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Fundraising project together/apart supports Pittsburgh artists, musicians, and gig workers affected by coronavirus | Features | Pittsburgh

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click to enlarge together/apart designs featured on t-shirts. - PHOTO: TOGETHER/APART

Photo: together/apart

together/apart designs featured on t-shirts.

A local jewelry maker and a musician have joined forces to launch together/apart, a new fundraising project for local artists, musicians, and gig workers affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.

Susan Pedrazzi of the Pittsburgh bands Sweat and Tiny Wars, and Elizabeth Sanchez of the jewelry company Horsethief, created two designs that are for sale as t-shirts, tote bags, and stickers. Now available at TeeSpring, 60% of all together/apart sales will go to the PGH artists emergency fund.


The designs include one that reads “I Love You. I Love You, Stay. I Love You, Stay Away.” with a graphic of two hands, while the other has text reading “Come Together Stay Apart.” Both designs feature a round image meant to represent the sun.

“We wanted to come up with a creative representation in words and simple designs that communicate the importance of coming together as a community while staying physically apart,” says Sanchez. “The circle represents the sun as a symbol of hope; no matter what, it is always gonna come up and when it does, we’re all gathered under that very same sun.”


They’re also inviting area artists, musicians, and gig workers to visit the project’s Instagram page as a way to “increase their visibility and to share their personal experiences navigating these uncharted waters,” says a press release.


Both women personally understand what their community is now going through. Sanchez says she has lost income due to the postponement of pop-ups and other events where she would usually sell her silver, Western-inspired necklaces, earrings, rings, and other goods (they can still be purchased through the Horsethief website). Pedrazzi has also taken a financial hit as any future gigs have been either canceled or put on hold.


“To make money as a band, you have to play shows and sell band merchandise and records,” says Pedrazzi. “Having band merch made and recording an album isn’t cheap. Without the ability to play shows or tour, you can’t save up in order to sustain your band.”

But the loss, Sanchez says, extends beyond the financial.


“I have also lost the opportunity to make face-to-face connections with customers who support me,” says Sanchez, who adds that she also can’t teach her metalwork classes at Workshop DIY School. “I often have the same folks coming out to support me so I will miss seeing those familiar faces.”

click to enlarge Horsethief at the 2019 Spirit Summer Recess. - CP PHOTO: AMANDA WALTZ

CP photo: Amanda Waltz

Horsethief at the 2019 Spirit Summer Recess.

In addition to fellow artists and musicians, they chose to include gig workers – a term commonly applied to freelancers, or those who generate income from on-demand services like ridesharing and food delivery – because the two fields go hand-in-hand. Sanchez points out that “gig workers are often artists or musicians as well.”

Sanchez sees together/apart as a way to provide some relief as state and local governments scramble to come up with resources for vulnerable workers, an effort she believes will ultimately come up short.


“I think that literally everyone is at a loss,” she says. “The financial aid and specifically unemployment for self-employed folks is not happening fast enough. And when it does become available, for most people, it’s probably not going to cut it. That is why we are looking for ways to help each other right now.”


















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State Launches Unemployment System For Gig Workers

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CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada has launched a system to accept weekly claims from non-traditional workers for unemployment benefits authorized by the federal government.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation announced late Saturday morning that residents eligible for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program could begin filing weekly claims.

The department made the announcement about 2 1/2 hours after saying it and its vendor had worked “tirelessly” overnight to launch the system as scheduled at 8 a.m. but that “technical complications” delayed the launch.

The first payments for gig workers, contract workers and self-employed workers are expected to be made beginning Wednesday, the department said.

“We know there is a great deal of interest and demand for weekly filing and expect our call center and claims portal to be very busy today,” said DETR Director Heather Korbulic. “Staff will continue to work including the upcoming holiday to ensure this functionality is available for Nevadans.” 

Gov. Steve Sisolak later tweeted that his staff told him that 2,000 claimants filed 9,500 weekly certifications in 45 minutes.

The new system is independent of the traditional unemployment insurance system and Nevada was among the last states to get the expansion working.

Nevada’s travel-oriented economy and its workforce have been battered by the impact of closures of casinos and other non-essential businesses in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

State officials said Friday that Nevada topped the nation with an April unemployment rate of 28.2%, the worst any state has seen since the national jobless rate was estimated at 25% in 1933 during the depths of the Great Depression.

Sisolak has begun allowing businesses to reopen and expand operations that had been restricted, and he has set a tentative June 4 date for reopening casinos. 

The Democratic governor said in a statement Friday that Nevada has continued to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and hospitalizations of COVID-19 when some restrictions began to be eased nearly two weeks ago.



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Gig Workers Unite While Facing Risk from Coronavirus / Public News Service

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Gig workers make up about a 10th of the workforce and that number is expected to rise during the pandemic.(Angelov/Adobe Stock)

Gig workers make up about a 10th of the workforce and that number is expected to rise during the pandemic.(Angelov/Adobe Stock)

May 26, 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. — During the COVID-19 pandemic, workers for online platforms who shop for groceries and deliver food have become essential for many people stuck at home.

But they face an uphill battle for recognition as well as remuneration.

