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"Micro-Gig" Sites Undermining Workers Rights?

Unknown Lamer posted 1 year,7 days | from the in-a-small-way dept.

Businesses 426

Mystakaphoros writes "An article in The Atlantic examines the effects sites like TaskRabbit, Fiverr, and Rev.com are having on employment and freelancing. (I would add Amazon's Mechanical Turk to the list as well.) As the article mentions, 'Work is being stripped down to the bone. It's as if we're eliminating the 'extraneous' parts of a worker's day — like lunch or bathroom breaks — and paying only for the minutes someone is actually in front of the computer or engaged in a task.' How many Slashdotters have used these sites, either to hire or work? What's been your experience?"

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426 comments

being your own boss (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413759)

does this mean you can sue yourself for not providing a bathroom break or lunch?

Re:being your own boss (0)

mabhatter654 (561290) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414117)

MOST STATES do not require breaks or lunch periods for employees. Or vacation, holiday, sick pay, insurance, minimum hours, max hours, etc...

That's always been the "union" gig so State lawmakers never actually passed those laws.. Unions just negotiated for them by employer. Of course unions never pushed to change the LAW because why should non-union employees benefit.

Re:being your own boss (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414225)

Most states do require some breaks per 8 hours. They do not require they be paid though.

Re:being your own boss (1)

jellomizer (103300) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414233)

If you do work in the Union Shop everything is followed by the letter. So you the worker will get in trouble if you take a 61 minute lunch vs a 60 minute. While in most union shops they are usually not so petty about the details. They could but they would be wasting money on enforcing every little thing.

Re:being your own boss (5, Informative)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414301)

MOST STATES do not require breaks or lunch periods for employees. Or vacation, holiday, sick pay, insurance, minimum hours, max hours, etc...

Irrelevant, since these people are NOT employees. They are contractors. When I use Mechanical Turk to farm out work (and I often do) the Turkers set their own hours, they use their own equipment, they are free to work on other jobs, etc. Those criteria make them contractors, not employees. USA labor law is further irrelevant since very few of these people are based in the US. Most of the Turkers I have worked with are in South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh).

Re:being your own boss (-1, Troll)

Garridan (597129) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414507)

Oh, that's cool then. Brown people don't have rights anyway.

Re:being your own boss (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414547)

Right. Because the brown people in the US don't have rights either.
ASS.

Re:being your own boss (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414359)

I don't think you're correct on the requirements either, however I just wanted to say that most employers whether required or not do this to stay competitive in the job market pool.

A slightly related example is health insurance, I've noticed that most places that have called me that DON'T have it are almost immediately up front about it as they've experienced the lack of health insurance to be an instant dis-qualifier for them as an employer to potential employees for whom that's important.

Re:being your own boss (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414367)

This is news to me. These things are required in Illinois.

Seems odd to blame the unions for not helping non-members who didn't organize to help themselves, but we do have laws in place in Illinois protecting all workers thanks to the unions.

Re:being your own boss (2, Interesting)

Garridan (597129) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414483)

Oh bull shit. Unions do try to change laws. The difference is, we don't have the deep pockets that our employers do, so we can't afford the politicians. Most workers represented by unions aren't at a union shop: membership is optional. However, in these workplaces, the union still represents nonmembers, who still get all the negotiated benefits and wage increases that the union fights for. If unions were as self-serving as you suggest, this would not be the case. We fight for everybody we can, stand in solidarity with other unions, and work to change the law in the favor of all workers wherever possible.

Age old "issue" (1, Interesting)

Richard_at_work (517087) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413815)

When I put my car in for servicing etc I pay for parts and labour, and when I have workmen in at home to do something it's again parts and labour, so where's the difference?

Re:Age old "issue" (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413903)

Yep, it's just contract labor. If you're selling it, price your labor appropriately, taking into consideration that you are not getting benefits, etc. If you're buying it take into consideration that you're not getting loyalty, retaining experience and knowledge, etc.

Re:Age old "issue" (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414399)

I've heard the golden rule is 3x your FTE hourly rate. You've got to take self-benefits, work expenses, and the cost of labor into account.

Some potential employers balk at this, how an individual can ask for oh say $150 an hour in IT, but those folks are just ignorant & greedy and by no means the standard.

Re:Age old "issue" (4, Insightful)

denis-The-menace (471988) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413921)

You cannot watch the car repair guy do the work to see if he is goofing off or taking a dump. You cannot have a legal way of automating this either.

