Quitting stories are work stories, and work stories are, as Studs Terkel wrote, “about violence—to the spirit as well as to the body.” Below are accounts from nine people who recently quit their jobs in protest, in the midst of a pandemic and an economic cataclysm, because they got fed up with the forms of violence, whether bodily or spiritual, that they’d been told to accept.

They quit because they didn’t want to die for their paychecks. They quit because they could no longer bear being a part of a racist, exploitative system. They quit on the spot. They quit after a great deal of consideration. A teacher quit after her father died cleaning schools. A cop quit because he didn’t want to help gentrify a neighborhood. A Bojangles drive-thru worker quit because her boss served free food to the racists who’d harassed her. 

Some of their stories convey the seditious thrill of finally saying no to bosses who expect yes. Many are full of uncertainty. “It’s sort of an identity crisis,” said an occupational therapist who quit over a lack of safety precautions at work. “Who am I now?” Most were quick to point out that they quit because they had the privilege to do so—acts of conscience being too great a luxury for people who can’t afford to miss a check.

More than 19.3 million people voluntarily left their jobs in 2020. These are the quitting stories of nine of the them, told in their own words. They are also, in a way, the stories of the people who don’t have the luxury of quitting—of the daily humiliations they endure and the noes they never get to say. 

Got a good quitting story? Email us

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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