New Report: Wide Bipartisan Support for Supporting Gig Economy Workers

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Millions of people work in the “gig” economy — an expansive business ecosystem that covers freelancers, independent contractors, and project-based “platform” workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers. These workers are not classified as “employees” under federal and most state law, because they depend on short-term contract or platform-based employment. And as a result, they are typically denied standard employment benefits, which puts them at elevated risk during times of crisis, like the global pandemic and associated economic recession we are currently facing.

A new report published today by Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute contains polling showing that a majority of voters understand how problematic this is. By a 44-percentage-point margin (62% support, 18% oppose), Americans support extending to gig workers the same job benefits and protections that employees enjoy. Voter support for extending benefits to gig workers spanned all political parties and a multitude of issues.

“It is heartening to see that voters support taking measures to support all workers,” said the author of the report, Linda Hamilton Krieger, Professor of Law, William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawai`i.” “It’s critical that legislators act on this widespread recognition of the need to protect workers, including gig workers, so to strengthen the economy for all of us.”

Right now, people striving to make a living in the gig economy are doing so while being left out of nearly all social safety net protections. That includes many nursing home and meat-packing workers, who continue to labor under conditions that expose them to a high risk of coronavirus infection, while the federal government refuses to issue mandatory workplace safety standards. These failings have implications both for workers and the people who depend on them.

In a recent episode of “The Briefing,” by ‘The Appeal’ and NowThis, guest Carroll Fife alluded to the devastating consequences of dependence on the gig economy during the coronavirus crisis. Many of these workers who are now out of work cannot afford housing, health insurance, or food. Gig economy workers who are still working may not have access to PPE or other protective resources.

There is a commonsense solution to this problem: Pass legislation that would grant many workers from the gig economy with protections provided under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Federal Labor Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the National Labor Relations Act. Voters of all political stripes agree that these workers should be entitled to the same benefits and protections that typical employees enjoy — and not only in times of crisis.

The full report on the gig economy is available here.

The Justice Collaborative Institute is a coalition of justice reform scholars from across the nation focused on providing an academic perspective to conversations and work surrounding mass incarceration and related issues.