The Gig Economy Is a Disaster for Workers. Hollywood’s Unions Can Help Them Learn to Fight Back.
Entertainment industry workers know that unions are necessary if they’re going to carve out a living. The same is true for workers in the gig economy.
When I was in my mid-20s, I left a corporate nine-to-five job to move to San Francisco and work on a movie called Darwin Awards. I spent the next decade bouncing from project to project, deep in the trenches of Hollywood—America’s dream factory.
I worked mostly as a location manager and scout. This meant I found, negotiated, and got permits for spots where movies and TV shows would film. As such, I was part of the swarm of freelancers hovering around the studios, trying to carve out enough honey from the hive. On-demand labor drives every TV show, movie, commercial, and scripted program in the US. The entertainment industry is entirely dependent on the availability of a talented and dedicated labor force that is ready to go at a moment’s notice.
All this is to say that the gig economy has existed in Hollywood for a very long time—and today’s Uber and TaskRabbit workers could learn a lot from Tinseltown. The only way to make freelance and contract work sustainable is for those at the bottom to stand together to prevent exploitation from those at the top.