The scope, unevenness, and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on cultural work has been widely acknowledged. This article turns to how sections of the cultural industries responded to the onset of this crisis. We gathered news reports, impact survey results, policy recommendations, open letters, event announcements, and other grey literature generated by a range of organizations in the cultural sector, including trade unions, professional associations, and activist groups. Framed by the concepts "labouring of culture" and "policy from below," our thematic analysis of this material reveals that cultural workers responded to the pandemic by surfacing the idea of cultural production as work; by enacting practices of care and mutual aid; and by proposing policy changes. These collective responses are marked by multiple tensions, particularly between rehabilitating the status quo in the cultural sector and radically reimagining it for a post-COVID-19 world.
The future of journalism as a site of sustainable careers and a potentially democratic form of communication depends on collective organization. While unionizing cannot solve all of journalism’s problems, our study reaffirms the defensive and transformative power of collective organization in journalism, as reflected in unions’ use of the bargaining process to reduce journalists’ precarity by raising standards in media work. This chapter examines how workers are collectively responding to unstable careers, low pay, intense work pressures, and race- and gender-based inequities through unionization.
In mid-March of this year, 35,000-40,000 students at CÉGEPs (pre‑university and technical colleges) and universities across Quebec went on strike for a week. Unlike the 2012 strike which was led by Coalition Large de l’ASSÉ (CLASSE), this year’s action was developed around a different organizing model and critique of the post-secondary education system in the province. The rebellion against tuition hikes and the theme of student debt at the heart of the 2012 strike have been replaced by a different analysis, one which places unwaged work at the center of the movement’s organizing. Inspired by the perspectives of autonomist-feminist organizers of the 1970s, the Comités Unitaires sur le Travail Étudiant (Student Work Unitary Committees, CUTE) have advanced a critique of the unwaged internships which are a key mechanism for the insertion of workers into labor markets. [...] Elizabeth Sarjeant and Enda Brophy interviewed Jeanne Bilodeau and Éloi Halloran on March …
Of the vast lexicon associated with autonomist thought, two concepts—precarity and recomposition—are especially relevant to an oppositional response to the creative economy. The first part of the paper introduces a schema of precarious labour personas so to illuminate some of the multiple manifestations of labor precarity as an effect of post-Fordist exploitation. The concept of precarity is, however, more than a linguistic device highlighting labor conditions that are denied in dominant discourses on the creative economy. It also signals a promising laboratory of a recomposition of labor politics in which media and communication workers are participants. The second part of the paper therefore identifies collective responses to precarious employment, including emerging workers’ organizations and policy proposals emanating from within and beyond immaterial production milieus.
The figure of the self-reliant, risk-bearing, non-unionized, self-exploiting, always-on, flexibly employed worker in the creative industries has been positioned as a role model of contemporary capitalism. Although the notion of the model worker is a compelling critical diagnostic of the self-management of precarity in post-Fordist times, I argue that it provides an insufficient perspective on labour and the so-called creative economy to the extent that it occludes the capacity to contest among the workforces it represents. This article thematizes salient features of select collective responses to precarity that are emerging from workers in nonstandard employment in the arts, the media, and cultural industries. Collective responses to precarization in the creative industries are at risk of being overlooked if the research optic on workers’ strategies is focused upon a single sector or a particular profession.