Season 5 | Episode 8
Mar 24, 2021

My boss is an app

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The gig-app workforce has arrived at our doorstep. But Silicon Valley’s innovations in hiring are only the latest round of this long-running battle over what “employment” means in the American economy.

This week we’re going to talk about one of the newest kinds of “nonemployee” work that’s arrived at the doorstep of this economy: app-based gig work. (If you’re thinking, “Finally,” you’re not alone.) 

When we’ve talked about how we were looking into all of the ways that companies shed employees and the responsibilities that come with them, many people assumed we were talking about Silicon Valley. But ride-hailing and food-delivery apps are just the tip of the iceberg. The battles over what “employment” really means have been going on for much longer, and they affect so many more people in the American workforce.

Note: This is the last episode of this season of“The Uncertain Hour.” It will be even better if you start at the beginning.

This question of who is an employee and who is an independent contractor has been argued about in a lot of industries. And it can start to feel like as soon as it’s litigated in one context, the same problem arises somewhere else. 

So this week we’ll look at how tech-based gig companies sell themselves to workers by offering flexibility. And we’ll see how it’s often the workers who end up having to be flexible and accommodating when they’re working for an app, as we explore this thing we used to call employment: what happened to it, why it happened and what this new kind of workforce means for the American dream. 

This concludes our fifth season of “The Uncertain Hour.” Thanks so much to our listeners who wrote in about their experiences with nonemployment, some of whom we featured at the end of this episode. Thanks also to listener Joel Knopf, who wrote the song “W2,” inspired by this season.

And, of course, thanks to you for listening. To be the first to hear about the next season of “The Uncertain Hour,” subscribe to our mailing list.

Here’s additional reading and material we used in our research:

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This season of “The Uncertain Hour” tells the unheard stories of real people affected by this thing we once knew as “employment.”

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The team

Krissy Clark Host and Senior Correspondent
Caitlin Esch Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Catherine Winter Senior Editor
Chris Julin Producer
Sitara Nieves Executive Director, On Demand
Erica Phillips Writer/Producer
Marque Greene Intern