Oh, you are a computer programmer. Install this big-brother app as terms of your employment contract and THEN we'll pay you.
BTW: If the camera can't see your eyes while the keyboard is being used, you don't get paid.

1984 has arrived!

Re:Age old "issue" (3, Insightful)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414093)

Here's the funny part and a bit of consolidation:

Nobody skilled would ever take such a job, so it's a by morons for morons type thing.

Re:Age old "issue" (3, Insightful)

PraiseBob (1923958) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414207)

Because being skilled in a field means that person is somehow immune to becoming unemployed and desperate?

Re:Age old "issue" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414433)

yeah, pretty much. that's how supply & demand works.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414529)

Because being skilled in a field means that person is somehow immune to becoming unemployed and desperate?

Yes, apparently. At least the GP is from what I can tell, the way the majority of folks in this industry think.

Skilled == instantly employable.

Unskilled or incompetent == unemployable.

And it gotten so bad in some areas that if you are unemployed for whatever reason, then there's something wrong with you. Many companies wont even consider folks who are currently unemployed.

The job market is so screwed up - especially IT's. I mean really, there's all these unemployed folks, and I'm to believe that all of them don't have the skills?

/>Or what really kills me is how many employers will wait months for the perfect person to show up (i.e. steal him from another company) and yet it never crosses their mind to hire someone who's close and allow them to get up to speed - in LESS time it would take for the to find the perfect person? And for LESS money than they would have to pay the perfect match?!

Are these people that stupid?

The ONLY shortage of skilled workers is in the minds of the employers.

Here is an example of the horrible dysfunction of the IT labor market. [ewherry.com] Elaine wrote it to show and blame the recruiting but what she let's on is her and her company's unrealistic demands on what skills their workers should have.

There's a video of her stating that they were only 25 people in the World who could do the things they needed done and over half of them were working for Google, Yahoo, Amazon and Facebook.

What was she looking for?

A JavaScript programmer.

I'm looking for that 25 year-old 5'10" blond who worked her way through medical school as a swim suit model and who will be madly in love with this 50'ish 5' 7" balding fat guy.

Re:Age old "issue" (4, Insightful)

Zalbik (308903) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414169)

You cannot watch the car repair guy do the work to see if he is goofing off or taking a dump.

Yes, but you can for a:
plumber
painter
electrician
furnace duct cleaner
maid
nanny
drywaller
etc.

Basically if you are going to someone else's private property to perform work, they can legally monitor your activities and pay you accordingly.

Oh, you are a computer programmer. Install this big-brother app as terms of your employment contract and THEN we'll pay you.

No, despite what your mom told you, you aren't special. It's just that latent feeling of entitlement that programmers get due to a lack of sunlight.

Welcome to the club.

Re:Age old "issue" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414437)

No, despite what your mom told you, you aren't special. It's just that latent feeling of entitlement that programmers get due to a lack of sunlight.

You sound like somebody who hasn't written a line of code in his life. If programming was so simple, why can't you do it?

Now stfu, and bow down to your mentally superior overlords, you wouldn't be posting on here if somebody didn't write a browser for you.

No club here, there's us and then you.

Re:Age old "issue" (4, Informative)

alen (225700) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414247)

you don't pay for the actual labor time
there are standards that say how much time it takes to complete a task in fixing a car. you pay by the number of hours in the book

Re:Age old "issue" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414395)

You cannot watch the car repair guy do the work to see if he is goofing off or taking a dump.

How is this relevent at all? You don't pay for the car repair guy's minutes. You are given an estimate up front showing how long the repair will take and that is what you are charged. If it takes longer, they do not charge you more. If it takes less time, you do not get a discount. They have a register of how long each piece of a task is estimated to take and they use that to estimate the total time.

Likewise, with micro-gigs you are paid by the task. It took you 10 hours to put that piece of IKEA furniture together? Too bad; here is your $42. It took you 10 minutes to put that piece of IKEA furniture together? Good on you; here is your $42.

I have no idea where you are coming up with this surveilance angle.

Re:Age old "issue" (2)

TXG1112 (456055) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413923)

The cost of non billiable hours are built into what you pay for parts and labor. Ever wonder why list prices for construction materials and auto parts are so high and the contractor and mechanics get discounts? It's to pay for overhead costs. If the people doing micro work have built this into their rates, than there is no difference. However, the nature of these sites makes it difficult to include that cost, so people accepting the work are enabling self exploitation.

