Today’s app-based or “gig” economy often talks about “modern innovation” and “21st century work”. This mask is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Great, casual work is nothing new – we always have jobs that are dismissed as underpaid, insecure, and “inefficient”. Due to systemic racism and a historically exploitative economy, workers of color have always been, and are heavily concentrated in, the most exploitative industries.
The only difference is that today, companies like Uber, DoorDash and Instacart claim they do not have to play by the rules because they use digital applications to manage their workforce. Even as many of these tech giants are unprofitable, they have been allowed for too long to gain responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can be fired.
Even as many of these tech giants are unprofitable, they have been allowed for too long to gain responsibility for providing safe and just working conditions where workers can be fired.
In the so-called gig economy, workers’ rights are often deployed as a modern problem. But when we think about the problems faced by gigs and app-based workers, who are predominantly people of color, we should just learn from the past to move the economy forward.
The federal government has long failed to address widespread labor exploitation. Since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act, works such as agriculture and domestic work, which were largely done by workers of color, were excluded from labor rights and protections. Today’s “independent contractors”, who are largely workers of color, fall into the same category of workers, who are excluded from labor laws. Combined, black and latex workers make up less than 29% of the nation’s total workforce, but they comprise about 42% of the workforce for app-based companies.
Gig companies argue that drivers, delivery people, independent contractors and other workers who build their businesses take direction from them and whose salaries they determine are millions of small businesses that do not require basic benefits and protection . They do this to avoid taking responsibility for their frontline workforce. Corporations then avoid paying basic costs such as a minimum wage, health care, sick leave, compensation coverage and a litany of other essential benefits for their employees. For many workers, these conditions only serve nationwide inequality and ultimately sustain a deeply flawed economy built on worker exploitation and suffering.
App-based companies are the face of a big, frightening trend. Over the last four decades, federal policies have greatly reduced the bargaining power of workers and concentrated more power in the hands of corporations and those who already have sufficient money and power. This has worsened racial wages and wealth gaps and contributed to a steady decline in working conditions for many people.
It is clear that, to create an economy that works for all people, “gigs” and app-based companies cannot be allowed to exploit their workers under the guise of “innovation”. These companies claim that their workers want to remain independent contractors, but what workers want is good pay, job security, flexibility and full rights under federal laws. This is a just and reasonable demand – and necessary to close the generic gender and racial wealth gap.
App-based companies are putting significant resources into promoting government policies that promote their worker exploitation model. Uber, Lyft, Dordash Instacart and other app-based companies are loudly misinforming state legislatures, city councils and federal offices. Leaders elected at all levels need to recognize these policies for what they are – corporate efforts to rewrite laws to benefit them – and reject corporate interests behind policies that protect workers from universal protection Let’s do it outside.
Congress should also reject the exclusions that lock the color of people outside basic employment protections and pass legislation to expand protections All workersIncluding, app-based worker. The PRO Act is a great first step, providing protection from bargaining for workers who have been wrongly classified as “independent contractors” by their employers.
Across the country, app-based workers have mobilized to protect their health and safety and have demanded that their rights as workers be recognized and protected. Elected leaders cannot fall for corporate propaganda claiming the “21st century” model. Work is still work in the 21st century; Work that is conducted on an app is still work.
We call on Congress to recognize the labor rights and rights of all workers and to work boldly to ensure that app-based companies do not prevent workers from equal rights in the name of “flexibility” and “innovation” .