The following text was originally published on Facebook. I am reposting it here at the request of a friend who wanted to send this to John Oliver.
I’ve recently been informed that I owe a couple Gs to the IRS from when I was working at Wired full-time. I was the youngest editor on the masthead, running not one but three online verticals of Wired.com, sometimes not leaving the office until midnight and commuting an hour to get home alone through the subways of NYC at night. I was being forced to spend my time dealing with eye-gougingly incompetent adsales people from corporations who were making probably 4x as much as me but couldn’t think of a new idea to save their lives.
Meanwhile Wired was using its own editorial employees to pressure me and other editors to be more lenient in allowing them to insert advertiser messaging into content so as to not disrupt these big ticket ad sales that would let our thick-necked jock of a VP win his internal betting ring against GQ and other Conde Nast publications. I thought I was working for a technology magazine, not a sportsball team–I turned in my cheerleading uniform years ago. But when I protested my editor yelled at me, the only time he ever has, and told me to just “keep my head down.” So I did what he said.
Al this time, I had no health insurance. I haven’t had health insurance since I graduated college, actually, and still don’t. I was a raging insomniac, stressed like a stretched rubber band, so I’d buy black market Ambien just to be able to fall asleep so I could go into work the next day. Once when I got strep throat and thought if I fell asleep my throat would close up and I’d die, but didn’t want to drop $500 or more at the emergency room, so I called a distant cousin, an opthamologist in the UP of Michigan, to fax an antibiotics prescription to my local pharmacy in Brooklyn. Wired asked me to go to Haiti after the earthquake and report, which left me reeling from the things I saw for months, years. I didn’t have any psychological resources, so I’d self medicate with booze, a smattering of black market pharmaceuticals–basically just throwing things at the wall to see what would stick and make that feeling go away. I was still “their” employee, and they had no idea. Nobody really had any idea of how much I was struggling in my glamorous dream job, I hid it well. But I shouldn’t have had to do that. Why wasn’t my company taking care of me?
Despite all that I was doing at Wired and the fact that I was putting my own health on the line for it, even though I’d put in the long hours for years and that magazine proudly bore my name on its masthead every month, I wasn’t technically an employee.
You see, Wired–along with probably every other publication in the Conde Nast portfolio, along with several other glossy-fronted publications that stare back at you on airport newsstands, along with many of the “innovative” new online publications that blanket your screen in ads before you can read the things that people like me worked to create for you to read–they use what is colloquially referred to in the industry as “exploding bridge employment.”
Technically, I was employed not by Wired but by Global Employment Solutions, a temp agency. In order to collect a full-time salary from Wired, I had to file my tax paperwork with this temp agency, this employment front, who would then take a chunk of my income from Wired/Conde Nast in order to absorb the liability of employing me and dozens of other “permalancers.” They didn’t provide health insurance because I technically wasn’t working for them either. And, they didn’t deduct taxes from my wages, nor did they make me aware of the implications of such.
The explanation from my editor at Wired was, if there was a problem, if something happened at work, if I was injured, sexually harassed, mistreated, I couldn’t sue Wired. Wired had to protect itself from the creative energy that gave it its clout in the first place. So when all of those things eventually did happen there, I of course had no recourse. On paper, I didn’t work for Wired, I worked for Global Employment Solutions.
When I sat down to do my taxes the year after I left Wired, my calculations came out extreme. 10k? How could I owe that much? I was a journalist busting my ass for a meager salary, and I’d only ever gotten refunds before. I must be doing something wrong, i’ll deal with it later. So I kicked my tax forms under the couch and left the country for a year. I needed to dissipate my anxiety and I was just really not trying to give a fuck about that company and its stranglehold on my life anymore. Last year I went to an accountant to rectify my finances like an adult, and that $10k figure came back to haunt me. Turns out you have to have wages withheld to have something to refund FROM. Makes sense, but at 24 when I signed that paperwork, I didn’t really know what I was signing.
Now I’m getting voicemails on my Google Voice while in Japan from the IRS asking me to please call them back.
At the same time, I’m seeing articles like this, featuring prominently, Wired’s major advertisers, keeping trillions in taxes they owe to the US government overseas where it will never benefit the citizens who toiled to make them their fortunes.
And I want to call the IRS back and say: Don’t you have bigger fish to fry?
Go get it from them first–the ones I was forced to make look really good in the glossy confines of the Wired Brand. And then I will pay you your measly $10k that could now, in the simplified mode of life I’ve discovered, support me for an entire year, but that you need so badly you’re paying telestalkers much more than that to get it from me. Redirect their priorities to go get your money from GE, Apple, Microsoft, and all the others. I’ve already paid my dues to taxpayers. I used my momentum from Wired and my salary to set up my own business designed to help women get ahead in this rotten misogynistic industry. I’ve redirected at least $50,000 from corporate media organizations to freelance writers so they could publish outside the confines of these amplifiers for the capitalist death spiral that’s decaying America from the inside out. My IRS file may not be clear, but my conscience is.
So fuck you, tax collectors. Go get your money from the corporations first. Then we can talk.