Freelancing Isn’t Free

This thread on Twitter says a lot of what I’ve been thinking in terms of the gig economy. I don’t have a lot to add, but when has that stopped me before? I’ve seen a few links to this podcast on Uber, which is run by a super-sleazy guy who does everything he can to undermine the competition and screw over his own employees. Except he technically doesn’t see them as employees, but as independent contractors, so he doesn’t have to provide them with benefits or anything. He’s even trying to use that to get out of responsibility for sexual harassment from drivers.

Well, hey, their name technically just means “over” or “above,” but it’s hard not to be reminded of Nietzsche’s Übermensch.

But even if the company were operating entirely on the up and up, the idea still bugs me. I suppose there’s nothing theoretically wrong with freelance work to earn extra money, especially if you were going to be driving anyway. But in a society where it’s difficult for people to find work that pays a living wage, the money isn’t really extra for many participants. I’ve always been wary of jobs that pay commission, or that are allowed to pay less than minimum wage because you get tips, even though tips are voluntary. Having to always be on the lookout for work might be even worse. Sure, there are people who have gotten rich working on commission, but there’s very little security on the way there. There’s a reason why a lot of people who do gig-style work have to have day jobs. So it kind of scares me that this kind of thing is becoming more common even outside sales and creative professions.

And I’ve never been that keen on riding in a stranger’s car either, although it’s not that I’m afraid so much as that it just seems wrong. I generally still believe in public transportation, despite all its flaws. There’s also the factor described in this New Yorker article, highlighting businesses that celebrate unhealthy working practices despite the fact that they have the resources to fight against them. Does anybody really think it’s a good idea to be working when you’re in labor? I’d understand if Lyft swept that kind of thing under the rug, but instead they hold it up as an ideal. I’ve seen Fiverr ads on the subway (the work of someone trying to please their boss, I’m sure), and they’re creepy as all get-out.

Remember when George W. Bush told someone working three jobs in order to support her family was doing a fantastic, uniquely American thing?

First of all, I’m pretty sure there are other countries where people are forced to work multiple jobs. But more importantly, he didn’t even seem to realize that this was a problem, that people don’t usually WANT to work three jobs, that they do so because they don’t have a choice. The upper classes have gotten rich from exploiting others for much of history, but did lords tell serfs that what they were doing was fantastic? Well, maybe they did; I don’t know. Unless you really love your job, I don’t feel anyone should be living to work; you work so you can live. It seems obvious to me that, in this uncertain age, people need more job security, not less. It’s worth noting that advocacy for self-care appears to be on the rise, but it’s pretty hard to care for yourself when uncertainty over work gets in the way.

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