Cultural Workers Organize is a research project that explores the hypothesis that flexworkers in the arts, communication, and cultural industries are protagonists of a recomposition of labour politics today. At the core of the study are emerging efforts of contract workers, interns, self-employed, freelancers, part-timers and other flexible labour forces—in some of contemporary capitalism’s most prized sectors—to confront precarity, or the financial and social insecurity exacerbated by unstable employment. Informed by interviews with cultural workers, labour organizers, and policy specialists, the project is a survey of four broad areas of labour activity: 1) unions and professional associations representing workers on the higher end of the value chain and status hierarchy; 2) informal, grassroots workers’ associations focused on low-wage margins; 3) policy proposals that seek to improve flexworkers’ welfare; and 4) institutional innovations in the way that work and workplaces are organized. A sample of the sort of organizations that inspire this research project are listed here. In labour markets that compel and celebrate individual coping strategies, this research spotlights some of the various ways cultural workers are collectively responding to precarity. In the process, Cultural Workers Organize aims to not only critically assess celebratory takes on the promise of a “creative economy,” but also contribute to a labour movement that has had difficulty adapting to the growth of flexible employment and knowledge-intensive, communicative, and cultural work. To that end, we offer this website to share some of our work in progress.
Enda Brophy, Simon Fraser University
Nicole Cohen, York University
Greig de Peuter, Wilfrid Laurier University
We want to thank those who have generously given their time to be interviewed for this project. We also want to gratefully recognize the research assistance of Roberta Buiani, Matthew Greaves, Rebecca Levick, Ben Sigston, and Agata Zieba. This research project has received financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.