Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy
Worker participation in GIG economy


Newsletter August 2019

The gig economy is "a return to the labor past."

Regulation for Gig

The gig economy is "a return to the labour past."


Platform Managed Task Jobs Weaken Worker Protection

By: Ana B. Grandson | 1 March, 2019

Service sales platforms such as Uber, Task Rabbit, Lyft or Postmates, have as their calling card a technological image with which they operate a part of their offer, but with exceptions, most of the irruption they propose is not so much the transport system or the delivery service but the labour framework.


"More than a break-in, it's an accelerated movement to the past, workers are losing rights and protections by placing themselves in very vulnerable and exploitative positions," explains Alexandrea Ravenelle, a sociology professor from the Mercy College in a book published this month called Hustle and Gig.


Ravenelle, who spoke on the phone with this newspaper, has interviewed more than 80 people, almost all millennials, who work for Airbnb, Uber, TaskRabbit, and other Apps to find out what happens in the lives of those who make it possible for technology to become a tangible service. What she has found is that these technology companies, favoured by venture capitalists because they minimize labour costs, erode labour rights that have been consolidated since the industrial revolution by qualifying their work force as contractors.

These companies promote flexibility at work and easy money. For Ravenelle, the message that one "can be your own boss, create your own working hours, control your pay check is just marketing and workers realize when they arrive as they realize they are exposed to incredible risks, are exploited and exposed to behaviours such as sexual assault. It's not the business dream that companies say it is.


This author, who has used Task Rabbit's services, began making inquiries once one of the workers told her that he was once hired to run an errand that ended up sending medicines to China by mail that could have legal consequences and put this worker in a more than uncomfortable situation. "The more I talked to Uber drivers, Task Rabbit assistants or those who rent their houses in Airbnb the more I realised that there was exploitation, danger to workers and reduction of their rights.

This sociologist says that none of the people she has talked to have seen themselves as entrepreneurs or businessmen and rather the very question made them laugh. "Many of them see themselves with employees without benefits, like part-time workers. Those who see themselves as entrepreneurs are those who have a lot of capacity and money, people who have $20,000 or $30,000 to rent a hotel. "They are the least, the vast majority see themselves as part-time workers," she says.


These employees have no sick days, no health insurance, no protections such as workers' compensation or discrimination, your employer's Social Security contribution, family leave, vacation or 401K, among the most basic benefits. Some of them, such as those who drive a car for a platform, have to make investments in the car that can become a significant amount.

"It's true that employers and entrepreneurs work long hours, but they have more freedom," says Ravenelle, who recalls that workers on platforms have to adhere to the lines of action imposed on them by the platforms, respond to customers in a certain period of time, accept a quota of tasks and have prices that are assessed or cannot be very high if they compete with other workers because they cannot be employed. "That's not entrepreneurship," she says.


"When workers get paid and start calculating the commissions they pay, they realize how cheap their work is," says Revenelle. Even cheaper if, in addition to concentrating on the check, you add the fact that there are no benefits.


This sociologist remembers what happened to Kitchensurfing, a platform for hiring kitchen chefs, when they closed. "They told the chefs that they could be entrepreneurs, that they could have a restaurant without the problem of having premises, office work, no marketing, and when they closed, these people who had invested thousands of dollars in catering found nothing. They lost the platform, the invoices, the criticisms, and the reputation".

Ravenelle says she does not understand why these platforms do not treat their employees as part of their staff or W2 instead of freelancers or 1099. "They are called technology companies to seem more complex and complicated but the work is done by those who manage or provide their service. The sociologist says they can be workers with flexible hours like most of those who are.


According to this author and after having met the actors of this industry, there are three types of workers: those who are successful (who also have capital) and are a minority, those who are completing their salary and those who are trying to stay afloat who are mostly undocumented or people who have been unemployed for a long time.


Regulation for Gig


Democratic Senator Mark Warner has been trying for some time to give life to the vanishing safety net for those who become self-employed. To this end, he has made several proposals, including a law to facilitate mortgage loans for the self-employed.

One of the most important is to create a program that can create a method for the platforms of the gig economy to contribute to a benefit fund that workers can have regardless of where they work.

The other proposal aims to ensure that mortgage lenders assess risk in different ways and do not focus as rigorously as hitherto on the W2 document that presents an employee's salary on the payroll. The independents have another document, 1099, which is not the one with which the bankrolls out its red carpet.



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