Democrat pushes for on-demand focus in labor survey

A Democratic senator is pushing the Department of Labor to update a worker survey so that it gathers information about on-demand economy companies like Uber and Lyft. 

Sen. Mark WarnerMark WarnerPolicymakers face long road to financial technology regulation Liberal groups urge Schumer to reject Bayh for Banking gavel Why Yahoo's breach could turn the SEC into a cybersecurity tiger MORE (D-Va.) asked in a Tuesday letter to Secretary of Labor Tom Perez whether he would consider including questions specific to the on-demand economy in a survey of so-called alternative work arrangements.

Warner asked in his letter whether the survey would assess how many workers are accessing work specifically through the electronic platforms like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb. The Democrat also asked whether the survey could look at how the on-demand economy varies in different regions. 

Earlier this month, Perez announced the department would revive the Contingent Worker Supplement as a larger survey next year.  

The Labor Department survey, set for May 2017 in conjunction with the Census Bureau, will be the first of its kind since 2005, long before Uber and Airbnb arrived on the scene.

The decision to revive the survey reflects Perez’s growing interest in on-demand companies. The secretary visited Silicon Valley this month and met with a range of stakeholders in the sector, including Uber.

Warner has been calling for the better part of a year for reforms that would build a safety net for the many on-demand economy workers who are considered independent contractors rather than employees. As contractors, they do not receive the benefits and protections afforded to many employees.

Warner has also been open to the idea of giving on-demand economy companies more space to develop their own solutions for their workers.

"As you prepare for a new round of the CWS, I ask that you keep the on-demand economy in mind," Warner said in his letter to Perez.

Warner asked Perez whether the agency would seek more data on the details of work arrangements at on-demand companies. Warner wants to know how many workers in that situation have access to “health coverage, unemployment insurance, retirement savings, and other benefits typically associated with an employer” and how much of the cost is burdened by the workers.

He also expressed interest in how many workers are doing a collection of patchwork jobs, with some speculating that there is a rising “gig” workforce comprised of people who work for multiple companies.

The Department of Labor on Tuesday said it welcomes Warner's "interest and input."


"BLS will work with the Census Bureau to ensure that the CWS elicits data that will enable us to better understand the realities of our current workforce,” the department said.

This story was updated at 2:10 p.m.