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Almost a Third of Gig Workers Work Full Time. They Deserve Labor Protections Now

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Many labor advocates and policymakers argue that gig companies such as Uber, Lyft, Amazon, Instacart and DoorDash misclassify their workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees. This allows gig companies to deny their workers important labor protections in order to reduce costs. Surprisingly, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi recently agreed with his critics that gig workers deserve better than how he treats them. Yet Khosrowshahi refuses to hold Uber to his own higher standard, instead scapegoating the lack of legal mandates on the industry.

Gig companies have many incentives to misclassify their workers as independent contractors. One popular straw man argument Uber makes is that drivers do not want to be employees because they value flexibility. But many of Uber’s drivers cannot afford to take advantage of the supposed flexibility of gig work.

However, research on gig workers finds that almost a third of them work full time; 27% work 40 hours or more per week on average, and 11% work 50 hours or more per week. Some even work as much as 80 hours per week. This is not surprising since many gig companies like Uber often encourage their workers to keep working.

Among full-time gig workers, 42% say that they would prefer a 9-to-5 schedule, and 60% say their schedule does not vary from week to week. These numbers show that many gig workers actually value working traditionally predictable hours. However, algorithmic pricing strategies push gig workers to work when and where gig companies want them to.

Rather than classifying and treating almost one-third of gig workers like the full-time gig workers, Khosrowshahi says that Uber would willingly contribute to a portable benefits fund if and when gig companies were required to do so by law. What does this mean for gig workers who work already full time? It means they are not getting their due anytime soon.

Even if benefit funds were established, there would still be large gaps in gig worker labor protections. For example, Uber estimates that a driver averaging over 35 hours per week would accrue $1,350 in benefit funds in 2019 and suggests that that’s enough to cover two weeks of paid time off, or the median annual premium for subsidized health insurance. But gig workers working full time should not have to choose between paid time off and health insurance.

And though Uber argues that “most drivers already have some form of health insurance,” my research finds that about 40% of full-time gig workers do not have health insurance.

Furthermore, Uber’s benefits fund proposal is a distraction from critical policy debates on whether Uber actually pays its workers a minimum wage. Research finds that gig workers earn $14 per hour including tips before expenses and is in line with other research that finds that many gig workers effectively earn less than local minimum wage mandates.

Uber’s proposals also detract from the fact that as contractors, gig workers do not get access to workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination protections or employer contributions to Social Security.

Uber may be ready right now to pay more to give drivers new benefits and protections, but it does not plan to do anything until a law requires it. In fact, it has done the exact opposite. Rather than complying with a judge’s order to reclassify its workforce in accordance with existing California law, Uber and Lyft have threatened to shut down and leave many workers unemployed during a time when thousands of Americans are unable to find other jobs.

Almost a third of gig workers already work full time. These workers clearly deserve benefits now. Gig companies should not neglect full-time gig workers just because other gig workers work part time. It’s benevolent to recognize that gig workers deserve better. It’s disingenuous to deny them better even after companies are forced to. These workers deserve protections now.

Katherine Hill is a doctoral candidate in sociology at The University of Texas at Austin.

A version of this op-ed appeared in the Abilene Reporter News.

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Workers

New weekly unemployment claims in state rise to 17,130, gig worker claims spike – Sterling Journal-Advocate

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DENVER — An additional 17,130 people filed for traditional unemployment benefits in the week ending Nov. 28, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday, an increase of 2,001 from the week prior.

The number of people in Colorado who applied for state-level Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in that week rose nearly 93%, from 7,369 claims in the week ending Nov. 21 to 14,242 in the week ending Nov 28. That program is assistance for gig workers, the self-employed and others who wouldn’t normally qualify for regular benefits.

CDLE senior economist Ryan Gedney said the increases in that segment of claims coincided with 15 counties in Colorado going to higher levels of COVID-19 restrictions and may also be driven by claimants exhausting other types of benefits.

The total number of continuing claims made in the state was at 224,076 for the week of Nov. 7, which include all state and federal assistance programs, up 10,373 from the week before.

The amount of regular benefits paid out by the department declined by $2.4 million from the prior week to $30 million.

Several unemployment beneficiaries are expected to receive a one-time $375 payment from the state coffers after Gov. Jared Polis ordered payments as a small stimulus.

Nationwide, the U.S. Labor Department said 712,000 Americans filed for first-time benefits in the period, an increase of 75,000 from the week prior.

