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Gig Work

Note to readers: this story features an exotic dancer and details of Santa’s life when he’s off-the-clock.

A lot of ink has been spilled describing the the “gig economy.” This sector – comprised of quasi-independent and sometimes short-term jobs – has been made famous by the rise of Uber and other tech-enabled businesses. 

But this part of the economy is more than than ride sharing or local rock bands: in 2017, nearly a third of American workers engaged in the “gig” economy for some part of their income, according to the Federal Reserve.

On this episode of 90.5 WESA’s series Still Working, we take a look at four “gigs” and the western Pennsylvanians who work them. Jennie K. Snyder is an adjunct (part-time) faculty member and instructor of fine arts at the Community College of Allegheny County. Santa John Suhr makes Christmas an annual six-week “gig” at Downtown Pittsburgh’s Peoples Gas Holiday Market. Iris – we aren’t using her real name because she has concerns for her safety – has worked on and off as a stripper for six years. And Al Hastings performs his magic as Al Mazing some 250 times a year.

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Still Working is our podcast about how work shapes who we are and how we see the world.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA's development and transportation reporter. She previously worked for Keystone Crossroads, a statewide reporting initiative that covers problems facing Pennsylvania's cities and possible solutions. Before joining Keystone Crossroads, Margaret produced a 48-part radio series about Pittsburgh's lesser-known history, biking 2,000 miles around the region to do so.