Posts Tagged ‘sharing economy’

Uber’s Employment Model: Sharecropping.

May 15, 2019

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?



“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


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

“Uber Is a Scam,” Doug Henwood, Jacobin


“Uber’s Path of Destruction,” Hubert Horan, American Affairs Journal

“Hundreds of Uber Drivers in Toronto Are Joining a Union,” Bryan Menegus, Gizmodo


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

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Uber Shrugged

March 27, 2019

Uber Shrugged

Somehow, the sharing economy turned into the sharecropping economy. Mike Monteiro believes it was Ruined by Design, and also that Ayn Rand is a dick.

“Silicon Valley, and specifically the venture capital firms of Silicon Valley, are mostly run by old white men who read Ayn Rand in high school, thought it was great, and never changed their minds.”

“For those of you not familiar with Ayn Rand, she wrote crappy books about the power of individual achievement while she collected social security and started some pseudo-philosophy called ‘objectivism,’ which can be summed up in five words: I got mine, f*ck you.”

Those are the guys who fund the “sharing economy.”

“Once Uber’s goal moved from providing a car-sharing service to using a car-sharing service to make themselves and their investors rich, the delicate balance between drivers, riders, and Uber was destroyed. Only one of those parties was going to benefit from Uber’s future success. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but there is something inherently wrong with profiting from the labor of others without giving them a piece of the success they’ve earned.”

More from Ruined by Design here.


“Thousands of Uber drivers are striking in Los Angeles,” Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox

“Lyft Drivers Protest Falling Wages as Execs Drum Up Investor Money for $25 Billion IPO,” Patrick Howell O’Neill, Gizmodo

“Lyft’s latest driver perks: bank accounts and car repairs,” Matt McFarland, CNN

“’I’m Pretty Sure That I’m Losing Money at the End of the Day,’” April Glaser, Slate

“Uber and Lyft slashed wages. Now California drivers are protesting their IPOs.”
Faiz Siddiqui, Washington Post

“Lyft and Other Gig-Economy Giants Cash In With IPOs Before Labor Laws catch Up With Them,” Lee Fang, The Intercept

“As IPO soars, can Uber and Lyft survive long enough to replace their drivers with computers?” Faiz Siddiqui and Greg Bensinger, Washington Post


“Uber and Lyft Leave Their Drivers by the Side of the Road. Again.” Joe Nocera, Bloomberg

“Disgruntled drivers and ‘cultural challenges’: Uber admits to its biggest risk factors,” Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian

“The Mounting Fallout from Uber and Lyft’s Disruption of the Taxi Industry,” Angie Schmitt, StreetsBlog

“D.C. Uber Drivers Often Don’t Know What They Earn After Expenses (As Little As $5 An Hour), Study Finds,” Jordan Pascale, DCist


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Image by Mike Licht. Download copies here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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