Editor’s Note: In our previous issue, The Indypendent published an exposé on the gig economy. It detailed ways in which Silicon Valley is exploiting gaps in our labor laws, our tax system, and the precarity of the labor market to deprive workers of basic human rights. After we published the piece, an employee with Taskrabbit — a gig economy start-up that connects workers with consumers and companies offering temporary jobs — reached out to us. What follows is a letter this tasker, who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, wrote to us in which he further details the strain the gig economy puts on workers.
Having recently gotten an email warning that my account will be “paused” from Taskrabbit for not performing enough tasks, I can testify to the strains the gig economy puts on a person.
Software and automation will continue to squeeze out the rights of workers and organized labor ad infinitum in the search for greater profits, more power and limited regulation. We workers and, by association, the consumer will experience more accidents, unsafe working conditions, less pay, limited rights and fewer opportunities.
The major advantage of app-based freelance work is experienced by customers. The ease of access, rating systems and lack of oversight allow for the commodification of labor in ways that previous generations never had to bear the burden of. Almost all of the profit, meanwhile, is reaped by the technology owners, with the software platform monitoring much of the communication between consumer and worker — cutting out the individuals who previously managed and negotiated this labor exchange.
Taskrabbit’s hiring system essentially forces us to accept tasks in order to promote the availability of taskers. Once we are hired we have 30 minutes to contact the customer and are basically on call until the task is complete.
Negative reviews are impossible to have stricken from one’s user profile and can verge on character defamation. I was frequently on the receiving end of job requests that were flatout unsafe. Because I was at the mercy of the customers making the requests, I would have to perform them. Measuring up to the vague and opaque standards of the rating system outweighed my own safety and welfare.
Failure to meet Taskrabbits impossible-to-live-up-to standards results in the total devaluation of the worker. This is to say nothing of the competition its rating system engenders. It begs for oversight and review, since it essentially amounts to an arbitrary job evaluation.
Yet, not all of the jobs that I did were terrible. I frequently worked for companies that treated us taskers and their full-time employees with a great deal of respect, offered safe conditions and positive experiences. Often I left those jobs longing to go back and have that extra security, instead of moving onto the next thing, looking at my phone and wondering when the next job will come.
This article has been lightly edited for concision and clarity.
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