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Sat Feb 8, 2014, 08:31 AM

The Rise of "Insourcing" Gives Internet Companies a New Way to Exploit Workers

The Rise of "Insourcing" Gives Internet Companies a New Way to Exploit Workers

Friday, 07 February 2014 10:32
By Lydia Bowers, Next New Deal | Op-Ed

It’s about time we talked about pay. The disparity between the top and bottom wage-earners combined with the inability for most minimum-wage workers to earn a livable income is one of the largest causes of economic stagnation and social justice concern of our time. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it appears we are making moves to raise the national minimum wage to be more in line with a living wage. This raise would have a direct impact on the 3.6 million workers with wages at or below the federal minimum and would have far-reaching positive consequences for our economy and society.

But there is a new, fast-growing class of low-wage workers that would not see the benefit of this decision. These new “insourced” workers are individuals who contract with large Internet-based companies like Uber and Taskrabbit to perform services here in the United States, either at a rate set by the larger company or in a free-for-all bidding war. As contractors, these workers receive very little protection in terms of minimum wage laws or unions, let alone benefits or insurance for the work they do. And their ranks are growing fast.

Taskrabbit, founded in 2008, outsources household errands and skilled tasks so you can find time to do what you love, according to its website. Members of the site, or “taskrabbits,” place bids to perform services for “task posters.” Need your laundry done or someone to paint your apartment? Post it on Taskrabbit.

While this may at first seem like a modern-day update of the community bulletin board for odd jobs, it is in fact a much more insidious shift in how individuals find work, as many who are unemployed due to the recession turn to the website as a primary form of income. With little in the way of health insurance or other protections in work environments that are frequently dangerous (painting, carpentry, factory packing, and bike delivery) and a stream of work that is impossible to guarantee or even estimate, taskrabbits have it rough. Add that to the “lowest bidder almost always wins” formula for Taskrabbit services and the workers in this emerging industry face a bleak picture for economic stability. I briefly worked as a taskrabbit in 2013 as a way to gain additional income, and while it was a fun side-gig for someone employed full-time, I can’t imagine sporadic $15 delivery tasks becoming a viable way to support myself. But this is the emerging reality for many Americans. ................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21719-the-rise-of-insourcing-gives-internet-companies-a-new-way-to-exploit-workers

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