Reddit’s r/antiwork is typically filled with horror stories that make you want to quit not just your own job but strangers’ jobs, too.
“My boss suggested I might not be able to take forty minutes to see my daughters [sic] first ever school play, so I told him try not to be a cartoon villain and he hung up on me,” reads one post from earlier this month. “That’s permission to take the whole afternoon off, right?” the post concludes.
The underlying ethos of r/antiwork isn’t just to be a place to vent—it’s to push back on the idea of work as we know it. So it might seem counterintuitive that on Thursday, a thread blew up that was urging members to apply for jobs.
The jobs in question are permanent positions at Kellogg’s cereal plants in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Tennessee. The goal was to overwhelm the system with fake applications, making it a nightmare for recruiters to sort through.
Members of r/antiwork were aligning with the 1,400 Kellogg’s workers who went on strike more than two months ago over stalled union negotiations with the company. Kellogg’s announced this week that it would hire permanent replacement workers after those on strike voted to reject a tentative agreement with management.
“It’s very easy to empathize with the Kellogg’s workers,” says Kevin McKenzie, a moderator of r/antiwork. Hearing Kellogg’s workers talk about being overworked, being paid low wages, and having a poor work-life balance resonates with others, he says. “It lights a fire in the community, and you get ideas like this that spring up and get supported.”
Kellogg’s didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Threads on r/antiwork compile timelines of the Kellogg strike, lists of products made by Kellogg to boycott, and links to the jobs that would replace striking workers. At the time of writing, the main thread encouraging subreddit members to flood the system with fake applications had more than 62,000 upvotes and thousands of comments. In another, members share tips on how to use features like autofill to submit applications faster.
The striking workers are aware of the efforts, says Corrina Christensen, director of communications for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers’ International Union, which represents the Kellogg’s employees.
“It’s phenomenal,” she says.
Earlier this week, Reddit highlighted r/antiwork as being “the poster child for the great resignation.” According to the company, the subreddit has grown by 279 percent in membership between 2020 and 2021, now home to 1.3 million members. The fourth most upvoted post of 2021 was a thread on r/antiwork of someone unceremoniously quitting their job.
Any organizing around flashpoints like the Kellogg’s strike is member-driven, says McKenzie. McKenzie is a graduate social work student in South Carolina who says the philosophy of antiwork resonates with him personally: he holds down multiple jobs and internships while in school, and at times, work has taken over his life.
“That’s why this kind of action gets popular,” McKenzie says. “Everybody feels the struggle, and the pain, and the misery that these Kellogg workers feel right now.”
Moderators pinned a post with suggestions on how to support the strike, including flooding the job postings, but otherwise have let members take the lead. McKenzie says some members reported the job site crashing throughout the day, and the initiative has now spread to Twitter and TikTok, introducing new people to the r/antiwork community.
It’s not the first time antiwork messages broke out of digital spaces. Last week, a slew of posts on social media suggested receipt printers were being hacked to spit out pro-worker manifestos, encouraging people to discuss wages with co-workers and form unions, eventually directing people to visit r/antiwork. McKenzie says the moderation team doesn’t know who’s responsible for the hacked printers — they originally thought the stunt was fake.
Now some in the antiwork community see organizing around the Kellogg’s strike as an important way to turn their shared beliefs into real-world actions.
“It’s time for r/antiwork to make the news as a formidable fighter for the average worker,” one post reads. “I submitted four applications. How many did you submit?”