Kristy Milland is a student at Ryerson University who has spent the last 10 years as a worker on Amazon Mechanical Turk. She is community manager of TurkerNation.com and also operates other tools and sites for Turkers. Recently, she led the Dear Jeff Bezos campaign on WeAreDynamo.org, which brought about a great deal of media interest. In an attempt to give Turkers a voice through her work, she was interviewed by many journalistic outlets across the globe. The paper on the project, “We Are Dynamo: Overcoming Stalling and Friction in Collective Action for Crowd Workers” by lead author Niloufar Salehi, won “Best of” at CHI 2015. Her interests also lie in how to make the work environment for digital laborers more ethical, and the creation of platforms run by workers is one of her passions.
Platform cooperativism is a way to put the power back in the hands of the workers. In offline work, the ideal has always been to give ownership of the means of production to those who make that production possible, but it is a struggle that has yet to be realized widely. Since online platforms which facilitate labor are still in the early stages, it will be much easier for us to change the trajectory of future platforms by starting cooperatives today. With costs of operation low and incentive to use ethical platforms with happy workers high, the time is right to start building cooperatives and make the work environment one which enables the workers to take the power back and use it to ensure fair and ethical treatment as the norm.
I want to talk about change. Uber drivers strike, and Turkers write to Jeff Bezos, but they face great hurdles in trying to get their voices heard. When you ask these workers what they’re looking to change in their work environment, they may say they want to make more money, or that they want to feel more safe, or that they just want more respect. Regardless of what a worker wants to improve, an easy way to ensure that a workplace is offering what the majority of workers are looking for is to let them run the business. This goes beyond employees holding stock options or having some sort of feedback mechanism which reaches those at the top. The workers need to run the platform. Their experience as workers facilitates their ability as managers, and the benefits of such a system enhance the platform’s utility to both workers and customers. Using my experience as a leader in the Turker community, and as a participant in the discussion around the creation of new platforms, I want to talk about change in a way which facilitates action.