I have returned to the land of smørrebrød yesterday afternoon after attending New Directions and spending a few bonus days in the Washington, DC metro area. Sorry about the lack of content last week and earlier this week. Things got away from me in the flurry of activity. I wanted to spend more time talking with folks and prepping future content at the Library of Congress’s Map Division while I was in DC, but I had an unexpected chance to do an additional tranche of wedding preparations and that was more important.
I have some politics and culture-focused content for you today. The maps will be returning next week. I spent a few hours scanning old maps of Copenhagen at the Library of Congress and have a few ideas of what to do with them.
Unions and Overtime
One of the things that came up in the unofficial discussions at New Directions was that in light of the recent labor victory at an Amazon warehouse in New York, neoliberals need to stake out a position on organized labor.1 I also came up that a lack of a stance may be a roadblock to future partnerships with democratic campaigns. Interestingly, even the most anti-union right-neoliberals that I spoke to were in agreement that a union for Amazon warehouse employees was a positive development. It was seen as a win for working conditions and pay rather than a wedge for progressive social causes.
In the discussions, one of the topics that came up was what things should be in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Some neoliberals contrasted a 10% pay increase with the demands of organizers for tech workers at FAANG companies such as ending contracts with American intelligence agencies. Shocking to me was how few people saw overtime pay as a key way to protect workers. In my opinion, it is the way to prevent underhiring and then overworking staff.
A case for Overtime as a Labor Protection
In every job that I have had so far, there was a clear incentive for my employer to attempt to underhire to control labor costs. If 2 people will do 3 people’s work you can save a good deal of money. You can save even more money by putting as many employees on salary, questionably construing them as exempt, and then informing them that their contract covers an unlimited number of hours of work. I think this is a key labor issue for white-collar employees in the United States.
Some people would argue that the way to fix this would be a complex cap on the number of hours employees can work. I think that overtime can be used as a tool to make the market work more equitably. You do this by making extra hours progressively more painfully expensive for an employer. For a biweekly paid full-time employee (2 weeks at 40 hours a weeks), it could look something like this:
81-85th hour: 1.5x
86-90th hour: 2x
91-100th hour: 3x
101th+ hour: 4x
This schedule quickly erases any incentive to underhire. A few extra hours a week are fine and both the employer and employee are relatively unaffected. However, in cases like with some of my friends who routinely are asked to work 10+ extra hours a week due to chronic understaffing, it becomes prohibitively expensive. By the 91st hour a hypothetical employee works in a pay period an employer is paying out more than double the counterfactual of correctly staffing.
Maps Lie to You
On Tuesday, April 12 from 20:00 to 23:00 (Copenhagen time) I am leading an Interintellect salon about how maps are not as truthful as we oftentimes believe and how that trust is weaponized. The discussion with start from two chapters of How to Lie With Maps: War and Propaganda. I think it will be a fun evening of deconstructing what we know about maps and trying to cope with our cognitive biases. Tickets are 10 USD (68 DKK; 9 Euro).
Interintellect salons are a special type of discussion forum where experts and laypeople can discuss important issues together in a safe environment. If you have never heard of the Interintellect salon, check out their Five Rules of Gathering. I am a long-time salon attender, but a first-time host.