Platform Cooperativism Resource Library


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.

Added October 11, 2019