Steven Hill's Raw Deal: How the "Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism are Screwing the American Worker makes no attempt at being balanced.
It's a non-stop attack on Uber, Airbnb and any other company or person who offers contract work or suggests freelance work isn't awful.
But even other progressives are targets.
For example, Hill spends 10 pages oddly attacking the left leaning Freelancers Union and it's founder Sara Horowitz.
Their offense is suggesting freelance jobs can be good.
Despite the book's hyperbole, vitriol and one-sided point of view, I genuinely enjoyed it.
As we've discussed extensively in the past, there's a dark side to the freelance economy. Because of this dark side, we need better laws and protections for temps, contract workers and others being unfairly exploited or in need of more economic security.
And Raw Deal does a great job describing the dark side.
But in his anti-freelancing zeal, Hill completely ignores or dismisses the overwhelming evidence that the dark side only applies to about 1/3rd of independent workers. The majority like being independent and prefer being independent over having a traditional job.
For example, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently did an analysis of contingent work and found 85% of independent contractors are content being independent and would not want to be traditional employees.
They also found that 57% reported they were very satisfied with contract work. Only 45% of traditional full time employees surveyed reported they were very satisfied.
Raw Deal also ignores the advantages sharing and on-demand economy companies provide consumers. There's a reason these companies are so successful - they provide services that consumers want.
The book closes with policy suggestions for making independent work less precarious. This section is quite good.
The main policy suggestion is the creation of independent security accounts.
This concept is very similar to the idea of shared security accounts, which have been discussed for several years. Key quote on shared security accounts from a Fast Company article on this topic:
One can think of the Shared Security Account as analogous to Social Security, but encompassing all of the employment benefits traditionally provided by a full-time salaried job. Shared Security benefits would be earned and accrued via automatic payroll deductions, regardless of the employment relationship, and, like Social Security, these benefits would be fully prorated, portable, and universal.
Hiring organizations would pay a small amount on top of any hourly fee or payment made to the worker to cover social security, workers comp, medicare and even potentially things like sick leave, unemployment insurance and vacations.
Much like what has been done with the affordable care act, this would make these protections and benefits portable and not tied to a specific job or employer.
This makes a lot of sense and would go a long way towards making independent work more secure.
Our bottom line is Raw Deal is well worth reading regardless of how you feel about independent work and/or sharing economy companies like Uber and Airbnb.
The issues raised are important, the downsides of the freelance economy real and the policy suggestions helpful.