Organizing On-Demand: Representation, Voice, and Collective Bargaining in the Gig Economy

Source: Hannah Johnston, Chris Land-Kazlauskas, International Labour Organization, Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 94, 2018

…. We begin with an overview of gig and platform work and the structural and institutional challenges that gig- and platform-based workers in building collective, group agency. This is followed by a review gigworker organizing strategies based on the institutions or organizations that workers have formed or joined for the purpose of building agency. We stress the importance of workers’ organizations – broadly defined – as a site to agglomerate the economic, political, and cultural resources necessary to provoke change. The tenure of organizations allows workers to experiment with various tools and strategies to improve conditions and adopt those that are effective. The four organizational structures we explore (union renewal strategies and new organizing initiatives, worker forums, worker centres, and cooperatives) represent a comprehensive list of organizations that are actively organizing and supporting gig economy workers. Given the rapid turnover of the on-demand workforce, we view the tenacity and adaptive strategies of workers’ organizations as vital to developing a sustainable and dynamic labour movement. Each initiative examined has its own section delineated by a heading and a summary of the principle strategies used. We then turn to efforts by employers’ organizations to support their members in adapting to, and influencing these new realities.

The paper ends with a discussion of barriers that self-employed platform workers face to effectively achieve collective bargaining and efforts to achieve effective representation and collective bargaining for workers in the gig economy. In this section we discuss important steps that could be taken to ensure the right to freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining among independent contractors, who often find their these rights curtailed by anti-trust legislation. This section also highlights a number of recent efforts at collective regulation undertaken by workers and platforms in the gig economy…..