The historical background of platform cooperativism is the sharing economy, which consists of peer-to-peer interactions facilitated by an online platform.
Using the platform to find clients
Prominent examples include Airbnb, Uber, and Lyft, each of which embodies the essential features of a sharing economy business. Instead of the company owning the infrastructure or employing the people, the people are contractors with their own capital assets (vehicles, homes), who use the platform to find clients.
The sharing economy benefits
Back when the sharing economy debuted, many observers thought it would offer benefits all around. People could make extra money by renting rooms in their homes through Airbnb, or using their vehicles to offer rides through Uber or Lyft, and customers would have more options at lower prices.
Over time, however, reality has caught up with this rose-tinted vision. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have built empires on the backs of freelancers who often struggle with unpredictable paychecks, and are not protected by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The essence of platform cooperativism is democratic, worker-owned cooperatives. The services provided by these cooperatives are often the exact same services as those provided by “Death Stars.” The difference is direct pay and profit-sharing, transparency, and the ability to voice concerns and be heard.
Platform cooperativism as a movement is still small, but it is growing, both on- and offline.
Take Germany-based Fairmondo(1) ( #Fairmondo ), for example, a platform cooperative alternative to eBay which is owned by the people who sell on it. Fairmondo’s crowdfunding campaigns have successfully raised hundreds of thousands of euros’ worth of member equity.
Then there’s Stocksy(2) ( #Stocksy ), a platform cooperative offering royalty-free stock photos. Photographers who work through Stocksy get 50% of Standard License purchases and 75% of Extended License purchases, as well as a share of the company.
Platform cooperatives have also made their way into the real world of brick and mortar. Take Union Taxi(3) ( #Union Taxi ), for example, a Denver, Colorado-based taxi cooperative founded by drivers who wanted better pay and better working conditions than either traditional taxi companies or Uber could offer. A similar story is that of VTC Cab in Paris, France, founded by disgruntled former Uber drivers who wanted more control of their business.
Other examples are growing up like mushrooms all over the world. Peerby(4) ( #Peerby ), in the Kingdom of The Netherlands, is a neighbor-to-neighbor platform for sharing goods, with users the largest class of investors. House-cleaners in major cities like New York now have platform cooperative options through Up & Go, an alternative to “Death Star” companies like Handy and Taskrabbit.
Platform cooperatives offer an important alternative
In an age in which about a third going on 40% of U.S. workers are freelancers, platform cooperatives offer an increasingly important alternative to the big-tech giants.
Fairmondo website ( https://www.fairmondo.uk/ )
Stocksy website ( https://www.stocksy.com/ )
Union Taxi ( http://www.uniontaxidenver.net/ )
Peerby ( https://www.peerby.com/ )