The tech industry needs a labor movement

Ed ZitronContributor
Ed Zitron is the CEO of EZPR, a media relations company. He also contributes to publications like Insider and The Atlantic, and has a newsletter.

Imagine yourself working at Apple. It’s April 2022. You’re being told by the higher-ups that you’ve got to come back to the office — by which I mean you’ve read a Slack message on your laptop. You continue your workday, pissed that your bosses don’t seem to understand that you can do this job remotely.

Then somebody sends you a YouTube link to a nine-minute commercial for remote work, telling the story of a group of people who quit their company after being forced to return to the office. The advertisement is by Apple, which is currently telling you to go back to the office. You punch your desk so hard that your screensaver deactivates.

It’s strange that the companies that have made so much money off remote work seem to be the most allergic to its possibilities. Google, which literally lets you run a company in a browser, has been forcing workers back to offices three days a week.

Meta, Apple and Google are industry leaders, yet they are leading their industry backward — back to offices where people will do the same thing they did at home.

Meta, which has lost billions trying to make us live in the computer, has also made people return to the office. In reading almost every remote-work article that has been published for a year for my research, I have yet to find a single compelling argument about why employees should go back to the office.

“In-person collaboration” and “serendipity” are terms that make sense if you live in Narnia and believe in magical creatures. In reality, office environments resemble our remote lives, only with more annoying meetings and the chance to smell our co-workers’ lunch choices.

The tech industry pretends to be disruptive, but is following a path forged by older companies like Goldman Sachs. How is it that Apple and Google, the companies that effectively gave us the ability to remote work at scale, sound like they’re reading from a generic New York Times anti-remote op-ed?

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