Uber exec says Clinton will 'embrace' gig economy

An Uber executive and former top adviser to President Obama said Tuesday that he believed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton would come to embrace the burgeoning "gig economy."

Clinton said in an economic policy speech last week that the “on-demand, or so-called 'gig economy,' is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it's also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future."

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“I think that was an overblown reaction,” said David Plouffe, a strategic adviser to Uber and Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, on “CBS This Morning" when asked about her comments, which some see as an attack on companies like Uber and Airbnb. “She also said very positive things about it, and my suspicion over time is you will see her embrace what this means.”

“Particularly she has talked a lot in her career about flexibility,” he said. “There’s nothing like this in the economy, what Uber provides. You drive whenever you want.”

But Plouffe’s remarks hinted at a rebuke to some Republican presidential candidates who have seized upon Clinton’s comments as evidence that she is wholeheartedly opposed to Silicon Valley’s culture of innovation.

“Secretary Clinton’s antiquated proposals protect the special interests that want to stifle American ingenuity and 21st Century companies like Uber that are creating jobs,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said in a statement after her speech.

Clinton aides have disputed that characterization.

“She’s not calling out specific sectors, or any one company, but is addressing an economy-wide problem that has existed for years,” Stephanie Hannon, the Clinton campaign’s CTO, said in a post on Medium. “We’ve seen some employers take advantage of vulnerable workers in industries like construction, janitorial services, agriculture, and even home healthcare.”

At issue is the question of whether workers for companies like Uber are independent contractors, as the firms claim. Contractors don’t get the same benefits and protections as employees.

Advocates say that the companies have significant control over their workers — the measure of whether someone is an independent contractor or not. The companies argue that workers have flexibility over the work they do, including controlling their own hours and being able to work for competing companies at the same time.

For the most part, Democrats have been hesitant to attack the companies even while they call for a crackdown on the misclassification of contractors more broadly.

Clinton has remained mum on what specific policies she would propose to address the status of workers in the on-demand economy. During a discussion on Facebook on Monday, she suggested that she would support policy proposals that make benefits more portable for workers.