The Gig Economy: Precarious and Anxious

Gig Economy: Biggest scam to hit workers

I am part of the gig economy. When I am not stuck in the kitchen radicalizing myself, I take side contracting jobs (gigs) when I can from the list of contacts I’ve made in my years of working in the formal economy. I am not dependent on this for my income but anything I make will go towards the family budget or savings nest egg.

My week started out normal, if not slightly sunny and optimistic (which is rare), I had what seemed a fairly simple contracting job and it was going along smoothly. It hadn’t taken up an inordinate amount of my time and it appears to be moving towards completion. Many moons ago I was a mortgage loan processor before the market crash and all that really means is I am a glorified paper pusher. The listing and selling agents make the deal (and get all the big fat commissions) and I make the deal happen by completing the mortgage process for the buyer. It’s not a hard job but a tedious one, one that requires patience because nine times out of ten, you are dealing with a buyer who knows nothing about what they are signing, what they are doing and all they are thinking about is getting the shiny keys to their new house. I get a fee for doing all this work and I don’t get compensated unless the deal is ‘closed’ or until the buyers get their keys. I don’t really pursue these gigs, they sort of find me and I take them on if I can perform the contract in the time required. I emphasize this point because for many people, they don’t have this luxury, they need the ‘gig’ and more importantly they need the ‘gig’ to close so they can get paid.

The buyer in this case is purchasing a condo on a FHA (Federal Housing Administration) sponsored loan, which means they can get into a home with 3.5% down payment with very lenient income to debt ratio requirements. It’s the preferred method for most first time home buyers or buyers who don’t have a lot of savings but make a healthy income to afford a mortgage payment. However, one almost always non-negotiable requirement of purchasing a condo under a FHA loan (and conventional Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac loans too) is that there can be no pending litigation against the HOA (Homeowners Association). Pending litigation means that the Homeowners Association (a motley crew of builders, investors and homeowners themselves) can become financially insolvent and the whole condominium complex needs to be liquidated to meet the lawsuit compensation; which means the mortgage holder could lose their investment in the condo.

So after I’ve done about 90% of the leg work and now it’s just a matter of the buyer signing her loan documents to finalize the closing, we hit a snag. What did we find out from the Homeowner’s Association? There is a pending lawsuit against them. Someone fell in the common area while trimming shrubs and injured himself. The HOA said the lawsuit was frivolous just to extort money from them and they in the process of resolving it, but it’s been filed since late 2015 and it’s still pending. This particular detail which can derail whole deals is the responsibility of the listing agent to find out BEFORE they list the property to sell. And it’s also the responsibility of the seller’s agent to make sure they are not advising their buyer to purchase a condo with a pending lawsuit against it. Clearly no one bothered to check. The finger pointing commences. From prior experience, I know in these situations the blame almost always gets placed on someone with the least power and least compensated (The listing and seller agent get 5% commission between them, the loan agent – person who gets them the loan gets anywhere from 2-3% of the loan amount for commission paid by the lender, I get $925 for processing the loan). I could smell the blame coming my way a mile away.

Between the listing and seller’s agent there is over 40 years of ‘experience’, as all real estate agents love to boast about their experience, I have an on and off 10 years experience with loan processing, the last time I did loan processing as a full time job was 2008. I was being asked if I had a ‘check list’ I referred to when I worked on my files, to make sure nothing slips through the cracks. On top of coordinating between 4 to 5 agencies and departments, sending hundreds of emails to make sure everyone has everything they needed, I will not do the jobs of people who out earn me by almost ten times because of their carelessness, which can cause the whole deal to tank and the buyer to lose their deposit. It’s not my problem. I told them point blank that I am not here to compensate for their mistakes. And the listing and seller’s agents each have their own assistants as well. What were they doing? Privately, I told my contact at the lender that I don’t compensate for the stupidity of others, I am sorry all of your big paychecks are at risk, but up until now, between this and all of my other responsibilities, I’ve been more than on top of everything. I’ve not only met every deadline but stayed ahead of it. No one will pin this major, idiotic, stupid blunder on me.

We are to find out what recourses we have on Monday, if we can switch the loan program, which then means the loan agent won’t be happy as his commission will be cut, or worse, no one gets paid because if I were the buyer in this case, I’d sack everyone. The days where I ran around solving everyone’s problems to prove my worth are over. I know my worth, I know my value, and it’s a lot more than $925 and I am sure as hell not going to take the blame for the incompetence of those who have much more experience than me.

This is one side of the precarious gig economy. The $925 I made would have gone towards utilities, food and part of the rent or even to our savings. I am lucky, I have other sources of income. I don’t depend on these $925 contracting fees to meet my monthly expenses but if I did and I just now found out that one-third of the monthly income I must earn to just meet my minimal expenses to live is in question or perhaps gone, I’d be going into a panic and meltdown right now. My week ended with me being in a foul mood, for wasting time on a deal that was basically dead to begin with and the listing agent or her assistant bothered to place a phone call to the HOA offices all of this could have been avoided. But at least I am not panicking or spiraling into the rabbit hole of anxiety which would then render me non-functional and thus unable to quickly find alternate ways to make up for my lost income. People who regularly suffer from anxiety know what I am talking about, when you are so anxious your heart races, brain freezes and you go on autopilot, instead of trying think quickly to resolve a crisis.

The gig economy is not cool. It’s not more relaxing or autonomous. It is fraught with anxiety especially if your compensation doesn’t come through for one reason or another. And then there is the issue of uncompensated labor. When a gig doesn’t pan out, you would have just wasted hours upon hours working for someone for free. This is more than surplus value, this is outright theft, theft of someone’s labor, time and resources (internet, wifi, office supplies, transportation expenses if they need to travel). This is the type of economy waiting for Millennials and those who have been laid off in the Great Recession and haven’t been able to find full time gainful employment since. Is it any wonder that mood disorders and addictions are on the rise?

Just yesterday a Texas representative by the name of Rodey Arrington (R-TX) justified cutting of SNAP benefits (food stamps) by using the Bible, saying that God said only those who work get to eat (‘If a man will not work he shall not eat.’ And he goes on to say ‘We heard that some of you are idle.’ ). People on SNAP don’t work so therefore they don’t deserve to eat. This piece of racist white trash thinks its fine to starve those who can’t get work, who can’t work, who are too ill to work by using the Bible as justification. He is the scum of this earth. It’s time to sharpen those guillotines.

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