With little time to relish in a major employment win in California, Uber, Lyft and others with a similar business model are now preparing to possibly take their fight against reclassifying their gig workers as employees to the national level.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told Reuters in a recent interview that he supports the classification of gig workers as employees. It was this very issue that gig-economy companies just spent some $200 million dollars on during the campaign for the most expensive ballot measure in California history: Proposition 22, which was approved in November and forced the state to nix parts of AB5, which had, for a time, led to the classification of their workers as employees in the Golden State.
When discussing the topic of the gig economy, Walsh let his feelings on the topic known for the first time.
“We are looking at it but in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees… in some cases they are treated respectfully and in some cases they are not and I think it has to be consistent across the board,” Walsh told the news agency.
The Secretary’s position should come as no shock to the American public, as President Joe Biden made it known during his campaign that he’d like to afford legal protections and benefits to the gig worker class.
Before a big portion of AB5 was effectively overturned, both Uber and Lyft threatened to pull their services completely from California, claiming the cost to operate with their drivers as “employees” was too cumbersome. Because if a worker is classified as an employee versus contractor, these companies are then subject to things like local minimum wage laws and unemployment insurance.
With the help of Instacart and Doordash — who also rely on gig workers — Uber and Lyft launched a full-scale campaign to get the state on their side of the argument, eventually winning with Prop. 22 in November.
A fight of a similar degree may soon be deployed in Washington against the PRO (Protect the Right to Organize) Act, which bears a striking resemblance to California’s AB5 and focuses on allowing workers to organize together.
Should a national standard be applied to who is and who is not an “employee,” it could have broad implications for much of the nation’s workforce. And while the workers would be entitled to many more benefits, their employers would see significant rises to operational costs.
So as talk continues about the PRO Act, get ready for another influx of messages from companies like Uber. We’ve already learned they aren’t going down without a fight.