Leave gig workers alone.

In the next coronavirus relief package, ATR urges the inclusion of the ​Helping Gig Economy Workers Act​, sponsored by Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) The measure would allow companies to provide financial assistance and protective equipment to contractors for the duration of the public health emergency without taking on legal liability.

Platform companies have given free food deliveries and rides to first responders. They provided flexible work opportunities to the many Americans who became unemployed or furloughed during the pandemic. They have also taken measures to protect and support the gig workers who use their platforms through financial assistance and PPE. Yet by providing these benefits, platform companies are risking the forced reclassification of their contractors as employees, a change which would destroy their businesses. 

As noted by Sen. Braun: “Bottom line: this commonsense bill will provide a safe harbor for businesses who want to help the temporary and service workers helping us during COVID-19.”

By failing to create a legal safe harbor for digital platform companies, we will enable the buildout of a backdoor to a nationwide version of AB5, the disastrous bill which destroyed the livelihood of Californians working as freelancers and independent contractors. AB5 forced platform companies to reclassify gig workers as employees, which comes with considerable costs for employers and restrictions for workers. If enacted nationwide, such legislation would destroy the gig economy as we know it, along with the opportunity for millions of Americans to earn money on their own terms. 

Fortunately, officials are adamant about including liability protections with the next coronavirus package. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now drawn a “red line” over liability protections and will insist that the provision is included in future relief packages. National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow has said that businesses should not have to deal with any “trial lawyers putting on false lawsuits.”

“Every American should be free to work as an independent contractor. It is not just rideshare drivers but millions of Americans who work for themselves and choose that freedom and opportunity. Some politicians want everyone to have a boss, work 40 hours a week in the office and be easy to tax and unionize. Some Americans choose to be their own boss and work for themselves as independent contractors. They should have that right without asking anyone for permission,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.  

Central to the gig economy is the freedom and independence of workers; independent contractors choose their own schedules, and can work as much or as little as they choose. The movement against platform companies fundamentally misunderstands the gig economy; it is not about corporate greed; it’s about worker freedom.