Strong Feelings

Solidarity in Action with Nora Keller

Episode Summary

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, equity, and respect at work. The best way to do that? Unionize! Tech worker and organizer Nora Keller tells us how to get started.

Episode Notes

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity, equity, and respect at work. The best way to do that? Unionize! Tech worker and organizer Nora Keller tells us how to get started. 

Nora Keller is a product manager at the New York Times and an organizer for the Times Tech Guild. The unit was formed earlier this year and is one in a growing movement of new tech-worker unions fighting for equity, transparency, and a seat at the table. 

Every worker, no matter where they work, or what they do, deserves an equitable, accountable, and transparent workplace. The working class is going to find its power through solidarity. It's not going to find it through division. And the truth is that the average tech worker has a lot more in common with a healthcare worker or a teacher than they do with the Jeff Bezoses of the world. 

—Nora Keller, organizer, Times Tech Guild

We talk about:

Plus: in our last You’ve Got This of the year, Sara calls us to keep questioning our defaults in the workplace. How have your expectations of work changed this year, and what do you want to stop tolerating in 2022? For all this and more, check out


Episode Transcription

Nora Keller 0:00 People who run things need us to show up to work every day and produce profit. If we put that on the table, collectively, we can start to demand change. That can start in your workplace, you know, you start to demand change in your workplace, then you can start to make demands of society at large.

Sara Wachter-Boettcher 0:28 Hello, and welcome to Strong Feelings: the podcast all about the messy world of being a human at work. I'm your host, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, and today, I'm excited to close out 2021 by talking about something that's been on my mind all year: unions. We'll be joined in a bit by Nora Keller, who's a product manager at the New York Times and an organizer with the Times Tech Guild, which formed earlier this year. More on that soon. But first, I just want to frame up this conversation for a sec because 2021 has been a year of lots of labor union momentum. 

0:59 In October, there were so many workers on strike in the US that people were calling it "Striketober." And just last week here, in December, employees at a Starbucks store in Buffalo, New York, voted to unionize—the first store in the nation to do so, but a lot of folks say it's probably not the last. Amazon warehouse workers are continuing to organize for a union. There's tons more to say about unions in the US right now. And it's happening in tech, too, with tech workers. In 2020, Kickstarter staff formed a union, and then in January of this year, the Alphabet Workers Union organized. That's more than 900 people who work at Google and some of the other companies affiliated with Alphabet. 

1:36 And in fact, earlier this month, the president of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, told Reuters that she thinks tech is the next big frontier for labor organizing. Let me share a little bit of what she said. She said: "What we're seeing in the tech sector is workers rising up. You look at companies like YouTube, Google, Apple, their workers have been speaking out. They've been staging walkouts on issues like racial justice and sexual harassment.” But the issue, she says, is that without a union, these workers don't have the collective power they need. “I think tech workers are starting to connect the dots,” she said. Yeah, this is a powerful moment. So let's talk to one of those tech workers. 

Interview with Nora Keller

SWB 2:16 Nora Keller is a product manager at the New York Times and an organizer for the Times Tech Guild, which is fighting for more equitable working conditions for the more than 500 workers who make the times digital products. The union asked for recognition from the New York Times earlier this year, and it's been quite a wild ride since. Nora, I can't wait to hear more about it. Welcome to Strong Feelings.

NK 2:36 Thank you for having me.

SWB 2:37 So first up, can you tell us a little bit about your story: what you do at The Times and how you first got started with the union efforts?

NK 2:44 Yes. So, I joined The Times in 2019, and I became a product manager in May of this year. And the Tech Guild went public exactly one day after I joined the tech side of the org, and I signed up immediately. I was on it, I couldn't wait to get involved.

SWB 3:05 What made that be something that you wanted to be part of?

