- Bad King Richard got rich by exploiting workers at King's Faire: Creative workers are workers.
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2003, 2013, 2018.
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Bad King Richard got rich by exploiting workers at King's Faire (permalink)
King Richard's Faire is the largest renfaire in New England, and its owner, Dick Shapiro, extracts a reported $400k/day – a sum that is only possible thanks to systematic and likely illegal worker misclassification, which lets him pay performers sub-minimum wages and deny them benefits:
Many of the performers at KRF are absolutely unpaid – these are the "villagers" – who mill about looking picturesque in exchange for free admission. They even have to buy their own turkey legs.
When the faire is rained out, all workers – "volunteers" and paid workers – are sent home without any compensation. Attendees are also sent home with rain-checks, many of which go unused (there's no refunds in the land of King Richard).
Staff work from 8am to 730pm and are paid a day-rate that works out to $6/hour. After heavy weather events, staff are ordered to show up early to do cleanup, but are not paid for their time. Staff don't get health benefits – instead, local community groups like the Elks put on fundraisers to cover the health-care costs of the performers.
Now, King Richard's worker mistreatment is not an outlier in the medieval reenactment industry. Think of how the knights at Medieval Times – who put on nightly, potentially lethal performances to generate profit for their employer – unionized in the face of exploitative labor relations. To add insult to injury, Medieval Times sued the union, arguing that its name – "Medieval Times Performers United" – was a trademark infringement:
This trademark wheeze is the latest desperate tactic to be deployed by the ruling class in the face of a surging labor movement with broad public support. Starbucks – one of the world's most notorious unionbusters – is doing the same thing to its union, Starbucks Workers United:
These moves are wildly out of step with the current of public opinion, which has swung hard for union rights in a manner not seen in generations. The outpourings of public support for striking entertainment industry workers were handwaved away as exceptions driven by the public's love of actors and writers. But that doesn't explain the strong, ongoing support for the UAW in their strike against all of the Big Three automakers:
Bosses have always tried to smash worker power by dividing workers – by race, gender, or "skill" – but workers are workers and solidarity is the source of worker power. That's why the whole labor movement backed Equity Stripper NoHo, the first strippers' union in a generation:
Creative workers are part of a class of workers who suffer from "vocational awe," the sense that because your job is satisfying and/or worthy, you don't deserve to get paid for it:
(Think of joke about the father who finds his runaway son at the circus shoveling elephant shit: "Son, come home!" "What, and quit show-business?")
Creative workers have long been encouraged to see themselves as "independent businesspeople" – LLCs with MFAs – and this mind-zap is augmented with our bosses' repeated insistence that the unions are for big burly blue-collar workers, not ethereal dreamers and pencil-pushers. Our bosses tell this story because it discourages us from forming unions and demanding fair pay and good working conditions (obviously).
Think of J Edward Keyes, the cartoon villain who serves as editorial director of Bandcamp. When the workers Keyes managed formed the Bandcamp United union, Keyes called them "white-collar tech workers…appropriating the language of the legitimately oppressed," adding "Fuuuuuck Bandcamp United":
Keyes's contempt notwithstanding, it's clear why Bandcamp workers need a union – after the company was flipped twice in rapid succession, its new owners, Epic Games and Songtradr, fired all its unionized workers. Keyes responded to coverage of this mass firing by calling the Pitchfork reporters who wrote about it "absloute amateur journalists."
The attempt to divide-and-rule "knowledge workers" from "industrial workers" is a transparent bid to shatter solidarity and make it easier to abuse and exploit all workers. Thankfully, workers are wise to that gambit, and understand that when all kinds of workers struggle together, they win.
Take the UAW strikes: for many years, the UAW was an objectively bad union, ruled over by a dirty-tricking clique who sold out the membership. It's normal to blame workers for bad leaders, but the UAW old guard had rigged union elections, making sure that they would stay in charge. It's not workers that like corrupt unions – it's bosses.
Before the UAW could fight back against their bosses, they had to fight back their bosses' minions in the upper ranks of their own union. That's where the the Harvard Grad Students' Union comes in. After years of worsening exploitation and working conditions, the Harvard Grad Students organized under the UAW, then joined forces with reformers in the union to oust the corrupt leadership.
