In early 2019, Trebor Scholz (Associate Professor for Culture & Media at The New School in New York City) appointed Jonas Pentzien from platforms2share as research fellow at the newly-founded Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy (ICDE). As part of this fellowship, Jonas Pentzien will develop a comparative study of legislative obstacles for platform cooperatives that investigates the question of how the emerging political and legal frameworks for the digital economy in the United States, France, and Germany come to affect platform cooperatives.
To get a better understanding of the situation for platform coops in the United States, Jonas Pentzien spent the better part of April 2019 in New York City and Baltimore, where he met with a variety of platform founders and members in order to discuss the institutional, political and legal challenges that come with founding or running a platform cooperative.
In NYC, he learned about Ampled, a cooperatively organized platform that aims at reshaping the way music artists and fans interact. Following in the footsteps of crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon, the team at Ampled intends to create a space in which artists can be supported directly by their community through monthly recurring payments. By paying a fixed three dollars a month fee, members of the Ampled-community can unlock access to exclusive content that artists post on their page. However, contrary to platforms such as Patreon, both the artists as well as the supporters own the platform and therefore collectively decide on how it should be developed – and where the generated surplus goes.
Jonas Pentzien also had the chance to speak to Up & Go, a platform for cleaning services that is collectively-owned by a variety of cleaning cooperatives operating in the country’s largest metropolis. Up & Go’s primary aims are to integrate low-income workers with an immigration background into the quickly changing platform economy as well as to provide customers with a fair and sustainable alternative in the growing house cleaning industry in New York City. Hence, in their public communication, Up & Go emphasizes the fact that by using the platform, customers are hiring worker cooperatives and thereby support local communities and fair labor practices. While the platform currently focuses exclusively on the market in NYC, the long-term plan is to grow horizontally and to also integrate worker cooperatives from other cities.
During his time in Baltimore, Jonas Pentzien also got to know the Staffing Cooperative, which aims at nothing less than a transformation of the entire US-American staffing industry. Proceeding from the provocative statement that “staffing sucks – we’re doing it different,” the cooperative follows a strategy of bringing together communities of worker owners operating in heterogeneous markets, that are nevertheless organized collectively under one roof in the Staffing Cooperative. As such, the cooperative incorporates one holding, Core Staffing, that specializes in labor industries for people that are coming home from prison and jail, as well as another holding, Tribe, that aims at providing a digital on-demand staffing platform for individuals working in the tech and creative sector.