NK 3:05 So, I had been very interested in unions at the time already. I had started thinking about unions probably earlier that year, and it was really nice, because I didn't think that I would ever get to be in one. So it was just so exciting to get that email. At the time, I was just feeling really depressed about the state of the nation and feeling helpless as an individual. I have this study that I think about all of the time, and the study came out pretty recently. And it was run by these political scientists at Princeton University. And their goal was basically to find out what bearing does the popularity of a policy have on whether or not it's likely to happen. You know, on one axis, they have probability of the policy change, and then on the other axis, they have preferences of regular citizens. And it's basically a flatline. You know, it doesn't matter how popular a policy is, it has almost no bearing on whether or not it's going to happen. 

SWB 4:07 This is a bummer. 

NK 4:08 Yeah, it's super sad. But if you replace the axis of "regular citizens" with the axis of basically like economic elites—you know, rich people, the owner class, the not-working class—suddenly the line looks a lot prettier. It's basically a diagonal graph going up to the right. So, you know, I was just in this place where I kept thinking, like, "My vote, your vote, what we want, doesn't matter." Unless you're in this like corporate elite class, your vote matters less, and it's really depressing. And I just felt like, "Okay, what am I going to do? Do these protests matter? Does what I think matter? It just feels like the game is rigged." And I was in the middle of this just like existential crisis, so I started doing a lot of reading and listening to some talks, and I kind of came to the conclusion that if you're a regular person, and one of the 99% of this country, the reality is that you don't have the power, you don't have the money or influence probably to make the kind of change that you may want to see by yourself. Right? But I think that regular people do have that power collectively. And we have to work together and combine our power because we live under a capitalist system. And really the biggest bargaining chip that we have is our labor. 

5:28 People who run things need us to show up to work every day and produce profit. And, you know, if we put that on the table, collectively, we can start to demand change. And that can start in your workplace, you know, you start to demand change in your workplace, then you can start to make demands of society at large. And so that's why I really was drawn to unions. Because it's like, really one of the only ways that a regular person can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of their colleagues and the people they know. And if you're feeling helpless, start organizing, organize your workplace.

SWB 6:03 And so the union organizing had been kind of taking place for a little while. You join, you're immediately: "Sign me up. Let me become an organizer. I'm ready to go." So as you started digging into that union work, what have you been finding are some of the biggest issues for employees at The Times?

NK 6:18 Yeah, what I said is definitely just like my story. I'm Korean, we're very melodramatic, you've seen the movies. And you know, not everybody is out here, like, giving speeches about capitalism. Pretty much everyone is just saying: "we want to unionize because we want to make the New York Times a better place to work." And at the end of the day, that's what it's about. We're fighting for a union because we know that tech workers are essential to the future of The New York Times, and we deserve a workplace where we're treated with dignity, and equity, and respect.

SWB 6:52 Yeah. So what are some of the issues that you feel like are getting in the way of dignity, equity, and respect right now?

NK 6:59 So, there are a couple of things that we want to address. We've seen basically some clear patterns emerging from conversations that we've had with our colleagues in terms of what they think that The New York Times could do better. A big one is pay equity. We've done some early informal surveys, and we've already found significant divergence of pay within titles. And we want to bring up salaries on the low end to what we think is a fair amount. Our healthcare is on the high end, and we've heard very concerning stories about claims being denied. And that's something we want to improve. Currently, we're all, all non-unionized workers, at-will, which means that we can be fired at any time for any reason. Whereas a union will provide what's called "just-cause protections," and then we can basically have shop stewards who will ensure fairness in those processes. 

7:48 Another one is career development. There's a lot of ambiguity around basically what responsibilities are required for promotion cadence, what should be done at your level, especially in non-engineering roles, and we want the union to provide workers a direct list of responsibilities and a seat at the table to figure out, like, what an equitable promotion process would look like. And then the last big one, which we kind of hear from basically everyone, are concerns around diversity. That I think comes up the most because that has to do with all of the other things that I mentioned. You know, workers at The Times have cared about diversity and improving working conditions for historically underrepresented colleagues for a long time. In the past few years, leadership has begun taking this more seriously, which is great. But with a union, we can help shape the company approach to DEI, and then we can also implement measures of accountability to make sure that they do the things they're saying they're going to do. 

