It’s May Day. Union membership is at a historic low in this country. A major reason is the anti union tactics of businesses. Another is the protections stripped from unions by local and federal legislation. Media vilification has contributed as has the general shift to the right of the populace.
But after we blame the villains, we are left with additional facts. The shift of the American economy away from the manufacturing and moving of goods into the service and knowledge industries has atomized the workforce. Freelancers are the piece workers of the twenty first century. The self employed are engaged eighty percent of the time in selling and marketing and networking and identify themselves as businesses or corporations.
We are more connected than ever technologically. We are more disconnected than ever as a workforce. Even in a pre-industruial age, when most of the population was engaged in agriculture, there was at least physical proximity if nothing else. We worked together in the fields. Hell we sang songs. Maybe we were slaves or serfs living a meager subsistence existence, some of the social bonds of family, church etc were strong. Artisans had guilds again with the hitch that many were indentured during their long periods of apprenticeship.
I am at work right now. Ironically, sitting alone at my computer. Actually I started writing this post alone in my kitchen on my iPad. I am networked and untied (rarely wear ties any more) in my own home.
What will be the next form of collectivity amongst the newly decentralized working class, where many of us are identified as sole proprietors or freelancers or 1099ers? Can we unite and be untied?