Tag Archives: workers

Virus Exposes Gig Economy for Predatory Business Model It Promoted

New Orleans       A lot of Silicon Valley are self-isolating in what should be shame as their app-based, platform capitalism, or whatever they wanted to call it, is exposed as little more than rapacious capitalism based on worker exploitation.  Hundreds of thousands of workers in the gig economy are now caught in a vicious double bind all over the country.  On the one hand, they lack any benefits like sick leave and health insurance, and, on the other, many of their customers have also disappeared as business are forced to close, airports and travelers have shrunk, and events of all kinds have disappeared, and so has their income.

Raise you hands if you want to be a libertarian today.  Yes, I thought so.  Headlines have been noting that the coronavirus is a recruiter for socialism.

Well, not really, but the gleaming whitewash that covered the crippled social safety net in the United States has been starkly exposed. In Denmark, the government is offering to pay 75% of an employer’s payroll if an employer retains the workers.  In France, when workers are sequestered, the government is standing behind them.  Computers at state unemployment and food stamp offices are crashing.  In general, of course, whether Canada or Britain or Europe, there’s health insurance so it’s still a crisis, but it’s not catastrophic. In that sense, even gig workers, many of whom are in fact classified as employees in Europe, at least have the social safety net provided for all citizens, including paid leave and health insurance.

The DC debate on emergency sick leave pay for coronavirus victims and those quarantined will cover workers, but what about giggers?  They are self-employed as contractors in the play pretend world of the predatory app companies. but emergency sick leave is touted for employees, as near as I can determine. There was a picture in the paper of a bike delivery worker in Italy.  He was still working to make food deliveries, despite the risk, for a very simple reason:  he had to have the do-re-mi.

Facebook made an announcement that they were giving their workers a thousand bucks as an accelerated bonus.  Did that include their army of contractors which is almost as large?  I’m not sure.  In the USA, a plan for one or two thousand dollars is being debated for everyone, so let’s assume that would include the giggers, but make no mistake, regardless of any story in the Times, this is not Andrew Yang’s plan for guaranteed annual income by a long shot.

If you have the stomach venture over to the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, and read the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments as they moan about whether or not emergency sick leave and cash payments could institutionalize paid sick leave and revive cash supports, like even welfare as we used to know it.  They are afraid we won’t go back to where we were pre-virus.

We can only hope that might be the silver lining in the new world order for global survivors of this pandemic.  We can also hope this pandemic spells the end of gig workers being seen as independent subcontractors without any security for wages, benefits, or health care.


Some Political Issues around Health Should be Settling Now

Pearl River     Yes, we’re all tired of hearing about covid-19 and our powerlessness to protect ourselves, our federal government’s incompetence, our local government’s uncertainty, and the general chaos.  On the other hand, perhaps the virus this time is teaching that this is a parade without an end with many more to come.  If so, this national catastrophe may be moving to settle some contentious issues so that everyone’s voices are heard and the political issues resolved.

Take vaccines.  Remember there used to be anti-vac folks in huge pockets here and there.  Now, everyone from President Trump down to the school playground are pretending a vaccine for covid-19 is ready anywhere from in a minute in the president’s claim or as soon as possible in the public’s prayer.  Maine is a prime example.  A bill narrowly escaped their legislature that eliminated philosophical and religious objections to vaccinations in the state.  The approval had been on hard partisan lines with the Democrats voting to remove the exemption and the Republicans wanting to continue to allow them.  The division was supposedly so stark that an initiative made it to the ballot.  The vote on Super Tuesday, if you missed the headlines, was a beatdown.  73% of the voters and every single county supported the end of any exemptions for any reason to vaccinations.  Period.  End of argument.

How about sick leave?  A lot of talk, but not quite settled.  A new notion of emergency sick leave has entered the debate in the fog of war around the virus, even as others are coming to understand that paid sick leave is not a personal benefit, but a community and common good.  In Canada, 55% of a workers’ pay is being provided by the government for those forced to provide for their children with all day care centers closed.  Now that’s a plan.  Mandating paid sick leave without providing a way for it to be paid is a nonstarter.  Regardless of the rightness of paid leave, our social enterprise coffeehouses wouldn’t have any income to pay workers if we were forced to shut down.  We’re not alone.  The gig economy is defenseless.  We need a government and real leadership.  I read a headline that the virus is Trump’s Katrina.  Indeed!

Has this moved he needle finally on the Affordable Care Act and the need for a more comprehensive national healthcare system, even if not Medicare For All?  Maybe.  We’ll have to see.  Hospitals are strapped.  Tests are unavailable.  There finally may be an understanding that public health means health for everyone, not just private pay plans for the rich and luckily employed.

We may not have consensus on this, but people will be judging politicians on what they do and say about responding to the virus.  The fool Texas Congressman who claimed it was a hoax and then had to self-quarantine.  The President who said “what me worry?” and then watched the country implode in sickness and concern.   All will face the voters who might just have a different view now of what a community means and what its limits are without a real government ready to support all the people.   When the hero is an octogenarian public health and infectious disease expert and not the president, politicians are going to take notice and start paying attention in class or pay the price.

That’s my hope anyway.