of these people gathered to express their frustrations or to share the announcement of their dismissal on “Antiwork”, A channel of the social network Reddit that especially in recent months has become a meeting point and an inspiration for all those who are unhappy with their work situation and would like a radical change to the system.
For several months now, Antiwork has been one of Reddit’s most successful channels, attracting millions of people and becoming a small online phenomenon. It has existed since 2010 and before the pandemic it had about 100 thousand members: today it has 1 million and 250 thousand, many of whom have started using it in recent months. Its success also fits into a context in which several million Americans have quit their jobs for different reasons and has become so relevant that newspapers and analysts have even begun to talk about a “antiwork movement”.
Antiwork is a channel on Reddit (aka a subreddit) where exploited and exhausted employees share comments on their work situation or screenshots of problematic conversations they have with their bosses. Some people report being subjected to grueling or underpaid shifts, while others complain of episodes of humiliation, bullying or being pressured to work for free, among other things.
The messages exchanged on Antiwork have gone viral both on Twitter and on the other main social networks, especially those in which people who say they are exhausted by working conditions considered unacceptable share the moment in which they send everything and everyone to hell, often after years of malaise. It cannot be ruled out that at least some of these posts are bogus: like he summarized effectively Slate, there is no way to ascertain their authenticity, “but their genuineness is less important than the sense of catharsis they offer.”
The screenshot of the conversation where an Antiwork channel user decides to resign from his job when his manager threatens to fire him, after refusing to go to work on his day off
One of the first moderators of the Antiwork channel, Doreen Ford, told a Slate that “unfortunately” the cases in which companies or managers threaten or mistreat their employees happen “too often”. Ford, who is 30, has moderated the channel for 7 years and in turn has done a series of jobs in her life that she described as “demeaning,” but said she was amazed at how fast the channel grew during the pandemic. Those who attend it do not want to complain or simply fight to improve their working conditions, but rather change the system so that they can work less, or not do it at all.
As a post which indicates the objectives of the group, which defines itself as populated by anarchists and “all varieties of leftists”, “reforming a broken system still leads to a broken system”: for this Antiwork proposes to collect ideas on how to completely abolish capitalism and work, as we know it today in our societies.
Despite this propensity, however, it welcomes many people who do not share its general, Ford-specific idea. One of the most rewarding things is that thanks to the support of other users on the channel, people find the courage to ask for a salary increase, to say no to their bosses or simply to quit their jobs, without necessarily continuing to suffer retaliation. , he added.
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US Department of Labor data says last September 4.4 million of Americans have left their jobs: over 150 thousand more than in the previous month and 1 million and 130 thousand more than in September 2020. The reasons can be the most diverse, from the stress of having spent the last year and a half to work in which one is particularly exposed to potential infections, to the desire to try to do a job that you like best or allows you to change your lifestyle. The New York Times he remarked that in some cases government subsidies to cope with the economic crisis may have helped those who have decided to change and not work for a while, but that alone are not enough to motivate a person to do so.
Sociologist David Frayne, interviewed by New York Times, explained that traumatic events generally lead people to reconsider their lives and goals, and that in this sense an event like the coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on a huge scale. Kathi Weeks, professor of gender studies at Duke University, also noted that the “kind of forced separation from work” that came as a result of the pandemic has given many the opportunity to see their work situation more critically and to see numerous flaws in the way many work environments function.
Basically, according to experts, many people believe that not having a job is better than having a bad job, and that this new attitude can lead to a major cultural change. In Weeks’ words, refusing to go back to work, especially in particularly hostile environments, represents a “kind of desire for freedom.”
This concerns various categories of workers, but it is also influenced by the attitude of the so-called people generation Z, roughly those born between 1997 and 2012, which often approach the world of work with a more relaxed attitude and less oriented towards competitiveness and productivity at all costs, typical of previous generations. The phenomenon was also analyzed by business bank Goldman Sachs, which has linked it at least in part to the popularity of the Antiwork channel: according to Goldman Sachs, the tendency to refuse work hides the risk that many people decide not to work at all for longer periods than normal, with possible repercussions on the economy of the country.