Alex J. Wood: Liberator or ‘Boss from Hell’?: The Gig Economy’s Double Edge (Ep. 156)

 

Alex J. Wood — Liberator or ‘Boss from Hell’?: The Gig Economy’s Double Edge

Oxford Internet Institute Researcher Alex J. Wood discusses the gig economy’s double edge from the perspective of workers themselves.

Bio

Alex J. Wood (@tom_swing) is a Researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute. He is a sociologist of work and employment, focusing on the changing nature of employment relations and labour market transformation.

Alex is currently researching new forms of worker voice and collective action in the online gig economy as part of the iLabour project.

Alex previously researched online labour markets and virtual employment relations in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia as part of the “Microwork and Virtual Production Networks in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia” project. This project investigates the economic and social implications of new forms of economic activities in the context of ICTs for development.

Alex completed his PhD at the University of Cambridge Department of Sociology where he also worked as Research Associate on an ESRC impact acceleration project to evaluate potential ways of reducing workplace stress resulting from insecure scheduling.

Alex’s PhD (2015) is titled the “The insecure worker: workplace control in the 21st Century”. His PhD focuses on the changing nature of flexible and insecure forms of work such as zero hour contracts. New patterns of working-time flexibility and how this relates to insecurity, well-being, and issues of workplace control and resistance being central to account developed.

He also has a long standing interest in the relationships between industrial relations, union renewal and emerging forms of workplace representation and new patterns of class and inequality.

Previously he received his MPhil in Sociology from the University of Cambridge (2011) with distinction. He received a first class BSc (hons) degree in Politics and Sociology, from Aston University (2009).

Resources

Oxford Internet Institute

Good Gig, Bad Gig: Autonomy and Algorithmic Control in the Global Gig Economy by Alex J. Wood, Mark Graham and Vili Lehdonvirta

 

News Roundup

New Facebook breach affects 50 million users

Facebook reported a data breach that began to take effect in July of 2017 when Facebook updated its View As feature which allows users to see how their profile looks to specific friends. The company said it didn’t discover the breach until September. While the company didn’t dislose exactly which user data was stolen or who stole it, it did reveal that the hackers obtained access tokens that enabled them to manipulate user accounts. Facebook says it has notified affected users and required them to log back into their accounts.

Elon Musk steps down as Tesla over tweets/SEC fraud investigation

Elon Musk has stepped down as the Chairman of Tesla and will need to pay a $20 million fine for his tweet last month saying he had “funding secured” for a $420 per share buyout of the company. The SEC had sued Musk for the tweet saying it misled investors. The SEC said that the $420 stock price was a weed reference—intended to impress his girlfriend\, rapper Grimes. He was also smoking up on Joe Rogan’s podcast. Obviously he was confused and bewildered—talking in tongues and rapping freestyle.

Federal prosecutors are now probing the ad industry

Federal prosecutors have launched an investigation into ad agencies who buy advertising time on behalf of large corporate brands. A recent Association of National Retailers report found that media outlets have been offering ad agencies rebates—cash back after they meet spending threshholds — but that the money hasn’t been making its way back advertisers. Suzanne Vranica and Nicole Hong report in the Wall Street Journal.

Environmental Protection Agency to dissolve science advisory office

The EPA will be dissolving its science office and ostensibly rolling it into the agency’s Office of Research and Development. This is the same agency that has basically censored the terms “climate change” from its website, speeches and all of pr collateral. It has also stopped giving climate change awards and is working to roll back full efficiency standards.

Federal preemption is trending

The doctrine of Federal pre-emption took center-stage this week in three different areas: net neutrality, privacy, and 5G buildout. Remember the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution makes federal law the supreme law of the land. On the net neutrality front, the state of California passed its own set of net neutrality rules that mirror the ones the FCC passed in 2015 but that Ajit Pai’s FCC repealed earlier this year. The Department of Justice is now suing the state of California, claiming the federal preemption doctrine.

On privacy, Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, AT&T, Charter, and Twitter told the Senate Commerce Committee last week that they would support federal privacy regulation that would preempt California’s privacy law, set to go into effect in 2020, which would give California consumers more control over their data. But a national privacy framework that would preempt state privacy rules has support from both sides of the aisle.

And on 5G … the FCC passed new rules last week that would minimize the role of local and state authorities in the review process to build out 5G wireless infrastructure, by limiting fees that local and state authorities charge carriers in order to deploy 5G and capping the shot clock to require local authorities to approve 5G applications within 60 to 90 days.

Verizon begins 5G rollout in 4 cities

Five days following the FCC’s order to limit local and state oversight of 5G deployment, Verizon announced that it would be deploying 5G in Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento. This makes Verizon the first company in the world to offer 5G on a commercial basis to individual consumers. Brian Fung has more in the Washington Post.

Federal court rules against Uber drivers suing as a class

Finally, the federal District Court of the Northern District of California has ruled to de-certify a class of nearly 240,000 Uber drivers who are suing Uber, saying that they should be considered employees rather than independent contractors. This would entitle them to better benefits and things like reimbursement for gas. The decision was long expected since the US Supreme Court ruled back in May – in Epic Systems v. Louis – that courts are required to honor arbitration agreements that gig workers sign up for.  All 240, 000 drivers would now have to pursue their claims individually.