On-demand workers unite online to fight Uber and the gig economy

IT WAS a strike, but not as we know it. At midnight on 1 December, about 100 workers in New York City logged out of the Uber app on their phones in protest over a pay cut at UberRUSH, a delivery service run by the ride-sharing giant. One post on the Facebook page they created to rally the strike and list their demands read: “All we are asking is that Uber treats us fairly.”

Those couriers aren’t the first to feel the pinch from the gig economy (see “Gigging by numbers“). Also called the sharing economy, it is made up of companies like Uber, Taskrabbit and Airbnb, their success founded on forgoing the traditional workplace in favour of labour and services sourced through smartphones. People who work via these apps are classed as independent contractors rather than full employees. They are also isolated from each other and from their companies.

“A lot of these start-ups and apps are using tech and an app-based platform to distance themselves from the people carrying out the work,” says Margaret Dewhurst. Since 2011, she has been a bike courier in London for same-day delivery services like CitySprint or Deliveroo. “It’s not what it’s cracked up to be, all these apps. You have to do so much more than a normal job and get so much less security and perks.”

“With all these apps, you do so much more than a normal job and get so much less security and perks”

Earlier this year, Dewhurst joined in a campaign organised by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain …

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