Category Archives: Employment Practices

Tracking the gig economy: New numbers

Source: Ian Hathaway and Mark Muro, Brookings Institution, October 13, 2016

Summary:
The gig economy, as reflected by nonemployer firms, is significant and growing fast. Overall, there has been a clear surge in nonemployer firms’ — a measure of contractor and freelance individuals — business activity in the last decade, which almost certainly reflects, at least in part, the rise of online platforms.

Platform-based freelancing is not yet substantially displacing payroll employment—but that could change. Despite the uptick in nonemployer contractors, payroll employment in “rides and rooms” industries has not declined during the last five years. Instead, payroll employment has increased in these industries, particularly in the passenger ground transit sectors.

Online gigging in the rides and rooms industries is so far concentrated in large metropolitan areas. Gig economy activity is unevenly distributed in the rides and rooms industries. The spread of nonemployer firms between 2010 and 2014 occurred mostly in the largest metro areas. No less than 81 percent of the four-year net growth in nonemployer firms in the rides sector took place in the 25 largest metros, while 92 percent occurred in the largest 50 metros.

The Gig Economy & The Future of Employment and Labor Law

Source: Orly Lobel, University of San Diego School of Law, San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 16-223, 2016

From the abstract:
In April 2016, Professor Orly Lobel delivered the 12th Annual Pemberton Lecture at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Lobel asks, what is the future of employment and labor law protections when reality is rapidly transforming the ways we work? What is the status of gig work and what are the rights as well as duties of gig workers? She proposes four paths for systematic reform, where each path is complementary rather than mutually exclusive to the others. The first path is to clarify and simplify the notoriously malleable classification doctrine; the second is to expand certain employment protections to all workers, regardless of classification, or in other words to altogether reject classification; the third is to create special rules for intermediate categories; and the fourth is to disassociate certain social protections from the work.

Evidence-Based Change in Public Job Security Policy: A Research Synthesis and Its Practical Implications

Source: Hyunkang Hur, James L. Perry, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 45 no. 3, September 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
For most of the 20th century, public employers granted their employees high levels of job security. The 21st century has brought a reversal of fortunes, with emphasis increasingly on at-will employment systems. Both distant and recent policy choices about job security have been based largely on normative and ideological considerations rather than behavioral science evidence. This article synthesizes public- and private-sector job security research to provide a more evidence-based footing for future public job security policy. Although changes related to job security are global, our attention is primarily on the United States. The article reviews job security research with origins in organizational behavior research, at-will employment research, and institutionalization and public trust research across sectors. Based on the review of the literature, we develop an integrative model of job security. We highlight practical implications that flow from the model and discuss future research needs.

New Business Models Demand New Forms of Worker Organizing

Source: Ai-jen Poo, Palak Shah, New Labor Forum, Vol. 25 no. 3, September 2016
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We welcome the opportunity to discuss the merits of the Good Work Code (GWC) and engage with Jay Youngdahl’s critique. As we read it, Youngdahl poses three main objections to the GWC: (1) the values framework articulated is aspirational and unenforceable, (2) it “greedwashes” companies engaged in bad labor practices, and (3) it is based on the notion that “Good Capitalism” can be mobilized to solve the problem of worker exploitation. In the course of his critique, Youngdahl also targets what he calls the “Philanthropic Labor Movement,” that is, those of us with the temerity to organize workers outside the frame of traditional labor unions.

Digital technology and on-demand hiring platforms are rapidly transforming how workers engage with various sectors of the labor market and their terms and conditions of work. Domestic work is among the many occupations affected by new technology. Increasingly, workers and employers are matched online for child care and elder care jobs through companies like Care.com, and the on-demand economy has penetrated the housecleaning market through companies like Handy and TaskRabbit.

National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) turned its attention to Silicon Valley not because, as Youngdahl implies, we were bedazzled by the bright, shiny objects dangled by tech companies, but because, the fact is, these models are transforming labor markets. Increasing numbers of domestic workers, and other low-wage workers, access work through these companies. This phenomenon is in its infancy, and our expectation is that it will grow. We believe these workers deserve the best wages and conditions of labor. We assume that Youngdahl agrees with us, at least on this point.

The labor movement is still in the early stages of determining how best to meet the multiple challenges posed by companies that aggregate and deploy workers through digital platforms. Mechanisms for exploiting labor are proliferating and changing far more rapidly than our capacity to organize workers and represent their interests. Tech companies are building new business models, often creating ever more precarious conditions of life and labor, lowering wage floors and job quality. …. At the same time, those who follow the gig economy know that it has been tech companies, not unions or labor advocates, driving the national conversation. By releasing a simple values framework, we have successfully inserted the demands and voices of workers into a narrative dominated by tech companies, with the intention of creating space for a conversation about what better employment practices could look like in the digital economy…..

The “Good Work Code” Greed-Washing the On-Demand Economy?

