The Gig Worker Equity Compensation Act (H.R. 2990) would help gig workers share in the economic resurgence while preserving their flexibility and independence.
“How people choose to work is changing. Our technology-driven economy is embracing this shift, Washington needs to keep up,” McHenry, the Republican leader on the House Financial Services Committee, said. “By giving these non-traditional workers access to equity compensation—just like traditional employees—we can ensure they benefit from the growth of the companies they are making successful. While Democrats attempt to stifle this growing sector of the workforce, my bill ensures they retain the flexibility they need while giving them the opportunity to grow wealth. This is a win for our capital markets, job creators, and gig workers.”
McHenry points out that about a quarter of the U.S. workforce participates in the gig economy or non-traditional work — whether as a rideshare driver, food delivery courier, or sharing their property through a platform like Airbnb. Further, about 10 percent of workers rely on alternative work arrangements for their primary source of income. These workers do not want to be bound by constraints like an office, set hours, or a traditional employer-employee relationship. This bill seeks to provide additional flexibility to support these workers.
In November 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to propose rules to provide equity compensation options for gig workers. McHenry welcomed this initiative and is committed to working with the SEC to implement his broader proposal.
In the middle of the pandemic last summer, Samouel Garinis saw an opportunity to earn an income delivering meals to people stuck at home.
As a new full-time Skip the Dishes driver in Fredericton, Garinis made about $20 an hour during good weeks and as little as $5 an hour when times were tough.
Now, after witnessing a decrease in orders as the province sheds COVID-19 restrictions, he is wondering what will become the new norm.
“The glamour does fade away,” said the 21-year-old. “It’s not as fun as it was when I first started, but I still look upon it well.
“It’s a very free job — I can listen to music, podcasts, I can pick my shifts for whenever, really. As long as someone else hasn’t swiped away those shifts already.”
Garinis said that every Thursday, Skip the Dishes shifts for the next week become available randomly throughout the afternoon, up for grabs for any driver to claim. This is the most stressful part of his week.
“You don’t know how good a day is going to be,” Garinis said. “It might be horrible one day, it might be great another. Obviously, with the pandemic slowing down it’s going to get less busy of course — but that’s the main bit of it. It’s just not a very stable job.”
Before the pandemic arrived in Canada in 2020, an estimated 10 per cent of Canadians worked in the gig economy, Statscan says.
App couriers are seeing a slowdown with their side-hustle as the province moves into Phase 2. 1:47
Gig worker Megan Foster of Fredericton said the meal delivery platforms Skip the Dishes and DoorDash and grocery counterpart Instacart were not widely used in the city until last year, when the pandemic started keeping people at home.
The meal delivery platforms are often grouped alongside ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft for offering on-demand delivery and transportation services.
“I didn’t even know any of them, like none of them existed,” Foster said of the three food delivery platforms she now works for.
“And then the pandemic hit and people needed stuff brought to their houses, and restaurants needed to make money. And so it definitely accelerated [use]. And I’m hoping that it doesn’t stop after the pandemic.”
Unlikely to be stable, expert says
But looking ahead, experts say gig work in Fredericton may not be able to stabilize and grow at the rate expected in larger urban centres.
“They really have to follow the demand where and when it arises, and really then, I would call that more instability than flexibility,” said associate professor of sociology Paul Glavin at McMaster University in Ontario, who is studying the gig economy and its effect on participants’ mental health.
For the 26-year-old Foster, taking up shifts for each platform helped supplement her full-time income as a personal support worker.
“By doing the side hustle with Skip the Dishes and DoorDash and Instacart, I was able to pay off a lot of my debt, so it was a big help,” said Foster, who hopes to keep doing gig work part time once she transitions back into her day job.
“Now that I’m taking a break from home care, it’s helping cover bills on its own.”
