Be Careful What You Wish For In The Gig Economy

by | Apr 7, 2022 | Gig Economy, IBT, Politics

The gig economy’s readiness for change doesn’t mean that workers will be happy with the reshaping that happens. The NLRB will potentially overhaul the “joint employer” rule in the near future, meaning that workers will find it easier to prove that they’re employees (with collective bargaining abilities) and not independent contractors. An interesting twist arrived on the table in Washington state, where Uber and Lyft, along with Teamsters Local 117, find themselves sorting through newly passed legislation.

The bill in question (which was signed into law by Gov. Jay Inslee and will begin to take effect on December 31) grants Washington Lyft and Uber drivers greater protections than in any other U.S. state. These drivers will access some benefits (including sick leave, workers’ comp, and a minimum pay rate), but they will not qualify as employees. This feels like compromise territory, but newly installed Teamsters chief Sean O’Brien made clear (previous to the governor’s signature) that he’s not happy with the outcome, which O’Brien feels didn’t go far enough while bestowing benefits.

(It’s worth noting that outgoing Teamsters head James P. Hoffa never took a stance for or against the bill, which could foreshadow changes O’Brien wants to bring to the role.)

This Washington deal may not last. The very nature of gig working, as nebulous as it is, only points toward further challenges. A legal challenge could very well take down the measure, not unlike what previously happened in both Seattle and in California, where a court found (regarding Uber and Postmates drivers) that the state went too far in making calls about collective bargaining rights for gig workers. And in Seattle, an appeals court found a similar law to be unconstitutional. Another similar proposal will soon be on the table in Massachusetts as this issue continues to swirl.


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