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The Rise Of Gig Work: Companies Turn To On-Demand CEOS



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You know, gig work isn’t just for people who deliver food or groceries or composers, like BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. Experienced executives are doing gig work, too, as some companies are turning to on-demand workers to be CEOs. NPR’s Yuki Noguchi explains why.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Duncan Thomas (ph) has served as CEO of a medical practice, a Russian software firm and a logistics company, each stint lasting a few months.

DUNCAN THOMAS: It really suits how I like to work, and it suits how I like to engage people. And, you know, it gives me tremendous work-life flexibility.

NOGUCHI: Thomas fell into temporary executive work by way of a traumatic experience. Six years ago, he was working long hours as the CEO of a vocational college.

THOMAS: I came back from a vacation, and I was feeling unwell. And I went to the doctor that day. And that day, they said, you’d better go down and get an ultrasound.

NOGUCHI: The doctor returned, head hanging. Advanced melanoma, he told Thomas, left him about seven months to live.

THOMAS: Nine tumors in my lungs, and I had three in my liver. And the biggest ones were 9 1/2 centimeters in size, so it was pretty overwhelming.

NOGUCHI: Thomas was trained as a veterinarian and found a clinical trial. The test drug eliminated the cancer from his body.

THOMAS: It was almost like a rebirth.

NOGUCHI: Thomas, a native Australian living in Los Angeles, reevaluated what he wanted out of life and work. Working as an itinerant CEO, he says, leaves him time between gigs to recharge with his family.

The pandemic increased the popularity of gig work for CEOs. It’s left companies in turmoil, and more leaders are willing to trade in a higher salary for short-term stints and greater flexibility.

Jody Greenstone Miller is co-CEO of the Business Talent Group. It matches experienced executives with interim CEO jobs. Miller says she started her firm because companies in transition or crisis often need temporary expertise, but they don’t want the multiyear commitment of a long-term CEO.

JODY GREENSTONE MILLER: And the notion that I could just, you know, need somebody for three or four months to come in and solve a problem or help me, you know, build a new business just didn’t exist in a formal way.

NOGUCHI: The fact that so many people are now no longer commuting to an office, she says, broadened the pool of temporary executives and the companies wanting to hire them.

MILLER: And what that did is it really opened up the world of talent.

NOGUCHI: But succeeding as a gig CEO isn’t easy. High-end temps are often flown in to handle crises and scandals. Duncan Thomas has seen his share.

THOMAS: The challenges can be very real.

NOGUCHI: Thomas has taken over at firms that were cooking their books, or the previous CEO sexually assaulted an employee. Righting such ships isn’t easy. For starters, Thomas says, workers often distrust leaders who parachute in. They’re suspicious of their motives and know they won’t stick around.

THOMAS: A lot of the stigma that I’ve come across is that you are a Chainsaw Al, you’re a mercenary, that you are only in for the money, that you really don’t give a damn about people.

NOGUCHI: These days, there’s the added challenge of managing teams you’ve only met online. But Peter Wokwicz says there are also some advantages of coming in fresh.

PETER WOKWICZ: I can really come in as an outsider, an independent, don’t have favorites. That often helps, also.

NOGUCHI: Wokwicz lives in Chicago. He’s currently juggling two separate executive gigs at a robotics company and an e-commerce firm.

WOKWICZ: One of the benefits is you never get in that rut of being in one company for a long time.

NOGUCHI: So, he says, it never gets boring.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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As Congress scrutinizes gig worker rules, small-business owners need to know the basics – The Philadelphia Inquirer




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Uber’s UK ruling could have implications for gig economy startups




Former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar first brought their case against Uber in 2016
(Carl Court/Getty Images)

The UK’s Supreme Court has rejected Uber‘s appeal against an earlier ruling that said its drivers must be classified as workers, a result that may have a significant impact on other gig economy companies.

