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Gig economy companies cut thousands of jobs globally (Forbes)

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May 22, 2020

Gig economy companies cut thousands of jobs cut once again in the past week, showing that the impact of Covid-19 lockdowns are far from abating, Forbes reported. Layoffs included 3,000 workers at Uber, 1,400 staff at Ola and 13% of the workforce at food delivery firm Zomato.

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Gig Worker Attacks a Big Labor Ploy – InsideSources

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Uber has announced its intention to merge with Postmates, giving the ride-hailing and restaurant-delivery networking company a foothold in the growing grocery-delivery market.

Since the outbreak of pandemic COVID-19, grocery delivery has surged as travel has collapsed, so Uber saw diversification as its path to survival.

Also seeing diversification as a path to survival is Big Labor, which has, through worker centers like Working Washington — a front group for Big Labor principally funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and its local affiliates — opened an all-out offensive against the so-called “gig economy.”

Part of that economy are companies like Uber, Postmates, DoorDash, and GrubHub (to name only a few) that rely on independent contractors to deliver food from restaurants and items from stores to customers; these workers set their own schedules, contribute their own capital, and direct their own work, unlike most conventional employees.

Big Labor sees this as  a problem and are engaging in a campaign to undermine the thriving gig economy before it gets any larger.

Under federal law, unions of independent contractors cannot force contracting companies to engage in monopoly collective bargaining. So, as COVID-based restrictions on normal human life and the general consumer benefits of application-based services create growth in the sector, labor unions are going all-out to benefit themselves at the expense of consumers, independent workers, and the companies that support those workers and consumers.

Approach one is a frontal assault, most notably via legislation that characterizes independent contracting workers as true employees.

First enacted through California’s controversial Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), , this type of legislation is poised to all-but-eliminate freelance writing and content creation and owner-operator trucking in addition to the targeted “gig economy” application-based services.

At the national level, union-backed House Democrats passed the PRO Act, legislation that would make several Big Labor-empowering changes to employment law, perhaps foremost among them a nationwide expansion of California’s “classification” law under AB5.

The second approach is the old-fashioned corporate campaign, the SEIU-perfected tactic of harassing a large business into not opposing unionization on the threat of brand damage.

Leading the charge is Working Washington, the SEIU-funded activist “worker center” that fronts campaigns for the union in Washington State. Working Washington has led campaigns against DoorDash and Postmates; for good measure, the Postmates campaign also targeted Chipotle, an SEIU unionization target.

For now, the stated goals are health and safety regulations and higher guaranteed pay, but the SEIU’s ties to Working Washington indicate a clear intention to bring independent contractor delivery workers into the union as dues-paying members.

A majority of Working Washington’s board are current or former SEIU officials; Working Washington and SEIU 775NW, the union’s militant Seattle-area local, reportedly share office space.

And while adding new union members might be SEIU and Working Washington’s ultimate goal, killing the application-based model — a model that has helped keep restaurants afloat and paying workers and helped consumers tolerate otherwise-intolerable “social distancing” diktats — would also serve to increase union power.

If Instacart goes bust because it cannot operate under Big Labor’s employment model, well, then the unionized supermarkets’ in-house delivery services will prosper.

The goal of the attack on application-based services is simple: Big Labor wins; workers and consumers lose.

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The Gig Economy: A New Battleground for Cybersecurity

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The gig economy, whereby workers are paid for each individual project or job that they do, has accelerated exponentially in the last couple of years. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, it was estimated to account for more than 4.7 million workers, or more than 10% of working-age adults.

In this era of smart devices, the workforce is becoming more mobile and work can increasingly be done from anywhere. As a result, job and location are being decoupled. That means that freelancers can select among temporary jobs and projects around the world, while employers can select the best individuals for specific projects from a larger pool than what is available in any given area.

The average UK workplace now comprises of a mix of full-time, part-time and short-term workers. Gig economy workers allow companies to ensure they can remain nimble, cost-effective, and able to adapt to changing market conditions in a fast-paced, technology-led environment.

Finding the security vulnerabilities

Businesses’ increasing tendency to employ independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time workers is making IT contracting an increasingly common gig economy role, with the recent suspension of IR35 due to the pandemic extending this trend.

It’s a development that is line with how modern enterprises approach IT in general. Being able to deploy more or less IT resources as required is considered best practice for using cloud services. It’s quick, it’s versatile, and it meets the changing needs of the business.

It’s not inherently secure, however. The risk model has moved from a model built around controlled environments, i.e. corporate networks. The perimeter – the first line of defense – was a known entity and yes, it had flaws, but IT departments were usually aware of where the weak points were.

In modern IT environments however the perimeter can be described as ‘distributed’ at best, and at worst non-existent. Simply put, the risk is that companies can no longer enforce security on the end device, as they may have no jurisdiction or control over it.