Heidi Carrico is a Portland-based grocery shopper for the app Instacart and founding member of the Gig Workers Collective. She says she stopped shopping for Instacart and officially went on strike in March because the risk of contracting the virus wasn’t worth the pay.

“Being called household heroes and that sort of thing — that speaks to our heart and soul and what we want to do,” she states. “We want to help our communities. We want to. But that can’t take the place of being able to support our own families.”

The Gig Workers Collective is a collection of 11 labor activists, all women, across the country and has been organizing strikes against companies such as Instacart, GrubHub and Postmates.

The collective is calling for protective equipment, hazard pay and access to paid time off.

After a protest organized by the collective on March 30, Instacart responded by rushing out 10,000 kits of protective equipment. A representative for Instcart says the company has invested $20 million in the last few months to support the health and safety of shoppers.

The gig economy is a growing slice of the labor market. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2017 found about 1 in 10 workers is part of this economy. And ballooning unemployment numbers from the pandemic likely will cause numbers to rise.

Instacart has about 500,000 shoppers across the country and responded to increased demand by announcing in April a plan to hire 250,000 more.

But Carrico worries about how these workers will protect themselves.

“I’m seeing a lot of really clever and creative things that people are doing to stay healthy, but if you can’t afford it, then you’re kind of working without a safety net and hoping you don’t get sick,” she states. “I mean, crossing your fingers.”

The Gig Workers Collective has been active since Instacart changed the algorithm for its delivery payments, making working for the company unsustainable in the eyes of some workers. Carrico says this has been the case across the gig economy.

“All gig workers — regardless of the situation, regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not — deserve a living wage,” she stresses.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – OR

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Gig economy may hold some hope for jobs in age of COVID-19

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Hundreds of thousands of Australians are out of work as a result of COVID-19, but a QUT expert says some may find new jobs through digital platforms, particularly in areas like food delivery, writing, law, accountancy, home maintenance, IT or graphic design.

More than 100 such platforms are now operating in Australia, with workers matched to clients via apps or websites who are then paid through the platform.

“Doors have slammed shut for many employees throughout Australia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and there may be alternative work opportunities within the gig economy,” said Professor Paula McDonald from QUT’s Business School.

“Digital platform, or ‘gig’ workers may be eligible for JobKeeper payments but as self-employed workers they must demonstrate a 30 percent reduction in turnover from the previous 12 months. Establishing this may be difficult for some.

“There have also been concerns raised about on-demand drivers having to choose between earning an income delivering food and other goods and being exposed to Covid-19, especially as they face an absence of sick pay entitlements if they acquire the virus or are directed to self-isolate.

“However, the gig economy could provide opportunities for some workers laid off from ‘regular jobs’ to source alternative income.”

Professor McDonald and QUT colleagues Dr Penny Williams and Associate Professor Robyn Mayes, along with researchers from UTS and the University of Adelaide, last year conducted the first ever national Digital Platform Work in Australia survey and have now published their preliminary findings.

“We had more than 14,000 useable responses from adult internet users from throughout Australia and the top five platforms are Airtasker, Uber, Freelancer, Uber Eats and Deliveroo,” Professor McDonald said.

“Overall, 13.1% of survey respondents have, at some time, undertaken digital platform work, similar to recent findings in Europe but larger than any previous estimates in Australia.

“It’s a rapidly growing sector and while for most it is not full-time, a substantial minority treat the income generated from this work as important or even essential.

“There are two main types of digital platform work. The first is performed in-person at a specified location, such as driving, food delivery, caring or home maintenance. The second is computer or internet-based.”

Professor McDonald said the COVID-19 restrictions requiring people to mostly stay at home, along with the closure of restaurants, cafes, hotels and other hospitality venues, has probably driven up demand for some kinds of in-person digital platform work.

“Transport and food delivery were the most common types of work performed by platform workers in our survey. This work is consistent with social distancing rules because the driver usually works solo and has limited contact with restaurant staff and often no contact with customers,” she said.

“Even as some restrictions relax, demand in this space may well increase as a result of people’s reluctance to encounter others on public transport. At the same time, work for on-demand drivers may well decrease due to fewer people having nights out and meeting with others.

“Uber has just announced a cut of 3,000 staff and the closer of 45 offices, including its Singapore base. This comes after the company already shed 3,700 jobs earlier in May.

“Computer or internet-based platform work may also provide options for some who have lost jobs, especially in professional services such as law, accountancy, engineering and architecture, or fields like writing and translation, creative and multimedia work and software development.

“People with technological, creative or professional skills may find work on digital platforms and work entirely from home for clients anywhere in the world. They may even be able to develop new skills and enjoy a level of flexibility not possible in regular employment.

“Constraining such opportunities, however, is the overall contraction of the global economy. The chances of substituting employment income with money earned performing internet-based platform work are also dependent on particular skills sets and having appropriate home-based technology.

“Gig workers should also assess whether income they earn is sufficient for the time and effort they put in. Most platforms don’t pay workers to create and maintain online profiles, respond to jobs that don’t eventuate, negotiate with prospective clients, and travel between paid jobs or tasks.

“For these reasons, many platform workers don’t know how much they actually earn per hour.

“And if more retrenched workers sign onto platforms without an equal increase in client demand, it may create further competition for work and a ‘race to the bottom’ in pay and conditions.”

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