Employers Say Gig Workers Should Have Better Retirements — As Long As They’re Not ‘Employees’

By Michael Hiltzik
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) What is being done or could be done to help secure the retirement and benefits of gig workers?

Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants you to know that it’s deeply concerned about the retirement prospects of workers in the “gig economy,” especially those drivers, housecleaners and other such menials who make their living by connecting with clients via online apps.

“There should be a focus on enhancing the ability of the participants in this new economy to benefit from their entrepreneurial activities and establish a foundation for their own secure retirement.” Those are the words of Camille Olson, a lawyer for the Chamber, delivered as testimony last week to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

You might think of them, however, as providing a new definition for the term “crocodile tears.”

The Chamber’s devotion to the retirement security of gig workers is all talk. Olson’s apparent goal was to urge Congress to provide for more “flexibility” in retirement options for workers so any such benefits don’t trigger reclassification of those workers as “employees.” In other words, she argued in favor of allowing businesses to squeeze their workforces ever harder, stripping away all the job security and benefits that come with official employment.

Another witness on the committee’s panel was having none of it. Economist Monique Morrissey of the labor-oriented Economic Policy Institute explained the drawbacks from employers’ “avoiding legal responsibility for these workers,” including the workers’ inability to maintain their standard of living in retirement, lower wages and lower Social Security.

Morrissey threw cold water on employers’ claims that the novel “gig” arrangements are incompatible with traditional employment benefits. First of all, she observed, these arrangements are not so novel. Second, they’re really just stratagems to cut labor costs. “They should already be employees,” she said of “independent contractors” employed by companies such as Uber and Lyft. “I don’t have any sympathy for companies who want it both ways.”

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