SWB 8:46 So this union work, you've been talking with your colleagues, getting information about what people want, what people need, what's not working. And meanwhile, I understand that The New York Times has not been particularly receptive to your union. And I'm wondering if you can tell us a little bit about that. What does that process look like, and what have you been hearing from them? 

NK 9:06 Yeah. So The Times’ response has been disappointing, to say the least. The Times says that it supports unions, and it has editorialized in favor of voluntary recognition, which is basically you get a majority of people who want the union to sign cards, and then they would voluntarily recognize you. 

SWB 9:26 And you tried that, right? 

NK 9:27 Yes, we did. So when we did it, they then swiftly denied us. And since then they've waged an anti-union campaign filled with illegal tactics right out of a union-busting playbook. They've been illegally pressuring workers not to support the union, trying to disenfranchise hundreds of workers, created a really negative atmosphere and blaming that on the union. It's been, yeah, very disappointing. 

SWB 9:51 Yeah. 

NK 9:52 But we soldier on.

SWB 9:54 Yeah, well, actually, maybe this is a good time to just clarify a little bit too, because The New York Times has a few different union efforts that have been happening that have been getting press. So the Times Tech Guild, that's specifically for people who are tech workers. Can you describe a little bit about, like, how you are thinking about what that grouping is and then how it relates to the other unions that exist? 

NK 10:14 Yes. So The Times Tech Guild, we are basically the workers who build the digital products of The New York Times. So the app, the website, that stuff, we make that. And then there are existing guilds in The New York Times. We have sister guilds in the newsroom, so that's—Wirecutter is one; they're currently bargaining for a contract right now. It's also been a pretty ugly process. And the newsroom, basically, the reporters, the editors, it's actually a pretty robust union, there's members of security personnel and like IT workers who are also within that unit, and they've been unionized for something like 80 years.

SWB 10:52 So it sounds like The Times is trying to kind of, you said, disenfranchise people from this union, so to say, like, "You don't belong in this union. You don't belong in this union." Can you say a little bit more about what's going on there? Like, why are they trying to keep people out? Or what does that look like? 

NK 11:06 Right. So The Times is taking the position that our unit should be split up, and they'll say, it's because we don't work together. But we do, we work together every day. You know, I work very closely with my colleagues in engineering. 

SWB 11:18 I was gonna say: product managers and engineers. 

NK 11:21 Yeah, I know. 

SWB 11:21 The listeners of this show mostly know that they work together constantly. Yeah.

NK 11:25 It's a pretty ridiculous assertion. But, you know, the reason they're doing that is because the strength of a union comes from its numbers. Right? The larger your union is, the more bargaining power you have. I think that they realized, especially in the engineering unit, that we do have a pretty strong majority, and they're probably not going to win the fight of not having any unionized tech workers. So they're taking the position of "let's have as few unionized tech workers as we can."

SWB 11:53 And so because they didn't voluntarily recognize your union, instead of made these arguments about splitting it up, what does that mean for what the process looks like to go from like, "Okay, we've organized" to this is something that actually is in existence and has power in the organization?

NK 12:10 At this point, because The New York Times has refused to grant us voluntary recognition despite it being the wish of the majority of tech workers, they're instead forcing us through this very lengthy process which started out with a hearing with the National Labor Relations Board, basically on who should be allowed to be in the unit. And then once the Board rules on a decision, which they still haven't done, then we will have a vote. And so once we have a vote, and we win, we can then begin contract negotiations. But in the meantime, it's a process that takes months, and the NYT has used that ample added time to just hire a law firm and union bust.

SWB 12:51 That sounds really frustrating, and at the same time, it sounds like there's such an incredible wellspring of people who are still so engaged in this process that you've got a huge percentage of employees who signed on, right? What's the percentage of people in the unit that have signed on?

NK 13:05 I don't think we're officially sharing the exact number. But I can tell you that it is a strong majority.

