The labor movement of the last century struggled for the benefits and protections workers expect today. How will we organize the struggle for 21st century workers?
According to a recent report, the gig economy is expected to double within the next four years. That means that between last year and 2020, the number of workers engaged in independent, freelance, or contract work, that is, indy workers, will go from 3.8 million to 9.2 million. By 2021, writes Rani Molla, “the number of on-demand jobs will surpass the current number of jobs in finance (8.4 million) or construction (6.8 million).”
Even without this kind of growth, Molla notes, “there are currently more [indy] workers right now than there are those employed in the entire information sector (which includes publishing, telecommunication and data processing jobs) and IT services combined, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics."
Given the large number of working people already engaged in the gig economy, and taking into account the predictions of wide-scale expansion, it’s absolutely imperative that indy workers begin to organize around their shared needs for health care benefits, retirement plans, paid leave, childcare, and other benefits and protections.
Between the 1930s and the 1970s, workers waged strikes, walked picket lines, engaged in collective bargaining, constructed legislation, and used a host of other tactics to win concessions from employers. These struggles are the origin of the benefits and protections we associate with permanent employment today.
As we move into the 21st century, we must ask ourselves, “How will the struggle for indy worker justice look today?”
The Indy Worker Guild (IWG) was formed precisely to ask and answer that question. We see a hopeful front for organizing around the newly introduced Portable Benefits Pilot Program Act, but what other ideas or dreams might you like to see come to fruition? How might you envision the IWG as a force for organizing across digital and real world landscapes? How would you like to take action and what do you want to achieve?