Re:Age old "issue" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413927)

The difference is that when they're at your house, the labor can be offset by a case of beer.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414427)

Most cost-effective way to pay your friends to help you move, basically ever. Offering cash is rude, but mention you've spotted for some beer and they come in droves.

Re:Age old "issue" (4, Interesting)

Nadaka (224565) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413933)

The difference is that you expect to pay a mechanic or plumber $50 to $100 an hour... People on these sites expect to get code written for less than minimum wage.

I was on rent-a-coder for a while before they changed the name. And the expectations and offered pay were ridiculous.

Re:Age old "issue" (4, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414091)

This is what a directly competitive global market looks like my friend, when you have people with living expenses in double digit dollars competing with those who have triple digit expenses (at least), a disparity in acceptable wages begins to appear.

Of course a programmer worth their salt will have worked hard enough that they should perhaps be willing to accept no less than a certain minimum, but that is nonetheless a competitive advantage they have in developing countries - why would they compete fairly when they don't have to? Would it even be fair to cut themselves off at the feet like that?

There is no solution to this quandry. Just pick your battles and keep your customers, really, lots of businesses value security and reliability over low cost.

no solution you will like (1)

way2trivial (601132) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414345)

There is a solution

income and expense parity, globally.

Everyone living at 2nd world levels.
(except a very small, very privileged minority of 'owners')
it ain't pretty.. but that IS what free trade will end at eventually,
with pain, bloodshed, revolts, and agony on the way....

the only way to maintain the first world experience will directly conflict free trade.

Re:no solution you will like (1)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414447)

An even better solution would be everyone living at first world levels but that's not going to happen for a half dozen generations minimum (~200 years), so in the meantime here we are. No protection is really possible here, you can't stop or really apply tarriffs to someone paying cash over the internet to someone else for perfectly legal services.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414109)

That should sort itself out then.
The code will such and people will stop using the site.

Re:Age old "issue" (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414135)

I thought it used to be decent, but it seems people have lowered the bar on there even more. I do think the site is a bunch of India coders spewing out spaghetti code though nowadays anyways. Nothing relevant or important ever passes through sites like that, and that's where the money's at. Not writing some asshat's chess program for him.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414327)

I was on rent-a-coder for a while before they changed the name. And the expectations and offered pay were ridiculous.

You make it sound like people posting some sort of low-ball pay for a programming job is some personal insult and injury to you. But if there's nobody to take the job at the given price, the job doesn't get done, simple as that. Doesn't hurt you, doesn't hurt anybody else.

Re:Age old "issue" (5, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413969)

The difference is that generally the "labour" part of the equation is an inflated hourly rate in order to cover the down-time in between tasks. They also have minimums so that if it takes 10 minutes you still get billed for 30. And

Generally freelancers have become accustomed to properly accounting for this extra rate charge on every billable hour to fill in the gaps. When you're "working" for mechanical turk you're really no longer an employee you're a business owner. Not everyone is cut out to run a business and nor should they need to, specialization is important. However, with businesses looking to become more efficient they can start calling their janitor a "contractor" and make them pay all of the payroll taxes. Technically that's illegal unless the janitor is also responsible for buying his own mops, brooms and can set his own hours but companies have been pushing the edge of what's legal (and often crossing it) for some time. The goal is often to make as many people 'freelance' as is humanely possible to avoid paying benefits or taxes or comply with safety regulations since their "employees" aren't actually employed--they're separate private businesses working alongside them.

The easiest way to avoid worker's rights is to avoid making them legally an employee.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

ArhcAngel (247594) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414269)

The easiest way to avoid worker's rights is to avoid making them legally an employee.

By law a full time position must be staffed by an employee. By definition a contract worker must be employed for a specified duration. I know one company that has an h and a p in their initials that routinely lays off all its contract workers the week after Christmas and rehires them the next week to the same position and some of these contract workers have been in their roles for years.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414365)

And the problem is what? You are willing to do a job at some price, taking into account your skills and expenses, and someone else is willing to offer a certain amount of money to get the job done. Either you match up or you don't. If you don't match up, the job doesn't get done.

Re:Age old "issue" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414077)

Actually you aren't. You're paying Book Rates (this takes 2 hours of labour and the parts cost this pro-forma amount). When actual costs and times are lower than that shop book rate, you still pay the full book rate. That's how it works in most places in North America, including all across the USA and Canada, unless there are some state laws that ban this practice in some US states.

