American workers have certain legal protections, such as the minimum wage, the right to overtime pay, and the right to organize in unions – plus their employers must make social security contributions on their behalf, and purchase workers’ compensation insurance to protect them in case of injury. The self-employed lack all of these rights. “Gig workers” such as Uber drivers have been denied the legal rights of workers because, like self-employed people, they choose their hours of work – even though otherwise their entire “business plan,” including prices charged, is dictated by Uber. Since the federal government has failed to protect these workers, the state of California has tried to step into the breach with a new law. The law, signed by Governor Newsom in September, makes it more difficult for employers to classify workers as “independent contractors” without basic employee rights, and will take effect Jan. 1.
Want to learn more about the difficult working conditions faced by Uber drivers? Check out The Uber Workplace in DC, a report by Katie Wells of Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor an the Working Poor.