The Future of the Gig Economy Is on the Ballot

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I am a writer. I’m also a part-time bike courier for UberEats, Postmates, and Caviar in New York City: a job I do on my own schedule on the side. I am the mythical “independent contractor” of the Silicon Valley platform that capitalists like Uber quote to justify California Prop 22, which, when passed in November, will permanently exclude delivery and ridesharing from employee status and therefore give them rights and withhold the protection they deserve.

Regardless of what these companies want you to do, most of their employees are Not like me. I am young I am a student. I have savings; I have my own health insurance. When the coronavirus hit New York in March, it was a easy decision for me stop making supplies and protect my health, even if it meant less income.

But recent studies on cities like new York, San Francisco, and Seattle show that I’m an outlier: the majority of the “gig workers” who do the bulk of the work on these platforms have no other job. You can’t afford to take time off even during a pandemic. They are mostly older men, mostly black and brown, often immigrants with no more than a university degree, who regularly work more than 30 hours a week to support families. You are significantly underinsured. Most can’t afford $ 400 emergency bills. The whole business model of these platforms depends on workers being misclassified with few other options.

It is important that we all understand the platform capitalists’ playbook. They are taking over industries by employing an under-regulated workforce and setting rock bottom prices. Companies are willingly losing billions of dollars a year to gain market share. This allows them to force concessions from local governments and further consolidate their dominance. Your ultimate goal is to become the sole provider of vital services, then raise prices, lower wages, and make a profit. All of this is subsidized through a pipeline of cash Venture capitalistwho understand that the long-term success of these platforms ultimately depends on their ability to control us – the workers. Misclassifications are their secret weapon.

Remember, like Uber’s main selling point, an app gives the customer instant gratification (for a ride or for their chicken taco). The company rigorously manipulates the “utilization”: the proportion of employees working on request (transportation of a passenger, delivery of food) to the total number of employees working online at a given point in time. To ensure customers don’t experience delays, companies purposely have far more people on board than they need so they can keep a significant reserve of us on standby and anxiously checking the app, ready and operational. Since the companies call us “independent contractors”, we are not compensated for this wait, although it is essential for service. Since we cannot set our own prices, our earnings are exposed to algorithms intended to waste our time.

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