The Workers Tarot Deck

A working prototype by Parsons DESIS Lab at The New School

This deck is meant as a critical tool to help designers understand the implications of their designs (of services, platforms, products, systems) have on workers. Rather than a tool that leads to immediate applications, the exercise proposes zooming out into larger ethical and political implications of service design to help practitioners define a more consequential practice for themselves.

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Major Arcana cards corresponding to archetypes of service workers.

Minor Arcana cards corresponding to things or artifacts commonly used by service workers.

Minor Arcana cards corresponding to theories and concepts by philosophers, sociologists and designer theorists.

Minor Arcana cards corresponding to history, far or recent, of successful and not so successful workers movements and facts along time.

THE GIG COURIER

Energy, Wandering, Improvisation

"We generate a lot of revenue for the [thriving] platform companies but we don't even have proper PPE to deliver these services with the company's logo on our backs". Duda, app delivery courier, member of the activist group @entregadoresantifascistas in Brazil.

Gig workers are “essential” low-income service workers in the on-demand economy, working as independent service providers rather than employees. The apps often don’t favor the giger's autonomy, e.g. no transparency about destination, ambiguous tip systems, no minimal fare.

platformlabor.net/feed/gig-worker-experience-precarity

I. THE DOMESTIC WORKER

Dexterity, Potentiality, Care

Domestic workers are the contingent that suffers most from poor conditions and low wages. There are seven million domestic workers in Brazil, according to the United Nations’ International Labor Organization (ILO), the largest figure in the world. Earlier in 2018, Brazil ratified a treaty offering more labor security in this category, granting them the same rights as others more established occupations, such as working hours of eight hours daily and 44 weekly, unemployment insurance, sickness benefits, among others.

brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2018/02/09/ politica/1518183910_858999.html

Image: Drawing over picture of Edilene Pereira, by Toni Pires, El País Brasil

II. THE WORKING MOM

Gestation, Patience, Strength, Solitude, Resignation

Mothers tend to earn less than childless women, whereas fathers tend to earn more than childless men. These gaps are often referred to as the motherhood wage penalty and the daddy wage bonus that vary according to marital status, race/ethnicity, income level, among other factors. Married mothers pay the largest penalty, and married fathers earn the largest bonus. White women pay a larger wage penalty than African American and Hispanic women. The COVID pandemic brought new challenges for working moms, forcing many out of jobs to take care of their children.

Motherhood Penalty and Daddy Bonus by Rebecca Glauber & Megan Henly In: Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, Ed. by: Vicki Smith

nytimes.com/2020/06/03/business/ economy/coronavirus-working-women.html?searchResult Position=2

nytimes.com/2020/04/27/ upshot/coronavirus-exposes-workplace -truths.html?action=click&module =RelatedLinks&pgtype=Article

III. THE TEACHER

Creative Outburst, Expression, Desire of Power, Obsolescence

Before the pandemic hit, public school teachers were already famously underpaid and preschool teachers “live on the edge of financial ruin”, and medium-high school teachers overworked, underpaid and having to deal with large classrooms, resulting from decreasing public school budgets in several states. Meanwhile college faculty are increasingly less based on stable tenure track jobs and more adjunct part time contracts. The COVID has deepened the tensions with teachers having to quickly adapt to distance teaching and negotiate in person teaching. In higher ed, adjunct and renewable contract instructors fear they will be the first to be let go.

Nytimes.com/2018/01/09/ magazine/why-are-our-most-important-teachers-paid-the-least.html?searchResultPosition=1

Chronicle.com/article/on-a-knifes-edge

IV. THE STREET VENDOR

Micro-entrepreneur, informal worker, immigrant power, essential.

There are around 10,000 street vendors in New York City, making them an integral and vital part of the city life and economy. There are food vendors and general vendors selling all kinds of merchandise that have to obtain permits and there are also unlicensed street vendors operating on an informal basis. Street vendors are essential workers, yet they have been largely excluded from COVID relief policies.

instagram.com/streetvendorproject/

VI. THE FREELANCER

Conflict, Ambiguity, Unstable Love

Freelancing is a form of temporary employment in which workers are hired for a defined period or the duration of a project. Rather than employers, freelancers have clients. Since the 1980s, tax regulations in the U.S. have caused employers of freelancers in certain industries to hire through staffing agencies. Some freelancers working limited hours may be “moonlighters” supplementing standard jobs with additional sources of income.

