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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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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