Can we put this issue in a larger frame by seeing what Turkers have in common with other platform / on -demand workers? The US, the government, and industry have been watching this issue. The FTC just had a sharing economy workshop, for example. This commission structure thing is just one example of the way platform operators – Amazon, Lyft, Uber – unilaterally make financial “optimizations” that have dire consequences for workers but without any kind of consultation with or participation by workers. I would suggest that the efforts that go into mturkgate try and appeal to the interests of a broader set of people than Turk requesters and Turkers by showing how this struggle actually matters for so many people who may become Lyft drivers, Uber drivers, on-demand dog walkers, etc some day.
Can you imagine, for example, if Uber and Lyft drivers did a sympathy work slow down to support implementation of a rule that workers need to vote on and approve platform changes spearheaded by Turkers? I know this seems big and more medium- or long-term, but we should be thinking at the level of the platform-economy for some of these issues. If we’re not developing worker-friendly / flexible ideas for protections, companies will continue to do things like this and the government may take protective/regulatory moves that workers may not actually like.
I’m interning at Microsoft Research right now (which is just outside Seattle, which is where Amazon HQ is located). My project this summer has had me making a lot of contacts in groups that access a ton of drivers (many for Uber, but also Lyft, Wingz, Sidecar, etc…). I know that sounds vague and I’ll tell more about my work some other time, but it’s not super relevant to this discussion.
The point is that Uber drivers have had some similar complaints as Turkers right now - Uber promised to pay something like $1.35 per mile when many of them signed up, but then Uber changed their pay rate to like… under $1. All of a sudden drivers who had leased cars (sometimes with Uber as a co-signer!) found themselves unable to break even no matter how many jobs they took.
It’s not exactly the same grievance that Turkers have, but I’d be surprised if they didn’t sympathize with what’s happening here.
It’s still a long shot (and might be a long-term goal, like you said), but I’d be happy to mention these recent events to drivers and see if they’d be willing to participate in a protest for a cause that encompasses all short-term workers. I want to emphasize that it’d be very risky for them (if a rider complains, the driver risks getting deactivated, and a slowdown might also mean a higher fare, which might make riders angry), but it’s not impossible!
There are less precarious ways to raise awareness and get people thinking about Turkers. As one example, drivers could make a point to mention what Amazon is doing on every ride that happens to pass or go anywhere near Amazon HQ. I live in Seattle and see people with Amazon t-shirts and whatnot, so I imagine the bad PR coming from Uber drivers all over Seattle would really make employees wonder what the AMT dev team is doing to bring this much heat on Amazon.