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Friday, June 17, 2016

Gagging on the Gig Economy

Being "liberated" to work short-term jobs on-demand means you're on your own.

No doubt you’ll be thrilled to learn that we now live and work in a “gig economy.”

That’s the latest corporate buzz-phrase from Silicon Valley.

CEOs there are hailing a Brave New Workplace in which we lucky worker bees no longer have to be stuck in traditional jobs with traditional hours — or traditional middle-class pay scales, traditional benefits, traditional job security, and all those other fusty “traditions” of the old workplace.

In fact, in the gig economy, you don’t even get a workplace. 

Rather, you’re “liberated” to work in a series of short-term jobs in many places. And instead of being stuck in a 9-to-5, you’ll always be on-call through a mobile app on your smart phone or through a temp agency.

How exciting is that?

Nerve-wracking is more like it. The gig economy means you’re on your own — you’re not an employee, but an “independent contractor,” with no rights and no union.

You might have lots of calls to work this week, but then many weeks with no calls at all. And don’t get sick or injured, because there’s no health care or workers’ comp provided. Forget about a pension — your retirement plan is called “adios chump.”

This “alternative work arrangement” isn’t a futuristic concept — it’s already here and spreading fast. According to one study, some 16 percent of U.S. workers are now in this on-call, temporary, part-time, low-pay, you’re-on-your-own economy — up from only 10 percent a decade ago.

Backed by the economists and politicians they purchase, corporate chieftains are creating what they call a workforce of non-employees for one reason: greed. It directly transfers more money and power from workaday families into the coffers of moneyed elites.

Their gig economy is aptly named, for “gigs” are crude four-hook fishing devices. They’re dragged by commercial fleets through schools of fish to impale them, haul them in, and cash in on the pain.

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. He’s the editor of the populist newsletter, The Hightower