It was on a sunny afternoon in March, on the back patio of San Francisco’s best bar, when I first encountered the difficulties of virtual labor organization in meatspace. With a beer in my belly and another in hand, I was chatting with a pair of entrepreneurs who said they’d recently sold their company and were brainstorming startup ideas. They asked if I had any suggestions.
I gave them an impromptu pitch for the ‘Uber of collective bargaining,’ sketching out the existence of a pain point in the labor market and some brief ideas for eating them with software. For a moment they seemed on board.
“But wait, how is that even a company?” asked one.
“I don’t think anybody is going to fund that,” said the other. They then moved on to develop an idea for a photo sharing and editing app.
This timorous twosome confirmed me in my suspicion that such an app is antithetical to the Silicon Valley brand of progress. Union membership continues to decline, the cadres of atomized 1099 ‘entrepreneurs’ to expand, but that’s probably no accident, and not a concern that resonates too loudly on Sand Hill Road. The general idea seems to be to ride out any HR troubles until the robots are ready to usurp the workstations.
And then, early this month, I received a pitch from Arize Nwosu, 33, an Uber driver in LA who’s launched an app to connect his co-contractors. It might be the closest thing I’ve seen to an app designed to help labor to organize in the sharing economy…
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