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About the Talk
Choose your hours, choose your work, be your own boss, control your own income. Welcome to the sharing economy, a nebulous collection of online platforms and apps that promise to transcend capitalism. Supporters argue the gig economy will reverse economic inequality, enhance worker rights, provide an alternative to unemployment, and bring entrepreneurship to the masses.
But the autonomy workers expected has been usurped by jobs doled out by algorithms and where anything less than an immediate acceptance of a job — and cheerful completion — incurs the wrath of bad ratings, limiting future potential jobs. The sharing economy also reflects labor issues first seen in the 1800s and early 1900s, as it upends generations of workplace protection in the name of disruption — worker safety; workplace protections around discrimination and sexual harassment; the right to unionize; and the right to redress for injuries.
And COVID-19 has added another complication. The federal CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program was widely hailed as an important step forward in securing basic safety net assistance for gig workers. But frustration with bureaucracy surrounding unemployment, partnered with uncertainty about their eligibility, has dissuaded some workers from applying for benefits, turning instead to the "side hustle safety net."
In this presentation, Ravenelle discusses the research informing her book, Hustle and Gig (UC Press, 2019) and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on gig and precarious workers in New York City, an early epicenter of the virus.
About the Speaker
Alexandrea Ravenelle is Assistant Professor in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her first book, Hustle and Gig: Struggling and Surviving in the Sharing Economy (University of California Press, 2019), provides a comprehensive overview of the challenges experienced by gig workers. Hustle and Gig has been translated into Korean and Spanish, and screenplay rights have been optioned for a potential television series. Hustle and Gig has been positively reviewed in American Journal of Sociology,Contemporary Sociology, Social Forces, Sociological Forum, Public Books, and Industrial and Labor Relations Review. Hustle and Gig has also received positive attention outside academia through interviews on CBS This Morning, NPR Morning Edition, Forbes, The Young Turks, Quartz, MTV News, The Outline, The Daily Beast, and USA Today. Ravenelle's research has been published in the New York Times, Regions, Economy and Society, Journal of Managerial Psychology, Consumption Markets and Culture, and Digital Sociologies. She is currently the recipient of an Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation Knowledge Challenge grant to study elite gig workers, and grants from the National Science Foundation RAPID response program and Russell Sage Foundation to study the impact of COVID-19 on precarious workers in New York.