Dynamics of contention in the gig economy: Rage against the platform, customer or state?

By Alex Wood, Nick Martindale and Vili Lehdonvirta

Protest in the gig economy has taken many forms and targets (platforms, customers and state officials). However, researchers are yet to adequately account for this diversity. We use a European survey of Upwork and PeoplePerHour platform workers to investigate worker orientation towards different forms of protest. Results reveal that worker anger, dependence and digital communication shape contention in the remote gig economy. Support for collective organisation is associated with anger at platforms as well as their dependence on the platform and communication with other workers. Individual action against clients is associated with anger and communication but not dependence. Support for state regulation is associated only with anger but not dependence or communication. We conclude that the relational approach entailed by Mobilisation Theory can aid explanation in the gig economy by shedding light on the dynamic process by which solidarity and dependence alter the perceived cost/benefits of particular remedies to injustice.