Target's app-driven delivery service is the notorious Shipt, a company with a history of exploitative labor practices, including retaliation against those who dare to complain.

Shipt's workers have announced a strike on Jul 15, over a new "algorithmic pay model" that uses a black-box calculation to determine how much workers will receive for their labor, cutting their pay by 30-50%.


Previously, Shipt workers got a flat $5 plus 7.5% of the order total; under the new algorithmic system, workers' pay will be determined by a secret mix of "variables including high store traffic times, street traffic, and estimated store-to-door travel time."

This was nonconsensually trialled on Shipt workers in several cities who saw their pay fall by 30-50% (Target blamed some of this wage-theft on a "glitch"). Shipt workers risk their lives in the pandemic to keep our goods moving.


There were 100k Shipt workers before the pandemic; now there are at least 110k.

There's a name for the labor practices here: it's called chickenization.

The name comes from what happened to the poultry industry, which is larger and more profitable than at any time in US history, but which is also dominated by 3 giant monopolists who have placed poultry farmers in dire, lethal economic straits.


Chickenized workers don't get to determine how they work; they are not told how much they'll get paid; they don't know how much the people whom they serve pay for their work; they have no job security and no benefits.

Chicken farmers are required to buy feed, medicine, and chicks from the monopolist. They are required to build their chicken coops to monopolists' specs, taking out $1mm+ mortgages to do so. The monopolists control the lighting, scheduling, and all other aspects of the work.


The monopolists are the only entities that the farmers can sell their birds to. When that day comes, monopolists get to name a price and farmers have to take it, even if it means they lose money in the bargain.

Any complaint results in being shut out of the monopolist's system, which means you lose your farm and livelihood, and go bankrupt. Suicides among chicken farmers are sky-high. It's a much more lethally dangerous job than, say, being a cop.


Farmers who've complained to regulators or lawmakers faced even worse retaliation - one went into the chicken-coop-maintenance business and the monopolist barred any farmer from hiring him, depriving him of any chance of making a living.



Chickenization is the essence of the gig economy: an app tells you precisely what to do; you have to supply the capital to do the app company's business, you don't know what you'll earn, you don't know what your customer pays. You can be fired at any time, for no reason.

People who complain (like Uber drivers who call the cops to report assaults) get fired and barred for life, stuck with expensive capital investments that they can't make payments on.


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I learned the term "chickenization" last night when reading an advance copy of Zephyr Teachout's forthcoming and excellent "Break 'Em Up: Recovering Our Freedom from Big Ag, Big Tech, and Big Money.


As Teachout describes, chickenization is coming to every sector of the economy, and the "innovation" behind app-based gig work is not technological, it's figuring out how to chickenize another sector of workers.

From Postmates' chickenization of the entire restaurant sector to Monsanto's chickenization of the grain market to Shipt's chickenization of Target's 110,000-person army of delivery people.


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