Gig worker sees continuing need
With New Brunswick now in Phase 2 of its so-called path to green, Foster hopes customers and workers will continue to use the apps. She said the services fill gaps, especially for people in rural areas or with mobility issues and in need of help with groceries.
“I find with Instacart, that one has been really helpful for the seniors. I know a lot of the regular seniors that I shop for, and they really enjoy having us bring [groceries] to them.”
Although gig work has become more common, New Brunswick does not have any information that tracks who participates in the gig economy.
Moving out of the pandemic, the biggest challenge for researchers and government is finding ways to track this fluid labour market, said Glavin.
“It’s very easy to identify a full-time worker with a single employer, but when people are loosely attached to gig work, that makes it challenging.”
Although Garinis believes app-based work will become more commonplace, he said he’s planning on a gradual transition back into traditional full-time work.
“It’s already been slower this summer than it was last summer, where I could average out, like, $20 when the pandemic really was starting. It’s not been good — I am prepared to get another job.”
It’s been more than a year since San Francisco Uber driver Lucas Chamberlain was knocked unconscious by a would-be customer who attacked him during an argument over whether or not the patron was old enough to ride solo.
“I woke up with blood coming down under my eye,” Chamberlain told CNN Business. “I was like, ‘Why are there rocks in my mouth?’ It was my broken teeth.”
The March 15, 2020 attack temporarily put Chamberlain in the hospital, which only made his problems worse. He says he is one of many Uber drivers who do not receive health care benefits from the company even though they spend more than 40 hours a week working for Uber.
Situations like this are among the reasons some California Uber and Lyft drivers are calling on the National Labor Relations Board to classify them as employees once again.
Rideshare drivers from the organization We Drive Progress and delivery couriers with the Mobile Worker Alliance publicly stated their NLRB grievances during a Tuesday afternoon Zoom press conference. The groups say their total membership includes about 24,000 gig workers.
Representatives from both groups said they want the NLRB to reconsider ruling on a gig worker complaint filed after the November passage of Proposition 22, a California ballot initiative that allowed gig companies like Uber to classify their drivers and couriers as independent contractors rather than employees.
Prop 22 created an exception to California’s AB-5, a law passed in 2019 that granted gig workers all the rights and privileges associated with full-time employee status, including paid time off, paid sick leave, mandatory health care benefits for individuals working 40+ hours a week and the right to collectively bargain.
Uber and the other gig companies fought hard against AB-5, launching a $185 million ad campaign that convinced a majority of California voters that most ride-share drivers and couriers preferred the flexibility of being independent contractors, citing multiple polls ans studies on the issue.
In May, a Benson Strategy Group survey showed 82% of Uber drivers are still happy with Prop 22. The same survey found 51% of drivers remained “very happy” with the ballot measure.
“What California has shown is that the issue of independent work doesn’t follow the ideological lines,” Uber said. “Some political leaders are out of touch with what drivers and voters actually support.”
But the aggrieved drivers say Uber, Lyft and other gig companies haven’t kept the promises they made to voters when they campaigned for Prop 22.
“Those things that drivers rely on to ensure a good pay and a livable wage, they’re keeping that from us,” Lyft driver Jerome Gage told reporters Tuesday.
The drivers said the gig companies’ list of promises included providing a health care stipend to qualifying drivers and couriers who don’t already have medical coverage provided by the government or another employer.
Tulchin Research determined in April that roughly 86% of surveyed California gig workers are ineligible for the healthcare stipend.
Uber also added a fare multiplier feature to its app during the Prop 22 campaign after drivers complained about reduced fare prices cutting into their profits. Uber told drivers the fare multiplier would give them greater control as independent contractors by allowing them to set their own prices for trips “as a multiple of time and distance rates,” but the company abandoned the feature after customers pushed back earlier this year.
“Over the last few months, 80% of riders matched with a driver with a fare multiplier above 1x declined the higher fare and did not re-request a ride on Uber,” the company said in an April 8 blog post. “Additionally, drivers who set a high multiplier received fewer trip requests.”
