2017/09/09 14:15 Colette Murphy, Kristy Milland, Greig de Peuter, Trebor Scholz, Frisia Donders, “Freelancers, the Gig Economy, and Platform Co-ops”, Disrupting the Disruptors

Plenary @colette_murphy @TurkerNational Greig de Peuter @TreborS @CoopsCanada #platformcoop, platformcoop.ca/, Bram & Bluma Appel Salon, Toronto Public Library

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting,based on the speaker’s presentation(s) and comments from the audience. The content should not be viewed as an official transcript of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. The digest has been made available for purposes of scholarship, posted by David Ing.

Colette Murphy, Executive Director, Atkinson Foundation @AtkinsonCF

  • How we build stronger movements for better work
  • Use both public policy, and people power

Role of workers are a bigger part of our economy

Platform work has been criticized for lack of dignity, accountability and consent

Centre for Policy Alternatives

  • Independent workers are considered contractors
  • Not protected by Employment Standards Act
  • Expectation of just-in-time labour delivery

How can we make it better for this group of people?

Frisia Donders, Greig de Peuter, Trevor Schultz, Kristy Milland, Colette Murphy, Atkinson Foundation


  • Frisia Donders, SMart cooperative
  • Greig de Peuter, Wilfred Laurier University, how cultural workers organize
  • Trevor Scholz, New School
  • Kristy Milland, McMaster University
  • Colette Murphy, Atkinson Foundation


Last 40 years, wages stagnated started 1978, while productivity increased

  • Initially, made up difference by women going to work (movie 9 to 5)
  • Worked longer hours
  • Then home equity loans
  • 2007 Occupy Wall Street
  • Then 2008 collapse:  people would take a pay cut, and then moving to independent work, lost worker rights
  • Mechanical Turk, but lawmakers say it’s illegal

Bureau of Labor Statistics say people are happy

  • But 2/3 of people who are independent, they say they would rather be employed

Need new access to jobs, what does it do to your life?

  • Can you plan family, if you’re a Lyft driver?  They dropped rates 30% to be competitive.

Important to acknowledge opportunities

Not just platform models, but also other sectors

[Kristy Milland]

Spent 12 years on Mechanical Turk

Then, going back to school, see what they were doing

There are 2 Turkers of 40,000 who want to speak to the media

Recently, looking at content moderation

  • Realize, I have PTSD

Do you have any physical impairments?

  • RSI, from clicking 17 hours per day

Saying Amazon Mechanical Turk is the worst, get vitriol on Reddit

So, took an Uber today, talked with Uber driver

  • He had a heart attack
  • Started driving with Uber
  • $48,000 sounds good, but $3000 on insurance, etc. … and driving 60 hours per day

Now French parliament is taking action

  • We have to find a solution

Dynamo coalition, can’t get papers published

Platforms could be user-run, they could be coop

If we have a platform, we should be able to talk to other workers — you can’t in Mechanical Turk

Should consider a platform actually for workers

  • Maybe not the perfect answer, but it’s an easy answer
  • People are there, now

Grieg: On the sidelines of cooperatives

  • 10 years ago, went to Mondragon
  • On one side, positive
  • On the other side, some outsourcing to low wage countries

Cultural workers:

  • Creative class, want to draw more attention to precariousness
  • Have been surveying cultural workers
  • Job security
  • Pressure to work for no pay
  • Race, gender, pay
  • Unpaid internships
  • Piece work

Collective organizations, including unions, that don’t fit workplace forms

  • Have interview 100 activists

Intern unpaid

Wage:  certification for U.S. galleries that pay artists fees

Digital newsrooms, with Gawker

Unionize Canadian branch of Vice, 200 people

Winning better pay, media goals

Broader survey research:  platform cooperative is one in the range of strategies to disrupt power structures

One thread:  coworking spaces

  • Who’s who of creative class precarious
  • Coworking:  members fork over a fee to a private business
  • Buy back resources, e.g. desks, workplace community
  • Makes flexible capitalism
  • But coworking was bottomup
  • 10,000 coworking spaces worldwide
  • Coworking has been captured by corporate
  • Could recapture, time has come

If coops form according to needs, then coworking can respond to independent workers

  • Coops and coworking:  could split rent, work against isolation

Growing small number of coworking coops

  • In Montreal
  • In Wales, IndyQ
  • In UK, also discount insurance, other supports

For anticapitalism, coworking spaces are a transitional phase:  a mutual aid accelerator

Colette:  How to build worker voice, at scale, where are we seeing opportunities at a firm level to a policy level?


