On July 16th, 2022, Hyatt Dirbas spoke with Willy Solis, Lead Organizer for Gig Workers Collective, about organizing in the tech industry and workplace as a gig worker.
HD: Who should be organizing in the tech industry?
WS: All workers should be organized in the tech industry. Gig workers in general, have been taken advantage of and exploited. It’s really important for workers to gain back power and the only way to do that is to organize.
HD: What should they be organizing around? What would you tell your co-workers that they should organize around?
WS: They should organize around the basic labor protections. I think that’s really important at the very most fundamental level. Gig companies are working really hard to exploit workers by taking advantage of basic labor protections. It’s really important that workers realize that at the end of the day the main issue is that labor protections are being exploited.
HD: And what kind of labor protections are we talking about? What are some examples?
WS: Sure the most basic fundamental labor protections. For example, I mean if I get hurt on the job. I’m the one that has to flip the bill and figure out how I’m going to proceed and how I’m going to recover from such an event. So just the very basic labor protections.
HD: I can imagine how hard that is for someone who’s just trying to live life. They really don’t pay for the bill?
WS: No, they don’t pay for anything. So at the end of the day, we’re the ones that are exposed, and overnight our lives can be changed. And that’s the whole issue with the gig work is that we’re the ones that are being left exposed. If anything happens to us, it’s on us. So, I think it’s really important for workers to organize around very basic labor protections because at the end of the day we don’t have any protections at all.
HD: Okay, how can they do it? How can they organize and get these labor protections?
WS: At the very basic level is going to have to be worker-led. Workers are the ones that are being aggrieved and taken advantage of. So, nobody is better to speak to the issues that we face other than ourselves. Workers leading each other is the way to go.
HD: What do you think workers can win in tech by organizing? What’s the goal?
WS: The establishment of basic labor protections because for our industry right now in gig work, we don’t have any basic protections because of how gig companies have been classifying us. So, because we’re being misclassified as independent contractors instead of employees we don’t have any work protections. We can win basic labor protections if we come together and organize.
HD: That’s huge–the misclassification of workers. What are some problems you ran into besides labor protections that you have to deal with because you have been misclassified as a contract worker instead of an employee?
WS: Well, our pay. To meet the minimum wage floor, we have to be in a situation where the gig companies can pay us whatever they want and however they want because we don’t have any wage protections or wage floor.
HD: What do you think is the connection between the people who work in corporate jobs? You know the white collar jobs when it comes to this industry? How do you see that connection?
WS: I don’t see it at all. I think there is a big disconnect between what the office worker does and what we do. I just don’t see the connection at all.
HD: What would you like to see from the people who work in office jobs? You mentioned there’s a disconnect, how should they connect to you?
WS: How do I respond to that? I think that they need to stand up for what’s morally correct or morally right. Right now, AI technology is being used against workers, and in a way that is very exploitative. And those people in those office buildings are the ones writing those codes. It’s really important that they stand up for what’s right and not allow the companies to write such code without any rebuttals of what kind of protection, and what kind of rights people have that are being affected by the technology that is being built.
Transcript has been edited for clarity and length.