Aug 10, 2020 - Economy & Business

Uber CEO proposes "benefits funds" for gig workers

The Uber CEO.

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images)

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi called for establishing "benefits funds" for gig workers in a New York Times op-ed out Monday.

Why it matters: Gig workers, who remain independent contractors and not employees, have long pushed companies like Uber for benefits comparable to those received by traditional workers. The coronavirus pandemic and its resultant economic strain has broadened those calls.

  • His plan would "give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off. Independent workers in any state that passes this law could take money out for every hour of work they put in."
  • He said that such a model would provide flexibility to allow gig workers to put money toward a benefit of their choosing — noting, for example, that many Uber drivers don't put health care near the top of their list of desired benefits as they often obtain it via a family member or the Affordable Care Act.

What he's saying: Khosrowshahi argued that Uber's drivers should not be treated like employees, because such a move would hurt the flexibility of their working hours and the company "would only have full-time jobs for a small fraction of our current drivers and only be able to operate in many fewer cities than today."

The big picture: This is not a new idea for the company, which has long proposed the idea of "portable benefits" as a compromise against classifying its drivers as employees.

  • It comes as Uber, along with other gig services, are trying to get a ballot measure passed in California this fall that would exempt them from a state law requiring that shift.

Worth noting: He also called on states to do more, saying they "should require all gig companies to provide medical and disability coverage for injuries incurred on the job."

  • "We also need new laws that prevent companies from denying independent workers opportunities based on their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other protected characteristic."
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