April 18, 2017
What the Newest Labor Groups Mean For US Workers
by Rick Wartzman
Tensions are mounting this week as the Writers Guild of America attempts to hammer out a new labor agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with scripts being stockpiled in case no contract is reached and the industry shuts down in early May.
Yet a bigger role already is being cast—and it’s for the guild model itself.
Across more and more of the economy, worker advocates are hoping to replicate the ways in which screenwriters, actors, and others in Hollywood have been organized since the 1920s and ’30s.
Driving this development are the exploding ranks of “gig workers,” who don’t have a traditional relationship with a single employer. Many, like those in entertainment, bounce from one project to the next. This includes folks who find assignments via digital platforms such as TaskRabbit and Upwork, as well as day laborers who get picked up on a street corner and are driven to a construction site. Others may work for a particular company (at least for a stretch) but are considered independent contractors, not employees. Uber has become the poster child for this system.