App workers unite! or Welcome to the 1099 economy!

18-homejoy.w529.h352.2xThis weekend I read a couple of articles around this new phenomena of the so called under paid “app workers” of Uber, Taskrabbit and Homejoy. To be honest, with huge investment from companies like Google Ventures, one could ask for better business models than wage-dumping to invest in. App workers unite! But does convenience services need to be build on a work force that cant make a living from their work?

Let´s see what happens next (more strikes ahead?) – the future of services built on just low paid, unskilled workers might not be the next big thing in Silicon Valley.

Update: The Sharing Economy’s ‘First Strike’: Uber Drivers Turn Off the App 

Heres some background to get you on top of the latest development:

BloomThat (Uber for flowers), and Shyp (Uber for packages), estimated that venture capitalists invested $1.6 billion in so-called “on-demand” start-ups in 2013 alone. SherpaVentures predicts that so-called “freelance marketplace” or “managed-service” labor models used by these companies are poised to transform industries like law, health care, and investment banking, and that fewer people have traditional full-time or part-time jobs as a result. This, in the firm’s mind, is a good thing. Read the full article in NYMAG here

“We want the company to understand that we are not just ants,” Joseph DeWolf, a member of CADA’s leadership council, told me at the Teamsters Union hall in Del Monte, California. “What we want is a living wage, an open channel of communication with the company, and basic respect.” DeWolf said CADA is signing up members, collecting dues, and plans to strike in LA if Uber refuses to come to the negotiating table.

It won’t be easy. Drivers are going up against a burgeoning goliath valued at around $18 billion. The company just hired David Plouffe, who managed Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns; it’s active in 130 cities; and if company executives are to be believed, it doubles its revenue every six months.

Uber makes that money by relying on a network of thousands of drivers who are not technically employees of the company, but rather independent contractors — the company calls them “driver-partners” — who receive a percentage of its fares. Read the rest of the article in The Jacobin here

The Freelancer Economy is Here. Should We Celebrate? Early this month, the Freelancers Union released the results of an Edelman study which found that an astounding 34 percent of the U.S. workforce is now comprised of “freelancers.”

In considering the results of the co-commissioned study, the Freelancers Union was in an oddly celebratory mood:

But this is more than an economic change. It’s a cultural and social shift on par with the Industrial Revolution. Just as the move from an agrarian to an industrial society had dramatic effects on social structures around civil rights, workforce participation, and even democracy itself, so too will this shift to a more independent workforce have major impacts on how Americans conceive of and organize their lives, their communities, and their economic power.

This and countless other studies make it hard to contest the notion that the “end of jobs” is indeed nigh, and few would argue with the Freelancers Union’s assertion that this major labor shift will have a massive social impact. But whether we should happily embrace this shift is still up for debate. Read the full article here