Aug 23, 2022 - Podcasts

There's no going back for office workers

CEOs telling employees to return to the office are facing major pushback. This week, a group of Apple workers started a petition calling for flexible work schedules to continue. That was in response to a memo from CEO Tim Cook mandating that many workers come into the office three days a week starting this fall.

  • Plus, why America's beloved Tex-Mex cuisine has to evolve to survive.
  • And, Dr. Fauci is stepping down as the nation’s COVID doctor.

Guests: Axios' Emily Peck and Russell Contreras.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, August 23. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re covering: why a beloved American cuisine has to evolve to survive. Plus, Dr. Fauci will soon no longer be the nation’s COVID doctor. But first, the end of the strictly in-office world -- that’s today’s One Big Thing.

There's no going back for office workers

CEOs telling employees to return to the office are facing major pushback. This week, a group of Apple workers started a petition calling for flexible work schedules to continue – that was in response to a memo from CEO Tim Cook mandating that many workers do three days a week in the office starting this fall.

Axios’ Emily Peck has been watching this trend – hey Emily.


NIALA: Emily, so how are big companies in general handling this? Coming back to the office. Is Apple an outlier in this three day a week requirement?

EMILY: No. Companies are confused about returning to work and what they can ask workers to do, and what they actually want from workers. For a while, companies were trying to sort of lure employees back to the office, to gently encourage them to come back with perks and food and stuff like that. Didn't really work. That phase is over. Some companies are doing what Apple is doing and saying, you know, trying to mandate a certain number of days in the office. And that's not really working either.

NIALA: Do we have data on how much work in general has shifted to home since the pandemic?

EMILY: Yeah. So, I mean, this New York fed data that I was looking at showed about 20% of work at service oriented firms, which is basically any firm, not in manufacturing is getting done at home. And that's more than twice what it was before the pandemic.

NIALA: So Emily, so many other parts of our life have gone back to so called normal -- why is work so different?

EMILY: It's really interesting Nyla. And this economist I spoke to told me, he said, when the pandemic struck, there were things we couldn't do anymore, that seemed inconceivable. Like we couldn't go to a movie or to a restaurant. Now we can do those things again. At the same time, before the pandemic, it was inconceivable that you could do your job from home. For me to be doing this podcast from home was like, unheard of. And now the inconceivable is quite conceivable. We, we sort of broke a barrier and now we can do this thing that we didn't think was possible before.

NIALA: But this also then sets up a clash between people who wanna keep it the way that it is?

EMILY: Yes. It sets up a clash. One consultant I spoke to told me it's really the CEOs and the executive. A majority of whom are typically male and, and white, who are the ones who want everyone to come back -- or childless -- who want, you know, everyone to come back to the office and it's, you know, caregivers and women and people of color who are saying, no, thank you, we'd rather not right now.

NIALA: So what happens next?

EMILY: Niala, it's really messy. No one knows, that's just the truth. I mean, companies are kind of flailing around in the dark in a lot of ways. Also, much as I'd like to believe we're kind of back to normal -- we're not, like there's people still having big childcare issues. People are still getting COVID. You can't necessarily go back to five days. A consultant told me even the companies that are requiring people to come in five days a week aren't seeing people come in five days a week. It's, it's that wild of a west. I don't know how else to put it. There's a lot of uncertainty about what's going to happen, but it is increasingly seems certain that five days a week, for knowledge workers, for office workers, isn't the normal anymore.

NIALA: Axios business correspondent. Emily Peck. Thanks Emily.

EMILY: Thank you!

NIALA: In a moment, the history - and future of Tex Mex food.

Could this be the end of Tex Mex food?

Welcome back Axios today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

When you hear “Tex Mex” what comes to mind? Queso dip? Or maybe sizzling fajitas? They’ve become staples of American fare – but more and more, Tex Mex has been dismissed and misunderstood, Axios’ Russell Contreras reports. Now iconic Tex Mex spots like San Antonio’s El Mirador and Mexican Manhattan Restaurant are closing, and Russ says Tex Mex is facing a “crisis.” Hey there, Russ!

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Thanks for having me

NIALA: Russ, So I mentioned fajitas and queso, but how do you define TexMex cuisine?

RUSS: TexMex is a unique Food that developed because Mexican Americans were isolated from Mexico. When this imaginary line was introduced called the border, Mexican Americans didn't have access to ingredients in Mexico, certain foods, they had to improvise and they took traditions from people that were around them, whether it was German immigrants or African Americans, for example, ingredients that was available like cheap, yellow cheese.

This is now a staple in TexMex food, where they used it to make in Cadas or Chile. This cheese was very readily available for Mexican Americans, but it wasn't used in Mexico. So as a result, a unique cuisine developed over the years, and then years later, when people from Mexico would come and they would be appalled at this type of food because they didn't use this kind of cheese, this type of food was indicative of the poverty and the discrimination, Mexican Americans. But they turned around and created their own cuisine.

NIALA: So why is Tex Mex at a crisis point now?

RUSS: TexMex is facing a crisis because now we've seen a lot of migration from Mexico from different parts of the country. These new migrants are bringing different foods and different traditions. Regionally diverse in all of Mexico. And this is capturing the imagination of P of foodies in the United States. So now if you go to Texas, you'll see Dillas from Oaxaca or Lesco. If you go to New York, you'll see restaurants created, uh, by people from Puebla. They introduce mole. So now there's a diversity of food for Mexico and TexMex is no longer the dominant one.

NIALA: So Russ, why do you think this food has been so dismissed and misunderstood?

RUSS: The food has been misunderstood because it was created by Mexican Americans who are facing poverty and they created a food based on the material they had. Now that you've had a diversity of food, it's easy to critique TexMex and say, that's not authentic. That's a cheap version of what the food I just had in my. To Mexico city or to the Yucatan, it's easy to dismiss Tex-Mex food because you are also dismissing the history of Mexican Americans and the discrimination that came about that gave birth to this food. It's almost we're ashamed of this food because we're ashamed of our past.

I talked to my good friend LA times columnist Gustavo Arellano. He says the critique of Tex Mex is based on racism. Listen to what he had to say.

GUSTAVO ARELLANO: Tex Mex food now is the Mexican food of Mexican food. In other words, it's a mongrelized, supposedly low class cuisine eaten by people who supposedly don't have any culture, any traditions.

RUSS: So TexMex has always evolved. It has always looked and tried to improvise and because you've had migration from Mexico, you've also had migration from other parts of the world. TexMex are just like the people that created it. They're always evolving and they're always mixing, trying new things. And I don't think we've seen the end of this story.

NIALA: Axios Russell Contreras. Thanks for us.

RUSS: Thanks for having me.

Dr. Fauci will step down in December

NIALA: One final note before we go. Dr. Anthony Fauci is stepping away from government service. The 81-year-old said yesterday he would leave his role with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases this December. Fauci, who’s also President Biden’s Chief Medical Adviser, has served every president since Ronald Regan. But - he says he’s not retiring…instead, after more than 50 years of government service - he plans to pursue the “next phase of his career - while he still has “so much energy and passion for his field.”

That’s it for us today! You can reach our team at [email protected] or reach out to me on Twitter. You can also text me at (202) 918-4893. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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