Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took to the pages of The New York Times on Monday (Aug. 10) to call upon gig companies, such as ridesharing services, to start paying for benefits for their workers, who are overwhelmingly independent contractors.
Khosrowshahi, in an op-ed published on the Times’ website, called for sweeping new laws that would require gig companies to establish “benefit funds” that would spin off cash for workers to use for everything from health insurance premiums to sick time.
The high-profile piece by the Uber CEO comes at a crucial time for the company, which is backing a California referendum aimed at revoking controversial Assembly Bill 5, which requires Uber and Lyft to reclassify their workers as full-fledged employees.
“Driving passengers or delivering food on a bike comes with real risk,” Khosrowshahi writes. “States should require all gig companies to provide medical and disability coverage for injuries incurred on the job, creating a baseline safety net that we cannot give to drivers today without risking their independent status under the law.”
Even so, the CEO offers a full-throated defense of gig work, arguing that it provides the kind of flexibility and control over their hours that many workers want and need.
Forcing gig economy companies to convert their workers from independent contractors to full-fledged employees would be a mistake, eliminating the flexibility that workers want from gig work while forcing Uber to dramatically cut back its own, nationwide ridesharing platform, the Uber CEO writes.
But Khosrowshahi also contends that the time has come for companies like Uber to step up to the plate when it comes to providing a basic security net for workers, which has historically been one of the major drawbacks of gig work.
Under the CEO’s proposal, gig economy companies would be required to establish cash benefit funds that workers could draw upon based on the number of hours they work.
The proposal also calls for government action, pushing states to enact laws that would bind all gig economy companies and enable workers to tap into the benefit funds as they move between different firms and platforms.
“There has to be a ‘third way’ for gig workers,” Khosrowshahi said. “I’m proposing that gig economy companies be required to establish benefits funds [that] give workers cash they can use for the benefits they want.”