Reference: Freelancing by Debra Osnowitz In: Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, Ed. by Vicki Smith

VII. THE A.I. TRAINER

Warrior, Eternity, The Opposite of Action, Trap, Sysiphus, Dead end

“Namita Pradhan sat at a desk in downtown Bhubaneswar, India, staring at a video recorded in a hospital on the other side of the world, showing the inside of someone’s colon. She was looking for polyps in the large intestine that could lead to cancer. She was helping to teach an artificial intelligence system that could eventually do the work of a doctor. She was one of dozens of young Indian women and men lined up at desks on the fourth floor of a small office building.” Similar occupations include the so-called mechanical turks and other menial digital tasks.

Reference: The New York Times Aug. 16, 2019. Nytimes.com/2019/08/16/ technology/ai-humans.html

VIII. THE FRONT LINE SALE EMPLOYEE

Heroe, Balance, Presence, Valor, Taking a Stand, No Choice

During the COVID pandemic, frontline sales employees such as grocery workers are everyday heroes, exposed to risk on a daily basis. Ever since the pandemic started, there were several cases of store management who neglected to provide grocery workers with personal protective gear. Pay rates for this occupation remains low. Grocery workers are also the ones often left with having to “educate” the public about masks, with cases of abuse by customers reported around the country. What is the situation in your grocery shop?

news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-has -some-unlikely-frontline-heroes-grocerystore-workers -144116895.html

nytimes.com/2020/03/20/business/ coronavirus-grocery- stores-workers.html

IX. THE CALL CENTER WORKER

Receptive, Walking Backward, Letting Go, Smile, Deference, Deflection

From the mid-1980s, instead of relying on operating from a prestigious location, most service-sector organizations switched to interfacing with their customers via ICT routed through a call center. Hailed as fast, efficient, and customer friendly, also accused of being “white-collar sweatshops akin to cages for hens.” Major sectors include financial services, media/telecoms, travel, IT, and utilities.

Reference: Call Centers by Chris Baldry In: Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, Ed. by Vicki Smith

X. THE CAREGIVER

Cycle, Renewal , Enigma, Impermanence, Eternal Return Beginning and End

“Marjorie Salmon is the round-the-clock caretaker for Bob Dettmer, 77, who is fogged in by Alzheimer’s and unsteady from Parkinson’s. A home health aide, her duties encompass social worker, housekeeper, behavioral-modification expert, dietitian, diaper changer, day planner, de facto case manager, warden. She works for a flat rate of $160 per day plus room and board. Her workday can stretch for 14 or 16 hours or more. She works 26 or 27 days out of the month.”

Reference: Andy Newman, The New York Times Sept. 2, 2019. Nytimes.com/2019 /09/02/nyregion/home-health-aide.html

Nytimes.com/2020/05/19/opinion/ coronavirus-health-care-workers-hazard-pay.html

XI. THE WELLNESS WORKER

Fresh Face, Feel good, New Energy, The Body, Toluene, Downward Facing Dog

“There are thousands of nail salons in New York City, working hard to keep New Yorkers looking great. But long hours of exposure to nail polish, lacquers, and other chemicals can be dangerous for salon workers. Many nail technicians are recent immigrants and unfamiliar with their labor rights or how to protect their health in the workplace.” (CUP).

The wellness industry caters to affluent urban residents and employs yoga teachers, masseuses, manicurists among others. Many are not traditionally employed but independent workers or associates.

welcometocup.org/Projects /MakingPolicyPublic/HealthySalonsForAll

X. THE UBER DRIVER

Entrepreneurship, Contractor, Flexibility, Myths, Precarity, Five Stars

Almost 40% of Uber drivers qualify for Medicaid and circa 18% qualify for food stamps. Driving is often a side gig or an alternative occupation to unemployment. Luis Vasquez, from Rideshare Drivers United, helped mobilize fellow Spanish-speaking drivers to connect an otherwise dispersed workforce and organize towards worker-protection legislation. In September 2019 California legislators approved a landmark bill ruling that Uber and Lyft are required to treat contract workers as employees, a move that may reshape the gig economy.

nytimes.com/2019/09/20/business/uber-lyft-drivers.html

nytimes.com/2019/09/11/technology/california-gig-economy-bill.html

X. THE IMMIGRANT WORKER

Harvest, Care of Others, Segregation, Stuck, Day Labor, Latinx

Also known as “brown-collar jobs”, a term introduced by Lisa Catanzarite referring to recent immigrants especially Latinos, who often work low-wage service jobs, in many cases becoming the predominant demographic of certain occupations. Typical brown-collar occupations include “childcare workers, construction laborers, waiters’ assistants, cooks, gardeners, maids, apparel assemblers, furniture assemblers, painters, and farm workers”. These are typically jobs at the “bottom of the job queue”, unattractive to native workers and offer little upward socio-economic mobility, as well as low social status.

