Employment and Jobs

Foster and Rolf: “A Fund for NYC Drivers Models How Benefits Could Work in the Gig Economy”

September 27, 2018  • Natalie Foster & David Rolf

In Quartz at Work, Future of Work Initiative Fellow Natalie Foster and National Advisory Council Member David Rolf, Founder and President Emeritus of SEIU 775, explore how the Black Car Fund serves as a real world example of how we can modernize the social contract. Read an excerpt below. 

More than one in every ten American workers—15.5 million people—rely on on-call, temp-agency, contract-firm jobs or independent contracting for their main job in the US, which is more people than work in manufacturing. This estimate came recently from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Contingent Worker Supplement (CWS), which was conducted for the first time in thirteen years, and measures how many Americans are engaging in alternative work as their main job.

These workers struggle to access workplace benefits and protections like health insurance, retirement plans, and workers compensation. According to the CWS, these workers in alternative arrangements are 50% more likely to be uninsured than those in traditional work arrangements.

One of the most striking changes since the last CWS in 2005 was the jump in health coverage rates across all alternative work arrangements. The Affordable Care Act likely played a large role, expanding access to health coverage for millions of workers. Since 2005, in fact, the portion of alternative workers without insurance went from more than a third to just under a quarter. But even with this increase in coverage, there are still substantial gaps in access to benefits between alternative workers and traditional workers. Traditional workers are over twice as likely to receive employer-provided health insurance as the wage and salary alternative workers, and 60% more likely to access employer-provided retirement plans.

While there is debate—and litigation—about whether these workers should be properly classified as employees under the law, for the time being they lack any access to traditional employment benefits and protections. At a time when so many Americans are without benefits and cannot rely on the traditional employer-provided benefit model, we’re faced with the challenge of finding new ways to allocate benefits to workers. Benefits should be portable, meaning workers should be able to access them regardless of their work arrangement and be able to take them from job to job. This portability is a vital step in improving stability and economic security for both traditional and independent workers.

Read the full article on Quartz at Work