By Doug Porter
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has (re-)introduced legislation (AB 1727) ensuring that independent contractors working in the gig economy are allowed workplace rights currently enjoyed by conventional employees. Thus begins what will likely be a multi-year struggle to redefine the role of labor in the 21st century.
The rights under consideration include negotiating as a group, communicating with customers and the public, boycotting or critiquing a hosting platform’s business practices, and reporting publicly or to law enforcement any practices in violation of local, state, or federal laws.
The 1099 Self-Organizing Act, as it’s called, would apply to businesses and workers in the “gig economy,” where companies use online systems and mobile apps to match laborers with customers. State labor law would be amended, allowing 10 or more independent contractors, who work for “hosting platforms” such as Uber and Lyft, to join in union-like groups and negotiate workplace protections.
These “on-demand” businesses utilize roughly 10% of the workforce in California, according to Gonzalez. Depending on who’s doing the surveying, this amounts to 1 to 2 million people.
The San Diego Democrat cites polling among those working in the gig economy agreeing by a 2-1 margin that the industry is exploiting a lack of regulation. This article from Quartz breaks down how the “on-demand” economy fails workers and the need to rebuild and rethink the social compact of the 20th century.
Rather than reclassifying gig workers as employees, the 1099 Self-Organizing Act allows for a hybrid workforce description, granting some of the legal protections afforded to employees, while acknowledging the differences in the employers’ business models.
While it’s the internet business groups that are poo-pooing the intent of the proposed legislation, it would apply to a broad spectrum of independent contractors working in a variety of industries.
From the Union-Tribune:
Currently, U.S. federal labor law only grants the collective bargaining privilege to workers who are classified as employees. And it only compels employers to bargain with an employee group if a majority of the workers in a workplace want to be represented by that union.
“It is a dramatic departure from traditional labor law,” said Seth Harris, a distinguished scholar at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and the former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor.
“(The 1099 Self-Organizing Act) would create what some people call a ‘members-only’ or ‘minority’ union bargaining relationship wherein the workers don’t have to get a majority of all of the workers in the workplace to agree to join the union. Instead you just need to get 10 or more people working for the online gig economy company to say they want to bargain together with the employer. And that’s enough. That does not exist in U.S. federal, private sector labor law.”
Politico interviewed Sacramento political consultant Richie Ross, a co-sponsor of the legislation:
Some are fighting in companies like Uber to be recognized as employees, and those legal fights could go on for years, he said. Meanwhile, such employees are not currently covered by federal labor law, and are in danger of violating antitrust laws if they organize, Ross said.
Under the proposal, “gig” workers will be allowed to get together and form local associations, essentially bypassing the formal step of forming unions.
They’ll “get the right to negotiate items like fees, what they’re allowed to charge … the right to negotiate insurance,’’ and to get legal protection within their own group, Ross said.
“All we’re doing here is creating a legal platform that gives people rights to negotiate, and imposes a requirement for the platform to negotiate with them in good faith, and then gives these associations the right to go to court when the law is violated,’’ said Ross.
Organized labor is wary of this approach, according to an article at Capital & Main:
AB 1727 would not, however, compel employers to classify independent contractors as employees — nor would it allow these workers to form a traditional labor union or to join an existing union. That rubs Steve Smith, director of communications for the California Labor Federation, the wrong way.
“We agree with Assemblywoman Gonzalez that self-employed workers should have every right to bargain collectively, but have concerns about the approach,” Smith told Capital & Main by phone, “The problem with AB 1727 is that it basically enshrines an unfair business model that companies like Uber use to misclassify their workforce as independent contractors instead of employees.” (Disclosure: Smith is a member of Capital & Main’s editorial board.)
This glass of labor reform is half-full, not half-empty, according to another union leader.
“It’s a debate that must begin,” said Rusty Hicks, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, in an email. “And this proposal will certainly get that started.”
Meanwhile, the Rich Get Richer
The rush to the bottom for just about everybody but the ultra wealthy got another affirmation today with release of a report from the Economic Policy Institute. Cumulative wage growth in the years since 2007 for the top 10% of earners is up. For those in the lower half of the workforce it’s negligible or even negative, continuing a 35-year slide.
The one (sort of) bright spot in the report is data showing improvements in wages for those at the bottom in states increasing the minimum wage. As could be expected, increases in wages reflected the racial and gender discrimination baked into the economy.
The report concludes:
Overall, 2015 saw overall real wage gains driven by a dip in inflation. It also saw a pronounced increase in wage inequality. Larger gains in real wages were clearly concentrated at the top of wage distributions, with the exception of 10th percentile gains associated with state-level minimum-wage increases. Growth was faster for male workers and white workers, particularly at the top of the wage distribution, which continued to exacerbate racial, ethnic, and gender wage gaps. Wages for those with additional schooling remain higher than those with less, though the college premium has remained fairly stable over the last few years.
Raise the Wage Campaign Begins Door to Door
Advocates for an increase in the local minimum wage are wisely ignoring mutterings from the Chamber of Commerce ilk about a muted opposition response to an upcoming referendum.
