Towards a Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation
This month, I started work on a new project together with my new colleague Jamie Woodcock: The Fairwork Foundation. With generous funding from the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), we will get to spend the next year and a half figuring out how to certify online labour platforms – using leverage from workers, consumers, and platforms to improve the welfare and job quality of digital workers.
Today we also have a new article about the project out (in a new issue of Alternate Routes focused on ‘Social Inequality and the Spectre of Social Justice‘). The article explains some of our initial strategies for the project. The specifics will undoubtedly evolve, but you can get a sense of our direction of travel.
Graham, M. and Woodcock, J. 2018. Towards a Fairer Platform Economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation. Alternate Routes. 29. 242-253.
This proposal envisions a way of holding platforms accountable through a programme of research focused on fair work. It operates under a governing belief that core transparent production networks can lead to better working conditions for digital workers around the world. The establishment of the Foundation and a certification scheme will provide demonstrable impact for digital workers, customers, and platforms. For digital workers, it addresses the twofold structural weakness that they face: first, the lack of ability to collectively bargain due to the fragmentation of the work process; and second, the asymmetry of information between workers and platforms. The certification process provides an important means to address these two challenges, along with building and developing connections between workers and institutions like trade unions and regulatory bodies. New kinds of work require innovations in organising techniques and regulations, and the Fairwork Foundation provides an important starting point for developing these in practice.
As millions of people turn to platform work for their livelihoods, it is no longer good enough to imagine that there is nothing beyond the screen. Our clicks tie us to the lives and livelihoods of platform workers, as much as buying clothes tie us to the lives of sweatshop workers. And with that realisation of our interwoven digital positionalities comes the power to bring into being a fairer world of work.