The decision—which cannot be appealed—means thousands of UK Uber drivers cannot qualify as being self-employed, entitling them to both minimum wage and holiday pay. The ridehailing company could now face paying substantial compensation to its drivers.

The ruling, which criticized Uber for sidestepping UK labor laws to withhold benefits, could influence other battles between gig workers and the companies that hire them. Earlier this month, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain appealed against a court decision preventing riders for food delivery startup Deliveroo from engaging in collective bargaining due to their self-employed status. Deliveroo, which is backed by investors including Durable Capital Partners and Amazon, is looking to go public this year.

“Employees should benefit from improved rights; however, employers are likely to face increased costs of labor and disruption to their business models, which have proven to achieve rapid scale with gig workers,” said PitchBook analyst Nalin Patel. “The ruling may also now set a precedent in the UK and force other gig economy startups that utilize the self-employed contractor model to rethink how they operate in the region moving forward.”

Former Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam originally won their tribunal against Uber in 2016. Uber appealed the decision, but it was upheld in 2017, and again in 2018 by the High Court.

“This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery,” said Farrar, who is also a general secretary with the App Drivers and Couriers Union. “Uber drivers are cruelly sold a false dream of endless flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom.”

In a statement, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, Jamie Heywood,  said the court decision was focused on a “small number of drivers” who used the app in 2016. Since then, he said the company had made changes to its business,  providing free insurance in case of sickness or injury. He added: “We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

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The future is now for gig-based entrepreneurship – San Gabriel Valley Tribune




With Californian Kamala Harris as vice president, it’s clear the new Biden administration is taking its cues from the once-Golden State on labor policy.

In one of its first acts in office, the Biden Administration placed a regulatory freeze on a Department of Labor regulation enacted in the waning days of the prior administration relating to independent contractors.  The rule, according to labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips, “aims to make it easier for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors.”

It’s unlikely this rule to give more workers freedom to be their own boss and set their own schedules will survive in a Biden administration that was heavily reliant upon labor unions for money and manpower to win the 2020 campaign.

Meanwhile, House Democrats recently re-introduced the controversial PRO Act in Congress, which “seeks to reduce the use of the independent contractor classification by companies such as Uber,” according to CNBC.

Both of these efforts followed the lead of California’s liberal legislative majority, which two years ago enacted the controversial Assembly Bill 5 to severely restrict the ability of Californians to work as independent contractors.  Their goal is to increase union membership and dues and force people to work in traditional, 9-to-5, union jobs that are relics of the past.

Doubling down on AB 5-type restrictions at the national level – which may be the Biden administration’s goal with the nomination of Julie Su, California’s chief AB 5 enforcer, as deputy Secretary of Labor – would be a tremendous mistake.  It would threaten innovation and hurt the ability of Americans who have lost their jobs to put food on the table during a global pandemic.

As documented in the new Pacific Research Institute study, “The Small Business Gig,” Americans are increasingly working in the gig economy.  They don’t want government – whether in Sacramento or Washington, DC – dictating how they can earn a living.

A 2018 Gallup survey found that 36 percent of U.S. workers have some sort of a gig worker arrangement.  Whether renting out an extra room to earn cash to pay the mortgage or using an app to earn a living on an alternate schedule, the gig economy is increasing opportunities for Americans to become entrepreneurs, while providing customers with lower cost services.

Many in California state government see the gig economy as exploitative and disruptive.  But data from the ADP Research Institute shows that 70 percent of gig workers are independent workers by choice.  Gig Economy Data Hub research found that more than two-thirds of gig economy workers are satisfied with their current work arrangement.

Government shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the economy.  New restrictions on the gig economy, like those proposed in Congress, will limit people’s freedom to become entrepreneurs while institutionalizing the old way of doing work.

Instead of adopting regulations at the federal level that 58 percent of Californians – Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike – rejected when they passed Proposition 22 in November, the Biden administration and Congress should take the opposite approach and enact market-based policies to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

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