Gig workers deserve protections

Uber and the gig economy from Friends of Labor

By Mario Cilento

I have officially seen it all. Tuesday on this page, a union funded through the salaries and dues its members earn through collective bargaining and a quasi-labor organization argued against granting union organizing rights to working people. If the authors of that op-ed do not believe in the power of working people to join together and achieve change through their union, it may be time for them to turn in their charters and go start a corporate-funded not-for-profit.

The issue is legislation that the New York State AFL-CIO supports, which would grant workers in the on-demand or “gig” economy basic rights and protections including collective bargaining.

People who obtain work via electronic apps often perform the same work or the same type of work as traditional employees, but do not have the same rights under law. Most such workers are classified as independent contractors by their employers. This classification allows workers to be exploited for their labor while freeing the companies they work for from complying with minimum standards and protections.

App workers are not paid minimum wage or overtime; provided with employee health-care or retirement benefits; afforded the right to collectively bargain or engage in protected concerted activity; or covered by unemployment insurance, temporary disability insurance, paid family leave or workers’ compensation insurance policies.

Further, the companies that classify their workers as independent contractors have a competitive advantage over traditional employers because they do not pay the costs associated with these basic protections.

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