Source: Jay Youngdahl, New Labor Forum, Vol. 25 no. 3, September 2016
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Readers of New Labor Forum are familiar with the depleted state of America’s unions, workers’ depressed living standards, as well as of the emergence of responsive ideas, strategies, and struggles. The current ferment will surely lead to successes, but in the process, a number of counterproductive strategies are emerging.

Although led by smart, empathetic activists, one of the oddest and most problematic of the new efforts is the Good Work Code (GWC or the Code) for the on-demand or “gig” economy, formulated by the National Domestic Workers Association (NDWA). While the Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), in particular, are engaged in unionizing strategies in the tech sector, and enterprising wage and hour lawyers are confronting the sector’s wage theft, the NDWA, working with a number of corporate partners such as the Uber-like delivery company DoorDash, has created an aspirational code for tech-sector employers.

An analysis of the GWC is a lesson in the problematic nature of a number of trends in the Philanthropic Labor Movement (PLM). Unfortunately, within the non-profits in the foundation-funded PLM, worker agency, power, and democracy, the bedrocks of a strong movement, are often hard to find…..

Amazon’s Mechanical Turkers are college-educated millennials making less than minimum wage

Source: Noah Kulwin, Recode, July 11, 2016

Most Turkers make less than $5 an hour. Some Uber drivers earn $13.25 an hour on average. ….

…Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service is a low-cost method of outsourcing work that computers can’t do quite yet.

Or as a Gizmodo writer smartly put it, “It’s a job board where the pay is low and the jobs are dumb.” If you need something transcribed, documents sorted or another menial task performed, Mechanical Turk is the place to go. And according to new research from the Pew Center, the people around the world doing this “dumb” work are a lot more overqualified than you might think….

Workforce of the Future Survey

Source: Burson-Marsteller, the Markle Foundation, The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative and Time, June 2016

From the press release:
A new national survey sponsored and developed by the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, the Markle Foundation, Burson-Marsteller and TIME looks at how companies are coping with new employment models such as the growth of contingent and contract work and the On-Demand Economy. The survey was conducted by research firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB).

According to the Workforce of the Future Survey, a majority of all employers, 56 percent, say having a full-time employee makes it easier to accommodate the ebbs and flows in work volume and report that contract workers are less loyal or invested. Conversely, employers cite using independent contractors both for the flexibility of hiring workers with specific skills as the need arises (90 percent), as well as for cost-saving purposes such as taxes and benefits (86 percent). Still, when presented with the tradeoff, most employers (58 percent) say full-time hires are better for their company because they provide more value over the long-term despite having to pay more up-front on taxes and benefits. ….

Key findings:
• While most employers prefer full-time employees, more than half are currently using independent contractors and expect themselves and others to use more in the future. ….
• While four out of five employers believe providing workers with benefits is necessary to attract and retain talent a majority of employers do not feel responsible for providing benefits to independent contractors. ….
• Both employers and workers see the on-demand economy as a completely different way of doing business. ….
• Almost all employers are satisfied with the performance of contingent workers. ….
• Employers have and will move toward more automation, but so far large employers have led the way. ….
• Employers are looking for loyal, engaged employees and independent contractors don’t meet that expectation. ….
• There is a large discrepancy between benefits offered to full-time workers and independent contractors. ….

Related:
Exclusive Survey: The Future of Work in America
Source: Katy Steinmetz, Time, June 30, 2016

The survey, sponsored in part by TIME, explores the mindsets of employers as new work arrangements are causing excitement and dismay

Regulating for decent work experience: Meeting the challenge of the rise of the intern

Source: Rosemary Owens and Andrew Stewart, International Labour Review, Accepted manuscript online: June 21, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An important (if under-researched) feature of modern labour markets has been the growth of unpaid ‘internships’ and other forms of ‘work experience’. These arrangements may reflect an understandable desire by job-seekers to gain a foothold in highly competitive job markets. But they can open up the possibility of exploitation, as businesses and non-profit organisations replace what might previously have been paid entry-level jobs, and may reduce social mobility. We review some of the legal and policy responses around the developed world, including the imposition of legislative controls (as in France); enforcement of existing labour laws by public authorities (Australia) or groups of workers themselves (United States); and the development of guidelines for ‘ethical’ forms of work experience (United Kingdom). In doing so we hope to lay the foundation for a more effective response to what has become a clear challenge to the objective of securing decent work.

Women and Public Sector Precarity: Causes, Conditions and Consequences

Source: Leah Levac and Yuriko Cowper-Smith, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, April 25, 2016

From the abstract:
Leah Levac and Yuriko Cowper-Smith explore the causes, conditions and consequences of precarity in Canada’s public sector using a gendered, intersectional analysis.

Precarious work bears significant consequences for Canadian workers, and public sector workers are no exception. Privatization, outsourcing, contract and part-time work have replaced permanent, full-time work for many Canadians, causing precarious conditions – or precarity – that leaves workers vulnerable. When precarity occurs in the Public Service, its impacts can be particularly problematic for women.