Tuesday, July 28, 2015

#209 / The Gig Economy #2

New York Times editorial, on July 19th, spoke out on the "Gig Economy." The Times editorial was stimulated by various recent legal decisions, many from California, indicating problems with how Uber does business. 

Uber is a highly-touted new way to arrange for one-time transportation. Uber calls it "your ride on demand." Presumably, making that driver-passenger connection would equal one "gig," and many think it's marvelous that the magic of a software application should be able, so easily, to connect up someone who wants to drive people around for money with persons needing a ride. 

There are, however, problems with this "gig" approach to work and employment. According to a July 15th news story, an administrative judge in California has found that Uber has not complied with state laws designed to ensure that drivers are doling out rides fairly to all passengers, regardless of where they live or who they are. This Public Utilities Commission official recommends a 7.3 million dollar fine against Uber, and that Uber's business be suspended. 

The Times editorial mentions another decision, by the California Labor Commissioner's Office, ruling that Uber had to pay one of its drivers $4,150 in business expenses, and interest, because the driver was actually an "employee" of Uber, not some sort of independent (gig) contractor. Uber is appealing.

The Times' bottom line is a reasonable statement, though perhaps hard to achieve in practice: 

Technology is making it possible for companies to do business in ways that can be good for consumers and workers. But this emerging field still needs to be governed by sensible regulations devised to protect workers.

In the meantime, I have been trying to get some sort of accepted definition for the "gig economy." I haven't found one. Not even in the Urban Dictionary, which is generally up to date on the latest slang sayings. 

The Urban Dictionary does have a definition for "gig" (a live performance, either musical, theatrical, or physical), but they don't have anything for the "gig economy." Same with the online dictionary published by Merriam-Webster. They have definitions for "gig," too, but not for the "gig economy." 

Whether it's called the "gig economy," or the "naked economy," I remain skeptical. That skepticism may be associated with the fact that I associate "gig" with a definition that that appears in the dictionary that comes as part of my Apple operating system: 

A harpoonlike device used for catching fish or frogs.

That definition definitely catches the flavor of what I think of as the "gig economy." Personally, I'm reluctant to be speared.

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  1. Gary, that's not skepticism. That's equivocation.

  2. Do want you want to make that transition from the old traditional economy to the new digital economy? I think it's not only important to make this transition but for many people it has become essential.
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    1. Thanks for reviewing my blog posting, Mueeid. I have substantial doubts about this new "digital economy" myself, and certainly doubt the wisdom of investing in penny stocks, but your comment may be of use to other readers.


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