Platform Labour Unrest in a Global Perspective: How, Where and Why Do Platform Workers Protest?

Charles Umney, Mark Stuart, Ioulia Bessa, Simon Joyce, Denis Neumann and Vera Trappmann (2024), Work, Employment and Society

Labour unrest by platform workers is a growing global phenomenon, but several questions require deeper understanding. What motivates platform labour unrest? Which actors and strategies are involved? How does this vary across regions? Systematic answers are hindered by the lack of large datasets. Uniquely, this article analyses a global dataset comprising 1271 instances of platform labour unrest. It reveals two main dimensions of platform labour struggle: those defending or extending protective regulatory institutions (regulatory protests); and those seeking a larger share of value created (distributive protests). The former more often involve mainstream unions and methods like legal challenges. The latter more often involve grassroots organisation, and the collective withdrawal of labour and demonstrations. Theoretically, the article elaborates on Silver’s distinction between Marx-type and Polanyi-type labour unrest to explain and contextualise these findings. These patterns reveal variation within the growing wave of platform labour unrest that have not yet been systematically examined.

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