W

Re:Age old "issue" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414111)

When I put my car in for servicing etc I pay for parts and labour, and when I have workmen in at home to do something it's again parts and labour, so where's the difference?

You are also not the employer - you are the customer, paying for services. You can bet that the employer does indeed have to allow for bathroom breaks, etc. A customer of an IT shop pays for parts and labour just the same as the customer of the auto shop. So what was your point?

Re:Age old "issue" (3, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414137)

Take a look at the history of the garment industry and piece work.

As the internet tends to do, it disaggregates things – breaking things up into component pieces. Why does this matter? Workers become more fragmented. Thus, relatively speaking, this shifts power towards management, which is important when you try to negotiate your wage.

Also, companies tend to invest less in their works – such as training, pension plans, etc. Why bother when there is no longer expectation?

As for your example, you may or may be paying for “labor”. May places have rate sheets – Installing new breaks is X hours and the workmen are paid for X hours of work even if they don’t work X hours. If journey men take 2X hours – well – they are journey men. If a master mechanic can do it in .5 hours – well he is a master mechanic.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414183)

In both cases they charge you for parts and your choice of labourer is somewhat limited by the fact that you can't really ship your car/washing machine to India for servicing. In the case of car repairs you tend not to stand around watching them to make sure they bill you precisely for each minute either, and it is customary to at least offer the washing machine guy a cup of coffee.

Re:Age old "issue" (1)

Frontier Owner (2616587) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414479)

When I put my car in for servicing etc I pay for parts and labour, and when I have workmen in at home to do something it's again parts and labour, so where's the difference?

Not quite the same.

the worker gets an hourly wage.

the shop charges an hourly rate to cover wage and overhead

most reliable shops charge a standard and will talk to the you if they think they will go over the standard

you don't have your car serviced and get hit with an extra $50 because the tech cross threaded a lugnut and it took 30 minutes to change it. They are gonna charge you a 1/2 hour up front for the oil change and tire rotation and be done in 20 minutes.

fedex pays for each packages you deliver and you h (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413889)

fedex pays for each packages you deliver and you have to pay for all costs down to being forced to rent / buy there truck (can't hire your own subs) must by there scanners and software as well being forced to buy there uniforms

Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413895)

What a fucking sense of entitlement.

It's a voluntary agreement.

If you don't like the terms, don't do work for places like that.

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414157)

Instead you can just go work for ... oh, wait. No one's hiring, because they're all getting stuff done thru slave-wages sites instead. Maybe not yet, but soon.

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (1)

Motard (1553251) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414295)

Dice(TM) is currently listing 84,210 jobs.

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414525)

I don't always post anonymously, but when I do, its because I'm talking about something wrong that I see go on everyday where I work.

Dice is listing thousands of jobs which are open to the "right person" but not to everyone with the listed qualifications. In many cases, the companies posting these positions reject everyone that applies for them in order to justify hiring someone who needs a visa. A lack of qualified candidates for all the "open positions" in my department is used as a management excuse to extend work hours out beyond 50.

A headhunter I used to get temp-to-hire work through once told me that in many cases ads were an attempt to entice specific individuals to leave their position with a competitor, or a signal to said individual that they should quit their position and begin waiting for their no-compete to run out.

Point being, there are lots of reasons to advertise a job opening in the technical fields that have nothing to do with a position actually being open to all qualified comers.

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414553)

Of course. Because that is a sustainable economy. Everyone will work for wages so low that they cannot afford the products and services of the companies they are doing the work for. Everyone. There will be no division between skilled labor and unskilled labor. Everyone will work for slave-wages. No companies will hire employees directly.

It's amazing we haven't already plummetted into dystopia since Amazon's Mechanical Turk went live 8 years ago. We're living on borrowed time for sure...

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (2)

Willuz (1246698) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414235)

Exactly.
If you chose to be your own boss, then there's only one person to blame when your boss treats you poorly. You do work for customers on your terms at a rent-a-coder site, not forced labor for a slave driver.

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414337)

What a fucking moron.

Re:Who's *FORCING* you to work for those sites? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414449)

You're rebuttal is thoughtful, well laid out, and eloquent. You have swayed my opinion as well as the opinions of all who were fortunate enough to stumble across this post. May your cancer be unbearably painful and drawn out.