This June San Diegans will be voting to increase San Diego’s minimum wage to $11.50 per hour and allow workers to earn up to five sick days per year. The increase of the minimum wage to $11.50 would be phased in through 2017 with indexing to inflation starting on January 1, 2019:
- $10.50 – June, 8, 2016
- $11.50 – January 1, 2017
Consultant Jason Roe has been taking time out from his busy schedule advising the presidential campaign of Senator Marco Rubio (folding in 3…2…1…) to make the rounds of local media saying there’s a lack of funding for a defense of corporate welfare and repeating misinformation about who would be impacted by an increase in the minimum wage.
Raise the Wage San Diego, the coalition of faith, community and labor groups supporting the increased passed by the city council, will begin canvassing Saturday morning, meeting up at the North Park Community Park (4044 Idaho) starting at 9am. (Link for more information.)
The reality is that poverty wages and the high cost of living in San Diego are forcing families to make choices no one should have to make – like whether pay the rent, keep the lights on or put food on the table. At the new California minimum wage of $10/hour, a full-time worker earning minimum wage is paid just $400/week or $20,800 for an entire year of full-time work. That’s not enough to get by in high-cost San Diego, especially if you have a family.
Increasing the minimum wage will make a huge difference in the lives of more than 170,000 hard-working San Diegans – enough people to fill every seat in Petco Park four times over!
The San Diego Minimum Wage and Earned Sick Days measure on the ballot in June is the same policy the San Diego City Council passed almost two years ago. Mayor Kevin Faulconer vetoed the City Council’s increase and joined with out-of-town hotel and restaurant interests to mount a deceptive signature gathering campaign to “referend” the measure and place it on the June 2016 ballot.
Looking for Teachers in all the Wrong Places
NBC7 reported on local school districts desperately seeking classroom help.
At the beginning of this school year, many districts scrambled to start school with enough teachers, according to the report. This upcoming school year, the state is anticipating a shortage of 22,000 teachers.
Over the next ten years, anticipated retirements are expected to open up 100,000 jobs statewide.
The NBC7 story fails to place the teachers shortage in context, ignoring the relentless drumbeat of denigration of the profession by those whose ultimate aim is to privatize public education.
College students don’t want to become teachers because the job sucks: it typically doesn’t pay enough to cover the cost of student loans, the profession has become a political football, and they’re expected to teach to the test rather than help students learn.
Washington Post education writer Valerie Strauss turned to Stephen Mucher, who directs the Bard College Master of Arts Teaching Program in Los Angeles, for an explanation of the teacher shortage:
But finding candidates to fill this role, especially good candidates, may be more difficult than policymakers are willing to admit. Despite their clear interest in public service, the students I meet betray little enthusiasm for teaching as it now exists. And I see even less indication that major trends in public education—standardization, the proliferation of testing, the elimination of tenure and seniority, and expansion of school choice—have made teaching any more attractive as a career option. Prospective teachers, much like the young educators already working in schools, are especially skeptical of accountability measures that tie a teacher’s job security or pay grade to student test scores. And many are bothered by the way teachers are blamed for much broader social problems.
As a result, today’s college students, including those currently marching on campus, are significantly less likely than their parents to see teaching as a viable way to become agents of social change. Of all age groups, voters 18-29 are the most pessimistic about the teaching profession. Only 24 percent are “very likely” to encourage a friend or family member to become a K-12 teacher today.
What’s the Worst That Could Happen?
Guns right advocate Jamie Gilt of Jacksonville, FL was shot in the back by her four-year-old son as she drove her pickup truck down the road.
From the New York Daily News:
The Florida boy found the loaded weapon in mom Jamie Gilt’s car Tuesday and shot her as they cruised down a Putnam County road, officials said. The 31-year-old mother survived the mid-drive attack and is in stable condition.
“Even my 4-year-old gets jacked up to target shoot with the .22,” Gilt wrote on Facebook Monday during a fiery online debate about guns as a means of self-defense. The Jacksonville mom maintained she has the right to shoot anyone who threatens her and her family — and she’s teaching her kids to do the same.
On top of her personal account, the vocal gun activist runs “Jamie Gilt for Gun Sense,” a Facebook page dedicated to spouting her passionate pro-gun opinions.
In other Gun Nutz news, some righteous Second Amendment type has started a petition to allow guns to be openly carried at the republican Convention this summer.
We all know that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And Ohio is an open-carry state. Therefore, in order to ensure the safety of convention attendees (in the crime-riddled streets of Cleveland!), and in order to protect the integrity of the nominating process, and in order to demonstrate the inherent safety of the open-carry lifestyle, we the undersigned insist that all of the 2016 GOP convention, including the main convention floor, be an open-carry convention.
On This Day: 1876 – Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful call with the telephone. He spoke the words “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” 1968– United Farm Workers leader César Chávez broke a 24-day fast, by doctor’s order, at a mass in Delano, California’s public park. Several thousand supporters were at his side, including Sen. Robert Kennedy. Chavez called it “a fast for non-violence and a call to sacrifice.” 2000 – Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders) and two other people were arrested in New York City after slashing leather goods at Gap store as part of a protest organized by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Did you enjoy this article? Subscribe to “The Starting Line” and get an email every time a new article in this series is posted!
I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas to DougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.