Despite unfair working conditions, many gig workers need to be convinced to join together in unions or associations to more effectively advocate for basic benefits granted to employees in traditional jobs. On the latest episode of the Solidarity Center Podcast series My Boss Is a Robot, union organizers in the Philippines talk about how they reach workers who believe that they should not—or cannot—–stand up for their rights on the job.
“Many riders thought that we don’t have any labor rights,” John Jay Chan tells Podcast Host and Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau. Chan, a delivery driver, is helping organize app-based food delivery drivers through RIDERS-SENTRO. Launched in 2022, the union has established four chapters in multiple cities and islands and is mobilizing drivers in another 15 cities, while navigating an environment where red-baiting of unions is common and where union members are often threatened, harmed or murdered.
Yet Chan and Josua Mata, SENTRO secretary general, say one of their biggest hurdles is getting drivers to understand they are not freelance workers with no rights but employees of corporate giants that “have effectively disguised the employee-employer relationships that they have with their riders,” says Mata.
“Essentially every rider, whether they’re considered a freelance rider, independent contractor, actual employees of the platform, has to enjoy the rights that every single worker enjoys in this country,” he says. Working with the drivers, the union crafted a Charter of Rights that lists basic rights for gig workers: a minimum wage, a written contract, health or accident insurance, and access to the country’s social security services. The Senate is now considering the bill. The Charter itself provides a focal point for organizing more drivers.
For union organizers, reaching app-based workers with no central workplace and employers who refuse to acknowledge their role requires new approaches. Says Mata: “We in SENTRO will never claim that we know the proper strategy now. We’re practically experimenting. We’re testing everything.” Download The Solidarity Center Podcast to find out more about SENTRO’s strategies for organizing delivery drivers.
“My Boss Is a Robot” is a six-part series that seeks to shine a light on the behind-the-scenes practices of app companies that exploit workers in the global gig economy. Download the latest episode, Tips to Help Delivery Drivers Form Unions, and watch for the final episode on November 8.
Listen to this episode and all Solidarity Center episodes here or at Spotify, Amazon, Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to your favorite podcasts.