New York, Seattle are among the cities eyeing stronger protections for gig economy workers


The gig economy has come under scrutiny in recent years due to concerns about low pay and lack of benefits for workers. Many gig workers, such as Joshua Wood, who delivers for Uber Eats and a package delivery service, have advocated for changes to improve their working conditions. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, approximately 1 in 6 American adults have engaged in gig work for platforms like Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash.

In response to these concerns, lawmakers in at least 10 jurisdictions, including cities like Chicago and Seattle, and states like Colorado, Connecticut, and Minnesota, have proposed new protections for rideshare drivers and food delivery workers. Additionally, at least 10 states have considered programs to make it easier for gig workers to access traditional workplace benefits such as retirement or paid family leave. Regulatory agencies and courts in states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have also sought to grant gig workers the same benefits as regular employees.

The movement to improve gig workers' rights is part of a larger global reconsideration of labor rights in the age of the gig economy. Australia and the European Union have taken steps to strengthen workplace protections for gig workers, and the U.S. Department of Labor is expected to finalize a new rule that may reclassify some gig workers as employees.

However, gig companies strongly oppose reclassifying gig workers, arguing that it would jeopardize workers' flexibility and independence and raise costs for consumers. They have supported alternative solutions such as implementing portable benefits programs, where workers accrue benefits over time and keep them even if they switch employers. For example, Uber and Lyft backed a law in Washington State that created a portable benefits program for rideshare drivers, which included paid sick leave, workers' compensation, and a pay floor tied to the state's minimum wage.

Critics argue that these industry-backed plans fall short of workers' demands and perpetuate the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. Nevertheless, lawmakers have faced difficult trade-offs in their efforts to improve gig worker rights, considering the financial resources and political influence of gig companies. Washington State Representative Liz Berry, who sponsored the portable benefits legislation, acknowledged that compromises were necessary to achieve some level of protection for gig workers.

While there is ongoing debate and negotiation regarding the best way to address gig workers' concerns, the fact that lawmakers and regulators are taking action indicates a growing recognition of the need to protect and improve the working conditions of gig workers.  

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