Why We Need to Transform How We Think About Work

Work is structured around the priorities of the corporation, not around the needs of workers and their families, with too many Americans working two jobs and having little time or energy to care for their kids or elders or enrich themselves. This is not how work needs to be structured. A NY Times piece by Jonathan Malesic lays out how work could and should be much different.

We will get to our examination of work after a few important announcements.

Confused by Debt Ceiling and What Is at Stake?

Heather Cox Richardson breaks it down nicely in the post she published late Monday night. She explains:

  • what’s at stake(millions of jobs and billions in personal saving);
  • the GOP plan to stonewall Democrat efforts to prevent the nation from going into default;
  • the long bipartisan history of Congressional cooperation of raising the debt ceiling;
  • all that is disingenuous about the GOP effort to blame Dems for needing to raise the debt ceiling, by correctly pointing out that the need to raise the ceiling is largely due to Trump’s $6T in tax cuts for the rich, not Democratic spending. What a treasure she is. Most mornings, her post is the first thing we read. Click here.



Upcoming Related Events:

  • Oct. 19, 6 pm, Town Hall sponsored by County Commissioner Anna Hansen -open to all and especially important for those from the Southside and 599 Bypass area and US Highway 285 South.
  • Nov. 12 Hazardous & Radioactive Waste Interim Committee meeting. (More info to come.)

For now, please put both these events in your calendar and we will update you as to how and when to participate. But for now, please contact the Governor and voice your opposition to WIPP and the plan to continue expanding LANL’s nuclear arms development.

For more information: National Academies of Sciences website explains DOE’s plan to expand WIPP for U.S. plutonium waste: https://www.nap.edu/resource/25593/interactive/. Excellent info found here.

Health Security for New Mexicans is on its way… Join this Zoom to find out more

TODAY, Weds., Sept. 29, Rep. Debbie Armstrong and Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino will kick off the fall Health Security Plan Design Process series via Zoom. These dedicated Health Security Act sponsors have been instrumental in moving the Health Security planning & design phase forward. They’ll be talking about what’s currently happening with the design process and what they’re envisioning as we move ahead. There will also be time to answer your questions.

The 2021 legislature allocated $575,000 to the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance to begin the Health Security design process. This first year focuses on four priority research areas. Through discussions with the Superintendent of Insurance, Rep. Armstrong and Sen. Ortiz y Pino have been actively involved in guiding this process. Don’t miss out! If you haven’t registered yet, click here to do so now! Attendance is free, but registration is required. Sign up today!

Tune in for this important Zoom to find out more about Health Security, NM and what you can do to advance it. See you there.

This Saturday’s Retake radio show on KSFR is an interview with Mary Feldblum, Director of Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign. I learned a ton about how bad our current system is and how good it could be. You might want to listen in, Saturday, 8:30 am on KSFR, 101.1FM or streaming live at ksfr.org.

Climate Summit at the Roundhouse

I was notified about this summit from several sources. I have no idea whether this will be a PR “pat yourself on the back for how much the Dems are already doing” or a legitimate exploration of what more needs to be done and how. The topics below certainly seem germane. Roxanne and I would certainly attend, except we will be in California visiting our almost-out-of-med-school daughter, Joanna. I hope some of you can attend this and try to coax some real commitments out of the legislators. Info below is verbatim from Sierra Club’s email promoting the event

Speaker of the House Brian Egolf is pleased to announce his first-ever Climate Summit this October 25-26 at the State Capitol “Roundhouse.” You are cordially invited to attend this two-day event with leaders from around the state as we work to develop and deliver bold new policies to address our climate crisis. 

Please register for the Speaker’s Climate Summit here. This event will be a great chance to interface with legislators and policymakers to reduce greenhouse gas in all sectors, build a just transition to a sustainable economy, and fully fund state action on climate. 

This summit will inspire urgency and build momentum towards deep investments in our communities and the policy changes necessary to achieve a just energy transition for all of New Mexico’s diverse communities, especially black, indigenous, and people of color who’ve disproportionately faced the brunt of the climate crisis. 

Over 150 of your fellow state, local, and community leaders are expected to attend.  Speakers include Maite Arce of the Hispanic Access Foundation, Andrew Baumann of Global Strategy Group, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, professors from the University of New Mexico and Georgetown University, Native and Tribal leaders, Speaker Egolf, and more. In-depth breakout discussions will also take place around key issues including federal funding opportunities, ensuring an equitable transition, the future of New Mexico energy [if you participate in this breakout be sure to press for public power], economic diversification, air, land, and water conservation efforts, and next steps in our fight against the climate crisis.

What:         New Mexico Climate Summit

When:        October 25 & 26

Where:       Santa Fe, New Mexico

Who:          Presented by Speaker Egolf, in partnership with organizations including Somos Un Pueblo Unido, Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, OLÉ,  Conservation Voters New Mexico, NM Wild, Power4NewMexico, and the Angelica Foundation. Center for Civic Policy, Western Resource Advocates, Environmental Defense Fund.

