By 2027 half of the workforce will not have an employer. You read right, half of the workforce would be part of the "gig" economy.
Imagine what this does to our social fabric and the giant shift this places on our expectation of employers. From health care to retirement funds. Not to mention worker protections. When you add this to the growing wealth gap and increased accumulation of wealth to the top 1%, it does not bode well for our communities and the demand this will place on our safety net programs.
I heard this statistic at the 2018 Worker Cooperative National Conference in Los Angeles, CA. And yet, just as daunting as that was it was followed up with a conversation about the possibility of what this could mean - a radical shift that places democratic business ownership as the force to stabilize work and organize labor.
The idea is that we can explore and scale different ownership models that share business profits across workers to address accelerating wage gaps and provide a greater distribution of wealth. This more equitable distribution of wealth will then help support stronger communities by such things as expanding the tax base and minimizing the need for safety need programs such as rental and food assistance.
The challenge then is how can this model get to scale? Consider the number of small to medium size businesses and the fact that many are owned by baby boomers. Baby boomers who will be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years. We can capitalize on the exit of single proprietorship and enable those businesses to be sold to their current employees. Thereby keeping local successful businesses and jobs while moving employees to greater wealth by becoming owners. This might not be for everyone, but considering the volume of businesses and jobs that will be at the table, it may just be enough to create a shift needed.
It is the vision of the possible that made many technology platforms a force in creating a gig economy, and it may just take that same energy and imagination to structure new business models that make the future of work one that contributes to our communities well-being instead of creating more problems.
As Community Ventures embarks on a journey to help build a community investment fund, one that supports our locally owned and democratically run businesses, I was inspired by others who share those same goals and offered their help to make this happen in Santa Cruz - a community filled with hope, love, and the daring vision of a much better world. I invite you join me and others who are making a $10, $25, $50, or even $100 monthly donation to support our work in making this vision of our future a reality.
Maria T. Cadenas