Sunday, May 17, 2015

Cornish College art students help with Microsoft temps' campaign for better benefits

In the Sunday edition of the Seattle Times.

Cornish College art students help with Microsoft temps’ campaign for better benefits.

The labor movement has a rich history of using art to galvanize support, from the black-cat symbol of the Industrial Workers of the World to folk songs by Pete Seeger and the writings of Upton Sinclair.
So when Philippe Boucher, a contractor on Microsoft’s campus who helped organized Washington’s newest union of technology workers, searched the Web for images to depict his campaign for paid time off, he was surprised by what he found.
“There were very few images on these themes,” Boucher said. “Almost nothing.”
Boucher got some help to remedy that. The Bainbridge Island resident ran into a neighbor, Natalia Ilyin, as his campaign was gaining steam this winter. Ilyin, a professor at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle, happened to teach a class called “Design for Social Change.”
A partnership was born. Ilyin asked her students to create poster- and advertisement-style images on behalf of the Temporary Workers of America, the union chartered last year by Boucher and fellow employees of a Redmond unit of technology contractor Lionbridge Technologies.
Among the results: A family at a barbecue with the father figure cut out. A man and a child seated at the dinner table next to an empty chair. Someone in a cast worrying about having to rush back to work too soon.
Many of the pieces feature the phrase “Paid Time Off Matters.”
That isn’t a coincidence. In March, several months after Boucher’s campaign began and amid a broader push for better wages and benefits for the lowest-paid workers in a booming technology industry, Microsoft ordered the contractors it buys services from to give their employees 15 days of paid leave a year.
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith made the announcement in a blog postunder the headline “Paid time off matters.”
Boucher agrees. He’s also keeping an eye out for an opportunity to hold an exhibition of the images.
— Matt Day:

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