My lunch/breaks are unpaid anyway (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413929)

My lunch/breaks are unpaid anyway... so what are they stripping away here? But yeah, this amount of micro-managing and bean counting is counterproductive, and just adds a lot of stress and pressure. When they're able to detect it, maybe they'll streamline it further and pay you only for the time that your brain is focused on your work, and pay you based on the percentage of the focus as well.

Re:My lunch/breaks are unpaid anyway (2)

Stormthirst (66538) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413979)

This. And all that will happen is people will put their rates up to account for the difference in take home pay. It's ludicrous because the sites are wasting all their time micro-managing but will end up paying the same.

Re:My lunch/breaks are unpaid anyway (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413993)

No, they're built into your salary or wage and the fact you're not paying both sides of your FICA taxes.

That was the article's intent. (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413945)

Thanks for the info, Slashdot. If I can get an adequate salary working from home, I'm outta here.

Re:That was the article's intent. (1)

Kjella (173770) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414023)

Thanks for the info, Slashdot. If I can get an adequate salary working from home, I'm outta here.

You think you'll be surfing Slashdot less from your home office than your away office?

Re:That was the article's intent. (1)

wompa (656355) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414045)

Thanks for the info, Slashdot. If I can get an adequate salary working from home, I'm outta here.

The point of the article is you don't get a "salary". You also don't get benefits.

"undermining rights" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43413957)

How is getting the right to bid whatever you want "undermining rights"?

Re:"undermining rights" (2)

ArhcAngel (247594) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414341)

Competition is a good thing...unless they are competing against you. It's even worse when your competition doesn't know anything about business and bid out so low it won't cover their own expenses. Your customer indignantly asks why they should pay your outrageous prices when the other guy is 65% cheaper.

What about illegal immigrants (1)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413975)

Why is it that when illegal immigrants work for less than minimum wage, it is "essential to the economy" but micro-gigging is a threat to workers rights?

Re:What about illegal immigrants (4, Insightful)

chiefmojorising (114811) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414059)

Because illegal labor isn't essential to the economy -- that's just hand-waving, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain bullshit. Well, the labor may well be essential, but not at that price. That whole situation is fucking criminal and should be treated as such, and using it as a basis of comparison is asinine at best.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (1, Insightful)

PhamNguyen (2695929) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414161)

It is a fair basis for exposing the hypcrisy of the left. They claim that illegal immigrants are essential to the economy because they are willing to work for much lower wages. And yet they oppose measures that would lower working conditions of legal Americans.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414265)

The left?
I think you mean center right.
The left wants businesses that pay less than the minimum wage shutdown. If a company is found using illegal labor its doors should barred and forced to not function for some amount of time. Ideally for as many days as they used illegal labor.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (1)

Old97 (1341297) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414373)

It also exposes the hypocrisy of the right. They both argue that these folks take jobs Americans don't want. The truth is that these folks accept wages that Americans won't for those jobs. It benefits businesses because illegal immigration and very liberal immigration policies put downward pressure on wages. Somewhere there is a balance between what is fair and what is best for the economy, but neither side cares what that is.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (1)

MightyYar (622222) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414291)

We have free flow of goods, and free flow of capital, but not free flow of labor. I can't easily move to Mexico to work, and Mexicans cannot easily move here to work. Thus, if you want to grow apples in the US with it's artificially high wages you will get stomped out of the market by the free-trade apples from China. Our solution thus far has been to exempt apple picking from minimum wage laws, while simultaneously kind of winking at immigration from Mexico and Latin America.

I tend to favor free trade, since I think protecting a few workers at the expense of higher prices for everyone else amounts to a tax and subsidy. On the other hand, you need to account for the imbalance caused by the inherent difficulty of labor movement. There is probably a compromise that could be found - some attempt to price the imbalance into the movement of capital and goods. You might even be able to do this with markets, similar to how things are done in pollution control markets. Only instead of trading sulfur emissions credits, you could trade man-hours.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414323)

In a free country labor is by choice. Workers trade their work for cash and then trade that cash for the labor of others. There is no such thing as "illegal" work or "worker's rights" in a true free society. (You have no right to demand work from any employer any more than they can demand it of you) The only immoral labor is that which is done under the thumb of some corrupt country that artificially keeps their workers poor. One could debate trade with such countries should be banned or controlled in some way,

In a global economy - like it or not - labor prices are set on a global market where the work is global. There isn't a hole deep enough to put one's head to make that not true.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (1)

ebno-10db (1459097) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414423)

In a free country labor is by choice.

So is eating. What's your point?

