AS CORONAVIRUS closed music venues and independent creative businesses across the country, street artists painted their towns red, green, blue and pink, bringing colour to the shutters and raising a much-needed smile. A world away from the old image of outlaws daubing graffiti on buildings in the dead of night, this is commissioned art, bringing creativity to empty spaces with the full blessing of the site owners.
In Manchester, muralist Qubek was invited to remind passers-by of the good times they’ve enjoyed at live music hotspots by painting the closed shutters of the O2 Victoria Warehouse and O2 Ritz Manchester. As part of O2’s national This Is Just An Interval campaign, the venues’ exteriors have a new look while fans await the return of live music.
‘It was quite an emotional thing for me, really, remembering the great times I’ve had in those venues, particularly the Ritz, which was where I had my first big nights out,’ Qubek recalls. ‘I used to go there every Wednesday with my mates, so I’ve loved the opportunity from O2 to express myself on the venue.
‘At first, I wasn’t really sure how to sum that up, but as I got started I realised that, for me, it’s all about the people who make these venues what they are: the musicians and the people who work across the gig economy, and how hard it is for them at the moment.
‘The lonely microphone on the floor of an empty venue is symbolic of how people are feeling right now, not knowing when things are going to get better, but adding the text “this is just an interval” gives the piece a message of hope. That’s my idea behind it, anyway.’
As the artist behind Manchester’s famous bee murals, he is used to capturing the city’s creative, industrious spirit. His depiction of 22 bees which adorns the Northern Quarter’s Koffee Pot commemorate the lives lost in 2017’s Manchester Arena attack, and act as a moving reminder of the city’s spirit and creativity.
‘I’ve painted bees for years, little Manchester worker bees, I’ve always loved them as signifying the hardworking people of the city,’ explains Qubek. ‘But it was after the arena attack and the tragedy there that they became particularly poignant for a lot of people, and I was asked to do more of them.
‘It was an opportunity to try to help at a time where we all felt pretty hopeless — and I think if you have an opportunity to put something back, you should always try to take it. The ones I’ve painted so far have been auctioned for about £90,000 for charity.’ Qubek, who lives in Old Trafford with his partner and young family, is also keen to put as much as he can back into the wider community.
‘Other than commissions, I do a lot of work running workshops for young people and helping them channel their creativity with public art,’ he explains.
‘There’s an idea that we are all running around at night spray-painting train carriages, and while there are people who do, and I did start out being a bit naughty where I sprayed, the vast majority of us are working on positive artwork, designed to inspire the community.
‘I see so many talented kids coming through, and it’s really hard for them these days to find an outlet for that creativity. There is a great community on Instagram, too. Every day, I look at the murals and street art being done around the world and it takes your breath away. We’re part of an amazing global movement.
‘That was the thing for me about the dropped mic and us all waiting for live music to return. The creative community is huge, and whether that’s as artists, musicians, writers or any of the other industries in the gig economy, we are all part of a wider community supporting each other.’
■ Instagram @qubekmanchester
Gig Economy Market Demand, Top Key Players, Applications, Business Statistics and Research Methodology by Forecast to 2027 – The Pinstripe Empire
Delivery Company Offers Gig Workers $25 to Get COVID Vaccine
Grocery delivery company Instacart said on Thursday it would pay $25 to its over half-a-million gig workers if they chose to take time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The company, which has been lobbying government agencies for its delivery workers to get early access to vaccines, said eligible part-time employees such as in-store shoppers will also be offered the stipend starting February 1.
Gig workers are independent contractors who perform on-demand services, including delivering groceries. Instacart is not mandating its workers to get vaccinated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people over 75 and essential workers are scheduled to receive the vaccine in a later phase, after healthcare workers and nursing home residents.
Dollar General Corp. said on Wednesday it will offer frontline employees four hours worth of pay after they get the vaccine, while Walmart Inc. has agreements with U.S. states to administer the vaccine to its employees should they choose to receive it once they are eligible.
Instacart’s gig economy based workforce, who are not given health insurance and offered limited sick pay, has grown 150% over the last year as its business boomed from people turning more to online shopping during the health crisis.
Reuters reported in November that Instacart had picked Goldman Sachs to lead preparations for its IPO, which could come this year and value it at around $30 billion.
(Reporting by in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)
Top Photo: Instacart delivery person; photo supplied by Instacart.
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.
The most important insurance news,in your inbox every business day.
