Kessler’s Gigged: The End of the Job and the Future of Work is a sobering look at the rise and very quick fall of the gig economy. She pays particular attention to some of the positive stories within it in addition to chronicling the myriad problems, and the second half of her title feels particularly accurate as she looks carefully at the options that employees (and to some extent employers) have as their jobs disappear.
- The format of the book moves from case studies of employees (and one employer) to a bit more extensive look at the nature of work, all of this backed by Kessler’s work at Quartz.
- It features stories of some who have made it in the gig economy, some who have done okay, some who have been harmed by it. None of the stories are easy or simple, and even the gig economy thriver (a programmer from New York) provides one of the ending stories by taking a full-time job with SpaceX.
- Kessler raises many of the questions we need to raise, and finishes by noting that if we are to implement a gig economy we will need to provide much more infrastructure support.
- It sounds as if some politicians are trying (she interviews Mark Warner from Virginia, who has introduced legislation to help gig workers and the Obama administration implemented a policy or two), and some unions are trying to address labor concerns as well, but the task is a tremendously difficult one, especially in an environment of fear.
- I found particularly compelling her look at the ways in which even companies that try to do the right thing struggle because of the enormity of the task at hand, and I think of John Rawls’s good capitalist. Being a good capitalist requires an intentionality that is tremendously difficult, and in Rawls’s configuration results in the company either being bought or going out of business.
- Rawls’s depiction feels pretty accurate at this point, despite lots of tech company bullshit about being pro-worker.
- Her look at unions comes in stark contrast to McClelland’s nostalgia for hard-line, old-school, fight-the-boss-at-all-costs union workers of the pre-NAFTA days. I’m pretty sure I get both, and McClelland may eventually be right in that the only response to corporate and 1 percent greed lies in direct, intentional, uncompromising resistance, but my wimpy side says that I’m not willing to pay the cost – unlike several of the folks who McClelland interviewed.
- This look is encompassed within a broader section that looks at responses to the conditions that employees find themselves in. She seems particularly sympathetic to the effects that fighting this economy will have, and two of her stars – a woman who has decided to become a lawyer fighting for the rights of workers based on her experience at Mechanical Turk, and a young man in rural Arkansas trying to better understand how to help poor people become more financially secure.
- She also highlights the increasing immobility of class in the US, citing this study.
- She briefly mentions robots and AI, noting that AI will replace many of the most vulnerable jobs in our economy. She also in a very reporter-like fashion talks about UBI, and she comes to no conclusions about it.