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Rebuilding boarders with inclusion in platform economy: when workers take the control

Cynthia Srnec (), Ana Sofia Acosta Alvarado () and Laura Aufrère
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Cynthia Srnec: Sciences Po - Sciences Po, LITEM - Laboratoire en Innovation, Technologies, Economie et Management (EA 7363) - UEVE - Université d'Évry-Val-d'Essonne - Université Paris-Saclay - IMT-BS - Institut Mines-Télécom Business School - IMT - Institut Mines-Télécom [Paris]
Ana Sofia Acosta Alvarado: Université Sorbonne Paris Nord

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Abstract: For the last 10 years at least, there has been a growing attention and concern about the overall impact of major digital capitalist platforms on the labour market (Srnicek 2016, Berg et al. 2019). The broken promises of the sharing economy and the boom on the gig economy summed up with the term "uberization" unveiled dystopian new worlds of work, based on the dangerous false promises of an emancipatory "self-entrepreneurship" (Choudary 2018). Blurring legal constraints and social frontiers has been the core strategy of those platforms in order to expand the borders of their business and conquer market shares. They have been defying the cooperative movement as well, by misappropriating the terms of cooperation and collaboration, using them as a branding more than as a practice. As a response, collectives' actions spouted in many countries, denouncing the negative consequences of the uberization, and self-organizing alternatives. Among them was born the platform cooperativism movement, proposing to mimic the technical abilities of capitalist platforms whilst adopting a cooperative legal form and a self-governed organization and pursuing the goal of emancipating the workers (Scholz & Schneider 2016). In that perspective, this paper presents the case study of CoopCycle, the European federation of bike delivery cooperatives. The founders developed a software in order to equip the riders with a dispatch tool, so it would be implemented by local workers-coops providing urban ecological logistics. We present then a sociological analysis of the originality and complexity of an alternative organisation regarding work organization. The preliminary results show the re-accommodation of boundaries of the labour-activity of riders through a collective action that takes place in a cooperative organization. This paper contributes to the understanding of the organizing of alternatives to the uberization of work via the identification and recognition of two main aspects : i) the gain in skills, recognition and social protection for workers, and ii) the originality of the federation as a cooperative organization that produces and protects a digital common. This study is part of the collective research program There Are Plateforms as AlternativeS (U. Paris13-DARES). The data set includes in-depth interviews, participant observation and analysis of documents (primary and secondary sources).

Date: 2021-11-10
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Published in JIST 2021 : 17èmes Journées internationales de sociologie du travail. "Déplacements, brouillages & recompositions", Nov 2021, Lausanne (colloque en ligne), Switzerland

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