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

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DoorDash CEO Calls For 3-Step Plan To Modernize Workplace Law To Match Gig Innovation | Fisher Phillips

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In a recent op-ed penned in Business Insider, DoorDash co-founder and CEO Tony Xu laid out a three-step plan necessary to ensure that our nation’s workplace laws stay current to address the ever-growing gig economy by creating a hybrid model of worker somewhere between employee and independent contractor. The November 29 piece also discusses some of the ways in which his company and similar businesses have been instrumental in providing needed services to consumers and all-important compensation for workers looking to manage through the pandemic and ongoing financial crisis.

Some Facts And Figures

Xu explains why he think gig work has become a necessary component to the country’s economy, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. He notes that:

  • 7 million new workers joined the company’s platform since March 2020 to perform work;
  • during the first six-and-a-half months of the pandemic, workers on his company’s platform earned nearly $3.5 billion;
  • of that, $2.1 billion was earned by workers who live in zip codes with above-average Black and/or Latinx representation;
  • 76% of workers indicate that working for DoorDash has had a positive impact on their ability to provide for themselves and their family;
  • 91% of DoorDash workers work fewer than 10 hours per week, with an average of four or fewer hours;
  • 4 out of 5 DoorDash workers say that gig work is not their main source of income; and
  • more than 3 out of 4 of them say they have another job or are in school.

Why Is Innovation Needed?

Regular readers of this blog will appreciate these words from Xu: “Instead of getting caught in the no-win dichotomy of employment versus independent contracting, we need a third way that recognizes that this new approach to working is here to stay. That’s because workers want it and it provides the legal protections and benefits they deserve — it’s as simple as that.” He notes that the overwhelming support that Proposition 22 received from California voters is a testament to the importance of flexible work – and all the more reason why a new path is needed when it comes to workplace laws. “This is a signal to the rest of America that change is vital and now is the time for innovative solutions across the country,” he says.

Xu notes that he and his company are taking the lead and partnering with policymakers and a variety of stakeholders – including workers – in the hopes of building a legal framework that would support today’s workforce. “It’s a vision that reflects what Dashers have told us works best for them — not the workforce of 75 years ago,” he says, referencing the federal wage and hour law (the FLSA) that was crafted at a time that no one could have conceived of the concept of gig economy work as it currently stands.

So What Would Innovation Look Like? A 3-Step Plan

Xu suggests the need for a three-pronged platform to create the system necessary to support the gig economy of today. The three keys? It needs to be portable, proportional, and flexible. The system, as he proposes, would allow app-based gig workers to maintain their independence while getting access to employee-like benefits.

  • Portable: By connecting benefits to individual workers, individuals could freely move from platform to platform without interruption or loss of funding.
  • Proportional: Workers would receive the benefit of accident coverage and workers’ comp-like insurance in proportion to the engagement they have with a particular gig company.
  • Flexible: Gig workers would be able to choose the benefits they want or need, retaining the same sort of freedom that they enjoy with gig work itself.

Xu also notes that protections against workplace discrimination and harassment should exist for every worker – “full stop” – in any revised system.

This op-ed is another positive step towards advancing the conversation in this area. I recommend you read the entire piece here. We’ll continue to monitor this debate and report back with further developments.

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New weekly unemployment claims in state rise to 17,130, gig worker claims spike – The Fort Morgan Times

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DENVER — An additional 17,130 people filed for traditional unemployment benefits in the week ending Nov. 28, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment said Thursday, an increase of 2,001 from the week prior.

The number of people in Colorado who applied for state-level Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in that week rose nearly 93%, from 7,369 claims in the week ending Nov. 21 to 14,242 in the week ending Nov 28. That program is assistance for gig workers, the self-employed and others who wouldn’t normally qualify for regular benefits.

CDLE senior economist Ryan Gedney said the increases in that segment of claims coincided with 15 counties in Colorado going to higher levels of COVID-19 restrictions and may also be driven by claimants exhausting other types of benefits.

The total number of continuing claims made in the state was at 224,076 for the week of Nov. 7, which include all state and federal assistance programs, up 10,373 from the week before.

The amount of regular benefits paid out by the department declined by $2.4 million from the prior week to $30 million.

Several unemployment beneficiaries are expected to receive a one-time $375 payment from the state coffers after Gov. Jared Polis ordered payments as a small stimulus.

Nationwide, the U.S. Labor Department said 712,000 Americans filed for first-time benefits in the period, an increase of 75,000 from the week prior.

© 2020 BizWest Media LLC

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