A front-page story in the Business section of Sunday’s Washington Post (always my third-favorite section, by the way, after Sports and Travel), is headlined: “Now hiring for one day: Gig economy hits retail.”
The thing that my industry has being doing for decades is now being used everywhere… substitute teachers!
Honestly, I love it. This is the closest we’re getting to a perfectly-efficient market of workers and work. The world has a huge job board and people who want to fill the roles fill them. Want to be a substitute fry cook at McDonald’s for one day? There’s an app for that. This is beyond Uber and Lyft, which have crumpled the taxi “industry.” This is the complete destruction of “jobs” as we know them.
Of course our friends at the Post find problems. What about all those people with “jobs”? What will happen to them? (Seriously, who likes their job, anyway?) Obviously all business owners will just hire these substitute teacher-types, leaving real employees in the cold.
First, there is something to having a bit of job expertise. Not everyone can walk in and be a brain surgeon. Even working at Walmart or Wendy’s requires some training.
What about health insurance?
If this is the only reason you have a “job,” that’s a problem with our whole system. The reason most people’s health insurance is through their employment goes back to salary cap workarounds during World War II. Being paid in cash what we actually deserve to work and paying what we actually deserve to pay for health insurance would be a better system for everyone.
The Post writers worry everyone will fall into that much-maligned “independent contractor” category of worker, with no “rights” or standards or bathroom breaks. Wrong way to look at it. Independent contractors are in a much better position to set their working conditions than those whose sole source of income is a singular boss. I think we should all strive to be independent contractors. After all, at the end of the day, aren’t we really? Nobody works on a plantation anymore.
That’s a good thing.
Companies such as Snag Work, Postmates, and the aforementioned Uber and Lyft have not only built a better mousetrap, they’ve built a whole new universe in which mice and mousetraps interact. Social media has made us all journalists and Airbnb has made us all landlords. This is just the next step. We are all business owners now. CEOs of our own lives.
It may be decades before the revolution comes to all industries. And really, maybe it’s just too dramatic a change to take effect everywhere. (Again, you probably wouldn’t take a substitute brain surgeon.) But for “easy” jobs? You’d take somebody over nobody.
I shouldn’t call this revolutionary. This is actually closer to how things were done a thousand years ago than they are to today. Back then, you wanted something done, you found someone to do it and worked out a price. Easy in a small village, trickier among billions. But billions with smartphones? Game changer.
Prepare for this to be the new normal.
I knew all that practice being a substitute teacher was going to pay off.