Last week, I testified before the Washington State House Labor and Workplace Standards Committee in a legislative hearing on the Universal Worker Protections Act, introduced by Representative Monica Stonier. I discussed the section of the legislation that creates a model to provide portable benefits for non-traditional workers.
In my testimony, I described how workers came to rely on their employers to serve as the access point for a range of benefits and other protections through the 20th century, forming a social contract between employers and employees. But this social contract has frayed as the workplace has fissured: many businesses today rely on subcontracted workers, independent contractors and temps. These non-traditional workers—both employees and independent contractors—often do not have access to employer-provided benefits and therefore must either pay out-of-pocket or put themselves at higher economic risk in the face of on-the-job injuries and growing healthcare and retirement costs. A key problem in today’s labor market is the gap in benefits coverage between non-traditional and traditional workers.
We see portable benefits models, like the one proposed in Washington, as a promising solution to this problem, providing better, more universal access to critical benefits. This bill provides a legislative vision to improve benefits coverage for the non-traditional workforce. Policymakers across the country can learn from the legislative work done in Washington on this issue—and several already have: policymakers in New Jersey and Georgia, among others, have advanced similar frameworks. These state efforts have the potential to support a new social contract for the 21st century, one that improves economic security for all working Americans.
The full hearing can be found here.