In the News

Meet The Gig Economy Companies That See Investing In Workers As A Smart Business Strategy

Evan Bochner is part of what’s often dubbed the “on-demand economy” or the “gig economy,” the growing collection of app-based startups providing services to clients at the click of a button. The 27-year-old handyman works 30 to 40 hours a week for the New York City-based office cleaning and maintenance company. He does everything from assembling desks, shelves and chairs to unclogging toilets, painting and electrical work.

“It’s fun and exciting because I’m always doing something different, going to different offices, different people,” Bochner said. “It’s never the same thing two days in a row.”

The pay isn’t bad either. Unlike most workers in the on-demand economy, Bochner is pretty well-compensated, earning around $40 an hour, according to Managed by Q. And as an employee rather than an independent contractor, Bochner’s company offers benefits like medical, dental and vision insurance in addition to a 401(k) plan.

It’s in sharp contrast to his previous job situation. In the two years before he started at Q, Bochner said he worked as an independent contractor, relying on referrals, friends, family and the on-demand app. It was deeply unpredictable.

#31Days of Feminism: Ai-jen Poo

What do you love the most about the work you do?

Every day, I hear the stories of women who spend their days caring for others. I hear about the challenges of the work, along with the joys. Their courage and leadership in addressing the challenges has made history time and time again — whether it's passing the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, or gaining inclusion in minimum wage and overtime laws, or establishing the first mindfulness training for domestic workers. It gives me hope that we can collectively create the future that we need — with good jobs, access to affordable, quality care and a democracy that's fully inclusive of even the least visible among us.

What is feminism to you?

To me, feminism is action that is grounded in the belief that every person is equally and fully human and valuable. It also includes creating a world where all work — like the work of caring for families — is truly recognized, accounted for, valued, and protected. The feminist vision of the world is one where people bring the best of who they are to the table and try to nurture that in each other.

When services allow organising, trafficked workers win

Emergency rooms, social security offices, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement outposts consigned into strip malls: places that manage to be dreary and fluorescent at the same time. A decade ago, on any given day of the week, I’d be bringing an abused domestic worker through some new round of administrative hoop-jumping in one of these places so she could be classified and serviced as a ‘victim of human trafficking’. But was any of this really making a difference? It took me a few years on the job to figure it out.

Uber Drivers and Others in the Gig Economy Take a Stand

Last September, Dallas-area drivers for UberBlack, the company’s high-end car service, received an email informing them that they would be expected to start picking up passengers on UberX, its low-cost option.

The next day, when the policy was scheduled to go into effect, dozens of drivers caravaned to Uber’s office in downtown Dallas and planted themselves outside until company officials met with them. Many had taken out loans to buy luxury vehicles that cost upward of $35,000, and worried that the modest per-mile rate for UberX passengers would barely cover gas and wear and tear, to say nothing of their car payments.

The standoff stretched across nearly three more tense days until Uber allowed them to opt out of the policy. “They thought we were just going to give up, walk away,” said Kirubel Kebede, a leader of the group. “But we said, ‘No, this is our livelihood.’”

The Sharing Economy Is Labor’s Next Hope

When Uber, Lyft, Handy, and a handful of other companies funded by venture capital began earning huge amounts of money after investing in the informal economy, it was because they understood a simple equation. In exchange for providing the name, job site, and payment for a given task—automated through a proprietary algorithm—an independent contractor would agree, in turn, to provide a service and hand over a sometimes-sizeable commission for the privilege of working. On quick inspection, the math works out: At-will workers earn extra money through a simple system that rewards flexibility, and the VC-funded concerns keep costs low by technically not employing laborers. Broadly speaking, then, the sharing economy is just a technologically sophisticated update of the barter economy.

The Values Revolution: Embedding Empathy in the New Economy

Much has been written about how our economy is changing, particularly in light of the digital revolution. This economy is defined by entirely new ways of organizing and working together, by an energizing sense of possibility, and by a seemingly insatiable thirst for problem solving.

But a central question remains: problem-solving for and with whom? How will the new economy engage and support the least visible among us? Now that we're living in the era of tech-enabled scale and efficiency, it's time to elevate empathy and equity if we hope to shape a more caring economy that works for all of us.

These questions remind me of many of the people I meet in my work to bring recognition and basic labor protections to domestic workers around the United States. People like Erlinda, who cares for the elderly in Chicago. Erlinda became a caregiver when she arrived to this country, remembering the fulfillment of caring for the elders in her community in the Philippines. At our first meeting, she shared a story about a client she referred to as "my lady."

Black Lives Matter Co-Founder: Obama Overlooked Black Women

The president’s State of the Union address failed to address our issues

Tuesday night, I sat as the guest of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) at President Obama’s final State of the Union. I waited for him to discuss or even announce a plan to address the needs of black people in America—especially black cisgender and transgender women and black immigrant women, who continue to be overlooked, underpaid, undervalued and in the midst of continual attacks on our lives.

I was deeply disappointed, and, unfortunately, not surprised.

There was no tribute for India Clarke, a black trans woman, who was killed in Florida last year. There were no condolences to Samaria Rice, who is still fighting for justice for her 12-year-old son Tamir Rice. There was no mention of the fates of Laquan McDonald, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Samuel DuBose or Eric Garner.

Obama has ignored black women. Will his last State of the Union change that?

The president is running out of time to meaningfully address the dire circumstances of black women and girls.

Tonight, President Obama will give his last State of the Union address. This is a historic moment: the last State of the Union by likely the last black president for a while, given the state of politics in this country. I’ll be there, as a guest of my congresswoman, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a consistent and courageous champion for reproductive freedom, economic justice and racial and gender justice. And I’ll be waiting for the president to announce that he’ll take substantive action to finally address the needs of black women, both cisgender and transgender. When black women — so frequently overlooked and denigrated — can succeed, that’s a signal everyone in our society has a better chance of success.

I am (wo)man

Across the world, 53 million people, over 80 per cent of them women, are employed as domestic workers. Their work helps economies grow, advances the participation of women in the workplace and provides crucial care for millions of dependents. Every day they cook, clean, look after the elderly, help children with homework, performing vital roles in keeping households and communities running.

“Domestic work makes all other work possible,” says Ai-jen Poo, director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, a national membership body made up of domestic worker groups across the United States.

“Domestic workers have always been critical to the functioning of national economies, but they are now absolutely critical to the growth of our global economy.”

Yet as a workforce, these millions of women remain largely invisible. In many countries, domestic workers remain excluded from national labour laws. This leaves domestic workers open to abuse and exploitation and unable to demand safe and protected workplaces.

Give Elders and Their Caregivers the Support They Deserve

Every day, at least 10,000 Americans turn 65. When we imagine the future, most of us envision ourselves living life on our own terms, in our homes and communities, connected to the people we love, even as we become more frail. As Atul Gawande, Next Avenue’s 2015 Influencer of the Year, so eloquently put it, we want to continue to be “the authors of our own stories” as we age.

Yet, most of us don’t have a plan to make that happen, and we as a nation don’t have a plan, either. Our family caregivers are overstretched and our care workforce is underpaid; both are undervalued. Families are pushed into poverty to pay for care. What we have in place simply isn’t sufficient to meet the growing need for care and supportive services in our country.

A New System

Living well in the future will require a fundamental change in our nation’s approach to caregiving. We need a system that supports caregivers, incentivizes professional caregivers to join and stay in the care workforce and helps us all afford the quality care we deserve.