I support the fast food workers’ strike

Fast-food workers across the U.S. are striking today for better wages.

The stereotype of the fast-food worker is a teenager making some spending money over the summer; someone who can afford to be paid poorly and who will use the experience to move to a higher paying job soon. That’s not reality: 70% percent of fast food workers are over 20, and 40% are over 25. More than 25% are parents. In our economy, service jobs are how people make a living now. They need to pay living wages.

Learn more, sign their petition, and find a nearby rally at Low Pay Is Not OK.

Penny Arcade and the culture of work

Yeah, there is no way 100 words will contain all of my thoughts on this.

Kenneth Kuan, the guy who currently holds the position for which Penny Arcade posted this ridic job listing, defended his bosses on the PA forum today.

The first thing that jumped out at me is that Kuan says he didn’t have the skills listed in the job description when he was hired. “If I had had to apply for the job with the presently listed requirements, I might not have gotten the offer.” PA wants to hire someone who already has all the skills he developed on the job, but it sure doesn’t sound like they want to pay accordingly.

And then there are the hours. “So four hats, right?” Kuan posted. “Why not four tech staff? The reality is that one highly motivated, highly skilled person can handle all of this. You do not need to be constantly working IT, or constantly managing servers or writing code. There’s a lot there, yes. This is a job that will keep one person fairly busy. Two people might find themselves spending a lot of time on /r/aww.” Yes, if they spent all their time at work! The 80+ hour work week isn’t a law of nature. It’s a choice on the part of Penny Arcade. So this doesn’t really answer the question of why they chose not to split up the workload and hire, say, two people. (I can believe that the four hats don’t necessarily translate into four full-time positions — I’ve had jobs like that myself — but Kuan describes far more than enough work for one.)

Kuan says, “There is this notion that work/life balance is some kind of sacred goal. I’m sorry, but it’s ludicrous. That’s like saying everyone would be fulfilled by getting married and having 2.5 kids.” No. NO. Work-life balance isn’t just about marriage and kids. Does he want to spend time with friends outside of work? Exercise? Take a class? Mentor an at-risk kid? Be an informed citizen? Travel? Work-life balance is a necessary goal because human beings are more than just their jobs.

But maybe Kuan doesn’t care about doing any of those things. OK. But the “terrible work/life balance” means that people who do aren’t welcome. People with kids aren’t welcome. People who have caretaking responsibilities for elderly or sick relatives aren’t welcome. People with disabilities who physically can’t manage to work the equivalent of two full-time jobs aren’t welcome. Not because they can’t do the work, but because PA chooses to structure the job in a way that shuts them out. There are reasons the tech industry is overwhelmingly populated by young, well-off men with similar social and political views, and it’s not because they’re endowed with special coding powers. (And that’s not even getting into the “potentially offensive” environment.)

I’d also say to Kuan: you don’t work in a vacuum. If you’re cool with working 80 hours or more, and especially if you’re out there defending that as reasonable, it ratchets up the pressure on everybody.

Even granting for the sake of argument that working double time is a totally reasonable expectation, why not pay accordingly? Penny Arcade isn’t a start-up. If they can’t afford to pay their employees what they’re worth, that’s a problem they need to fix.

It’s sad how normalized the devaluation of workers has become in this country. Kenneth Kuan clearly has a bunch of skills that Penny Arcade’s business relies upon. Underpaying him and his successor while demanding that they basically have no life outside of work shows a profound disrespect for the human beings who are contributing those skills to the business. And it’s not just Penny Arcade or even tech culture. Anti-worker attitudes are rampant in American society. Sadly, I suspect that Kuan will find that out in his next career; he plans to teach.