Registration is free and open until October 18, 2021. Register today HERE

How Work Could Be More Than an Inadequate Paycheck and Neglected Kids

Retake has many times written about the need to restructure how work is organized so that working conditions are structured more around the needs and priorities of workers. Apparently I am not alone. Last week, Jonathan Malesic wrote an outstanding piece on this topic for The NY Times, “The Future of Work Should Mean Working Less .” Today’s post examines the topic using Malesic’s piece as a point of departure. From Malesic:

The conventional approach to work — from the sanctity of the 40-hour week to the ideal of upward mobility — led us to widespread dissatisfaction and seemingly ubiquitous burnout even before the pandemic. Now, the moral structure of work is up for grabs. And with labor-friendly economic conditions, workers have little to lose by making creative demands on employers. We now have space to reimagine how work fits into a good life.

As it is, work sits at the heart of Americans’ vision of human flourishing. It’s much more than how we earn a living. It’s how we earn dignity: the right to count in society and enjoy its benefits. It’s how we prove our moral character. And it’s where we seek meaning and purpose, which many of us interpret in spiritual terms.

The NY Times, “The Future of Work Should Mean Working Less,” by Jonathan Malesic

Malesic argues that post-Covid, it is time to question this understanding of the meaning of work. While acknowledging how many do derive a sense of purpose from work, most do not, and work’s often grinding demands have consequences for workers, their families, and our communities.

It’s true that people often find their jobs meaningful. But for decades, business leaders have taken this obvious truth too far, preaching that we’ll find the purpose of our lives at work. It’s a convenient narrative for employers, but look at what we actually do all day: For too many of us, if we aren’t breaking our bodies, then we’re drowning in trivial email. This is not the purpose of a human life.

With technology automating or streamlining work tasks and with so many jobs now being outsourced to other countries, Malesic argues that reducing the work week without reducing wages and offering a guaranteed annual income ought to be considered. Together these two policies would create more time to devote to our kids, our elders, our communities and our leisure — it really is okay to enjoy guilt-free leisure. Malesic points to Thoreau, who wrote about achieving great spiritual benefit from idle meditation on nature. But since our nation’s founding we have been taught that you measure the value of a person by their work, that hard work builds character, etc. And idleness has been frowned upon as reflective of a flawed character: “An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.”

Malesic contends that policy needs to acknowledge that our worth derives from being human, not punching time cards.

It is worth noting that it was Richard Nixon who first proposed a guaranteed annual income of $16K per year at the same time that he raised Social Security and food stamp payments. While he couldn’t get Congress to approve the guaranteed annual income, he was able to effectively double our spending on public benefits and the social safety net. Complicated man, that Nixon.

While the Protestent ethic has long elevated work as being central to a person’s moral value, Malesic points out that there has also long been theological support for the dignity of man being inherent and not predicated on work.

The idea that all people have dignity before they ever work, or if they never do, has been central to Catholic social teaching for at least 130 years. In that time, popes have argued that jobs ought to fit the capacities of the people who hold them, not the productivity metrics of their employers. Writing in 1891, Pope Leo XIII argued that working conditions, including hours, should be adapted to “the health and strength of the workman.”

Leo mentioned miners as deserving “shorter hours in proportion as their labor is more severe and trying to health.” Today, we might say the same about nurses, or any worker whose ordinary limitations — whether a bad back or a mental health condition — makes an intense eight-hour shift too much to bear. 

Sadly, while COVID has increased awareness of the essential workers upon whom we depend, they are appreciated almost solely for their work, not for their inherent dignity and value. Whenever relief or other benefit is considered in Congress, too often a work requirement is attached to the benefit, as if only those who work deserve our support. Malesic cites economist Kathi Weeks, Duke professor and author of the 2011 book, The Problem with Work.

The point is to subordinate work to life. “A life is what each of us needs to get,” wrote Dr. Weeks, and you can’t get one without freedom from work’s domination. “That said,” she continues, “one cannot get something as big as a life on one’s own.”

That means we need one more pillar: solidarity, a recognition that your good and mine are linked. Each of us, when we interact with people doing their jobs, has the power to make their lives miserable. If I’m overworked, I’m likely to overburden you. But the reverse is also true: Your compassion can evoke mine.

I love how Weeks and Malesic recognize how we are all connected and that for any of us to realize our full human potential we need solidarity and community. Malesic closes by pointing to one other virtue so lacking in public policy and public discourse: kindness and empathy.

Early in the pandemic, we exhibited the virtues we need to realize this vision. Public health compelled us to set limits on many people’s work and provide for those who lost their jobs. We showed — imperfectly — that we could make human well-being more important than productivity. We had solidarity with one another and with the doctors and nurses who battled the disease on the front lines. We limited our trips to the grocery store. We tried to “flatten the curve.”

When the pandemic subsides but work’s threat to our thriving does not, we can practice those virtues again.

Here here!!! I am reminded of a bumper sticker of which I’ve seen in two versions; Make America Gracious Again and Make America Kind Again. A goodly dose of both would go a very long way.

In solidarity and hope,

Paul & Roxanne

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2 replies

  1. Safe travels.

  2. Well. The South had slaves that were ‘property’. They needed to be fed and needed housing, clothing etc.
    The North had ‘workers’ or a different kind of slavery. Not only the ‘owners’ of factories, etc. did not have to keep records and pay for armed guards, food, clothing and housing but they had the workers pay themselves for all their needs. The ‘workers’ had to spend their salaries on rent, utilities, food, clothes, etc.
    So, a ‘worker’ experiences a different kind of enslavement and oppression.
    The bankers, industrialists and businessmen of the North new how to really exploit ‘their workers’.
    A situation or system of social arrangements which is still at work today.
    I believe it is time to start talking about our RELATIONSHIP with the ruling class and their managers.

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