Hi-Phi Nation

The Problem with Gig Work

Looking for Fairness in the Gig Economy


Episode Notes

Willy and Heidi were both gig workers for Shipt, the fast-delivery app for groceries or same-day shopping. In 2020, they both realized the pay algorithm had changed. Now, they couldn’t tell what a job would pay, or whether it would earn or lose them money. Instead of just taking it, they decided to fight back.

In the gig economy, companies like Shipt, Instacart, and UberEats all use black-box pay algorithms to try to get workers to accept gigs but hide information from them to do so. Early in the pandemic, a ragtag group of gig workers tried to resist, and found someone at MIT to help them.

Host Barry Lam talks to them about the steps they took, and political philosopher Daniel Halliday talks about the differences between wage labor and freelance labor and why he thinks the biggest gig-economy companies are morally suspect. Then, we talk about the future of regulation and worker-owned apps and delivery platforms.

Guests include Drew Ambrogi (coworker.org) and Dan Calacci (MIT). This is an in-depth, longform version of a story originally done for WNYC studio’s Radiolab in their Gigaverse episode.

For all back episodes of Hi-Phi Nation, visit www.hiphination.org


About the Show

Hi-Phi Nation is philosophy in story form, integrating narrative journalism with big ideas. We look at stories from everyday life, law, science, popular culture, and strange corners of human experiences that raise thought-provoking questions about things like justice, knowledge, the self, morality, and existence. We then seek answers with the help of academics and philosophers. The show is produced and hosted by Barry Lam of Vassar College.

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  • Barry Lam is host and producer of Hi-Phi Nation and Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside, and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University.