On receiving an interview request from Uber
paul at boddie.org.uk
Sat Dec 17 21:26:08 UTC 2016
On Saturday 17. December 2016 20.48.24 Charles Cossé wrote:
> I'm all about free software, and paying to develop free software is a step
> in the right direction, but still ... the likelihood that the software
> would even benefit another elevator manufacturer seems unrealistic ...
This is where we come full circle in a discussion that has largely been
tangential to what the original message was about. First of all, the freedoms
associated with Free Software go far beyond whether only the producers get
benefits from such transparency: to focus only on that would be a classic
"open source" argument.
Where this returns to the original message is in precisely the matter of
whether people can make a decent living and do so ethically. The second point
made in that message may seem like a totally separate thing from the
experience of the software developer working on Uber's infrastructure. Here's
a quote contrasting the benefits of a driver and a developer at Uber:
"Keep in mind that you don’t get fringe benefits as an independent contractor.
No paid sick leave or vacation days, no subsidized health insurance or free
coffee or snacks in the company cafeteria. No employer matching contributions
to your 401(k) savings plan. No educational assistance, group term life
insurance, health savings accounts and so forth.
Things would be different if you worked for Uber Technologies. You would
receive a 401(k) plan, gym reimbursement, nine paid company holidays, full
medical/dental/visions package and an unlimited vacation policy. You might
even get snacks in Uber’s lunchroom."
Just as Uber and other companies do very nicely out of the "gig economy" by
encouraging people to work without normal employment protections and rights,
emphasising the "flexible" aspects of working as a contractor and the
supposedly greater rewards available, those doing the work appear to end up
working for less, paying for necessities out of their own pocket (like
healthcare and insurance), or maybe even doing without those things
completely. And people working for Uber's competitors experience an erosion of
their own working conditions as Uber unfairly competes and forces those
competitors to reduce their own expenses.
Now, software development for Uber might be done on a regular employment
contract, meaning that people in those jobs have escaped the "gig economy"
(for now), but elsewhere the drive for deregulation and exploitation still
applies. When you note that "paying to develop free software is a step in the
right direction", it indicates that people still expect Free Software
developers to work for less than others or even for nothing, all because some
people made a thing out of "open source" being more economically "efficient",
and thus introducing a rather similar phenomenon of leaning on the workers to
be cheaper at producing stuff so that businesses can be more profitable.
So it turns out that those of us wanting to write Free Software and get paid
for it actually have more in common with the average Uber driver than one
might first have thought. Carsten's objections are both valid ones after all.
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