Transcription Company Rev Slashes Pay for Gig Workers
Cuts represent a 33% decrease in pay for work that was already considered underpaid
There is a long history of companies exploiting workers through mistreatment and low pay, and this is unquestionably true of online companies employing freelancers and gig workers. Instacart recently inspired strikes from its workers due to declining tips, and earlier this year both Lyft and Uber were at the center of worker strikes due to complaints of about pay and unreasonable hours. (Mohan 2019) A new addition to this line of problematic companies is Rev, which employs gig workers for transcription, captioning, and translation jobs.
Previously, workers doing transcription for Rev earned at least 45 cpm (cents per minute) as baseline pay. (Mohan 2019; Menegus 2019a; Doctorow 2019; Rev Customer 2019) Given that one minute of audio typically requires four minutes of work to accurately transcribe, Revvers earned about $6.35/hour on average. This is already a low wage, especially given that some files require more time and work than a 1:4 ratio – transcription jobs available through Rev include legal files and other jargon and research-heavy topics. (Mohan 2019; Doctorow 2019)
But this has changed. Last week, Rev cut baseline pay rates by 33%, bringing it down to 30 cpm. (Menegus 2019a; Menegus 2019b; Rev Customer 2019) This brings the hourly rate down to just $4.50 (Mohan 2019; Doctorow 2019) In response to worker complaints about this pay cut, Rev has argued that only a small number of jobs pay as low as 30 cpm and that, overall, pay has increased by as much as 36%. (Mohan 2019) Rev also stated that workers have full transparency about the length, audio quality, etc. of files before they choose them and are completely free to accept or reject any jobs available to them. (Mohan 2019; Doctorow 2019; Menegus 2019b)
In reality, the overall pay for most jobs has dropped. According to an anonymous statement from one Revver, “Almost all files that were formerly 45 cpm were dropped to the 30 cpm tier. Most of the files that were formerly 50 cpm dropped to the 45 cpm tier and so on.” (Menegus 2019a) Some files are available for rates as high as 80 cpm, but these are jobs that have been in the queue for days because the quality of the file is so poor that they are considered unworkable. So the so-called increase in pay that Rev claims to offer is largely only available on files that no one will do, and the majority of workable files have been dramatically reduced because of how Rev has re-tiered its pay structure. (Menegus 2019a)
Moreover, these changes were rolled out without workers being properly forewarned. No emails were sent out to staff. Instead, a post was made to the internal message board announcing the changes. Many workers, however, do not use this message board, or else check it infrequently. (Mohan 2019; Menegus 2019a; Menegus 2019b)
It also must be noted that this change in pay is a move backward compared to how most companies operate. At other jobs, long-term employees and those who excel in their work are rewarded with raises. Or, at the very least, workers do not have to worry about their pay rates decreasing during their time with a specific company. But this is the second time Rev has rolled out major pay cuts. “[I]n 2016 … [Rev] did away with some tasks that paid extra, no longer rounded all minutes up, and dropped their base price from 50 cpm to 48 cpm and then shortly later to 45 cpm.” (Menegus 2019a)
Worse still, Rev has been punishing workers for speaking out against pay cuts. Workers have been protesting the change and refusing to take lower paying jobs. They are also leaving comments in the unclaim section for such jobs urging others not to take them because of the low pay, which has resulted in those workers “[being] threatened with losing forum privileges if they continue to leave these comments.” (Menegus 2019a) The previously mentioned anonymous Revver also revealed that they had “been subjected to arbitrary silencing” on the forums for speaking out against these changes, even though they “did not violate forum guidelines.” (Menegus 2019a)
This all adds up to seriously shady business practices. Shady enough that many of Rev’s clients have signed a petition in protest of these changes, urging Rev to treat its workers fairly and offer them a realistic pay rate for the hard work they do. (Rev Customer 2019) It remains to be seen what, if anything, Rev will do in response to this petition. Will it roll back the pay cuts? Will it rebalance the changed pay structure? Or will it dig in its heels and continue to deny its workers a fair wage?
Doctorow, Cory. 2019. “Transcription Service Rev.com Cuts ‘Professional Transcriptionists’’ Effective Hourly Wage From $6.35 to $4.50.” BoingBoing. Retrieved November 14, 2019 (https://boingboing.net/2019/11/13/steno-pool-to-serfdom.html).
Menegus, Bryan. 2019a. “There is a Point Where a Person Can’t Do Anymore.” Gizmodo. Retrieved November 14, 2019 (https://gizmodo.com/there-is-a-point-where-a-person-cant-do-anymore-1839808189).
Menegus, Bryan. 2019b. “Transcription Platform Rev Slashes Minimum Pay For Workers.” Gizmodo. Retrieved November 14, 2019 (https://gizmodo.com/transcription-platform-rev-slashes-minimum-pay-for-work-1839784941).
Mohan, Pavithra. 2019. “How Yet Another Gig Company is Changing Rates and Hurting Workers.” Fast Company. Retrieved November 14, 2019 (https://www.fastcompany.com/90429522/yet-another-gig-company-is-changing-the-rules-for-workers).
Rev Customer. 2019. “Support from Customers for Fair Wages for Rev.com Workers.” Coworker. Retrieved November 14, 2019 (https://www.coworker.org/petitions/support-from-customers-for-fair-wages-for-rev-com-workers).