“It’s like a rugby scrum you get enough allies you can push through.” English bike courier in Brighton about #RideWithUs on March 14th. See what the English are doing.
On March 14th, the Deliveroo bike couriers of Brighton, England will be going out in a wildcat strike for £5 per drop, guarantee after costs of £8.45/hour and an end to victimization. Then on March 15th, across France, bike couriers are “Deconnecting” from their exploitative companies in a sort of nationwide strike. They want better rates, more respect as independent contractors and hiring freezes.
The bottom-line, if you work at Walmart, a pizza joint or wherever you have to fill out tax paperwork and declare yourself an employee, you then enter the realm of legal protection. The National/Federal government has bureaucracies dedicated to your fair treatment. Periodically, they check in on employers and hit them on the head with fines or mean words and employers are obligated to do things like:
- Take deductions for taxes.
- Not discriminate against you for whatever reason.
- Give you a fair market rate for your labor.
The scourge of independent contracting is why delivery platforms like Uber can vault over regulations like those mentioned above and get away with paying sometimes well below minimum wage. So, who do you think introduced this scheme to France?
Right this minute, the most active resisters of Uberization are in England and France. This coming week is a big week for them. They are working in solidarity, sharing their knowledge, looping in old warriors like myself and others so they can challenge an asymmetrical adversary.
There was another movement that spread around the world like wildfire back in the middle 90’s. It was called Critical Mass. Unfortunately, it became infiltrated by anarchists bent on just starting fights. The concept behind Critical Mass is helpful in this age of the 1% ruling the world. In the documentary, “The Return of the Scorcher” there is a scene showing a pre-automobile China where a crowd of cyclists collected at an intersection and when there were enough of them, they pushed through. They called it a critical mass. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called, Tipping Point, which essentially gets to the same point. We, alone, can’t make much of a difference, but together, we can do anything.
We are building to a tipping point. In Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece, War and Peace, he spends a couple hundred pages talking about the inevitability of history. Given the march toward nationalism and xenophobia here in the 21st century it is easy to feel society is quickly getting mired in the quick sand of gross inequality, corruption at the highest levels of governments and a conundrum of isolationism leading us inexorably toward more and bigger wars.
The frustration of the common person, the mistrust of government institutions must be laid at the feet of corporate titans. Those who genuinely believe that their bank books make them superior, therefore, not beholden to uphold basic human decency. Basic human decency is accounting for the true cost of a service or product and not passing it off to the weakest among us.
The first step is for these delivery platforms like Deliveroo, Foodora, Uber Eats and Stuart is to raise their rates to consider the actual cost of goods sold on their balance sheets. The rates they charge is effectively dumping a service meaning that the offending companies are selling their goods for more than it costs to produce them. Of specific interest, Uber, and Deliveroo, both international companies belonging to countries that are members of the World Trade Organization, should come clean in their trading practices. International platform delivery companies need to be careful that they aren’t violating international trade laws and rules.
The second step is for the rest of the working world to realize that your job is likely next. Currently about 40% of work in the US is contract work. There are actually some incredibly alarming trends in what work is starting to look like not just for your lowly bike courier, cab driver or plumber. The Gig Economy has become a great way for corporations to chase the myth of “shareholder value” at the detriment of real value.
What does this mean to you though? Why should you care? I’m not going to tell you what to worry about, these days, there is a smorgasbord of things to worry about. There is a lot written about income inequality causing a lot of economic and political instability. So, the little butterfly flapping its wings in Tokyo turns out to be a canary in the coal mine.
The next step is