IT workers play fundamental roles in 21st century organizations because every business is reliant on information and technology in order to function. Large amounts of critical data and at least a few critical assets will need to be stored and managed in order for most business to serve customers, meet production deadlines, and more. It is therefore common for permanent IT employees to be subject to strict security supervision. When these roles are performed by remote third parties, short-term contractors or non-permanent staff however, security must also adapt.

Polishing the security armor

Plugging into an organization’s network to access critical company systems from beyond the physical boundaries of the workplace is now commonplace. Companies need to ensure they have stringent security measures in place to better manage the high risk that this entails. They must also limit the access of contractors to only what they need, instead of trusting them with sweeping access to everything. Risk factors include accessing networks from personal devices that lack enterprise-grade security, or from home networks that could be easily compromised.

In this scenario we are a long way from a world where security teams are able to enforce policy on devices within the traditional network. Now, often they will have no control at all over the device being used by the external party to connect in and, similarly, not being able to ensure the security of the location where the device is connecting from; for instance a home WiFi network.

Our previous research indicates that 90 percent of organizations with more than 250 users grant third party vendors access to their critical systems, and 72 percent position third party access in their top 10 security risks, indicating it’s a familiar problem for security teams.

That doesn’t mean it is being acted upon though. The majority of organizations use strategies that are just not optimized for efficiency, and don’t systematically enforce corporate security policies across on-site and cloud infrastructure. Any solution for third party privileged access must provide basic security best practices that mirror established policies for internal employees.

Technical advances also mean the shortcomings of obsolete technologies – such as VPNs – to secure remote workers can now be overcome with relative ease. Usage of biometrics and Zero Trust policies should be employed to reliably authenticate remote vendor access to the most sensitive parts of the corporate network. This can be achieved with the flexibility and ease-of-use that modern remote workers need by using the remote workers’ own mobile devices for biometric and multifactor authentication.

In the world of work today, the physical boundaries of our workplace have become increasingly blurred. This is especially the case as we move into a post COVID-19 workplace, where flexible working is expected to be the new norm. In such environments, endpoint devices may have varying levels of security and the office environment may be a café, car or home office. Hence, cybersecurity needs to match the flexibility of modern working.

The place where organizations can reliably enforce policy is at the point of connection and the access that they require into systems. This needs to be acknowledged and implemented.

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DoorDash becomes latest gig app threatened with injunction

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San Francisco’s lead prosecutor has filed for a preliminary injunction against DoorDash, the US market leader in food delivery, that would soon force the company to reclassify its workers as employees — days after a judge dramatically granted a similar request in a case against Uber and Lyft.

Chesa Boudin, the San Francisco district attorney, filed the motion, which would apply to all DoorDash workers in California, on Wednesday. The move was another escalation in the state’s battle to bring the gig economy’s controversial business model to a halt.

“We are seeking an immediate end to DoorDash’s illegal behaviour of failing to provide delivery workers with basic workplace protections,” said Mr Boudin in a statement.

“All three branches of California’s government have already made clear that these workers are employees under California law and entitled to these important safeguards.”

The district attorney’s motion follows state attorney Xavier Becerra’s successful effort to have a judge issue a preliminary injunction against Uber and Lyft.

On Monday Superior Court Judge Ethan Schulman said the ride-share companies had until August 20 to reclassify their drivers, though in that time the companies are expected to appeal. Not yet known but set to be discussed in a hearing on Thursday is whether the deadline will be pushed back while that appeal is heard.

If not, Uber and Lyft have said they will be forced to suspend operations in California, possibly for more than a year, while changes to their systems are implemented. Reclassification would mean providing drivers with healthcare benefits, sick pay, paid leave and other benefits not currently available to them.

DoorDash would not comment on whether or not its business would be able to continuing operating if it too was forced by a preliminary injunction to reclassify workers, a decision which could come as soon as early October.

Complicating matters further, the action against Uber and Lyft only applies to ride-share drivers, meaning Uber’s food app, which competes intensely against DoorDash, would continue unaffected. The district attorney’s office was unable to comment on the discrepancy when asked by the Financial Times on Wednesday.

A DoorDash spokesman told the FT: “In the midst of one of the deepest economic recessions in our nation’s history, today’s action by the district attorney threatens billions of dollars in earnings for California Dashers and revenue for restaurants that rely upon sales from delivery to keep their businesses open.”

The company said its internal data suggested the majority of its workers wanted to remain as contractors, arguing — as have other gig economy companies — that flexibility over working hours and location would not be possible under an employee model.

DoorDash contributed $30m to a joint fund supporting Proposition 22, a new measure on November’s ballot that would, for app-based workers, override the law being cited in the current cases against the gig companies. Uber and Lyft have each put in the same amount, alongside other contributions from gig economy groups. The total backing for the “Yes on 22” campaign now stands at more than $110m.

Those opposing the change have, according to latest filings, raised $1.6m — but do have the support of both Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, herself a former San Francisco district attorney.

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