Tag Archives: Gig Economy

Gig Economy: Now what?

Sacramento Bee: “California bill to unionize ‘gig’ workers likely dead for 2016”

“We want this to come out right,” [bill sponsor Loretta] Gonzalez said in an interview. “We just want to make sure as we create the legal framework that most people are comfortable and we’re not just jamming something through.” …

Business groups like the California Chamber of Commerce and the Internet Association, a technology industry lobbying group, opposed the bill. Labor groups including the Teamsters and the United Food and Commercial Workers were in support.

The American Prospect: “Uber, Airbnb, and Other Labor Dilemmas”

It’s one of those universally acknowledged truths that the rise of the on-demand economy creates challenges for the labor movement. Last week, a major court settlement and a backroom fracas between two unions emphasized the immediacy of those challenges. …

Both the court settlement and the SEIU-Unite Here brouhaha has created more questions than answers to how unions — and the labor movement more broadly — can effectively combat the harmful consequences of Silicon Valley’s disruption of the employer-employee relationship.

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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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Gig Economy: Warm wind from the rainy north

8-12-1_Space NeedleSeattle Times: “An Uber union? Seattle could clear way for ride-app drivers”

Politicians, labor activists and business executives across the U.S. have their eyes on Seattle City Hall as a vote draws closer on what could become a legal breakthrough establishing collective-bargaining rights for contract employees.

[They] are watching Seattle as it wrestles over what role government should play in the country’s growing gig economy, which includes app-based ride-dispatch companies like Uber.

The first major city in the U.S. to set its minimum wage on a path to $15 an hour, Seattle may soon become the first to help Uber drivers unionize, as well.

Seattle Office of the Mayor: “Mayor proposes new rules to strengthen Seattle labor laws”

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed a comprehensive set of amendments to Seattle’s labor standards to remedy and prevent wage theft and other labor standards violations. The legislation is aimed to better protect workers, deter and penalize bad actors while leveling the playing field for businesses that are already in compliance. …

The Mayor’s proposal provides workers with a private right of action to pursue labor standards claims in court, increases recovery for workers by permitting up to three times the amount owed, and strengthens the Office of Labor Standard’s (OLS) ability to identify businesses that are failing to comply with labor standards requirements, such as paying below the City’s minimum wage, while also granting the Office flexibility in determining penalties to address intentional noncompliance but also ensure that genuine mistakes by employers are not unduly punished.

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Gig Economy: Politicians finally notice it exists

NY Times: “Politicians Turn to Start-Ups for Grasp of ‘Gig Economy'”

Thumbtack is one of several start-ups that are being drawn into the debate over the future of work by politicians and policy makers. With the approach of an election year in which income inequality is expected to be fiercely debated, the security — or lack of security — that these types of jobs provide has become a central issue. …

Politicians are seeking out start-ups like Thumbtack to learn more about how they work, especially because their business models represent a counterpoint to Uber’s.

Travel Pulse: “FTC Chair Proposes ‘Targeted’ Regulations for Uber/Airbnb-Style Services”

In the brave new world of “sharing economy” (aka, “peer-to-peer” or “on-demand”) services like Uber and Airbnb, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair Edith Ramirez asserted that regulations are necessary, but must be carefully applied, as to not stifle companies using similar business models… .

Time: “Why Politicians Better Start Listening to Freelancers”

There are lots of them, and they vote.

The Labor Department’s monthly jobs report, out today, has economists feeling disappointed about another month of lackluster employment growth. But the focus on job creation (or lack thereof) doesn’t take into account a different group of workers: freelancers, an increasingly large segment of the labor market. As presidential candidates gear up for 2016, they’d also do well to take note of the rise of the “gig economy” — and the likely impact of freelancers on the election.

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Gig Economy: Get Uber yourself

A roundup of recent news about ride-sharing company Uber and the lawsuits that could change its fortunes — and the face of the “sharing economy.”

Mercury News: “Amid backlash, lawsuits, more delivery startups converting contractors to employees” (8/6)

In the latest demonstration that tech startups are bending to mounting pressure to reclassify their workforce, meal delivery service Sprig announced Thursday that it will convert its contract delivery drivers to employees. …

The move to reclassify contractors comes amid heated political commentary on the topic — 2016 presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have weighed in on the matter — and mounting lawsuits from workers.

SF Chronicle: “Will Uber drivers get class-action status for employment case?” (8/6)

A lawsuit by Uber drivers seeking to be deemed employees could become a bludgeon against the ride company or end up as a mere mosquito, depending on the outcome of a court hearing in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen heard arguments Thursday about whether O’Connor et al vs. Uber Technologies deserves status as a class-action case representing 160,000 current and past Uber drivers in California, or whether it should be confined to the three drivers who brought the suit. His decision is not expected for several weeks.