SWB 13:11 Yeah, yeah. Well, one of the things that I've heard actually from some people in the tech industry, is kind of this skepticism of unions. It's like, "Well, you know, people in tech, they're well-paid, privileged. We don't need a union. Why would we need something like that?" And I'm wondering, what would you say to somebody who is still in that place, who's thinking like, "I don't know why this is so important"? 

NK 13:35 I think it's healthy to have some skepticism. But I think it's really important to keep in mind what a union is, right? I've been reading this book by this woman, Jane McAlevey. She's an organizer and labor academic. And she loves to quote, this healthcare worker and organizer, Bernie Minter, and he had a really amazing definition of unions. And it's basically that unions are a collective effort by all employees who work for an employer to stop the boss from doing what you don't want him to do, and to make the boss do what you want him to do, and to be used in any other way members see fit. 

14:11 Unions apply to all people who work. We are very proud to be part of a larger movement for better working conditions across our economy as a whole. Every worker, no matter where they work, or what they do, deserves an equitable, accountable, and transparent workplace. You know, unions are not a scarce resource. My greatest dream would be for every working person to unionize. And you know, the working class is going to find its power through solidarity. It's not going to find it through division. And the truth is that the average tech worker has a lot more in common with a healthcare worker or a teacher than they do with the Jeff Bezoses of the world. 

14:48 Tech has become and is continuing to become a really large part of our economy. I think it's really important right now for workers to have a say in our pay, and our benefits, and our career advancement opportunities, and the ethics of the tools that we're working on, questions about diversity and equity in our workplace. My salary does not make me or exclude me from being in a union. It doesn't protect me. And it doesn't protect my colleagues from inequity.

SWB 15:19 I'm so glad you mentioned that thing about people working in tech, like, we have so much more in common with a healthcare worker or a teacher than a CEO. I think that's something that the tech industry often gets wrong. Like, there's this strong culture within tech at least, or maybe just the like Silicon Valley, VC tech world, but it kind of permeates, that like, we're all just one lucky break away from being a billionaire founder of a company, which is like, statistically, highly unlikely. Most of us are actually a lot more likely to, I don't know, end up unemployed and living in your car. We're much more precarious, I think, sometimes than we think. And I'm wondering, you know, what do you think would change in the way people lived day-to-day or the way people thought about themselves in their work if people kind of recognize that, if they understood that more deeply?

NK 16:09 Yeah, I mean, you're totally right. Tech companies will lay you off in a mass Zoom meeting. You know, look,, they just did that. And you know what, if bosses can automate your job, they will automate your job. If they can keep you on a contract forever, instead of full time, they will do that because they care about the bottom line. And you know, we all need to fight for those rights while we still have some leverage. We're all working for our pay. We're laboring for the money we make. And we're not in a position to change our circumstances unless we unionize. 

16:42 And you know, already, we can see what we've accomplished at The New York Times has resonated at companies like Google and Amazon where tech workers are also struggling with the same problems, with a lack of equity, a lack of respect, and a lack of voice over working conditions. If you think about it, I think it would be really cool if Amazon warehouse workers and Amazon tech workers organized, and they could work together to combat corporate greed and create a better world. And that's what building solidarity is about. We've had really wonderful support from traditional labor unions. The AFL-CIO, the Teamsters, the steel workers unions, healthcare unions, airline unions, other tech, non-tech workers, and the CWA, our sister units in the newsroom and Wirecutter, they've all been nothing but supportive. And it's because they know that we're in the same fight: the fight for the rights of working people. 

SWB 17:38 Which is, again, almost all of us, even if you have a cushy salary, whatever. Like, if you still have to work to get by, you're a worker. 

NK 17:47 Yeah. 

SWB 17:48 And I think sometimes people don't really think of themselves that way, and I'm glad you're really pushing people to think of themselves that way. Okay, so let's say somebody's listening in right now, you know, they work in tech in some way, and they're like, "This is interesting, I have a lot of similar feelings; I would love to have more collective action in my workplace." Where might you recommend they start figuring out how to make that possible there?

