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14 January 2017

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4
 January 14, 2017
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Chinese Workers Strike

In November 2016 Yes Magazine published a happy go lucky article about the gig economy and how we should all LOVE IT because it gives us SO MUCH FLEXIBILITY!

But what if we want safety as well as flexibility? What then?

Should you consult, or should you work full time?

What will make you happier?

Before you say, “Consulting” think twice.

Outside, I look like a success story. I have built a thriving online business. I get to work from home. I can do what I want most days. Inside, it’s a different story. I, like many people, was laid off in 2009. I looked for work for over 3 years. During that time, I started my own business. I am the gig economy, but not by choice at first. Now I create products and chase clients like other gig economy people. There’s no stability from month to month.  I can’t even take a 2 week vacation without working.

Yes, we lost our jobs. Yes, our jobs are not coming back. But this does not mean that a gig job replaces those lost full-time jobs. It doesn’t mean everyone should work for themselves. We are not free, even if we have a “gig” or even several gigs. In this Open Democracy article Byung-Chul Han writes,

“Neoliberalism turns the oppressed worker into a free contractor, an entrepreneur of the self. Today, everyone is a self-exploiting worker in their own enterprise.

Every individual is master and slave in one. This also means that class struggle has become an internal struggle with oneself.

Today, anyone who fails to succeed blames themselves and feels ashamed. People see themselves, not society, as the problem.

The subjugated subject is not even aware of its subjugation

Any disciplinary power that expends effort to force human beings into a straitjacket of commandments and prohibitions proves inefficient. It is significantly more efficient to ensure that people subordinate themselves to domination on their own. ” Read more on this at Open Democracy.

neo liberalism quote gig economy

The Gig economy means the loss of the middle class that unions fought so hard for.

Articles like the Gig Economy in Yes Magazine posit that we are now “Free” when we have lost our pensions, our healthcare, our security, our freedoms to not work or not to get fired for no reason. Being in the gig economy means working all the time, because when you don’t work, you don’t eat. When we don’t succeed in the gig economy, we blame ourselves, instead of blaming the system.

So am I going to give up my gig in favor of working a full time job?

No.

Why not? Working full time in the nonprofit sector has shown me that my loyalty and hard work will be repaid with more hard work and a quick dumping if they feel like it.

At-will employment means no one is safe. According to my research about nonprofit unions, university or hospital unions don’t even guarantee a living wage or a workplace free of harassment. Wage theft, even in the nonprofit sector, is rampant, according to Interfaith Worker Justice. I know when I worked at Clackamas Women’s Services, I worked on holidays and my boss told me not to put my timecard in on those days, so she wouldn’t have to pay me overtime. I did what she said, because I didn’t want to be fired. Then I was fired anyway. That’s wage theft. My story isn’t isolated.

 

“Women saw minimum wage violations at significantly higher rates than men. Wage theft was three times higher for blacks than for whites, and highest of all for Latinos. Employees at smaller businesses were more at risk, as well as employees with less education — though wage theft happens often even to the college educated.”

Even if I went back to nonprofit work full time, I doubt I could make a wage commensurate with my experience. Over and over I see old white men at the top of the largest nonprofits, making WAY more money, and white women and people of color at the heads of small nonprofits, making WAY less money. According to the Forward salary survey of 2014, this is still happening. So why try to get ahead in the nonprofit world at all? The racism, sexism, classism and ableism seems to make it impossible to move up in this sector or make a difference in a meaningful way.

 

“We cannot say that we are fighting for a more just society with our causes when most of our workers do not make a living wage and do not have pensions or retirement benefits.” -Mazarine Treyz

Who cares for old nonprofit workers? Who cares for those who selflessly gave their lives for 30 years to a cause and who are now deemed too old to be of value anymore?

But if we raise salaries, what about OVERHEAD?

Who will pay for these higher salaries when everyone’s talking about overhead and bemoaning executive salaries at nonprofits?

I propose that instead of the tired old pie charts about our expenses, we create circles within circles, as shown here by the Nonprofit Assistance Fund.

Mazarine treyz decent work quote

What about a systematic solution?

BRIGHT SPOT: At least one organization is doing something about this. The Ontario Nonprofit Network is creating the Decent Work project, where they are working on helping nonprofit workers get a fair wage, and a pension, and all the other things that unions used to fight for. So, that’s good for Ontario. What’s happening in the US about this?

What does Decent Work look like?

We’ve identified 7 elements of decent work as a starting point for a discussion of what decent work means in the nonprofit context:

  • Employment opportunities
  • Fair income
  • Health and retirement benefits
  • Stable employment
  • Opportunities for development and advancement
  • Equality and rights at work
  • Culture and leadership

Another Bright Spot: Jeremy Corbyn, Labour leader in Britain, is looking into a minimum basic income for every British citizen.

If you’d like to read more about why we need a nonprofit worker revolution now, check out these articles:

Are you giving your power away?

Do you have any thought-terminating cliches?

Why you are getting paid so little

Is your nonprofit full of Dead Wood?

What would it take to make your fundraising 100% more effective? (hint: Pay people more)

Is your job eating your life?

13 Things HR won’t tell you about your fundraising job

Uncharitable-Is your nonprofit contributing to a culture of destitution?

Why do people at work treat me like some sort of mysterious fundraising magician?

Are you part of the Charitable Industrial Complex?

Beyond the Nonprofit Industrial Complex

How are you supposed to get ahead when the deck is stacked against you?

Come to the Fundraising Career Conference. This year we’re going to look at strategies to address collective power in the workplace.

4 responses on “The Gig Economy and the Nonprofit Sector

  1. Jessica W says:

    Hear hear! Decent work is one of the most important, if not the most important, issues in our sector.

    I’m not sure what’s happening now with the project but Oxfam America was conducting research into decent work in the US. More info here: https://www.oxfamamerica.org/explore/research-publications/decent-work-program-evaluation-in-the-us/.

  2. Judi says:

    Amen! Amen! Amen! Great article, Mazarine.

    As a consultant, I contracted directly with schools. Once those schools were regionalized, I was compelled to be paid through the Region, technically making me their employee and wiping out my ability to claim deductions on my taxes. But…they will not give me health benefits, although I am entitled to them. Then they had the never to drop my per diem rate for a school that was paying me at a higher rate. Consulting with a lawyer and CPA now.

    If I didn’t love this work and feel I was having an impact, I’d be gone already. 2017 is going to see me being a much more assertive (aggressive) advocate for myself. Sadly, I hear many stories like mine…or worse. Some days I feel I’d be better off getting a city job just to collect a paycheck, and help out as a Development volunteer.

  3. Megan says:

    Oh man, this article resonates. I’ve been doing contract work for 6 years, and quite enjoy the flexible lifestyle. I recently made the decision to go back to full time work because i fear the new administration is going to gut the good insurance I was able to get through the Affordable Care Act. My new gig doesn’t have retirement benefits though. There’s just no security anymore in our world. I’ll probably have to airbnb my place to make some extra cash for retirement. And let’s not kid ourselves, airbnb’ing your place is another job really.

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