Guilds vs For Profit Gig Companies

Why Uber et al. aren’t quite what we need.

Daniel Goldman
Feb 20, 2019 · 3 min read
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Coats of arms of guilds in a town in the Czech Republic displaying symbols of various European medieval trades and crafts (CC-BY 3.0)

A lot of people have taken issue with companies like Uber, and Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and so on. They honestly don’t treat their “contractors” very well, and it’s really difficult making a living with these services.

Rob Marchant, in The Unethical Greed of Deliveroo and Uber Eats, suggests that we should do away with these companies. Why? There are some good points to be made. Consider the following from the article.

Delivery riders for Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Foodora staged a protest in Sydney last year, claiming to earn as little as $6/hr — less than a third of the Australian minimum wage.

That’s not acceptable. A person isn’t going to be able to survive on that kind of pay. So I understand where Marchant is coming from. But I have to say that I’m disappointed that he didn’t give any other options other than “eat at home.” Well, I guess that’s certainly an option, but it makes sense to improve upon an idea, rather than ditch it entirely, especially when it’s clearly something that people want. And in this case, I think the core issue is the profit motive of these entities.

And I’m all for capitalism, when it makes sense. After all, these contractors are themselves capitalists, looking to benefit from their own time, labor, and resources. And for a lot of situations, capitalism does make sense. But the gig economy would benefit far more from a non-profit institution that focused on ensuring that its contractors received the best support possible. And that’s the point of a guild.

When it comes to deliveries, transportation, and pretty much anything else where the individual is largely responsible for the job, and the institution just tries to coordinate between the customer and the contractor, profit motives just get in the way.

And there’s no reason why a guild wouldn't be able to maintain the basic services needed to connect the end consumer with the contractor. They could even outsource some of the software development to a software developers guild. The core job of the guild should be to help the contractor find jobs, help with any legal advice, and provide training if needed.

That’s why Uber et al. and even perhaps companies like upwork, need to be replaced with guilds, which are non-profit entities, which have as their primary concern, the well being of their members.

I think guilds, or the Guild Association, could also take over various other tasks, such as tipping. Patreon et al. were great ideas, but again, their primary motive is profit, when they are supposed to be providing a service to better the quality of our lives. At the very least, I think they could convert to a public benefit corp, but Guild Association, a non-profit, which has as its primary goal the promotion of better working conditions for independent contractors and tradespeople, just seems like a proper alternative.

In a way, what this idea does is take capitalism and decentralize and distribute it, as much as is reasonable. Profit motives are fine, but they should drive individual actions. Of course, there are plenty of situations where such a decentralized and distributed system wouldn’t work. A company that produces a product and which requires a lot of different employees should probably remain as they are. But in any type of gig economy, those who promote the gigs, and those who connect the contractors with individuals who need the service, should be driven by concern for the contractor, not profit motives.

For that reason, I think that Michael K. Spencer is right in his assessment of Uber:

Any ethical consumer will choose an alternative to Uber if they believe corporate social responsibility is important. On a business level Uber faces an uphill battle to continue to remain ubiquitous and the dominant monopoly in its space. This is why I feel Uber’s business model will be a gigantic failure.

Learn more by checking out The Guild Association

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Daniel Goldman

Written by

I’m a polymath and a rōnin scholar. That is to say that I enjoy studying many different topics. Find more at http://danielgoldman.us

Politicoid

Promoting a scientific understanding of politics and economics, sustainability, and freedom.

Daniel Goldman

Written by

I’m a polymath and a rōnin scholar. That is to say that I enjoy studying many different topics. Find more at http://danielgoldman.us

Politicoid

Promoting a scientific understanding of politics and economics, sustainability, and freedom.

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