Beyond the gig economy: "platform co-ops" that run their own apps

I've written about Up & Go before: that's the worker-owned co-op of home cleaners in New York City that has built a version of the on-demand economy that keeps the convenience but jettisons the predatory capitalists, and as a result, is able to pay its workers $25/hour.

Ryan Hayes has an update on the rise of platform cooperativism, which revisits the workers at Up & Go and finds them thriving, and shows how the platform cooperativism movement has taken on new significance as the big, private-equity-backed, wildly unprofitable, sleazy gig economy companies seek to keep their investors from turning off the cash-taps by putting the screws to their workers, from wage theft at Amazon, Instacart and Doordash to Uber's attempts to scuttle basic worker protections for Californians.

New platform co-ops are springing up all around the world: Eva, a rideshare service in Montreal (backed by a community credit union); Coopcycle, an EU federation of bike delivery co-ops with chapters in 16 cities; and Mensakas, a food delivery co-op in Barcelona.

The thing I love about platform co-ops is that they don't ask their supporters to pretend that they dislike the convenience of on-demand services — rather, they change the economic and social contexts of these services to make them fair to their workers. It feels like the first days of The People's Republic of Wal-Mart.

Mike Calomoris started driving for Uber in 2018 to supplement his income as a wedding photographer. He joined Eva when they launched and now drives exclusively for the app. Like with Uber, Eva drivers are classified as independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to employment standards like minimum wage.

However, Calomoris is part of a test group of 15 Eva drivers who receive a base wage of $13-15 per hour (minimum wage in the province is $12.50) in exchange for working a set number of hours in high-demand areas. If drivers make less in fares than the guarantee, Eva pays the difference. If drivers make more, they keep the full amount.

In October, Eva started a pilot project with the Montreal airport and saw its ridership increase by 40 percent. "We had a big parking space for Eva drivers, our own doors, and an information booth inside," said Isufi.

Worker-Owned Apps Are Trying to Fix the Gig Economy's Exploitation [Ryan Hayes/Vice]

(Thanks, Ryan!)