Last updated: December 3, 2019
Why Platform cooperativeness
These stories depicts the present, past and future of employee-employer relationship in a corporate culture. This gives us a clear picture about how mega corporations are operating even in the new order. We responded to Margaret Thatcher’s TINA: There is no alternatives by TISA: There Is a Socialist Alternative. Likewise, we need to find an alternative for the corporate work culture of exploitation and have to make an end to corporate work culture. We have defined our problem. What should be the solution ? Well, couple of researchers from New School like Trebor Scholz, McKenzie Wark and others found a simple solution. That is Platform Cooperatives.
Internet companies aspire to network and monetize everything from our cars to our refrigerators; the companies call this the “Internet of things. what twenty-first-century cooperatives might look like. Rather than securing old-fashioned jobs, these independent workers help each other become less dependent on salaries, and more able to rely on the housing, food, childcare, and computer code they hold in common. They trade with their own digital currency. In cases like this, the traditional lines between workers, producers, consumers, and depositors may become harder to draw.
Rather than donating Facebook shares to his own LLC, Mark Zuckerberg could put them into a trust owned and controlled by Facebook users themselves. Then they, too, could have a seat in the boardroom when decisions are made about what to do with all that valuable personal data they pour into the platform—and they’d have a stake in ensuring the platform succeeds. Thirty years ago, when the Internet wasn’t much more than a lab experiment, the social critic Theodore Roszak saw a lot of this coming. “Making the democratic most of the Information Age,” he wrote in The Cult of Information, “is a matter not only of technology but also of the social organization of that technology.” the economist Tyler Cowen foresees a future in which a tiny “hyper meritocracy” would make millions while the rest of us struggle to survive on anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 a year. It already works quite well in Mexico, Cowen quips. Carl B. Frey and Michael A. Osborne predict that 47 percent of all jobs are at risk of being automated over the next twenty years. And I have no doubt about the vision of platform owners like Travis Kalanick (Uber), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), or Lukas Biewald (CrowdFlower)—who, in the absence of government regulation and resistance from workers, will simply exploit their undervalued workers. Many of the business models of the “sharing economy” are based on the strategic nullification of the law. Companies knowingly violate city regulations and labor laws. This allows them to undermine the competition and then point to a large customer base to demand legislative changes that benefit their dubious modus operandi. Firms are also activating their app-based consumers as a grassroots political movement to help them lobby for corporate interests. Privacy should be a concern for workers and customers, too. Uber is analyzing the routines of its customers, from their commutes to their one-night stands, to then impose surge pricing when they most rely on the service. Navigating legal gray zones, these deregulated commerce hubs sometimes misclassify employees as independent contractors. They are labeling them “turkers,” “driver-partners,” or “rabbits,” but never workers. Hiding behind the curtain of the Internet, they would like us to believe that they are tech rather than labor companies. In the decade between 2000 and 2010, the median income in the United States declined by 7 percent when adjusted for inflation. In 2014, 51 percent of Americans made less than $30,000 a year, and 76 percent of them had no savings whatsoever. Since the 1970s, we have witnessed concerted efforts to move people out of direct employment, which has led to the steady growth of the number of independent contractors and freelancers. Digital labor, a child of the low-wage crisis, is part of that process. The theory of platform cooperativism has two main tenets: communal ownership and democratic governance. It is bringing together 135 years of worker self-management, the roughly 170 years of the cooperative movement, and commons-based peer production with the compensated digital economy. The term “platform” refers to places where we hang out, work, tinker, and generate value after we switch on our phones or computers. The “cooperativism” part is about an ownership model for labor and logistics platforms or online marketplaces that replaces the likes of Uber with cooperatives, communities, cities, or inventive unions. These new structures embrace the technology to creatively reshape it, embed their values, and then operate it in support of local economies. Seriously, why does a village in Denmark or a town like Marfa in rural West Texas have to generate profits for some fifty people in Silicon Valley if they can create their own version of Airbnb? Instead of trying to be the next Silicon Valley, generating profits for the few, these cities could mandate the use of a cooperative platform, which could maximize use value for the community. Students at Cornell University built Coopify for (and with) co-ops of low-income immigrants in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Platform co-ops could be attractive options for home health care professionals and also low-income residents, or pensioners who need to earn extra cash. In opposition to the black-box systems of the Snowden-era Internet, these platforms need to