By: Cori Kramer, CEO of Center Forward
Opportunities for bipartisan legislating feel few and far between. But they are not lost. This was evidenced last month when Washington state saw legislators on both sides of the aisle, local union members, business and members of the community come together to support legislation that gives unprecedented benefits to app-based workers.
The rise of apps like Uber has given workers an entirely new way to earn money. People who had previously struggled to find meaningful work that met their needs can now work at the click of a button. For hundreds of thousands of Americans, it has been a game changer—one that legislators have had to address in a rapidly changing economy.
What workers are looking for in employment in this country is also rapidly evolving, and the employment system we have in place must also evolve to meet workers’ needs. Rather than forcing workers to choose between traditional employment with rigid schedules, or independence and flexibility but fewer benefits, policymakers and the business community should come together in a bipartisan fashion to create better standards for employment. For many Americans, like older Americans on a fixed income, college students, or family members who look after sick or disabled relatives, traditional employment just doesn’t work.
Unfortunately, for most of the last fifty years those people had few options to work in a way that fit their needs. Collectively, government, labor, and workers themselves have a chance to change that and finally offer meaningful work, pay and benefits to more Americans than ever.
What workers want is up for debate. Every poll, survey and election has shown that app-based workers want to remain independent. A poll from The Rideshare Guy found 79 percent of drivers nationwide wanted to remain independent; a national survey from Pew found 65 percent of platform workers saw themselves as independent contractors; and a New York survey found 78 percent of drivers there wanted to keep their current status. In California, voters overwhelmingly supported a ballot measure that provides workers with minimum pay and a set of benefits. The measure passed with 58 percent of the vote, including a significant degree of support from women and communities of color.
In Washington, legislators on both sides of the aisle listened to what workers have been saying, and recently enacted HB 2076, a bill that preserves ride share drivers’ independence while guaranteeing certain benefits and protections. Like any good piece of legislation, this bill came about because of significant compromise reached between Rep. Berry, the local Teamsters union, Uber, Lyft, and many other stakeholders.
It gives ride-hail drivers in Washington a minimum earning standard and entitles them to benefits like paid sick leave, injury protections, a statewide driver resource center, and more. It also ensures drivers can keep the independence and flexibility that allows them to drive when, where, and however they want.
What works in Washington may not work everywhere, though. The state’s situation was unique in that its biggest city, Seattle, had already enacted some of the provisions included in this bill locally. The authors of the bill were able to build off a set of standards that already existed for many of the state’s ride-hail drivers.
Given that, it makes sense that Washington was the first state in the country to achieve these victories for ride-hail drivers through the full legislative process and with bipartisan support. Other states should look to HB 2076 as an example of what’s possible when all parties are able to come to the table and put workers first.