Dolly Parton rewriting 5 To 9 into 9 To 5 for a Squarespace commerical may be peak hustle culture*. The rework transforms the original workers’ anthem into a song that celebrates “working, working, working.” Why are we seemingly OK with rebranding working multiple jobs as “hustling”? Hustle culture allows companies and the wealthy to further exploit workers by taking advangtage of workers struggling just to live.
“Gig economy” jobs, like those found working for Uber, Lyft, Instacart, and similar companies, are structured to offset operating and staffing costs off to workers that typically most need that cash. These companies “disrupt” markets by skirting regulations. They then take advantage of this new market position to pay workers well below what their time is worth.
Self Help and the Unpaid Grind
Hustle culture shames people for not working or for spending time on anything besides making themselves more marketable. Hobbies need to be profitable. Time spent exercising or walking the dog needs to include listening to self help podcasts or tapes. These things aren’t inherently bad, but it should go without saying that there is much more to life than making ourselves marketable to potential employers.
The Gig Economy is Gross
The market never needed the gig economy disruption. These companies identified holes and filled them by giving scraps to the people that need them most - and still do. What the market needs is machinery to keep our needs met with dignity (read as “not working ourselves to death”). We need housing, food, and healthcare readily available for all. One bandaid is raising the minimum wage to $25 an hour. A bigger one would be automatically adjusting the minimum wage every year with inflation. These are just a start and not perfect solutions. We need to be finding ways to make sure folks can live fulfilling lives without fear of losing their homes, or being put into crippling debt from medical care, or any of the many things that are looming over people’s lives.
* Check out the Trillbilly Worker’s Party episode 184 for further discussion on the song.