Get the insurance industry’s trusted newsletter
Many Oregon gig workers got regular unemployment benefits. Here’s why it matters
Christopher Harley was shocked when he got regular unemployment benefits.
After all, he was a gig worker when the pandemic hit Oregon in early 2020, and no company had considered him their employee for many years. He drove passengers for Uber and Lyft, delivered meals for DoorDash and Grubhub, and dropped off groceries for Instacart and Amazon Flex. He bounced between those apps, cycling through numerous travelers, restaurants, grocery stores and apartment buildings each day.
“My doctor immediately said you shouldn’t be doing this type of work,” said Harley, 53. He had suffered through pneumonia before and was scared of bringing the coronavirus home to his family in Portland.
So as the economy shut down in March, Harley was relieved to hear help was on the way.
The kind of help he got, however, raises fundamental questions about how businesses operating in Oregon are taxed — and whether gig economy companies should be required to pay into the state’s employment safety net.
The federal CARES Act created a new class of unemployment benefits for gig workers. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, covered workers who usually don’t qualify for jobless benefits because they’re considered independent contractors, not employees.
“It pointed directly to the work that I was doing,” Harley said. “It was me.”
The Oregon Employment Department disagreed.
In June, the agency began paying Harley — not the federal PUA he expected, but regular state benefits instead.
In doing so, it paid him from a state trust fund that about 145,000 employers in Oregon contribute to through payroll taxes. The fund pays for benefits when employees get laid off. But gig companies such as Uber and Lyft don’t pay unemployment taxes for drivers and delivery people, who they consider independent contractors.
“To this day, it’s still not clear to me why that decision was made,” Harley said, “but it protected myself and my family the last nine months.”
Harley is not alone.
Court documents and interviews show the Oregon Employment Department paid many gig workers traditional benefits from the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. People who drove enough hours for Uber and Lyft received benefits normally reserved for laid-off employees, as did many drivers with income from Grubhub, Instacart and DoorDash. Some gig drivers ferrying groceries and packages for Amazon Flex got regular benefits too.
The benefits went out, but payroll taxes hadn’t gone in.
Uber is a large company, flirting with a stock-market value of $100 billion. Meanwhile, many small businesses struggling to survive the pandemic, including restaurants and gyms, have seen their unemployment taxes jump.
‘All the claimants are deemed employees’
Shortly after Christopher Harley received his first payment in June, a memo went out at the Oregon Employment Department.
A manager had an update from the agency’s tax unit. Tax unit employees had the laborious task of determining which claimants were independent contractors eligible for PUA and which were employees who could get regular benefits. So the tax unit was contacting gig employers one claim at a time — a painfully slow process that contributed to an immense payment backlog.
The unit was swamped. Leaders decided to streamline.
“Tax has made a decision to stop conducting interviews with the following companies,” manager Kristine Wardlow wrote to adjudicators on June 26, 2020, “all the claimants are deemed employees and you just need to obtain POE [proof of earnings] and process the claim.”
Then in bold, capital letters, she listed the biggest names in the gig economy:
AMAZON FLEX and or AMAZON.COM”
The June 26 email later became public in court documents filed in a class action lawsuit against the Employment Department and its acting director.
The documents included excerpts of a deposition recorded the following October with Lindsi Leahy, the head of the department’s unemployment insurance division. She confirmed that, prior to June, the tax unit had tried to contact Uber or Lyft every single time a driver filed for PUA.
In the lawsuit, petitioners represented by the Oregon Law Center focused on payment delays. They criticized the Employment Department for conducting time-consuming, individual interviews with companies such as Uber and Lyft when unemployment had skyrocketed.
“OED did not issue a global decision about how to treat these employers’ payments to gig workers until June 26, three and a half months after the COVID-19 emergency began,” the lawyers wrote in one motion.
The Oregon Employment Department would not confirm to OPB whether it considers gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers to be employees rather than independent contractors. It declined to elaborate on the court filings themselves, citing pending litigation. It also denied a public records request from OPB, citing a law that protects employer privacy.
But there is further evidence in the court documents themselves.
In a November declaration, David Gerstenfeld, the acting head of the Employment Department, confirmed that the agency had made a global decision on how to treat payments to gig workers from companies including Uber and Lyft.
The petitioners’ motion, Gerstenfeld wrote, “correctly narrates how OED innovated to streamline its process for certain ‘gig workers.’”
