If you work seven days a week, 12 hours a day and don’t make enough money to pay the bills, you can talk to your boss, right? Not if your boss is an app.  

“My Boss Is a Robot,” a new series on The Solidarity Center Podcast, explores the challenges delivery drivers around the world face as they navigate not only dangerous traffic but a workplace where algorithms arbitrarily determine wages, hours and working conditions.

In the first episode, “21st Century Workplace: Exploitation by App,” Solidarity Center Executive Director and podcast host Shawna Bader-Blau talks with Yuly Ramírez, a delivery driver in Ecuador, who worked for Uber and Glovo.

“We used to have a base salary of $1 per hour,” says Ramírez. “Our rates were cut down almost by half. We found out that we could not make nearly as much as we were making before, not even working 12 hours a day, seven days a week.” 

The episode also features Arianna Jiménez, a scholar who interviewed app-based drivers in Colombia, most of whom are migrants seeking opportunities to support themselves and their families. Jiménez discusses the vast profits of delivery corporations like Rappi in Latin America, which bases its business model on workers forced to work harder for lower and lower wages.

“They’re gaining profit from all sides and maximum cost is transferred to the individual,” says Jiménez.

“Exponential growth without investment in its workforce,” says Bader-Blau. “And, recently, during the worst parts of the pandemic in Colombia, Rappi made its drivers compete for vaccines, if you can believe it.”

App-Based Exploitation Doesn’t Stop at the Border

As the series shows, app-based workers from Thailand to Colombia face the same exploitative working conditions, as a new form of Gilded Age workforce repression spreads globally.  

But like the early industrial era, delivery drivers and other app-based workers are standing up for their rights. Across Latin America, for instance, workers have been staging organized protests as early as 2018, and in Nigeria, delivery drivers formed the country’s first union of app-based workers. The series will conclude with two episodes on worker organizing in this growing industry. 

Download 21st Century Workplace: Exploitation by App and watch for the next episode on September 13. 

Listen to this episode and all Solidarity Center episodes here or at Spotify, Amazon, Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to your favorite podcasts.

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the News from The Solidarity Center