In a recent NYT Op-Ed, the Editorial Board writes, “In reality, there is no utopia at companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and Handy, whose workers are often manipulated into working long hours for low wages while continually chasing the next ride or task. These companies have discovered they can harness advances in software and behavioral sciences to old-fashioned worker exploitation, according to a growing body of evidence, because employees lack the basic protections of American law.”
Now 8, 9, 10 years into this new economy that includes self-employment companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Lyft, are things truly improving for the working class?
“Since workers for most gig economy companies are considered independent contractors, not employees, they do not qualify for basic protections like overtime pay and minimum wages.”
It was this basic US law that allowed Uber to grow quickly to 700,000 active drivers in the United States, nearly three times the number of taxi drivers and chauffeurs in the country in 2014. That’s 700,000 “independent contractors” who are not guaranteed the same rights as employees, though they often work longer hours and absorb significant work-related expenses.
But legal battles now ensue across the country, including a recent class-action lawsuit against Lyft brought by drivers in California. Lyft recently agreed pay $27 million to settle the suit.
As this new gig economy continues to grow, how can we ensure our workers are treated fairly. Even now, it seems that companies are encouraging workers to overextend, overwork, and sacrifice basic human needs, like, for example, sleep.
Just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. Though the companies that employ “independent contractors” seem to suggest otherwise.
That said, now may be the best time in history for entrepreneurs. Starting your own business is aspirational and working for yourself, not for one of these gig economy companies, may be the best solution.
Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, writes on Fortune:
“In today’s world, entrepreneurs can take risks with their business model without risking their life savings.
The result: Startup activity is back on the rise in the U.S. after being at its lowest point in 20 years, with the rate of new entrepreneurs increasing by 15% over the past two years, according to the Kauffman Index of Startup Activity. That’s about 550,000 new business owners each month.”
And, of course, with supportive coworking spaces in NYC like Workville, where entrepreneurs can scale their workspace as they scale their business, and network with in-house VCs and other successful entrepreneurs, it seems our American entrepreneurial spirit will only continue to grow.
But don’t just take our word for it. Visit Workville and come see for yourself.