Today's News & Commentary — January 29
A personal tech post in the New York Times explores the possible extension of “Uberization:” “chop[ping] up a broad array of traditional jobs into discrete tasks that can be assigned to people just when they’re needed, with wages set by a dynamic measurement of supply and demand, and every worker’s performance constantly tracked, reviewed, and subject to the sometimes harsh light of customer satisfaction.” Several companies are already attempting to extend Uber’s model to grocery shopping, legal services, and medicine. While Uberization would bring flexibility and new streams of income, the model would also lead to career and income instability. Uber recently provided some of its data to Alan B. Krueger, an economist at Princeton, who published a report finding that, on average, Uber drivers worked less than traditional taxi drivers and earned more per hour. Other economists contest his results, arguing that it’s difficult to factor in how much Uber drivers are spending in expenses.
Politico reports that the AFL-CIO is brainstorming ways to modernize the National Labor Relations Act. The labor federation points to collective bargaining as an obvious response to President Obama’s concern with wage stagnation. Bill Samuels, the AFL-CIO’s Director of Government Affairs, explains that discussion regarding labor law reform have just begun.
In Australia, a Federal Circuit Court recently fined Crocmedia, an Australian company, $18,900 for exploiting two interns who produced radio programs, the New York Times reports. Together, the company owed the interns about $17,400 based on the minimum wage for casual shift workers. Australian law allows fully supervised unpaid work trials and college-backed, short-term student placements. But a benefit test, that asks whether the company or the intern is benefitting the most, is one factor used to determine whether the employer should pay these workers. Judge Reithmuller warned that the fines will increase over time. In the U.S., an intern recently sued Rolling Stone for unpaid wages, according to Politico.
In Canada, the labor market lost almost three times as many jobs in December as predicted, the Wall Street Journal reports. Canada’s unemployment rate was 6.7% in December and the country lost 11,300 jobs. Net job creation for all of 2014 was at the lowest level since 2009, the height of the global recession.