NK 18:13 Well, first of all, congratulations, that's awesome. I'm so excited that you're thinking about it. The first step is to start talking to your colleagues. You don't have to go up to them and be like, "Hey, I want to unionize." Just start talking to them about your concerns, ask them about their concerns, ask them what they want to see changed in their workplace, you know, just start building solidarity. That's how it starts. You start listening to people and building real connections. That's the beginning of a union. And from there, you can get a committee together. Don't do this alone. Like, if you try to do it by yourself, you will fail. It is a lot of work. And you need the support of your colleagues.

SWB 18:53 So one of the things that I know is that kind of in those early stages when maybe you feel a little alone, and you're like, "Wait, does everybody else have that same feeling I'm having right now? Am I the only one who thinks this?" I know it can be a little scary to start having those conversations. And I know that it can also be a little risky if you start talking about unions, right? How do you recommend that people have those conversations in ways where they can protect themselves in the process or kind of keep things under wraps?

NK 19:19 I think from the beginning, it's really important: you should know your rights. Starting a union or joining a union is your right, and that is protected by federal labor law. You have the right to talk to your coworkers about starting a union. You also have the right to talk to them about your workplace conditions, and that includes pay. Everyone loves to discourage you from disclosing how much you make. No, you should have those conversations. 

SWB 19:42 Yes. Yes. Please tell your coworkers how much you make. It's so important. I know it's really hard for people, but I think about this a lot, like, the lack of information people have, the lack of transparency is so much of the problem.

NK 19:55 Yeah, and those conversations can be really powerful and galvanizing. And if you do think your rights are being infringed upon, you should contact the National Labor Relations Board because you are protected in having those conversations. The other thing I would say is, if you do want to approach the boss, I would wait until you've built a solid base of members in your unit. Try not to let them find out what you're doing before you've done that because you know, we are protected, but you know, they probably won't fire you and say it was for unionizing. Companies are not idiots. Ideally, by the time you go public, you have a really strong base, you already have a majority of your colleagues signed on, and ideally have signed cards at that point. In any case, you just need to have a really good foundation of solidarity. You have to have each other's backs, you know, you have to be willing to fight for your colleagues and know that they're willing to fight for you. Go in it together. Don't do it alone.

SWB 20:50 Well, speaking of that, I'm curious for you, just speaking personally, how has it felt for you now working there, knowing that your colleagues have your back and you have their back? Like, how has that changed the dynamic of your work with your colleagues?

NK 21:04 It's been really wonderful. I mean, as I said, earlier, I basically joined the unionizing effort immediately when I joined this side of the org. And it's been so wonderful because I made friends, I've gotten to know people really well. And you know, I know people all over the organization, including people I wouldn't normally have gotten to work with. I've gotten to know a lot of other product managers, and they've helped me navigate my first performance review, like, what should I do? How should I navigate that? You know, having those resources in my colleagues has been great because some of the people have worked at The Times for 15 years, and they know really well how things work. Those are just like some of the wonderful things the union can give you. A really common union-busting tactic used by bosses is that they'll say, like, "Oh, this unionizing stuff has really created a dark cloud over the workplace, and it's made a really bad atmosphere." But I think on the contrary, I know that I keep saying the word "solidarity," but that is really like the heart of a union. It's building relationships with your colleagues and really caring about them. That's been wonderful. And it's made working at The Times so much better.

SWB 22:12 Nora, I love that so much. Where can people get more information about The Times Tech Guild?

NK 22:16 People can find the times tech guild on Twitter @NYTGuildTech, or you can go to our website, And if you are thinking about unionizing, if you're a tech worker, I highly recommend reaching out to the CWA, or OPEIU. Those are unions organizing in the tech space, and they can help you with resources. We are part of the CWA. If you're not in tech, you can, you know, Google and find parent orgs unionizing in your space. You also don't have to go that route, like, you can do it on your own. That's what the Amazon workers in New York are doing, you can totally do that. But I do think it's helpful to kind of have someone who's done it before show you how to do it. And if you have questions, and you want to know how to organize, and you're in tech or not in tech, feel free to reach out to The Times Guild, or you can reach out to me. I'm on Twitter @NoraKeller. You know, everyone is so excited to help anyone. We've had a few different shops message us and say, like, “Hey, I'm really interested in organizing,” and we will help you. You shouldn't do it alone. It's hard. We'll help.

