Guest Speaker, Nina Windgätter is a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at the University of New Hampshire.
Misconceptions abound about low-wage work in the United States. Many people think that it is easy, mindless, and unimportant, and that the workers who fill these jobs are only there because they are some combination of imprudent, untalented, lazy, and unambitious. These common misconceptions, in turn, shape low-wage workplaces, where workers are viewed as lazy shirkers who need to be micromanaged—the kind of people who need to be kept in line by a strong and powerful manager. As a result, the arbitrary and unaccountable power of bosses goes unchecked, harming workers.
In this talk, I’ll explore some of these misconceptions about low-wage work and the low-wage job market, using examples from the warehouse industry (Amazon) and commercial content moderation (Facebook). I’ll then argue that we owe it to low-wage workers to better understand their work and its value, making both their suffering and valuable contributions more visible to us and other members of our society. This will include working for structural changes that give bosses less arbitrary power and make them more accountable for the uses of their power. Only by changing the way that we think about low-wage work can we come to understand the systematic injustices faced by low-wage workers, and what can be done about them. Ignorance about the plight of low-wage workers furthers injustice.