Catherine Powell Spotlights the Inequality of “Ghost Work” Exacerbated by Pandemic

Catherine Powell (’94), Professor at Fordham University School of Law, coauthored a blog post for the Council on Foreign Relations regarding recognizing and protecting workers who provide essential but unseen services, as “ghost work” expanded throughout pandemic (“The Robots Are Coming, but We’ll Still Have a Global Digital Underclass,” Aug. 12). Even less visible than these workers (who ensure Amazon Prime customers’ orders are fulfilled with quick turn-arounds) are the people engaged in ‘ghost work’ who manage and clean up data to feed to training algorithms, which support e-commerce and our broader digital economy. . . . From labeling data to transcribing audio to content moderation, ghost work happens when tech companies assign tasks to an unseen and unacknowledged workforce (that has few, if any, labor protections), rather than full time workers. . . . To improve structural inequalities and conditions for workers employed in ghost work and the larger gig economy, the public and private sectors should work together—along with worker organizations—in order to find transnational solutions ensuring all workers, regardless of formal employment status, receive the benefits and legal protections they are due.”