Employee Status, Worker Perspectives, & Regulation in the Gig Economy
This talk uses ethnographic research on gig worker advocacy groups in California to make sense of an apparent paradox. Extant survey research finds that a majority of Uber/Lyft drivers in the U.S. do not want to be employees. And yet, drivers and gig worker groups aggressively advocated to pass AB5, an internationally heralded bill in California that makes it very likely that they are considered employees under state law. I argue that the paradoxes embodied in the perspectives of workers in my research can be theorized as attitudinal ambivalence. This ambivalence toward employee status was informed both by their relative powerlessness in relation to gig companies and by the uncertainties and insecurities specific to app-based gig work. Overwhelmingly, drivers both wanted employee benefits and feared how the companies might behave as an employer. Rather than re-shape employment laws and restrict worker benefits to accommodate the policy prescriptions of app-enabled gig companies, regulators may use these research findings to expand the benefits available through the traditional employment regime.
Veena B. Dubal is a Professor of Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Her research focuses on the intersection of law, technology, and precarious work. Professor Dubal has been cited by the California Supreme Court, and her scholarship has been published in top-tier law review and peer-reviewed journals, including the California Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, Berkeley Journal of Empirical and Labor Law, and Perspectives on Politics. Based on over a decade of ethnographic and historical study, Professor Dubal is currently writing a manuscript (Machineries of Dispossession) on how five decades of shifting technologies and emergent regulatory regimes changed the everyday lives and work experiences of ride-hail drivers in San Francisco.
The event is part of the Seminar Series “Platform Politics and Policy”.
Researchers from outside the WZB who would like to attend may email the organizer, robert.gorwa [at] wzb.eu, to be put onto the seminar series mailing list.