distinguish themselves by making their data flows transparent. They need to show where the data about customers and workers are stored, to whom they are sold, and for what purpose. Work on platform co-ops needs to be co-determined. The people who are meant to populate the platform in the end must be involved in its design from the very beginning. They need to understand the parameters and patterns that govern their working environment. A protective legal framework is not only essential to guarantee the right to organize and the freedom of expression but it can help to guard against platform-based child labor, wage theft, arbitrary behavior, litigation, and excessive workplace surveillance along the lines of the “reputation systems” of companies like Lyft and Uber that “deactivate” drivers if their ratings fall below 4.5 stars. Crowd workers should have a right to know what they are working on instead of contributing to mysterious projects posted by anonymous consignors. Soon, we may no longer have to contend with websites and apps but, more and more, with 5G wireless services (more mobile work), protocols, and AI. We have to design for tomorrow’s labor market. In the absence of rigorous democratic debates, online labor behemoths are producing their version of the future of work right in front of us. We have to move quickly. Together with cities like Berlin, Barcelona, Paris, and Rio de Janeiro, which have already pushed back against Uber and Airbnb, we ought to refine the discourse around “smart cities” and machine ownership. We need incubators, small experiments, step-by-step walkthroughs, best practices, and legal templates that online co-ops can use. Developers will script a WordPress for platform co-ops, a free-software labor platform that local developers can customize. Ultimately, platform cooperativism is not merely about countering destructive visions of the future, it is about the marriage of technology and cooperativism and what it can do for our children, our children’s children, and their children into the future. The rise of the modern labor movement was a cultural revolution that replaced the backward-looking peasant politics with a forward-looking one, based on the evident fact of capitalism as the dominant mode of production. the so-called sharing (or gig) economy. Companies like Uber, Instacart, Upwork, and TaskRabbit allegedly are “liberating workers” to become “independent entrepreneurs” and the “CEOs of their own businesses.” In reality, these workers also are contractors, with little choice but to hire themselves out for ever-smaller jobs (“gigs”) at low wages and with no safety net, while the companies profit. Silicon Valley is redesigning the corporation itself. These gig companies are little more than a website and an app, with a small number of executives and regular employees who oversee an army of freelancers, temps, and contractors. In the vision of the techno gurus and their Ayn Rand libertarianism, CEOs want a labor force they can turn off and on like the latest Netflix movie. For example, Upwork is an online business portal that acts like an eBay for jobs, allowing each worker to hang out a shingle to attract buyers of their services. A mere eight hundred employees (two-thirds of whom are contractors) oversee an army of ten million freelancers from all over the world who compete against each other, scrounging for jobs in an online labor auction in which the bidders offering the lowest wages usually win. The types of jobs on the auction block include website and app designers, software developers, logo and graphic designers, translators, architects, engineers, and more. Workers from India, Thailand, and the developing world compete against developed world workers, undercutting each other’s wages. It’s a race to the bottom. The vectoral political economy is in many ways worse than the capitalist one. It gives the ruling class of our time unprecedented wealth amid growing poverty and despoliation. It enables that ruling class unprecedented flexibility in routing around strikes, blockages, or communal strongholds. It has made the whole planet appear as an infinitely exploitable resource at precisely the moment when it is also clear that the past products of commodified production are coming back to haunt us. VC-backed sharing economy companies like Airbnb and Uber have caused trouble for legacy industries, but gone is the illusion that they are doing it with actual sharing. Their main contribution to society has been facilitating new kinds of transactions — for a fee, of course, to pay back to their investors.
The notion that sharing would do away with the need for owning has been one of the mantras of sharing economy promoters. We could share cars, houses, and labor, trusting in the platforms to provide. But it's becoming clear that ownership matters as much as ever. Whoever owns the platforms that help us share decides who accumulates wealth from them, and how. The worker cooperative is an old model that’s attracting new interest among the swelling precariat masses — youthful and idealistic, but with dwindling chances of finding an old-fashioned job. Co-ops help ensure that the people who contribute to and depend on an enterprise keep control and keep profits, so they're a possible remedy for worsening economic inequality. And they can take many forms. Loomio and other tech companies, for instance, are aspiring toward the model of a multi-stakeholder cooperative — one in which not just workers or consumers are voting members, but several such groups at once. It's the ideal model for an Internet that doesn't draw clear lines between employees and users. But it’s easier said than done.