Chamberlain said the broken promises cemented his view that being a gig employee is better than remaining independent.
“If I was an employee, I would have workers’ comp, insurance,” he said. “Because I don’t have that, I’m stuck with broken teeth. And I didn’t get paid for time off.”
The National Labor Relations Board said Tuesday that it isn’t aware of any California rideshare drivers or couriers filing a specific complaint against Uber, Lyft or any other major gig app company.
An NLRB spokesperson noted that under the Trump administration, the board previously determined the it doesn’t have jurisdiction over the gig workers because they are considered independent contractors and not employees, but that could change once a new complaint is filed under President Joe Biden’s NLRB.
Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center at Institute for Research on Labor Employment, says it’s “fairly likely” Biden’s NLRB will eventually weigh in on the gig workers’ battle with companies like Uber.
“It’s hard to read where they’d come down, but I would not be surprised if they reversed it,” he told CNN Business.
Celine McNicholas, director of government affairs and labor counsel at the Economic Policy Institute, says the Trump-era NLRB ruling effectively denied Uber drivers and other gig workers the collective bargaining rights granted by the National Labor Relations Act.
“We hope the NLRB will correct this error and ensure that these workers have the right to a union,” she said.
Deliveroo is launching LifeCycle, it’s First Aid initiative where riders are being offered the opportunity to learn first aid skills from the Red Cross on August 8, 2018 in London, England. Image: Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Deliveroo
Food delivery app Deliveroo will offer riders the option to receive training in how to spot crimes, the company announced last week.
The training will be offered in partnership with Neighborhood Watch, a UK-based crime prevention organization comprised of a number of small local chapters. According to a joint press release sent to Motherboard, participating riders will be trained to spot, among other things, drug dealing, street harassment, and human trafficking.
The press release also claimed that more than 1,000 of the 50,000 Deliveroo riders in the UK have signed up for the free training, which has been certified by the London Metropolitan Police.
“Deliveroo riders carried out a vital role in their local communities during the pandemic and are well-placed to spot any concerns in the neighborhoods in which they work and live,” the release reads.
In a separate email, a spokesperson from Neighbourhood Watch told Motherboard that the training would consist of a series of animated videos offered over a period of six months.
Are you a Deliveroo rider who has participated in Deliveroo and Neighborhood Watch’s crime spotting training? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Gabriel Geiger securely on Signal at +31 6 36 01 08 68 or email email@example.com
A Deliveroo spokesperson confirmed to Motherboard that riders will not receive extra compensation or pay for completing the training. Instead, riders will have the opportunity to promote “the partnership on their delivery bags after they have completed the training.”
The announcement comes just months after Deliveroo riders went on strike to protest poor working conditions and low pay as the company made its debut on the London Stock Exchange. In March, an analysis conducted by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism of thousands of invoices from Deliveroo riders found that nearly half of riders were making below minimum wage.
The Deliveroo spokesperson also claimed that the IWGB—a trade union for couriers and delivery riders—had “specifically called for Deliveroo to introduce this,” and attached an image of the union’s alleged demands. Active bystander training, one of the six subjects covered by the training, is listed in the image, but spotting drug dealing and human trafficking are not.
In an email to Motherboard, however, an IWGB spokesperson wrote that the solution “is definitely not more policing” and that riders are “already subject to disproportionate police stop and search and immigration checks.”
“We condemn the initiative to get couriers policing and call for bystander training in its own right,” Alex Marshall, IWGB President, said. “Deliveroo needs to do more to protect its workforce and sexual harassment is a huge issue that needs the full attention of the company- not to be rolled into yet another PR stunt.”
In the past, police and immigration officers have explicitly targeted Deliveroo riders. On May 18, the Road and Transport authority publicly boasted on Twitter that it had stopped 48 delivery riders in coordination with immigration officials, arresting two of them.
Update: This post has been updated with comment from IWGB.