Workers take on the gig economy through digital co-ops

As backlash about exploitative gig platforms continues across several industries, worker-owned platforms like Up & Go offer a new model for a worker-centric labor platform.

November 20, 2019

The gig-work giants trumpet the idea of “being your own boss.” But if bosses are supposed to make bank… well, something is amiss. As a remedy to the exploitative practices that have become standard, some workers are launching shared-ownership labor platforms.

Cleaning house and taking care of business

The NYC-based co-op Up & Go connects clients with professional home cleaners –– many of them women who immigrated from Latin America. The cleaners are also co-op members, meaning they own the business and call the shots regarding pricing and policies.

Currently, cleaners earn $25/hour. Unlike some gig workers who see companies take an automatic 20% or more of their haul, Up & Go cleaners pocket everything but 5%, which goes toward keeping the co-op’s platform running.

Other worker-centric labor platforms are taking off

By some estimates, there are about 400 projects worldwide that could be considered platform co-ops.

In Barcelona, Mensakas is a worker-owned food-delivery service giving Deliveroo a run for its money, and CoopCycle is a federation of bike courier co-ops with a presence in 16 European cities. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s an interest in collaboration among these co-ops. A recent conference in NYC brought together 150 speakers from 30 different countries who discussed such topics as worker power, ecological sustainability, startup funding allocation, and governance. 

Prior to Up & Go’s launch, 3 established co-ops aided its development during a year-long process that included many rounds of co-design and testing. Guidance from a UX expert and funding from the Robin Hood Foundation, a NYC-based anti-poverty organization, helped get Up & Go off the ground.

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