Heard of the Good Work movement yet? If you haven’t, it’s probably because companies such as Uber and Airbnb get more press. The Good Work movement, founded by the National Domestic Workers Alliance in October, is a gathering of companies pledging to deliver the protections and benefits that gig companies such as Uber notoriously fail to offer.
There’s a lot going on here, and the movement’s model is extremely important for the future of work. Here’s why.
The ‘gig economy’ is blowing up
Choose to call it what you will — the ‘sharing economy,’ the ‘on-demand workforce,’ the ‘gig economy’ — however you slice it, the contractual model is taking an ever-bigger piece of the economic pie:
- The number of gig workers will double in size by 2020, from 3.2 million to 7.6 million
- Contract workers contribute more than $700 billion to the economy
- 10 out of the 50 startups on Forbes’ Hottest Startups of 2015 list are part of the gig economy, with a collective valuation near $78 billion
These companies offer apps through which you can procure a service. They contract with workers —drivers, homeowners, handypeople, cleaners, etc — and offer them a flexible schedule with as much or as little work as they want. Oftentimes, you pay less for the service than you would through a traditional service provider (because these companies have lower overhead). Gig companies get a percentage of every transaction for playing the role of middleman.
The gig economy offers options
This is important because workers who are in need of extra money need extra options. For example, many college graduates in the workforce are collectively saddled with $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. For those in debt, the chance to take on an extra, flexible gig could mean the difference between making payments on the loan or not.
Student loan debt is one of the biggest issues our economy is facing right now. So, for the millions of people who don’t want to default on loans and mar their record, the gig economy’s options are essential.
The gig economy is controversial
Detractors such as Hillary Clinton argue that gig economy companies are taking advantage of workers and their need for flexible work. They also argue the gig economy is keeping wages stagnant. Since independent contractors are 1099C employees, they don’t qualify for benefits and insurance. But that’s if they actually meet contractor classification. Uber, for one, has come under fire for a number of issues, including misclassifying workers.
Even if Uber decides to change tack and call its contractors ‘employees,’ those workers are still a small percentage of the 7.6 million people who will be part of the gig economy by 2020. And being a freelancer, a contractor, a gig worker in this economy is tough.
According to Intuit, “some freelancers must file quarterly tax payments or risk IRS penalties and fees.” They also have to “pay the portion of Medicare and Social Security typically covered by an employer.” It helps if a freelancer is informed on tax deductions for which they qualify. Unlike a company, most gig workers don’t have access to an accountant who can alert them to loopholes, or other important financial resources and information.
All around, the gig worker is typically excluded from the umbrella of support a company offers to traditional employees.
This is where the Good Work movement comes in.
Good Work movement
Companies in this movement all pledge to go by the Good Work Code, which includes eight touchstones:
- Stability and flexibility
- Shared prosperity
- A livable wage
- Inclusion and input
- Support and connection
- Growth and development
For example, office management and cleaning company Managed by Q offers a bonus program, base benefits including a 401(k), and stock options. The company is also “calling for household employers to commit to fair pay, clear expectations and paid time off for domestic workers.” There’s no guarantee that household employers will answer the call. But they are more likely to do so if Managed by Q expects it.
According to Dan Teran, CEO and co-founder of Managed by Q: “The way we work in the United States is undergoing a fundamental shift, but our current social structures, programs and policies have not kept pace with the realities of our 21st-century workforce. As leaders in this space, we’re in a position to help shape the future of work, and with that comes the responsibility to ensure the jobs we’re creating are good ones.”
What’s refreshing about the Good Work movement and Code is that these companies are voluntarily and collectively creating a sustainable model for contract work. They’re saying, ‘if the government won’t regulate in this arena, we’ll take it on ourselves to promote ethical conditions.’