2016 Elections and the On-Demand Economy – Who’s With It?

elections-536656_640Every presidential candidate discusses the economy and employment and getting better, high-paying jobs for Americans. This is nothing new. But what is new is the incredible attention that is being paid to folks working in the on-demand economy. While people were working as 1099 contractors long before Uber came on the scene, those employed by companies like Uber, Lyft or Instacart have now become the focal point for those who are intent on getting your vote.

Recently, a new measure was proposed by CAlifornia’s State Assembly Appropriations Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez, which would allow 10 or more workers in the on-demand economy to organize. Until now, this was not possible, but if this new bill, the California 1099 Self-Organizing Act, AB1727, passes, workers will be able to negotiate as a group for better pay.

Hillary Clinton has spoken numerous times about protecting workers’ rights, getting them family leave and medical coverage, but how is this going to happen? Will we completely get rid of 1099 contractors? Will the government make it a policy that 1099 contractors need to have the same rights and provisions as W-2 employees? Or should there be a third, hybrid category? And then, will this apply only to people working in the on-demand economy or will all contractors have access to the same benefits? And finally, who will be footing the bill for all of these benefits? Is it up to the employers to then pay all of the additional money to their contract workers as if they were employees? Should these workers be classified differently than the 1099 contractors of the last century?

Technologies advance far faster than the government regulations required to keep them in check. Before he dropped out of the race, Marco Rubio was actually quite the proponent of the on-demand industry, and criticized over-regulation, citing a “friction between our 20th century government and our rapidly changing 21st century economy.” The Republican stance has consistently favored the business side of the equation, calling for less regulation, while the Democrats have leaned towards the worker side, calling for more regulation of the Ubers of the world and more worker protection.

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While we didn’t ask about political affiliation in our survey, it’s reasonably safe to assume that most workers in the on-demand economy, especially those residing in blue states, are Democrats. What do these people want to see happen?

Surveys certainly show that most workers would love to get medical insurance, paid time off and all of the other perks that come with being an employee as a contract worker – seriously, who wouldn’t? But if you’re going to get all of the applicable perks of an employee, shouldn’t you also get all the attached strings?

Crowded.com interviewed 200 on-demand workers, and the overwhelming majority said that, all things being considered, they would still rather work as a 1099 employee because of the flexibility it affords them. They can come and go as they please, work around other jobs or school or day care schedules, and not have to figure out who will cover for them if they call in sick. They don’t have to deal with a boss or meetings or who’s getting promoted or office politics. You clock in when you want to work, you work, and then you clock out when you’re done. Then you get paid. The rest is up to you.

I recently interviewed Lisa, who works for Rover, an on-demand pet-sitting and dog-walking company; she was hosting my dog for a few days. Her family needed to earn some extra income, and in the past, she would do dog walking only on a word-of-mouth basis. She discovered Rover three months ago and was incredibly pleased with the fact that she can now list herself as a verified, background-checked pet sitter. She now earns $1,000 a month watching other people’s dogs in her house, on her own schedule. After each job is completed, Rover sends her a check. It’s that easy. Of course, she has to be attentive enough to save her receipts for things like dog treats and such. She also has to be responsible enough to save money so she can pay her taxes at the end of the year. These are just things she knows she is required to do. Is it up to the government to tell Rover that they need to change all of these people to be employees? What if their business model were to become so prohibitive and expensive that they could no longer afford to operate and no longer provide this lady an opportunity to earn $1,000 a month for her family?

Stifling innovation and charging these companies to the point of them having to shut down is certainly not the answer. The policymakers will need to start listening to the technologists. Plenty of solutions have already been brought to the table which will enable 1099 contractors to receive many benefits, such as discounted medical insurance, accrued sick leave, earned on an hourly basis and transferable from platform to platform. Ideas like this will minimize the negative effects on the on-demand industry, and, at the same time, allow Lisa and the hundreds of thousands of other on-demand workers to earn money in ways that have never been available to them before.

MORE: Leveraging gig workers amid increased legislation

Joe Rubin

Joe Rubin
Joe Rubin is co-founder and director of corporate development, Crowded.com.

Joe Rubin

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