Gigs of their own: reinventing worker cooperativism in the platform economy and its implications for collective action
This paper contrasts traditional and platform worker cooperatives to consider how workers’ collective action will be different in the platform economy. After delineating worker cooperatives from other cooperative types, it explores the causes of both historical and the present platform economy-based waves of worker cooperativism. It then examines how the platform economy’s unique nature has altered worker cooperatives as a form of collective action: internet connectivity allows cooperatives to scale across geographies and social groups at the risk of fragmentation, prevalence of individual service labor rather than team manufacturing labor lowers the capital barrier for cooperatives while enabling worker competition within them, and elected algorithms replacing elected managers promotes self-governance yet risks disempowering the technologically less-able. In response, worker platform cooperatives are found to take two approaches: more self-employed and socially/geographically fragmented groups minimize collective action while sharing beneficial resources, while their counterparts – the majority – increase collective action.