Unions should advocate in new ways for workers through legal means, alliance formation, and regulatory reform, taking into account the potential impacts of automation on their fields. The authors advocate for decentralized and/or innovative collective bargaining structures to include more isolated groups of workers, particularly in light of the rise of flexible work arrangements. Non-standard employment in fields vulnerable to automation creates substantial opportunities for membership, since more and more individuals are in need of the services and support that workers’ organizations offer.
Legal Approach - In the UK, GMB, the union for professional drivers, was successful in bringing forth, to date, one of the largest cases regarding worker misclassification against Uber. GMB argued that despite Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors, a more appropriate classification for drivers would be the United Kingdom’s ‘worker’ status. The ruling provided 30,000 drivers across the United Kingdom access to basic employment provisions including holiday pay, minimum wage, and breaks.
Alliance formation – The development of associations and alliances committed to providing a service to isolated workers, often in the form of lobbying on behalf of gig workers. In New York, for instance, several trade unions, including The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), are associated with The Independent Drivers Guild (IDG). Representing over 60,000 drivers, IDG was established with the agenda of reforming the industry and creating opportunities for dialogue among drivers operating in the gig economy and the corporations.
Regulatory reform – The creation of new opportunities for collective bargaining at the state and municipal levels with the aid of regulatory and legal reform. While there have been few successful attempts at introducing new legislation at the municipal level, the most effective cases have been executed by The Teamsters in Seattle. Indeed, such legislation aims at extending collective bargaining to include independent contractors in the transportation industry, most notably Uber and Lyft