The case’s outcome also looms over other on-demand companies because workers deemed employees have mandates on wages and benefits that contractors do not. It’s the furthest along of a recent raft of worker lawsuits against such firms, and potentially involves the largest numbers of plaintiffs.

Chen appeared skeptical of Uber’s arguments at the hearing’s outset. “Isn’t it contradictory that Uber says every single driver is an independent contractor and yet also says they are dramatically different from one another and thus can’t be certified as a class?” he asked.

The Nation: “Uber Wins a Battle With New York, Now It’s War” (7/24)

Reuters: “Spanish judge asks EU top court for key Uber ruling” (7/20)

New Yorker: “The Long History of the Fight Against Uber” (6/26)

It took only five years for what once seemed like a fuzzy idea — limos on demand — to become the source of riots in the streets. …

But, in a larger sense, they’re actually protesting against our increased impatience. We don’t have time to wait for a cab, because someone around the corner is willing to do the same job more cheaply. Our phones make us more productive while we wait, and yet we don’t ever want to wait. As individuals, taxi drivers are stuck: their industry is controlled by outdated regulation and now they face ruthless free-market competition.

NY Times: “California Says Uber Driver Is Employee, Not a Contractor” (6/17)

The classification of freelancers is in dispute across a number of industries, including at other transportation companies. And the debate is set to escalate as the number of online companies and apps like Uber and others rises. Venture capitalists have poured more than $9.4 billion into such start-ups — known as on-demand companies — since 2010, …

“For anybody who has to pay the bills and has a family, having no labor protections and no job security is at best a mixed blessing,” said Robert Reich, former secretary of labor and a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. “At worst, it is a nightmare. Obviously some workers prefer to be independent contractors — but mostly they take these jobs because they cannot find better ones.”

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Gig Economy: It’s nice to share … isn’t it?

Thoughts on the so-called “gig” (aka “sharing”) economy and what it means for the future of work and the labor movement.

The Nation: “Serfing the Web: On-Demand Workers Deserve a Place at the Table” (7/16)

The Federal Trade Commission workshop “The ‘Sharing’ Economy” purported to focus on “issues facing platforms, participants, and regulators.” But calling an Uber driver a mere “participant” unfairly predetermines the most fundamental labor issue of the digital economy: whether those who work for massive digital platforms deserve the protection of employment, or can be treated as mere “independent contractors” bereft of traditional labor protections. By siding with the industry’s preferred categorization, the FTC tipped its hand in advance.

The agency compounded its bias by failing to invite workers and organizers to speak. … Everyone was there, that is, except for those who do the real work.

USA Today: “Business travelers embrace the sharing economy” (7/19)

The Nation: “What the Sharing Economy Takes” (1/27)

Uber and Airbnb monetize the desperation of people in the post-crisis economy while sounding generous — and evoke a fantasy of community in an atomized population. …

The sharing economy is a nice way for rapacious capitalists to monetize the desperation of people in the post-crisis economy while sounding generous, and to evoke a fantasy of community in an atomized population.

USA Today: “Sen. Mark Warner: Rethinking the social contract in the age of Uber” (6/3)

NY Times: “Rising Economic Insecurity Tied to Decades-Long Trend in Employment Practices” (7/13)

The New Yorker: “Gigs with Benefits” (7/6)

If someone uses Uber to get to the airport, is the driver an Uber employee, or an independent contractor using Uber to find customers? For companies in the so-called sharing economy — Lyft, Postmates, TaskRabbit, Instacart, and so on — there may be no more important question. A couple of weeks ago, a California labor commissioner gave her answer: she ruled that an Uber driver who had filed a claim against the company was, in fact, an employee. The ruling applied only to that particular worker and the only upshot was the reimbursement of the plaintiff’s car expenses. But, if other regulators and courts were to follow that decision, it isn’t just the future of Uber that would be transformed. The U.S. job market would be, too.

Huffington Post: “Yes, a Computer Will Take Your Job. Can We Handle the Transition to a Jobless Future?” (7/8)

I am talking about technology advances that are happening now, which will bear fruit in the 2020s.

[ut policy makers will have a big new problem to deal with: the disappearance of human jobs. Not only will there be fewer jobs for people doing manual work, but the jobs of knowledge workers will also be replaced by computers. Almost every industry and profession will be impacted, and this will create a new set of social problems — because most people can’t adapt to such dramatic change. …

They will be free to pursue other creative endeavors. The problem, however, is that without jobs, they will not have the dignity, social engagement and sense of fulfillment that comes from work.

 Washington Post: “Workers in America have problems. Meet the technologies trying to solve them.” (6/15)

… a new generation of Internet-enabled applications aim to help workers navigate the modern employment landscape. … this new world of ideas breaks down into two basic categories: those applications that help workers cope with the realities of today’s job market, and those that help them act collectively to improve it.

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