Reference: Brown-Collar Jobs by Lisa Catanzarite In: Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, Ed. by Vicki Smith

centernyc.org/reality-check

XIV. THE HEALTH CARE WORKER

Essential, Healing, Guardian Angel, Benevolence, Health, Even-Tempered

It doesn’t get more “essential” than this. While doctors are at the pinnacle of the hierarchy of healthcare professions, health care workers also involve scores of other occupational groups such as nursing, pharmacy, laboratory and medical imaging technologies, therapy, and rehabilitation. In the US, pressures for changes in the way health services are organized, delivered, and financed are ongoing. COVID exposed health care workers to some of the contradictions of the healthcare system such as emergency paramedics not being covered by health insurance themselves.

Reference: Health Care Professions by Kathleen Montgomery, In: Sociology of Work: An Encyclopedia, Ed. by: Vicki Smith

equalcare.coop

XV. HOURLY WORKER

Turbulence, Uncertainty, Informality, Hidden Forces

“Unpredictable schedules can be brutal for hourly workers, upending their lives. New research shows that African-Americans, Hispanics and other minorities — particularly women — are much more likely to be assigned irregular schedules, and that the harmful repercussions are felt not just by the workers but also their families. Brandy Powell outside her home in Fontana, Calif., before heading to work. “They expect you to always say yes,” she said of employers who change her schedule on short notice.”

Reference: The New York Times Oct. 16, 2019 Nytimes.com/2019 /10/16/upshot/unpredictable- job-hours.html

Shift.hks.harvard.edu

Ilr.cornell.edu/worker -institute/intiatives/ precarious-workforce

XVII. THE ARTIST

Coming Soon

XVIII. HOSPITALITY WORKER

Hospitality industries comprise restaurants, hotels, transportation and are fields that in general depend on one hand on disposable income and on the other, employs high proportions of women and people of color in both client-facing and back office positions. Main tensions that characterize these occupations involve low wage, aesthetic labor, harassment. Frontline hospitality workers deal with aesthetic and emotional pressures (e.g. aesthetic labor and emotional labor) that are ways of “shaping” bodies and minds into specific desired expressions that represent the organization they work for.

Reference: No Cure in Sight: The Covid-19 Economic Virus in New York City As the End of Summer Approaches. A report by James A. Parrott and Lina Moe. August 2020. Center for New York City Affairs, The New School

XIX. THE WAREHOUSE WORKER

The Big Eye, Omnipresence, Efficiency, Apollo, Drones

A former employee charged Amazon alleging it treats workers as if they were something less than people — in order to make it an ultra efficient system of one day delivery, the company imposes taxing routines, rules and metrics on workers, who “feel patronized and spied on” and stripped from their “personal initiative”. During the COVID pandemic, workers in some facilities were feeling on the edge, like they were “risking their life for a dollar”. While the company has publicly pledged to protect their workers, a growing number of protests and public petitions have arisen from corporate and warehouse employees.

nytimes.com/2019/07/03/ business/economy/amazon-warehouse -labor-robots.html

vox.com/recode/2020/6/29/21303643/ amazon-coronavirus-warehouse-workers-protest-jeff-bezos- chris-smalls-boycott-pandemic

XX. PUBLIC TRANSIT WORKERS

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XXI. THE JANITOR

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A♦ DELIVERY APPS

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VI♦. SCRIPTS & IMPROV

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VII♦. UNIFORMS & DRESS CODES

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IX♦. Reputation Systems

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X♦. CONTRACT

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THE PAGE ♦. Management Watch

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THE QUEEN ♦. TIPPING

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THE KNIGHT ♦. PPE/ Body Gear

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A♠. FEMINIST THEORIES OF WORK

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III♠. CHRISTOPHE DEJOURS

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VI♠. Aesthetic Labor

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VII♠. Emotional Labor

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X♠. Dolores Hayden

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THE QUEEN ♠. Hannah Arendt

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III♥. Air Controllers Strike 1981

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VII♥. #Red For Ed

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VIII♥. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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THE PAGE ♥. The ILO

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THE QUEEN ♥. SEWA

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THE KING ♥. Olivetti

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THE KNIGHT ♥. Mondragon

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