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Putting Workers’ Voices First

An estimated 23 million Americans choose to work with app-based delivery or rideshare platforms for one primary reason: flexibility. But don't just take my word for it. In the first-ever nationwide survey of app-based earners, 77% of earners expressed their preference to remain independent contractors because of the freedom and flexibility that comes from independent work.

I lead Flex, an organization that represents America’s app-based rideshare and delivery platforms and the people who count on them. We commissioned this survey because workers’ voices should be our North Star. Their experiences, their perspectives and their choices should inform the regulations that impact their work.

That notion isn’t always embraced, unfortunately. For instance, Department of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has reportedly expressed that “the idea an independent contractor wants to retain their flexibility doesn’t wash” with him.

Such comments assume that the only legitimate form of work is a traditional 9-to-5 job: working for a boss, on a set schedule as part of a workforce system designed nearly 100 years ago, where the employer has all the control and makes all the decisions.

That’s just not true. And it’s troubling when the government, however well-intentioned, believes it knows what workers want better than workers themselves. The truth is, workers choose this work.

Today’s economy is the best for job seekers in decades. Workers have real choices in deciding how they want to work — and for what kind of paycheck — with no shortage of traditional jobs for those looking for extra income.

Yet, nearly 25 million people are voting with their feet, choosing to work with app-based platforms to earn extra money. That’s nearly 25 million people who are making their own choices about where, when, how often, and with which companies they want to work.

One of those app-based earners is Elizabeth, from Washington state. Elizabeth was working full-time as a paramedic when she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Her physician said the rigors of serving as a paramedic weren’t compatible with her cancer treatments. However, the flexibility of app-based work allowed her to work around medical appointments while continuing to earn income. This flexibility proved vital when she could turn off her app and drive directly to a hospital to confirm a liver match.

Another earner is Sheri from Georgia, a single mom who schedules app-based work around her son’s remote learning and her daughter’s medical appointments. App-based platforms have provided an opportunity to be the hands-on parent her children need and continue to provide for her family.

And there’s Gustavo, an Army veteran in Florida who didn’t have to worry when his hot water heater needed replacement last year thanks to additional income from the delivery platforms he uses to complement his fixed income.

Despite thousands of stories like these and despite the perspective of millions of app-based earners, the Department of Labor recently proposed new regulations that could hinder access to independent work.

In doing so, the agency could strip away workers’ agency to pursue the flexible, scalable earning opportunities that app-based platforms have unlocked. Particularly at a time of historic inflation and economic uncertainty, government regulation that could cost independent workers their earnings and flexibility — and their autonomy — is the wrong approach.

Instead, policymakers should focus on working with stakeholders, including workers, to maintain access to independent work. To that end, Flex urges lawmakers to ensure that flexible, app-based work remains available to independent workers who choose it. Because good public policy listens to those that could be most impacted by proposed regulations — not Beltway perceptions of what is best.

As discussions over independent work continue, we are committed to ensuring that workers’ desire to earn on their own terms remains at the heart of those conversations.

Kristin Sharp is the CEO of Flex, an industry association representing America's leading app-based rideshare and delivery platforms and the people who count on them.

Date: 12/06/2022
Category: Flex Insights