Why “Hack the Union?”

Work in the 21st century is changing rapidly, and income inequity is being driven not only by rapacious corporate greed, but also by technological change that is disrupting many of the industries where the US labor movement has historically represented workers. Over the past sixty years, capital has managed to re-write the rules of the economy, so that the systems set up by the labor movement are no longer an effective method of achieving an equal society.

Technological unemployment threatens manufacturing and white-collar workers, while service sector workers (whose jobs are less susceptible—though not immune from—outsourcing or transitioning to machines) are increasingly crushed by low wages, inability to control their schedules (and therefore their lives) and a lack of benefits.

It seems that every day brings a new service or technology that can change the way that humans approach work—without a corresponding uptick in the way that we are thinking about how to make work more human.

I came up with the name “Hack the Union” because I wanted to reflect an operation that could be performed either on code or with a physical object. The challenges that affect workers today are not things that will be solved solely by technology–in fact, the problem of technological unemployment is one that is created by technology–but our tech has a major impact on the ways that both labor and capital can organize, these days.

Of course, unions themselves also have physical infrastructures–and sometimes those infrastructures get in the way of building worker power. “Hacking” can be applied to physical modifications, as well as to programming solutions.

But it’s also the culture of hacking–open-source, playful, exploring the limits of what’s possible–that needs to be injected (or in some cases, amplified) into the movements that organize for economic justice.


5 thoughts on “Why “Hack the Union?””

  1. Hello,

    I’m writing a term paper on how technology is affecting unions and I stumbled upon your website. The term “technological unemployment” has come up quite a bit in my research and i’m quite confused as to why innovation in technology is considered to be a negative thing. I get that certain jobs may become eliminated but what about the fact that many others are created? I can’t grasp how someone would want to hinder advancements in technology in the workplace because they are worried that there might mass unemployment. Especially since over time that mindset been proven to be incorrect.
    I”m not trying to knock the theory, if that’s what you believe in, I can appreciate that. I’m just looking to get some more information. If you would be interested in discussing this with me please send me an email.


  2. I’m recommending your blog on my Facebook page: Union Maid. It’s what I wanted to write about but you’re doing it smarter and better. I appreciate your focus on technology–that’s all-important for the next generation. Thanks for your writing! ~moira

    1. I wouldn’t say technological unemployment leads to guaranteed basic income, but rather that it requires us to demand basic income. Remember that the 15-hour work week was also predicted early in the last century, and even the 40-hour work week was implemented because of persistent unionised action. This article will explain it much better than I can: http://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/

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