Some ride-hailing drivers who started getting paid PUA were later surprised when the Employment Department switched them to regular benefits.
And some drivers received regular unemployment benefits even before that memo went out last June.
Employee or independent contractor? It matters
Emilie Wyqued was working full-time for Uber and Lyft when the pandemic hit. She counts herself lucky. By the end of April, the state began paying her regular unemployment benefits, even though she hadn’t worked a W-2 job in years. Wyqued said she spoke with a worker in the Employment Department’s tax unit.
“She actually called me and said they’re trying to process as many drivers as possible as employees,” Wyqued said. “And put them on regular unemployment.”
The Oregon Employment Department relies on a definition in state law to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. The law outlines several tests for independent contractors. It asks whether they truly control how their work is performed and whether they have an independently established business.
By treating many gig workers as employees, the Employment Department is in line with states around the country who have confronted Uber and Lyft with a growing number of fines, laws and lawsuits.
New Jersey, for example, sought to charge Uber $649 million in 2019 for years of unpaid employment taxes.
When California enacted a law that effectively classified ride-hailing drivers as employees, Uber and Lyft fought back — and won.
The two companies spent $100 million to pass an initiative allowing them to continue treating workers as independent contractors. DoorDash, Instacart and Postmates kicked in tens of millions more. At more than $200 million, Proposition 22 was the most expensive ballot fight in California’s history.
Employees come with costs gig companies do not want to bear. Among them: required contributions to state unemployment insurance funds.
‘An enforcement issue’
Researchers with the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center estimated Uber and Lyft would have paid California more than $400 million in unemployment payroll taxes over five years if the companies treated drivers as employees.
In Oregon, these gig companies would owe far less in unemployment taxes. The state has a small fraction of the ride-hailing drivers that California does.
Still, some Oregon drivers wonder whether the state is preparing to crack down on Uber and Lyft.
Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, director of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, doesn’t know the answer. But she doesn’t discount the possibility.
“As soon as they pay out regular unemployment benefits out to misclassified workers, that starts the ball rolling,” she said. “Then it becomes an enforcement issue.”
The Employment Department can audit and bill companies believed to be misclassifying employees. It can charge penalties and interest if those companies don’t pay.
Oregon has paid out more than $2 billion in regular benefits during the pandemic, leaving about $3.8 billion in its trust fund at the start of this year. Employment Department officials say Oregon is in far better shape than many other states, some of whom have had to borrow money to prop up their trust funds.
However, more than 85% of employers who pay unemployment taxes in Oregon will see their rates increase in 2021. Because of the formula used to replenish the fund, businesses that suffered the greatest layoffs, such as restaurants and gyms, bear some of the biggest tax increases.
Harley, the gig worker who worried about bringing the pandemic home, has now joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed. He exhausted his regular unemployment benefits and the first round of a federal extension program. He’s been looking for other work for the last nine months, with no luck.
Wyqued also exhausted her regular unemployment benefits and moved onto an extension program. Driving passengers during the pandemic still feels too dangerous.
As 2020 came to a close, Congress and President Donald Trump agreed to extend federal benefit programs into March. But Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was designed to be temporary. The question is whether the Oregon Employment Department’s decision to treat many gig workers as employees is permanent — and what that means for the future of gig companies, the unemployment insurance trust fund and the many Oregonians who rely on government aid when they lose their jobs.
How Credit Unions Can Capture the Gig Economy Market
There Are At Least One Dozen Possible Candidates For the Bears’ Defensive Coordinator Gig (Let’s Meet Some!)
GiG Partners Up With Armstrong Operation Ltd
Gig economy workers ‘hit harder’ financially
Jenny McCarthy Quit New Year’s Eve Host Gig for 2019-2020
Companies1 year ago
GiG Partners Up With Armstrong Operation Ltd
Economy12 months ago
Gig economy workers ‘hit harder’ financially
Work1 year ago
Jenny McCarthy Quit New Year’s Eve Host Gig for 2019-2020
Economy1 year ago
How to grow your company in times of gig economy and digital nomadism – TechTalks
Companies10 months ago
1.8 million gig workers were purged from Upwork – here’s why
Companies12 months ago
BLOG: AB 5 will kill the gig economy, force more companies to leave
Work6 months ago
Berkeley Nuclear Security Professor Jasmina Vujic’s Bizarre Side Gig Is Far-Right Serbian Activist
Workers1 year ago
U.K. Election and Taxes • C Corp Conversion • Gig Work Defense