It took a single blog post from Taylor Swift to force change at the world’s biggest company. On Sunday, Swift announced her latest album, 1989, wouldn’t be available on Apple’s new streaming service. The singer-songwriter blamed the company’s plan to not pay royalties to artists during the three-month trial period, when Apple Music would be free to users. “We don’t ask for free iPhones,” she wrote. “Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music with no compensation.” By that evening, Apple had reversed its policy, with executive Eddy Cue tweeting to Swift: “We hear you.” Now that Swift is the world’s most effective corporate ombudsperson, who should she tackle next? We humbly suggest three other recent cases where an underdog could use some help seeking fair payment.
The ride-sharing service keeps its costs low by classifying its drivers as independent contractors, meaning it doesn’t need to pay minimum wage or provide benefits. However, the California Labor Commissioner recently ruled that drivers qualified as employees, since the company is “involved in every aspect of the operation.” Florida officials made a similar ruling in May, while courts in five other states classified drivers as contract employees. Some argue U.S. states need a “dependent contractor” category, similar to what exists in Canadian jurisdictions, which affords certain benefits to contract employees that derive exclusive income from a sole employer.
What she could argue: “We don’t ask for free ride-sharing. Please don’t ask your drivers to offer their services without an appropriate employment classification.”
The Internet giant recently announced it would pay certain authors based on the number of pages read in a book, rather than the number of times that a work is downloaded. The company contends it’s making the change in response to feedback from authors who feel the current system doesn’t recognize the extra effort involved in producing a lengthy tome. Even so, some observers contend the changes—which only affect the 800,000 titles in the “Lending Library” offered under the Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime services—gives an unfair advantage to page-turning potboilers over heftier, more substantive fare.
What she could argue: “We don’t ask for free Kindles. Please don’t ask authors to provide you with nothing but cliffhangers.”
The Chinese government is often accused on unfair trade practices, most recently facing allegations of flooding the U.S. market with cheap steel, thus driving down prices. Five major steel producers recently filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission; the European Commission has already levied tariffs against China because of the practice. The U.S. complaint alleges Chinese producers unfairly benefit from 48 separate subsidy programs.
What she could argue: “We don’t ask for cheap steel. Please don’t force U.S. policymakers to provide industry subsidies without justification.”
In the event that your business—like, say, an independent artist beholden to an international corporation—is having trouble extracting payment, here are seven proven ways to get paid. And here are some tips for ensuring payment comes in a timely fashion. After all, T-Swift can only do so much.
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