Uber’s Employment Model: Sharecropping.

Uber's Employment Model: Sharecropping.

After the Civil War, when plantation owners were deprived of a chattel slave workforce, they implemented a form of peonage euphemistically called “sharecropping.” The landowners contracted poor black and white laborers to work their fields as tenants. These independent contractors did the backbreaking work in return for a small share of cotton harvest proceeds, often absorbing the costs of farming and bad harvests. That’s the employment model of rideshare companies like Uber.

Think of Uber’s digital platform as the plantation’s cotton fields. Uber lets the drivers plow use it if they turn over most of their cotton fare money to the plantation platform owner. Drivers absorb the costs of fuel, cellphone, car loans, permits, insurance, and maintenence. And if their mule car dies, the platform owner lets them buy a new one at subprime rates. Healthcare and retirement benefits? Nope.

Drivers are catching on, and so is the public. No wonder rideshare companies are pushing so hard for autonomous vehicles. After all, they automated the cotton fields, didn’t they?

 

More:

“Uber and the labor market,” Lawrence Mishel, The Economic Policy Institute

“Strike All You Want. Uber Won’t Pay a Living Wage.” Sarah Jeong, New York Times

“‘It’s a Laughable Fiction’: How Uber’s $82 Billion Valuation Was Built on a Lie to Its Workers.” Brianna Provenzano. Pacific Standard

“How Corporate Delusions of Automation Fuel the Cruelty of Uber and Lyft,” Brian Merchant, Gizmodo

Related:

“Research: Ride Share Has Increased San Francisco Traffic,” Rachen Swan, SF Chronicle, via Government Technology

“Uber Is a Scam,” Doug Henwood, Jacobin

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Short Link: https://wp.me/p6sb6-t8Y

Image derived from “In a Cotton Field” by Horace Bradley, from Harper’s Weekly, August 1887 (Library of Congress).

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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