SWB 23:25 That is such a wonderful message: solidarity in action. Thank you so much, Nora. 

NK 23:29 Thanks, Sara.

SWB 23:39 We've talked a lot about how unions work, about forming the union at The Times Tech Guild. I'd like to take a little bit of time here, though, and also talk a little bit about your personal experience. Because I know that there are risks associated with joining a union or being a vocal supporter. Right? Saying some of the stuff you've said today. I know that for a lot of people that can be pretty scary to imagine being visible like that and the potential career hit. And I'm wondering, how have you thought about those risks?

NK 24:09 Yeah, I think it is really important to acknowledge that this is a scary process. I was afraid. I was brand-new to tech. And I'm still a little afraid, actually, you know, it doesn't really go away. 

SWB 24:21 Yeah. 

NK 24:21 I've got a performance review this month, and I'm gunning for a promotion. Yeah, I'm scared about the retaliation. But I think this is just fundamentally so important that, you know, I don't want to back down. And actually, anytime that I feel afraid of retaliation, it just makes me think that that's more evidence of why I need a union to protect me and to protect my colleagues—because we should be able to speak our minds. And I find a lot of courage through the solidarity of my colleagues. I know that they have my back, and I have theirs, and we are strong together. And you know, of course, know your rights, and know that you're allowed to be doing this.

SWB  25:02 Yeah. That's huge. Was there anything that you did to kind of prepare or protect yourself in the process? 

NK 25:10 Yeah, when I first joined the other organizers and other prospective union members, we gather together pretty frequently and make sure everybody knows the rights. Make sure, you know, everybody has a contact with other colleagues. And so like there's that built-in level of solidarity. If anything ever happens that makes someone feel uncomfortable, the first thing we do is we go to the other members of the union, and we work together, and we strategize when we say, "Actually, like, they're not allowed to say that," or, "Oh, here's how you can approach it." You're never left on your own if you're uncomfortable. We dedicate a lot of our time into creating resources for people, you know, making sure everyone has educational docs and like, has good context. I think that that's so important.

SWB 25:57 Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned that, too, because, you know, you mentioned earlier that you're Korean, right. And I think that when it comes to things like being visible in your org, and speaking up, and talking back, that obviously intersects with gender and racial dynamics, and I would say, you know, women of color are often at the greatest risk in their organizations. I love this idea that it actually makes it a lot safer in some ways because it's not just you as the individual who's, you know, more likely to be subjected to bias. You have everybody else behind you, like, everybody has your back and is helping you figure out what to do about it. Something I'm wondering about is, when you think about maybe the gender and racial dynamics of unionization, I mean, to me, it sounds like something that people who have more systemic power in organizations probably should be getting more involved in showing up to offer more of that power to their colleagues. What do you wish more historically overrepresented groups in tech were doing? 

NK 26:59 Right. It's kind of funny, because I have very rarely in this process heard from anyone, "You know, I'm good, whatever. Like, I don't really care if my colleagues aren't having as good of a time as I am." You know, most of the people that I've talked to, if they're saying, like, "I'm in a pretty good position," they're saying, "Yeah, I'm in a pretty good position, but I know that things aren't as good for others as they are for me. And that's why I want to be involved." A lot of people have great relationships with their managers, and things have been okay for them, and they negotiated a high salary from the get-go. But fundamentally, they disagree with that process, when they say, like, "Everyone should have the right to have a say in their workplace, and no one should be afraid to speak out." I think that that can be really powerful because if you're someone who is feeling really afraid, it can feel very emboldening to see someone else who is in a good position speaking out for your right to say something too. That's what this whole thing is about. That's what building solidarity is about. 

