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How a Gig Worker Revolt Begins

Nathaniel Popper
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Until last week, Li Zilles was one of the many nameless and faceless contractors toiling in the bowels of the internet, providing online services that might have been mistaken for the work of artificial intelligence.

The job: to transcribe audio files for the start-up, churning out texts without clients ever knowing the name of the transcriber.

This was a lonely existence, and not an easy one. The pay, even though the work was full-time, was little enough that food stamps became necessary.

Then, earlier this month, Rev told its contractors that it would start taking more of the money that clients paid for basic jobs. That left the contractors with just 30 cents of every dollar paid for the easiest work (recordings with the least amount of background noise) instead of the 45 cents they had been getting before.

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