Guest post by X382163
They control every aspect of your life: when you get up in the morning, what you do during the course of the day, what you eat and how (or whether) foodstuffs are labeled, the commodities you can buy, what media you can take in. In some instances, they tell you who to vote for or even “buy” elections outright. They profit from your labor and impinge on your “off” hours, expecting a reply to their every email, call and text, regardless of how you might be spending “your” time.
They’re the 1%. And they “own” you.
After all: without them, you don’t have an income.
Capitalism goes through cyclical crises every 40 or 50 years. These are often triggered because the avenues for accumulating more wealth cease to be productive enough and the system has to be “restructured” in order to keep the Almighty Dollar coming in. The TTP and TTIP “trade” agreements are evidence of a very typical effort to rein in social welfare programs and re-subordinate labor through deregulation, union-busting and the creation of the “flexible” workforce.
Former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich believes that the “flexible economy” or “gig economy” or “share economy” – it’s known by several names – assures a return to sweatshop conditions, because those living it operate in a variable cost sphere while existing in a fixed cost world. While the latter part of that statement is true enough, it doesn’t have to portend a return to the 19th Century.
A recently-released GAO survey demonstrates some confusion who to – and who to not – classify under the heading of “contingent worker”. The GAO surmises that “flexible” workers comprise somewhere between 5 and 33% of the workforce. That’s quite a spread. They also assume that “flexible” workers are under-educated and impoverished as a class.
Yet the “flexible economy” is exactly where we can beat them at their own game.
Freelancers Union and Elance/o-Desk teamed up to conduct their own survey. In the process, they learned that 53 million people – a third of the workforce – were engaged as so-called contingent workers some or all of the time. This segment of the population already contributes an estimated $715 billion to the economy. While fully half of the respondents indicated that lack of a stable income was a concern, technology continues to make freelancing an entirely viable means of earning a living. Groups such as Freelancers Union, The Next System Project, Collaborative Commons and others are springing up to address the need for and to support the members of this burgeoning community.
Uniting 53 million people represents a lot of economic clout. Economic clout is what the 1% understands. Through commoning, co-ops, employee-owned enterprise, commerce can shift from corporate entities to worker-centered businesses. The 1% do not seem to grasp that the very people they disdain and marginalize are the same people who make for and buy from them and elevate them to positions of privilege. By withholding productivity from them, workers can disrupt the existing power dynamic in favor of one in which the profits remain in their hands.
Begin by uniting with and patronizing other independent contractors, consultants, freelancers, co-ops, commons and virtual workers whenever the opportunity rises. A free-to-join and free-to-access directory is being compiled, with the first edition scheduled for release by Independence Day. Celebrate your independence by beating the 1% at their own game.