Wednesday, March 27, 2019
As I have been arguing for years, the Gig Economy is not the exception, it is "the plan." From the just-released, very useful National Employment Law Project report:
Ride-hailing giant Uber and aspiring “Uber of home services” Handy, along with other tech-companies-cum-service-providers, have been conspiring with powerful corporate allies and lobbyists on a far-reaching, multi-million-dollar influence campaign to rewrite worker classification standards for their own benefit— and to workers’ detriment. Their goal: to pass policies that lock so-called “gig” workers who find jobs via online platforms into independent contractor status, stripping them of the basic labor rights and protections afforded to employees and allowing the companies to evade payroll taxes and worker lawsuits. This report sketches the policy campaign, the cast of characters involved, when and where they have mounted efforts, what might be driving them, and the tactics they are using to advance their cause. It concludes with some examples of successful resistance to these efforts, from which lessons can be drawn for the fights to come.
The report has very useful timelines and charts showing the steady advance of the Uber/Handy Inc. model. A number of folks argue the recent statistics show the Gig/independent contractor economy is not as large as I think it is (by actually talking to my working class family and friends on the ground). We will see, but I think we are just getting started. In a key part of the report the "nothing to see here" argument is addressed as follows:
According to the latest estimates, gig workers comprise only a small share—about one percent—of the U.S. workforce. In many cities, that share is likely larger—a recent analysis found that if Uber classified its drivers as employees, it would be the single largest private-sector employer in New York City.
Many gig workers, who are disproportionately black and Latino, work in occupations that have long been plagued by industry efforts to erode labor standards—in the form of misclassification and legal carve-outs. In parts of the economy such as the taxi industry and the domestic work sector, the impact of the encroaching gig model reverberates far beyond those engaged by these companies, applying downward pressure on job quality for a much larger set of workers. And gig companies have been joined by more traditional companies to push polices designed to scale up their model across the U.S. economy. Tech-mediated gig work is the latest iteration of a 50year-old pattern of workplace fissuring.
Michael C. Duff