Category Archives: Employment Practices

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

Source: Jay Youngdahl, New Labor Forum, Vol. 25 no. 3, September 2016
(subscription required)

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. ….

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.

Uber, Taskrabbit, & Co: Platforms as Employers? Rethinking the Legal Analysis of Crowdwork

Source: Jeremias Prassl, Martin Risak, Oxford Legal Studies Research Paper No. 8/2016, February 16, 2016

From the abstract:
One of the key assumptions underpinning the rise of ‘crowdsourced work’ – from transport apps including Uber to online platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk – is the assertion put forward by most platforms that crowdworkers are self-employed, independent contractors. As a result, individuals might find themselves without recourse to worker-protective norms, from minimum wage and working time law to health and safety regulations and unfair dismissal protection. But is this account accurate? In this paper, we hope to challenge prevailing assumptions, arguing that in certain scenarios crowdworkers can, and should, be classified as workers within the scope of domestic employment law. The approach proposed, however, is an initially counterintuitive one: we advocate the adoption of a functional concept of the employer as a regulatory solution to crowdwork employment, with platforms, crowdworkers, and service users each shouldering their appropriate share of employer responsibilities.

The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015

Source: Lawrence F. Katz – Harvard University and NBER, and Alan B. Krueger – Princeton University and NBER, March 29, 2016

From the abstract:
To monitor trends in alternative work arrangements, we conducted a version of the Contingent Worker Survey as part of the RAND American Life Panel (ALP) in late 2015. The findings point to a significant rise in the incidence of alternative work arrangements in the U.S. economy from 2005 to 2015. The percentage of workers engaged in alternative work arrangements – defined as temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers – rose from 10.1 percent in February 2005 to 15.8 percent in late 2015. The percentage of workers hired out through contract companies showed the sharpest rise increasing from 0.6 percent in 2005 to 3.1 percent in 2015. Workers who provide services through online intermediaries, such as Uber or Task Rabbit, accounted for 0.5 percent of all workers in 2015. About twice as many workers selling goods or services directly to customers reported finding customers through offline intermediaries than through online intermediaries.

How to transform workers’ campaign rage into better jobs and wages

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, March 24, 2016

The presidential campaigns deserve some credit for finally voicing some of the deep frustrations and anger felt by American workers who have lived for decades in an economy that works for those at the top but not for them and their families. …. But angry rhetoric will not put the economy on a path that works for the disaffected and disenfranchised. Instead we need to address the root causes of workers’ frustration and their economic decline. And to do that, I would argue, we need to fix our broken labor policy. ….