Tech Boom is a Bust for Too Many Workers


So-called thought leaders often talk about how innovation can help ensure the U.S. economy will expand in the decades to come. Our “on-demand” culture, they say, fuels spending by bringing goods and services to consumers when they want them.

But it’s also becoming apparent to everyday Americans that any monetary gains made from the nation’s new “app age” are not meant for them. Whether it’s drivers getting behind the wheel for Uber or one of the thousands of mostly young people toiling away in cubicle farms across the Silicon Valley, there are no shortage of workers entering these fields. Many are struggling, however, to make ends meet.

Transportation services providers, for instance, are only exacerbating the problem of misclassification, where workers are not considered employees and therefore not entitled to benefits, pay time off or even disability. When drivers in some locales try to enlist the support of unions, they are shown the door.

But some are even trying to spread that message more broadly. Uber customer service representatives in Seattle, for instance, are now contacting their drivers to let them know they shouldn’t join a union. It’s union-busting for the tech age!

Meanwhile, a Yelp customer service employee last week was fired after she circulated via social media an open letter to the company’s CEO letting him know that while she’s helping customers coordinate food delivery, she can’t afford groceries on her salary. So how does she eat? By taking advantage of the free food offered at Yelp’s offices.

This is not a sustainable employment model for America. Some workers, like contract shuttle bus drivers at Facebook and other firms in the Bay Area, have realized it and turned to the Teamsters to help them earn their fair share.

The U.S. tech boom only works for this country if it doesn’t lead to the majority of workers going bust. It’s time for these successful firms to step up and pay middle-class wages with benefits.