The Gig Economy Is Great, For People In Bands

For the rest of us, not so much.

Elizabeth Warren drove this point home during a speech at the New America Foundation.

“The much-touted virtues of flexibility, independence and creativity offered by gig work might be true for some workers under some conditions, but for many, the gig economy is simply the next step in a losing effort to build some economic security in a world where all the benefits are floating to the top 10 percent,” she said.

Her points reiterate what others have said about the new jobs in our “new normal” economy.

At Davos, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary, International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) spoke passionately about the informal, gig economy as an “economy of desperation.”

The nature of work is changing. Technology is displacing jobs. But that has always been the case. What is new, is the level of inequality technology is generating. Technology is serving the few, at the expense of everyone else. Workers have no dialogue with management and no collective bargaining power. The scales have tipped dramatically in favor of a power elite who don’t know how to play fair.

Uber & Lyft drivers join their fellow Task Rabbiters in not having sick days, retirement savings plans, workers compensation insurance, or health insurance. In April, Uber won a major victory against its own workforce when a San Francisco federal court ruled that Uber drivers were independent contractors, not employees entitled to expense reimbursement. Also Uber won the right to terminate contractors arbitrarily.

Warren would like to make some worker protections mandatory for employers. She said:

“I believe we start with one simple principle: all workers — no matter when they work, where they work, who they work for, whether they pick tomatoes or build rocket ships–all workers should have some basic protections and be able to build some economic security for themselves and their families,” she said. “No worker should fall through the cracks.”

She is advocating for three things:

  • Mandatory worker contributions to Social Security
  • Mandating employers provide catastrophe insurance for every worker
  • Paid leave for all workers

For the vast majority of us not in bands, those things sound pretty good.