Taylor Nicole Rogers, the FT’s US labour and equality correspondent, stands in for regular host Isabel Berwick in this episode to ask what the resurgence of trade union activity in both the US and UK is doing to the relationship between employer and employee. We hear from Mick Lynch, general secretary of the UK’s National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, and Taylor speaks to Dave Lee, the FT’s San Francisco correspondent, about attempts by US workers to form a union at Amazon and elsewhere, and the risks they face.
Who among us isn’t depressingly familiar with the constant tug of war between putting off tasks that require focus, and, like a moth to a flame, being drawn to distraction?
Sometimes we blame ourselves, cursing our tendency to procrastinate. But we should give ourselves a break. We’re living in an unprecedented age where billions of dollars have been made by machines designed to tempt us away from doing what we had planned to do.
These thoughts are hardly new. But something happened recently, which — ironically — has captured no small amount of attention and provided me with a glimmer of hope that the internet that has rewired our minds could also be used to untangle them.
In which I become the first (probably) and last (possibly) person to use the phrase “dripped out” in the Financial Times:
Back in the sixties, a prescient essay from the British historian Eric Hobsbawm stated that “explosive” spikes in union support could only occur after what he termed “qualitative innovations in the movement”.
Bad conditions alone weren’t enough of a driving force to galvanise workers into unionising, he argued, unions had to also move with the times: introducing modernised ways of thinking, new demands, and fresh leadership.
In 2022, it could be said that this reinvention quite literally hangs off the shoulders of Chris Smalls, the leader of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), and an aficionado of what has come to be known as “union drip”.
San Francisco’s Moscone Center is best-known as the site where tech companies stage blockbuster events. It was here in 2007 that Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone with the words, “Every once in a while, a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything.”
I used to be a regular visitor to Moscone but, over the past two years, I’ve been there just three times: twice for vaccine jabs and, more recently, for the Game Developers Conference, a gathering of video games creators, known as GDC. It was the largest event I’ve been to since the great re-emerging, with 12,000 people attending.