Gig workers should, at times, be classified as employees, entitled to sick time, healthcare, and paid time off, Reuters reported on Thursday (April 29), citing an exclusive interview with U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.
President Joe Biden’s labor secretary — the former mayor of Boston (from 2014 to 2021) and president of Local 223 — told Reuters that the labor department is still probing the issue.
“We are looking at it but in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees … in some cases they are treated respectfully and in some cases they are not and I think it has to be consistent across the board,” Walsh told the news outlet.
Walsh said that he isn’t looking to “begrudge anyone” for trying to boost profits for their company because “that’s what we are about in America,” but at the same time, he said, some of that “success” should make its way to workers’ paychecks.
The son of Irish immigrants and a longtime labor supporter, Walsh’s stance aligns with the Biden Administration’s push to protect workers and support organized labor.
Gig workers comprised 34 percent of the workforce in 2017, some 55 million people, according to the International Labor Organization, per Reuters. By 2020, that number was forecasted to hit 43 percent.
California voters in November 2020 upheld Proposition 22, which exempted digital platform companies like Uber and Lyft from state law AB 5. The law would have forced technology platforms to reclassify their gig workers as employees.
After a fall-off in rideshare demand amid the worldwide pandemic, Uber reported that March was the company’s best month for gross bookings since the business was founded in 2019. The spike in rideshare demand, however, soared beyond what drivers could handle, prompting Uber to offer signing bonuses in an effort to expand its pool of available gig workers.
The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled in February that Uber drivers should be reclassified from gig workers to employees. The decision means that the U.K.’s 65,000 drivers would be entitled to paid holidays and minimum wage.