Feb 9, 2017

The 'gig economy' is getting Paul Ryan's attention

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Companies operating in the so-called "gig economy" may have at least one Congressional advocate in their corner: House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The topic of independent contractors who work for such companies ― providing on-demand services that range from driving to home cleaning to food delivery ― is "top of mind for the Speaker," political advisor and venture capitalist Bradley Tusk said on Wednesday at a San Francisco event hosted by StrictlyVC.

Tusk later told Axios that, based on his team's discussions with Ryan's office thus far, he seems to be in favor of making it easier for companies to provide "portable benefits" to contractors without being forced to classify them as full employees.

The White House, however, isn't really thinking about this right now, according to Tusk.

Why it matters: On-demand companies like Uber and Handy (both Tusk investments) have come under fire for classifying their workers as contractors instead of employees, presumably to avoid the cost of benefits like health insurance. Companies advocating for portable benefits, which contractors can have independent of a single employer, are seeing this as a safety net compromise.

The downside: As labor advocates have pointed out, such arrangements would provide some benefits to contractors, but still don't include such things as collective bargaining and protection against discrimination.

Pet project: Handy is one of several "gig economy" companies working together to push for portable benefits legislation. So far it has gotten some traction in both New York and California, but Ryan's imprimatur would be even more important.

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