In European, people are thinking more about collectives

  • In November, meeting will discuss European social rights and social security
  • Freelancers, independent workers, self-employed — thinking of a global system

France and Netherlands, can quickly become entrepreneur and take all of the risks by an independent

  • Have to share risks
  • No social security with entrepreneur steps

Two approaches, could have social security for all workers

Greig:  Digital journalism

  • Have been working on inside workers on unionizing Vice Media Canada, 200 people of 2000 worldwide
  • Gawker unionization last year created interest
  • Gawker unionized, accepted by management, increased wages
  • Vice Canada went with Canadian Media Guild, started 2015, vote in 2016, May 1 2017 saw wage gains, equity committee
  • Collective bargaining rights, with full-time staff speaking on behalf of part-time staff

Trevor:  Mutualizing risk

  • Banyan, Tuts Berlin
  • In Toronto, collaboration with union
  • FairBnB.ca is coming out of union to regulate short-term rental in Canada
  • South Africa taxis also supported by unions

Colette:  Workers as invisible?  What could make them more visible?

Kristy:  Tough

  • As an organizer, tough to find other workers
  • Difficult for a panel of 3, found one other person in India
  • Have to start with organizing physical workers, people you can find, in a proof of concept

Put up a piece of work:  Dynamo, try it for 5 minutes

  • Believe if you build it, they will come
  • If offering a platform that listens with people, they will go along with it
  • Has to be done right

Daymo came with promises up front that workers would be involved, but then had academic grading of work

Colette: Which industry would help the most marginalized?

Trebor:  Social care workers are underpaid, there’s so many of them

  • If you build a platform with them, they will stay


Question:  Basic salary, basic income?  Co-ops will support this model of the not well paid?

Trebor:  Universal basic income, as an example of what platform coops should do

  • Should change power
  • Coops won’t destroy capitalism
  • Basic income does change the game
  • How can coops change the game?
  • Contribution to the commons?
  • How do you contribute?

Colette:  In Ontario, child benefits; for elderly OAS and GAINS

[Question] Up and go workers were most hidden.  How to organize more hidden workers?  How can we build cohesion, when building in the basket?  How do we negotiate precarious?

Frisia:  Next to revival of coop movement, also building guilds, where people are represented by a majority

  • Representation of people who don’t speak up

Trebor:  National Worker Alliance has undocumented workers

  • Platforms are a problem, if have anonymity
  • Must be a way

Kristy:  Platform workers, the platform know who they are

  • Force the companies to be transparent about who is working there
  • Then government knows about them, could pay income tax

Wrote letters to Jeff Bezos, to tell him who we were

  • Asked how many active workers on Mechanical Turk
  • Said, yes, but never got the information
  • If have them tell us, then opens up the company

[Question]  Competitors hiring autonomous workers, hard to coops to compete — and some of them are coops.  Coop doesn’t mean equity, all of the time.

Colette:  Toronto Star article yesterday, went into a corporate bakery, found these issues

  • In Ontario, revisiting regulations on misclassification of workers

[Question]:  In Ontario, have to be incorporated as a coop, or can’t call coop.  75% of workers have to be full time.  Training camps.  Are labour unions creating labour organizers.

Frisia:  In Europe, four steps behind in organizing, don’t know what to do with platform workers

  • Now in Belgium can make 4000EUR every year from global sources, classified as temporary work
  • Better conditions for bikers
  • Now discussing with unions, they appreciate us, but haven’t proposed anything

Kristy:  In Sweden, got freelancers to join

  • Within another union, they asked existing workers who were platform workers
  • In Canada, have Canadian Freelancers Union under Unifor
  • May be classified as a cabal, rather than a collective bargaining unit

Trebor:  In Europe, close to full employment, can’t see shift to independent work

  • In Germany, a non-issue

Greig:  Workers Action Centre, worker’s central model

Colette:  workeractioncentre.com, but don’t have regulatory framework, yet

Kristy: Starting a coop is hard

  • What resources can we help them with?

Trebor:  IDLC, OCADU:  platform development kit

  • Legal templates to create a corp
  • Platform coop commons, want to build that, to allow people on the map
  • Can incubate a platform coop on the side
  • A project with initial funding

[Greig] Don’t forget about labour unions, basic income

  • Politics has to do with differentials of power and privilege

Frisia:  Do it yourself, but not alone

  • Michel Bauwens, Peer to Peer

#coopscanada, #disruptingthedisruptors