Kicking out the GIG

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Sharecropping was a system of agriculture instituted in the American South during the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War. It essentially replaced the plantation system which had relied on slave labor and effectively created a new system of bondage.

So while the former slave was technically free, he would still find himself bound to the land, which was often the very same land he had farmed while enslaved. And in practice, the newly freed slave faced a life of extremely limited economic opportunity.

Generally speaking, sharecropping doomed freed slaves to a life of poverty. And the system of sharecropping, in actual practice, doomed generations of American in the South to an impoverished existence in an economically stunted region.

The GIG WAY for African Americans

The gig economy has been called many things: the sharing economy; on-demand economy; peer economy; platform economy…but no matter what you call it, technology has pushed it into overdrive. Still, this type of work is nothing new; gig workers have been at it for a very long time. British historian Tawny Paul explains that “Prior to the industrialization in the 19th century, most people worked multiple jobs to piece together a living.” Sound familiar? Many modern-day workers choose a mix of roles, tasks, and jobs to make ends meet, supplement their income, and help toward savings.

There are plenty of other jobs that have been around for years, but maybe not viewed or defined as gig work. Some of them are nannies or childcare workers, truck drivers, drivers and taxi services, personal shoppers, and couriers – but when looking at the core of how the job is structured, we’re looking at traditional gig work.

Tech advances have allowed people to be constantly connected, at any time – making the job search and hiring new staff seamless and immediate. But gig work has been available on the internet long before apps like JobStack and DoorDash. Let’s explore a timeline:

Earlier in history: Researchers have compared gig work to piecework, a work payment structure in which jobs are broken down into smaller tasks or done by multiple people. This method of work has been around for hundreds of years.

1915: Jazz musicians used the term “gig” for “job” confirmed in 1915, but potentially as early as 1905

The 1940s: World War II prompts opening of the first large companies promoting gig-type work, offering temporary labor to businesses needing to fill workforce gaps

1995: Craigslist is introduced, providing local San Francisco-based online classifieds devoted to jobs, items wanted and for sale, gigs, services, resumes, housing, and more. The service has now expanded to cover 70 countries.

1999: The freelancing website Elance, now known as Upwork, launched – allowing freelancers to use the internet to find new projects and clients.

2008: Airbnb launches, allowing people to rent their homes to guests – giving them the opportunity to play hotelier for one night or 365.

2009: The ridesharing app, Uber, is released and lets people drive their own vehicles to taxi customers from point A to point B.

2012: Lyft joins the rideshare market and expands quickly over the next few years to rival Uber

2014: In the U.K., employees are granted the right to request flexible work after continuous full-time employment of 26 weeks – these shifts continue to vary across the globe

Now: 36 percent of U.S. workers take part in the gig economy, Gallup defines this as having “an alternative work arrangement as their primary job”. That adds up to roughly 57 million Americans, up from 53 million in 2015. The number of people in the gig economy is only expected to increase to 43 percent by 2020.

So What’s the NEW BUSINESS MODEL?

The classic paperboy will look like a nice suburban white boy, in the likes of “Leave it to Beaver”. Perhaps Lil Black boys as well saw it as a quick way to feed himself and or his family. A way to pitch into the finances of his dwelling.

Now with legislation on the “GIG” Modus of Operandi on our heels, can and will the Indie worker have a chance to see labor as a money-making opportunity? Many newspapers have become afraid that their reach is being redefined for them and it looks and feels very uncomfortable.  SDMNEWS as one of the first papers to hybrid out (digital and print) and still print but with a niche following, I knew as a publisher what was coming down the road.

As a businesswoman, in other industries, I adjusted, and I mean fast. Accessibility was key for SDMNEWS. I had a very good command on the history of Share-cropping and the “gig” industry and I understood that my reach could not be dependant on unseen forces. So I decided to take matters into my own hands, and create relationships where SDMNEWS could flourish with that particular location. Locations that were doable with little effort. I made them partners and created relationships for the readership.

I agree with my fellow black news outlets that are worried about being forced into different formats and thank God that other businesses who utilize “Gig” formats have joined in the fight. Let’s take the year and figure out to highlight the importance of Black newspapers and magazines and let our voice and ink be heard. Power to the PAPER!

Cheryl Morrow/SDMNEWS

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