At first, we were worried about gig workers and what was going to happen to them in the face of this economic pandemic. Luckily, both sides of the aisle agreed that this section of the American economy is worth protecting because let’s face it: it’s not going anywhere.
The gig economy is a real part of the American economy
Annually, the gig economy represents $3.7 trillion, and that number is only rising. Pre-pandemic, the American economy was strong. Unemployment sat at an all-time low. Things were moving along, which helped facilitate the rise of the gig economy. Workers of every skill level could opt to pursue their passions while working on their own timeline and picking up extra gigs for extra cash on the side.
The problem was that this area of employment existed in a gray area. Some companies took advantage of how they labeled their workers, while others (like us) welcomed gig workers to onboard as W-2 employees with us and work as much or as little as they wanted. The last few years have been the wild west for these platforms. California has moved to pass the AB5 law, which sets workers of the gig economy as ones that deserve protection just the same as other
Thankfully Washington answered the call. The gig worker has a seat at the table. The bill would provide $600 per week for unemployed workers for up to four months in addition to what state unemployment laws currently provide. Speed was the key to seeing the bill come to fruition and getting cash into working people’s hands. At the time of its passing, the bill was passed after days of deliberation on the Senate floor.
Redefining what gig work actually is
The gig economy is not just one thing. It’s not just people giving you a ride to the bar or the airport; there are Airbnb hosts, delivery drivers, handymen working on a project, and skilled workers looking to make some money to pay the light bill on their day off. To their credit, we’re seeing gig workers jump on the frontlines, stocking shelves in our grocery stores and more, helping keep America fed right now.
This is the first instance of a gig worker being eligible for unemployment insurance. This move by the government establishes that if you’re working in this capacity at a significant number of hours, you should have some form of a safety net as long as you’re trying to earn a living.
Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer referred to this moment as a “dramatic and historic expansion” of rights for those in non-traditional employment models.
Unlikely allies in a time of need
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi wrote the president asking for him to weigh in on who’s considered what within these new guidelines. “My goal in writing to you is not to ask for a bailout for Uber,” Khosrowshahi wrote in a letter to Trump, “but rather for support for the independent workers on our platform and, once we move past the immediate crisis, the opportunity to legally provide them with a real safety net going forward.”
Khosrowshahi continued in a further statement, “I am thankful that the U.S. Senate has ensured that drivers and delivery people—along with all independent workers—will qualify for expanded unemployment insurance under the bipartisan COVID-19 relief package passed today.” Khosrowshahi added, “The 1.3 million Americans who drive and deliver with Uber are facing extraordinary economic challenges. Many are on the front lines of this crisis, keeping their communities moving and getting food to people sheltering indoors. Those who’ve lost the opportunity to earn need and deserve this support.”
Chris Lehane of Airbnb said the company was “deeply appreciative of bipartisan Senate and House leadership for recognizing there is a new sector of the workforce who depend on Airbnb for their monthly economic needs.”
Be happy about silver linings
We couldn’t be happier to see the army of gig workers who are picking up on-demand jobs finally get a chance for real support during these tough times. While some workers can help stock shelves or pick items in warehouses, others simply cannot due to mitigating circumstances or health concerns. Whatever the situation, this move is good for America’s future. The reality is that many jobs can be done outside of the traditional 9-5; as we see the rise in jobs like telehealth, homeschooling, and other jobs being done remotely, this is becoming more and more apparent. Ultimately, the economic and societal game is changing regarding what the American worker looks like moving forward.
No matter what happens, we believe in the hourly worker, the gig worker, and every classification in between. We’re happy Congress worked together to get the job done on behalf of the people that have made Adia possible.