“Work your fingers to the bone – whadda ya get? Boney Fingers.”
This 1960s song mocking the vaunted virtue of working hard is being sung today with new meaning by all kinds of employees – from factory workers to teachers… and even a few upper-floor executives.
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The rebellion here is not merely over low pay, but particularly about the unrelenting nature of work itself – the all-consuming “job imperative,” as if that’s your life: Go 40 to 60 hours a week 50 to 52 weeks a year for half a century or more… then die. Is that all there is? Is that all we are?
Amazingly, this existential, truly-revolutionary question is one that millions of hard-working people throughout our top-down corporate system are asking themselves, their families, and friends. Why are we working like this, why does it matter, what else is there?
Airline pilots, for example, have stunned the industry by prioritizing non-monetary demands in their current contract negotiations with the big Four monopolistic airline giants. The bosses have offered 14 percent pay hikes, but pilots are demanding something more meaningful: Structural changes to improve their quality of life. They’re routinely frustrated by management’s inept scheduling, inadequate staffing, and onerous work rules that leave them stressed out, dangerously fatigued, and often stranded far from home. The bottom line is not to get another dollar, but being able to plan and enjoy a non-work life. “You absolutely cannot address quality of life with money,” says the president of the pilots’ union at Southwest Airlines. “You’re never going to pay someone enough for a lost piano recital with their daughter or a lost baseball game.”
There are many compromises required to make a living these days, but we humans are finally beginning to say: Enough – you can buy my hard work, but not my life.