During the leadership struggle, Harvard Grad Students helped their comrades from the auto-sector master the union's baroque constitution, so when the old guard tried to prevent motions from reaching the floor, the grad students were able to cite chapter and verse back at them. In the end, grad students and auto-workers together won the victory that paved the way for the strikes:
A strong, unified labor movement is necessary if America is to save itself from inequality, racism, the climate emergency – the whole polycrisis. The idea that creative workers aren't workers is bullshit – and so is the lie that all workers are uncreative. The "Worker As Futurist" project recruits Amazon drivers and warehouse writers to write science fiction about a future without Amazon:
They call this a "belief that rank-and-file workers, whose bodies and minds are exploited by capital, might have access to some knowledge about capitalism that is beyond even the most brilliant theorist or analyst of capitalism."
All workers can and should tell their own story. Doing so isn't just a way to change the narrative – it's also a way to change policy. The new merger guidelines from the FTC and DOJ Antitrust Division explicitly incorporate labor-market effects into antitrust policy. As Brian Callaci and Sandeep Vaheesan write for The Sling, the testimony of workers and unions can help produce the evidentiary basis for blocking the mergers that lead to monopolies:
The rising labor movement is a force for profound change in every part of our economy and politics. Workers can be our knights in shining armor.
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Automattic is acquiring Texts and betting big on the future of messaging https://www.theverge.com/2023/10/24/23928685/automattic-texts-acquisition-universal-messaging
Announcing the Winners of the 2023 Hugo Awards https://www.tor.com/2023/10/23/announcing-the-winners-of-the-2023-hugo-awards/
The World’s Most Popular Painter Sent His Followers After Me Because He Didn’t Like a Review of His Work. Here’s What I Learned (h/t Waxy)
This day in history (permalink)
#20yrsago Citi’s CEO’s SSN sky-written over NYC https://www.wired.com/2003/10/yo-mr-ceo-get-our-point-now/
#10yrsago Librarian to sister superior, 1948: comic books are good for kids! https://www.muckrock.com/news/archives/2013/oct/25/librarian-rebukes-nun-over-comic-books/
#10yrsago 19th century 9lb, 100-blade multitool with a pistol https://www.wired.com/2013/10/you-can-kill-a-man-100-ways-with-this-crazy-swiss-army-knife/
#10yrsago Charlie Stross on spooks: paranoid, fumbling, all-powerful http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2013/10/spook-century.html
#10yrsago Texas’s “texting judge” resigns, admitting she texted instructions to prosecutors https://montgomerycountypolicereporter.com/texting-judge-not-lol-coker-is-out/
#10yrsago Manchester cops trumpet seized “3D printed gun” — turns out to be parts for a 3D printer https://www.theverge.com/2013/10/25/5027282/uk-police-seize-3d-printed-gun-components
#5yrsago The Copyright Office just greenlit a suite of DRM-breaking exemptions to the DMCA https://www.vice.com/en/article/xw9bwd/1201-exemptions-right-to-repair
#5yrsago Ebay is full of used voting machines full of real electoral data and riddled with security defects https://www.wired.com/story/i-bought-used-voting-machines-on-ebay/
#5yrsago Disney theme parks have a serious problem with cremain-scattering https://www.wsj.com/articles/disney-worlds-big-secret-its-a-favorite-spot-to-scatter-family-ashes-1540390229
- A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS FEB 2024
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM
Latest podcast: Microincentives and Enshittification https://craphound.com/news/2023/10/23/microincentives-and-enshittification/
- The Internet Con at the Internet Archive (virtual), Oct 31
Hackaday Supercon, Nov 4 (Pasadena)
The Lost Cause at The Strand (NYC), Nov 29
The Lost Cause at Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill), Dec 7
- Grim Grinning Ghosts (That Hallowe'en Podcast)
An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet's Enshittification (Burning Man Center Camp)
- "The Internet Con": A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech (Verso) September 2023 (http://seizethemeansofcomputation.org). Signed copies at Book Soup (https://www.booksoup.com/book/9781804291245).
"Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books http://redteamblues.com. Signed copies at Dark Delicacies (US): and Forbidden Planet (UK): https://forbiddenplanet.com/385004-red-team-blues-signed-edition-hardcover/.
"Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59?sk=f6cd10e54e20a07d4c6d0f3ac011af6b) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023
The Bezzle: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about prison-tech and other grifts, Tor Books, February 2024
Picks and Shovels: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about the heroic era of the PC, Tor Books, February 2025
Unauthorized Bread: a graphic novel adapted from my novella about refugees, toasters and DRM, FirstSecond, 2025
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