Re:What about illegal immigrants (2)

Mystakaphoros (2664209) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414569)

It amuses me when the Social Darwinist free-marketeers look at a man asking how he's going to feed his children and reply, "You know, survival is not mandatory..."

Re:What about illegal immigrants (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414105)

Why is it that when illegal immigrants work for less than minimum wage, it is "essential to the economy" but micro-gigging is a threat to workers rights?

Not to worry. Soon, by act of Congress, these will be undocumented guest workers.

Re:What about illegal immigrants (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414279)

If that means they have to be paid minimum wage and pay taxes I fail to see the problem.

The problem is not these folks working here, the problem is employers paying them below minimum wage and abusing them.

Freelancing and Micro-gigs (4, Insightful)

ClayDowling (629804) | 1 year,7 days | (#43413983)

On the micro-gig sites, remember that you'll be competing with people who can live quite comfortably on $5/day. If you can live on that, more power to you. Otherwise, you'll want to find other ways to peddle your services.

Re:Freelancing and Micro-gigs (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414031)

If you are not offering something that makes your service more than that than why should someone pay you more than that (that something might be the fact that you live closer to the person buying the service, or it might be that you have a better understanding of their requirements).

Re:Freelancing and Micro-gigs (4, Insightful)

DavidClarkeHR (2769805) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414193)

If you are not offering something that makes your service more than that than why should someone pay you more than that (that something might be the fact that you live closer to the person buying the service, or it might be that you have a better understanding of their requirements).

Because the added cost of living in a country that actually provides for the needs of the entire population raises the price of living.

If we stopped paying unemployment, supporting the elderly, sick and disabled, as well as stopped paving roads, it'd be a lot cheaper to live because taxes would be much, much lower. You wouldn't have to worry about those pesky things that happen to other people, or are required only once in a while (like police services, fire services, building codes, etc ...).

Price isn't entirely determined by the service. It's determined by the cost to provide the service, and comparing ACTUAL costs isn't as simple as putting two numbers side-by-side.

Game the System (5, Insightful)

Princeofcups (150855) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414037)

My wife did Mechanical Turk for a few weeks when out of work, and oh boy. The only way to make even minimum wage is to completely game the system. It is supposed to be self quality checking, but that doesn't really work. Her work (writing in this case) was so far above the norm (she did graduate college) that it was off the scales. The max she could make doing honest work was around $3-$4 per hour. Most workers there just spam the system trying to grab jobs that are we few cents more, cut and paste some garbage, rinse and repeat. In other words, you get what you pay for.

Re:Game the System (2)

Ambvai (1106941) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414451)

I used to do MTurk back in college when it was still in testing and there were numerous scripts that optimized workflow. If the work kept coming in, I could've clocked upwards of 40$/hour. The problem was that were so many people doing it that you could rarely get in more than 5 minutes or so with every batch, with batches only posted every hour.

taskrabbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414065)

What does the TaskRabbit Make?
Most of your TaskPrice goes directly to the TaskRabbit, who makes exactly what she bids. A small percentage goes to your service fee.

How's the Service Fee calculated?
20% of the TaskPrice on every completed Task is reserved for our Service Fee.

I guess 20% = "small percentage".

Ripoff.

Re:taskrabbit (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414209)

LOL AC, welcome to the world of the 'agent'.

This is non-issue. (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414071)

I'd even go as far as saying it's a good thing in the long run.

For as long as I've been employed, I've always translated my salary to a "wage per hour of actual work". The wage also includes any benefits outside of the paycheck such as health plans, dental plans, pension programs, etc.

At the very least, it's the only way to truly compare job salaries. If you get a new job and lose 2 weeks of vacation per year that you had before, your annual income should be higher to maintain the same per-hour wage. Ideally, your per-hour wage should got up with every job change.

That being said, if I were to be unemployed, I would know exactly what to charge for micro-gig work to be on par with my previous job income. Difference is only I would chose when I take break and for how long.

Then again, some people don't like being in complete control and assume responsibility for their actions or inactions...

It's how contract work works! (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414131)

I make my living as a programmer for hire. Clients find me, ask for the moon, and I give it to them - but my hourly rate only reflects time on task. I don't charge my clients for trips to the water cooler. Unless I'm on site, I average about 6 hours a day. But this can be compensated by the fact you can adjust your own rates. For all the bitching about evil corporations, I'm surprised more people don't start their own S Corp and do this. It's a lot more responsibility, but you are the master of your own fate. (You are still responsible for your own fate when working for a business, but I suppose a lot of people don't see it that way) In fact, you may not even see corporations as all that evil when you're on the other end of the stick.

