Dem lawmakers: Let's explore benefits for gig economy workers

Dem lawmakers: Let's explore benefits for gig economy workers
© Greg Nash

Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerTrump declassification move unnerves Democrats Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment Senators offer bipartisan bill to help US firms remove Huawei equipment from networks MORE (D-Va.) wants the government to explore employment benefits for workers in the gig economy.

The senator and Rep. Suzan DelBeneSuzan Kay DelBeneNewDems put ideas over politics at 'NEXT' — a policy conference Koch-backed group pushes for new limits on Trump's tariff authority Lobbying world MORE (D-Wash.) have introduced legislation to look at “portable benefit designs for the growing independent workforce.”

Uber, Lyft and other gig economy-style apps are fueling a shift in the labor force toward contract work, which usually comes without normal full-time job benefits such as healthcare and retirement plans.

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The Democrats’ bill would establish a $20 million grant fund in the Department of Labor to spur states, local governments and nonprofits to experiment with different benefit options for gig workers.

“Whether by choice or necessity, a growing number of Americans are working without a safety net and have difficulty planning and saving for retirement, health care needs, or on-the-job injuries,” Warner said in a statement. “The nature of work is changing rapidly, but our policies largely remain tied to a 20th century model of traditional full-time employment.”

As workers in some segments of the economy struggle to find jobs, or struggle to find jobs with pay that can meet their needs, many are turning to apps such as Uber or Task Rabbit, a freelance labor service app. While many workers extol the flexible schedules gig jobs give them, they often struggle to obtain health insurance and save for retirement.

“With 55 million Americans freelancing, the time has come to build a new safety net to support independent workers as they move from gig to gig,” said Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union. “The lack of portable benefits is one of the biggest impediments blocking independent workers from thriving in the new economy."