Free Agents: Will Micro-Labor Shrink Workplace Rights?

11:26 am in Uncategorized by Michelle Chen

Cross-posted from In These Times.

The universe of the Web-based marketplace allows you to sell just about anything online today—so why not your labor? The “help wanted” page has now upgraded itself for an Information Age economic crisis, with a new crop of services that link odd jobs to people looking to make a buck.

Some websites offer a vast pool of local jobbers who do tasks ranging from driving a delivery truck to fishing keys from a sewer. While this may seem like a killer-app version of a traditional hiring hall, the market for “micro-labor” raises questions about the privatization and personalization of work today.

The Wall Street Journal featured one rapid-fire online job marketplace based in San Francisco, awash in venture capital:

After launching six months ago, Zaarly is processing more than 1,000 transactions a week for jobs that cost around $50 a pop. Chief Executive and cofounder Bo Fishback, 33, says about half the requests involve tangible goods, and the rest involve some sort of service. One of his favorites: a person who hired someone to buy a Michael Jackson-themed dog costume for a puppy.

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