27:58 We intend to work closely with the ERGs that already exist and who are doing a lot of good work; we're hoping that we can provide some legal process behind some of the things that they want to do. Employers are legally required to bargain with unions; they are not legally required to bargain with ERGs. You know, I'm in a couple of different ones, and we have basically as much power as the company is willing to cede to us. The company doesn't get a say in whether or not you get to speak out, like, it is your right to speak out. And they have to listen.

SWB 28:31 Such a great point. And for anybody who's not familiar with them, that's Employee Resource Groups, when you say "ERGs." 

NK 28:35 Yes. 

SWB 28:36 They exist at the pleasure of the company versus a union, which is, like, once the union's in place. Yeah, it's non-optional at that point. 

NK 28:43 Yeah. Often at the displeasure of the company. 

SWB 28:45 Yeah. Okay, so last question for you today: if there's someone out there who is excited by all of this, feeling inspired, but is also feeling pretty nervous about putting themselves out there, what encouragement would you offer them?

NK 29:00 I would say: don't you think you should feel differently? Like, don't you think it's messed up that you feel nervous about the idea of advocating for yourself and advocating for your colleagues? If you feel nervous about that, that's messed up, and you should change it. Start small. If you have a friend who works with you, start with them. It all begins with just, like, conversations.

SWB 29:22 Nora, thank you so much, again, for being here today. Remind where everybody can follow your work and get in touch with you?

NK 29:28  Yeah, you guys can follow me @NoraKeller. I'm on all the social medias that way. 

SWB 29:34 Thank you again, Nora. 

NK 29:35 Thank you for having me. This was awesome.

You’ve Got This

SWB 29:41 I just love that last sentiment from Nora: if you're scared about speaking up at work, don't you think that's messed up? I do. And I think it connects to so much of what we've been talking about on the show all year. So, since this is our very last episode of 2021, I'd like to take a moment here in our final segment and zoom out. Because all year we've been talking to people about how their expectations of work have changed. People like Alla Weinberg, who stopped accepting workplaces that were unsafe and that punished her for being human, and started talking to teams about what it takes to build real safety. Or Vivianne Castillo, who created a whole organization, HmntyCntrd, to help people look at how they can be more humane to themselves and to others at work. We talked to Paloma Medina about the problems with productivity culture, with Margot Bloomstein about the power of vulnerability. Oh, and Rachel and Travis Gertz told us about turning their business into a worker-owned cooperative where the people who work there share in the profits, and everyone has a say in how things are done. 

30:43 There are so many others I can mention here. But when I look back on this year of shows, and on this year in general, maybe, what I think is so clear is that there's just never been a better time to question our defaults, to question the beliefs we have about our work, about how much of our identity and our sense of value as a human we wrap up in our professional lives. To question our default about being always on, always answering that email. About what ambition means, about what leadership looks like, and what that means. You know, in fact, I was just reading an article in the Washington Post saying that maybe what we're seeing isn't just the Great Resignation, but more like a general strike. That people are just saying, "No, I won't put up with this anymore. I will not work under these conditions." And so that's what I recommend you all think about here at the end of another really challenging year: what working conditions that don't actually work for you have you been tolerating this year? And what would it look like if you stop tolerating them in 2022? 

31:41 I get it. That's a hard question, but encourage you to ask it anyway, really sit with that. And what default beliefs have you been carrying around about work, about productivity, about success? About what a business needs to look like or act like? How might you challenge those beliefs? What beliefs of those aren't working for you anymore? I hope you'll think about that. I know I will continue thinking about it. And with that, have a restful and joyful winter, and I'll see you in 2022. You've got this. 

32:15 That’s it for this year of Strong Feelings! I’m your host, Sara Wachter-Boettcher, and Strong Feelings is a production of Active Voice. Check us out at, and get all the past episodes, show notes, and full transcripts for strong feelings at This episode was recorded in South Philadelphia, and produced by Emily Duncan. Our theme music is “Deprogrammed'' by Philly’s own Blowdryer. Check them out at Huge thanks to Nora Keller for being our guest today, and thank you so much for listening! If you liked our show, please don’t forget to give us a rating wherever you listen to podcasts. See you next year!