Thoughts on MTurk and the sharing economy

Yet another article/opinion piece on the sharing economy which lumps MTurk in with Uber and Lyft. This article ends with an important sentiment:

We can deliver a decent standard of living for a decent day’s work to these workers and those who will follow them. The jury may still be out on whether companies like Uber, Lyft, and Wonolo and platforms like Mechanical Turk may be employers in the traditional sense. Some of them certainly are, and some companies will have to treat their workers as employees.

But we have other policy solutions close at hand, because we have seen these structures before. The new platforms operate just like the traditional labor brokers in the agriculture and garment industries, who recruit workers, match them with jobs, and make a tidy profit for themselves in the bargain.

Why shouldn’t Uber, Lyft, and their kin be required, just like other labor brokers are, to register, pay their workers minimum wage and overtime, limit the commissions they are allowed to keep from each job they arrange and pay the payroll taxes that ensure workers have access to basic benefits like workers’ compensation when they are injured and Social Security when they retire?

But I ask you: is it OK to put Turkers in with Uber drivers etcetera? The key thing to me is that Uber drivers seem able to set the price they charge for delivering the service–we’ve all read those stories about insane Uber ripoffs. Turkers can’t set the rate for the work they do. They can turn down work–as can Uber drivers. But there is no ‘surge’ pricing for Turkers (although what an interesting idea).

I know cab driving is a tough business–lots of waiting around etcetera. But there’s at least one difference between different ‘sharing economy’ workplaces. Does anyone have any other thoughts to add?

I feel another opinion piece in the works!

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on MTurk and the sharing economy

  1. Just a quick heads up that your link at the top of the page is a little broken (‘yet another’). Thanks for blogging about this though πŸ™‚

    BTW, are you on twitter? Keen to have know about your new blog articles.


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