US ‘flexible work’ bill will spell disaster for rights in the gig economy

In the United States, three lawmakers launched an assault on gig worker rights, proposing legislation that would effectively exclude gig workers and many other on-demand workers from minimum wages and overtime pay.

Entitled the “Workers’ Flexibility and Choice Act,” the bill would allow employers to pay minimum wages and lower wages if they allow workers to turn down work from companies and pursue jobs at competing companies. Allows “worker flexibility agreements” that exempt overtime. of gig work.

The proposal highlights the disturbing narrative that workers must choose between flexibility in how they work and their right to a decent life. In practice, many workers may be neither.

Revenues in many areas of the gig economy are already unpredictable and low. For example, workers at a grocery delivery app in California told Human Rights Watch that opaque algorithms that control how much they are paid per delivery negatively impacted their income, sometimes below the local minimum wage. Based on salary records submitted by ride-share drivers and food and grocery delivery workers, multiple surveys across the country also found that many of them were unable to afford rent or cost of living, even working in hazardous working conditions. This is why it is imperative to extend minimum wage requirements to gig workers, the exact opposite of what the bill calls for.

Gig work can also be less flexible than workers believe. In her seven-year study of gig workers, led by Boston University economist and sociologist Juliette Scholl, those who rely on gig work to make ends meet have a higher rate of work for the same amount of work. It turns out that they are more likely to accept lower wages. They also worked longer hours than those engaged in gig work for extra cash. For these workers, the urgency to accept as many gigs as possible to make a living severely limits their freedom to log on or off as they please. According to US government data, the majority of gig workers are dependent breadwinners. A 2018 survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 69% of those working in rideshares, deliveries and other digital labor platforms worked full time.

Congress should not allow this dangerous bill to proceed. If you’re serious about workers’ freedom and well-being, you should expand labor protections instead of unwinding gig workers.

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