Rights On Demand: Ensuring Workplace Standards and Worker Security in the On-Demand Economy

Source: Rebecca Smith, Sarah Leberstein, National Employment Law Project, Data Brief, September 2015

From the summary:
….Regardless of how these businesses characterize their relationships with workers, they should not be allowed to shut workers out of what our nation’s baseline labor standards were intended to convey: the opportunity to achieve and sustain economic security through work. The technology used by these companies and others holds enormous potential to benefit both businesses and workers. To ensure that this potential is met, we must enforce our existing labor standards aggressively and adapt them where and as needed, to ensure they deliver essential labor rights to all, protect law-abiding employers, and secure the safety net and tax dollars connected to employment for the good of us all. Those rights and protections should include the following:
• Rights on the job: Like other workers, on-demand workers should enjoy the protection of baseline labor standards, including the right to the minimum wage for all hours worked and the right to a voice on the job. The label assigned to a worker by an on-demand company should not determine or defeat their ability to have decent jobs. Workers in app-based jobs also need new protections to guard against the misuse of company-held data.
• Social insurance protections: All workers need and deserve the protections afforded by basic social insurance programs. Businesses in the on-demand economy should not get a free pass on making contributions to existing social insurance programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance, on their workers’ behalf. And the social insurance programs now being developed, such as earned leave and supplemental retirement savings, should extend to on-demand workers.
• Broad and equitable access to technology: If the future of work is that we access it via the internet, all workers should have meaningful access to the necessary technologies to secure it.

The on-demand economy covered in this report refers to businesses that use internet-based platforms to assign individuals seeking work to businesses and individuals seeking services, controlling relevant aspects of the work and working conditions. The on-demand economy takes many forms and operates in several key sectors. It includes “ride share” companies such as Uber and Lyft, housekeeping and repair companies such as Handy, computer-based crowdwork companies such as Crowdflower and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, and online staffing agencies such as Wonolo. While these companies differ in some respects, they are alike in that they shift risks to workers who deliver the services and concentrate wealth in the online business owners who operate them.