On Demand, and Demanding Their Rights
Considering the nature of the platform-based economy, it shouldn’t be a surprise that so many workers feel they have so little voice. The companies are often remote, and many workers rarely, if ever, communicate with managers. Instead, they typically deal with apps and algorithms, which don’t exactly encourage dialogue-or ask about workers’ concerns. App-based workers are often isolated from each other and dispersed. Mechanical Turk workers toil at home, transcribing audio, typing in details of receipts, or inspecting YouTube videos for profanity. TaskRabbit workers do plumbing or carpentry at this house or that one, and Uber and Lyft drivers are in their cars, ferrying passengers around.
Despite the atomization of this workforce, there are stirrings from below among the app-based, crowdsourced, microtasking masses. As has so often happened across history when workers feel underpaid and unheeded, the toilers of the on-demand economy are stepping up and taking steps-some tentative, some innovative, and a few ingenious-to be heard and heeded. To these workers, myriad problems cry out for fixing: pay that is often below minimum wage; managers who systematically ignore their concerns; being misclassified as independent contractors, and being fired, blocked, or deactivated by platforms with little notice or justification.