Re:It's how contract work works! (2)

SQLGuru (980662) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414409)

Because I don't want to hunt for gigs. By working for someone else, they bring me work. They also do that boring accounting and payroll work. I get to do the stuff I love and enjoy without having to do the stuff I hate.

Re:It's how contract work works! (4, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414543)

I make my living as a programmer for hire. Clients find me, ask for the moon, and I give it to them - but my hourly rate only reflects time on task. I don't charge my clients for trips to the water cooler. Unless I'm on site, I average about 6 hours a day. But this can be compensated by the fact you can adjust your own rates. For all the bitching about evil corporations, I'm surprised more people don't start their own S Corp and do this. It's a lot more responsibility, but you are the master of your own fate. (You are still responsible for your own fate when working for a business, but I suppose a lot of people don't see it that way) In fact, you may not even see corporations as all that evil when you're on the other end of the stick.

Mostly it's the lack of health insurance. If we went to a single-payer system, I would be glad to go that route, but I can't risk my kids getting cancer while I'm off being my own boss and not able to afford the $3k/month family health insurance that can drop you for no reason.

I tried some of these sites with mixed results (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414167)

When I was between jobs a year or so ago, I gave this kind of work a try. It was so-so. Freelancing from these sites kind of stinks. Freelancing in general is hard enough, then add almost zero "personal" interaction unless you're on video chat, the standards of no health care or time off, no job security, etc. It's VERY hard to outbid some of the developing world workers on some sites, but folks I have done work for told me staight up that their experience was that they were 'mostly' getting what they paid for. It was only the occasional higher cost worker that didn't have the experience they claimed. And some of the customers I spoke with had dabbled in the super low priced bids, but they were all over the place in quality.

Until the lower paid workers of the developing world reach up, en masse, for more pay, first world folks will have this kind of experience going forward. And until something horrible like unionized IT (see recent stories about poor moral/stress/poor health/awful managers in general IT: aka IT folks treated like dirt) occur to level out bottom lines for requirements/pay/etc: welcome to the future.

AC

Race to the bottom (4, Insightful)

Chirs (87576) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414173)

I think we're at the point now where if a job can be digitized and sent elsewhere then it will end up being done by the lowest-overall-cost person (for a given level of quality) regardless of where they are in the world.

So the only long-term way to make a living is to ensure that you're working on something specialized (so there's less competition), or that you're at the top of the skill heap (so you can charge more), or you're working on something that can't easily be sent elsewhere.

We're already seeing the Canadian east coast becoming a popular place to locate call centres for North American businesses because they speak good English, the cultural variations are minimal from the rest of North America, and there are fewer timezone issue to worry about (as opposed to India or China).

Re:Race to the bottom (2)

swillden (191260) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414387)

So the only long-term way to make a living is to ensure that you're working on something specialized (so there's less competition), or that you're at the top of the skill heap (so you can charge more), or you're working on something that can't easily be sent elsewhere.

I'd call that medium-term, or even short-term, not long-term. Long-term, standard of living and cost of living will equalize worldwide.

Re:Race to the bottom (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414503)

there will always be countries that have political instability or a natural disaster that will reduce the cost of living.

Day laborer equivalent... (2)

bryan1945 (301828) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414221)

of the tech business. If you're worried about being stiffed or not having benefits, just don't do it. Though this sounds way too annoying to be successful. The 5er stuff might be OK. I'd pay someone $5 for a drawing of a monkey slapping Justin Beiber.

Re:Day laborer equivalent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,7 days | (#43414407)

"Good Lord, Lawrence, why are you slapping a monkey?"

Odesk (1)

MindStalker (22827) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414261)

Many years ago I did a lot of work on ODesk, started out at about 5-10 dollars an hour, after about 2 months I was able to command $30 an hour easily based upon my high feedback and test scores. It was a pretty sweet gig. Not quite enough to support my family, but plenty as a side gig.

welcome to the real world (1)

stenvar (2789879) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414283)

The idea that a salaried employee can have his employers (and optionally tax payers) by his balls and squeeze hard to get paid more is quaint, but doesn't apply in most of the real world. Most people in this world actually have to compete in order to make money. You know: bakers, electricians, computer consultants, personal trainers, hairdressers, etc. They work an hour, they get paid an hour. And if they don't work well, they lose customers.

