Gig Economy: The unionization of “sharing”

The unionization of the "sharing" economy1) Like fighting fire with fire, gig economy workers are beginning to fight apps with other apps.

In These Times: “These New Co-op Apps Show How to Build Worker Power In the Age of Uber”

For many labor activists, “tech” has become a dirty word. While Silicon Valley extols the virtues of the “sharing economy,” critics argue that platforms like Uber and Airbnb allow investors to reap profits by circumventing labor law and ripping off workers.

But what if workers owned the apps? A new movement called “platform cooperativism” hopes to harness the power of tech to democratize the economy and advance labor rights.

2) Last June, more than 100 Gawker Media writers and editorial employees voted to form a union the Writers Guild of America, East. This month, Google bus drivers voted to join the Teamsters. Now Gawker is urging *all* tech workers to unionize.

Gawker: “Tech Workers Should Unionize”

Last week, the drivers who shuttle San Francisco Google employees to work voted to unionize with the Teamsters. How long until their passengers do the same thing? …

So what can the well-intentioned young employee of Google or Facebook or Apple do about all this? How can the tech worker sitting on that bus, with a unionized driver and an angry crowd of sign-waving locals outside make a meaningful gesture towards equality? Here is how: they can unionize themselves. …

The most meaningful way for them to take action against the inexorable rise of inequality that is benefiting them is to stand up and declare that they are on the side of labor, rather than on the side of capital — to declare that they are workers who are on the side of all of the other workers, from shuttle drivers to gardeners to janitors to security guards, who make these tech companies function.

Wired: “Uber and Lyft Drivers Work Dangerous Jobs — But They’re on Their Own”

Huffington Post: “What We Call Uber Drivers Has Huge Implications”

In five short years, Uber has shaken up much more than just the taxi industry. With the success of its “driver partner“ business model, the ride-sharing giant has helped scramble the very concept of employment, forcing riders and regulators alike to ask themselves who qualifies as a worker and what constitutes work.

Those questions were around long before iPhone apps and surge pricing. But the sheer popularity of Uber — and the rapid growth of its driver network — has forced a debate over how to classify workers in the so-called on-demand economy. And even labor experts who are often on the same side can’t seem to agree on how to do it.

3) Meanwhile, in Sacramento, California’s gig workers may get an organizing boost from state lawmakers.

BizJournal: “Lawmaker aims to disrupt ‘gig economy’ with collective-bargaining bill”

Bay Area companies like Uber, Lyft and Taskrabbit are changing many of the traditional ways people buy services through the “gig economy.”

But a different kind of innovation is emerging 90 miles east in Sacramento, where a state lawmaker has found a creative, potentially disruptive way to bring union rights to workers in that economy.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez unveiled legislation on Wednesday that would grant collective-bargaining rights to gig economy workers who currently work as independent contractors. First announced in December, the bill would give contractors the right to negotiate as a group, boycott their company’s practices and control their own communications.

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About Randy Lyman

SEIU Local 1021 Communications Dept.

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