If you’re among those who regularly shell out the equivalent of office rent at coffee shops to get a bit of work done, it’s easy to imagine a typical scene at The Common, a café in Toronto’s west end. Located in MP Andrew Cash’s Davenport riding, The Common was an apt venue for the NDP politico’s launch of his Urban Worker Strategy campaign in May. Working in a flexible labour market brings challenges bigger than snagging a spot to plug in your laptop, which is why Cash is presenting a more comprehensive response. Cash’s approach – working through the state to secure a better deal for precarious workers – is at odds with neoliberalism’s preferred qualities: high self-reliance and low expectations from employers and the state. The Urban Worker campaign zooms in on policy, a mostly invisible yet materially significant social frame that enables or constrains our livelihoods.
Crunching numbers during a marathon board meeting lacks the drama of an artist reclaiming his sculpture from New York’s Museum of Modern Art. But Takis’s heist, which in 1969 inaugurated the Art Workers’ Coalition (AWC), is not entirely disconnected from the budgeting policies developed by the activist group Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.). The group’s project – to certify non-profit art institutions that pay artist fees – is informed by lessons from the AWC archives, some of which, incidentally, are today housed at MoMA. The short-lived AWC and its disparate supporters voiced a multitude of demands, ranging from better representation of artists of colour to making museum admission free and extending artists’ control over the exhibition of their work. W.A.G.E.’s gambit focuses on one specific goal: getting artists paid.
In May of 2012, cultural workers in Milan occupied an abandoned 31-storey skyscraper in the northern part of the city. Named MACAO, the new space was intended to give workers in Milan’s creative industries a space in which to pursue their labour without being subject to the finnancial austerity and precarious working and existential conditions gripping the city’s cultural sector. Cultural Workers Organize interviewed one of the workers in the organizing group, Emanuele Braga, shortly after the occupation to find out more about this audacious collective gesture.
This article considers the growing convergence between labor and communication in the digital economy. Taking the rapid growth of call center employment as its focus, the article argues that the approach taken by the political and theoretical tradition of post-operaismo, or autonomist Marxism, has produced promising encounters between labor activism and communication inquiry. Through its theory of cognitive capitalism and its focus on labor resistance, the article suggests, post-operaismo offers communication scholars a set of tools through which to move beyond the limits of both liberal-democratic theories of the knowledge worker and Marxist labor process theory.
Toronto-based visual artists Carole Condé and Karl Beveridge are internationally known for their staged photography rooted in workers’ experiences, labour struggles, and social movements. Condé and Beveridge’s work, a critical response to unfettered capitalism and ecological crisis, includes such recent pieces as Scene Otherwise (2012), a photomontage based on the Occupy encampment in Toronto; Precarious (2010), a series addressing unstable employment among college support staff; The Plague (2009), a tableau of the recurrent convulsions of finance capital set in a quintessential space of flows, an airport terminal; and Fall of Water (2006–2007), a photographic epic, based on Pieter Bruegel’s The Fall Of The Rebel Angels that depicts the planetary water crisis and the political conflicts surrounding it.