Re:welcome to the real world (1)

qdaku (729578) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414521)

I would love to get paid by the hour. My charge out rate runs around $160 USD/hour. I'm always over 100% billable. 40% of my time is spent in the field working 12-16 hour days for 21-28 days straight, sometimes longer. My take home pay is around $75k/year on salary. Last year I billed out over $350,000 in work.

I wish I worked an hour and got paid an hour. Frankly, my employer has me by the balls and squeezes hard every day. This is for a highly specialized job requiring a master's degree and 7+ years of experience. Just the nature of the business. The grass is not greener anywhere else in my field (trust me, I've looked).

Of course it is. (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414309)

The rise of the micro-gig is very much a sign of the wider deterioration of working conditions. Rights are part of the issue, but the other is that the pay per hour is often pitiful.

This is another consequence of the neoliberal strategy of keeping a persistent pool of unemployed people. Don't believe government propaganda about wanting everyone in work; full employment in the US and other Western democracies has not been a policy goal since the late 70's.

Put very very simply, If there are two people for one job, wages, rights and benefits go down. If there are two jobs for one person, they go up.

I actually tried writing articles for one of those big content aggregator sites a couple of years ago, only to stop once I realised I'd written an entire novella worth of content and in return was making about 10 cents per article per month. At that rate, 1 article that pay have taken two hours to write would have needed about a decade just to make $6 an hour.

I doubt other sites in a similar vein are much better.

the micro job (1)

nimbius (983462) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414453)

phenomenon is just another symptom of the failure of modern capitalism in my opinion. although peculiar to the tech industry it seeks to turn a valuable service into a race to the bottom commodity at the expense of human beings much as in every other sector. Other examples are Wal-Mart, which touts health benefits to their full time employees while carefully ensuring nearly everyone is working only 38 hours. or general contractors in texas which skirt employment laws to deliver the lowest cost 3000 square foot new home at the expense of paid labor and federal social security taxes by classifying every parking lot central american nailswatter as a "private contractor." Or recruiters who somehow think that sub-sub-subcontracting their cold-calls to the lowest bidding third world country to successfully game their english language skills requirement will earn them more successful placements.

the free market as we know it. give'er another 20 years and the occupy protest will, if not already, become a staple of american life. people will only tolerate so much serfdom before someone loses a head.

The fallacy here... (4, Interesting)

ThomasBHardy (827616) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414489)

The fallacy of the article is the fundamental assumption that the producer of work is only valid when controlled by the guiding hand of a company.

Workers rights exist to protect workers from abusive companies. But the case here doesn't even come close to rubbing up against that issue. The Gigers in these cases are able to work as much or as little as they please. No boss is standing behind them abusing them into performing more to justify management's salary or company profit margins.

Gigers will likely fall into two main groups:
A) Out of work and struggling to make ends meet.
This type is probably grateful for a way to make money in a world where there's currently no company to make him "a valuable asset and a productive member of society". No corporate overlord, no workers rights issues. If they dislike this type of work, they can continue seeking a job somewhere or they can learn to do without earning money for other people and keep making direct contacts for work.

B) People who do gigs on the side. Again, no right issues come up in this case. It's a totally voluntary way to make extra bucks.

I've used Fiverr to buy about 60 gigs now. In each case they were professional, quick and delivered exactly what they advertised. (in my case almost all were for artistic talent for personal and team building exercises). No company is offering me an equivalent service for less than an absurd amount of money which would have been a non-starter and caused me to engage in zero purchases. Their overhead for profit and management salaries is so high, they price themselves out of the market for what I need.

Instead of trying to demonize these companies, look at them as a means by which a lot of people are making ends meet while no company is willing to hire them. Life does not require anyone to work for a company. Sure they serve their purposes and for many scales and scopes of work, it takes a company to achieve success. I love the company that I work for. But I do not mistake that for believing that every person alive must either work for a company or earn nothing.

I'd rather look forward to a day when the gig market evolves and gig companies start offering discount benefit packages to Gigers who perform and produce well. What better way to hold onto good talent for your service.

What worker's rights? (3, Insightful)

fascismforthepeople (2805977) | 1 year,7 days | (#43414523)

We have hardly any left in this country as it is. Every year we strip away further at what used to be worker's rights. Every year we get closer to them having none left at all.

As we continue to empower the wealthiest at the expense of the least fortunate, we continue to step closer to delivering fascism for the people.
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