New Laws for the Fissured Workplace
By David Weil
Op-Ed piece for The American Prospect,
part of their symposium on “The Future of Labor”
April 29, 2020
The pandemic has compelled the government to extend temporary protections to some independent contractors and gig workers, but they need full and permanent coverage.
Late last month, Instacart workers went on strike to protest the company’s refusal to provide them with rudimentary personal protective equipment, such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. The CDC has made it clear that these basic items are necessary protections for frontline workers and their customers. Instacart workers—along with thousands of other so-called independent contractors who work for platform companies like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and Amazon Flex—are not protected by federal workplace health and safety laws or many other foundational labor standards.
Around the same time, Dr. Ming Lin, an emergency room physician in the coronavirus hot spot of Bellingham, Washington, was fired after advocating for more medical supplies for his fellow health care workers at the facility where he had worked for 17 years. That removal order came not from PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center, the hospital where he worked, but from a staffing agency called TEAMHealth, which was actually his direct employer. PeaceHealth refused comment on his dismissal because he was not their direct employee.
From gig workers to medical doctors, a minimum of 25 million workers in the U.S. face barriers to standard workplace protections like unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, and such basic protections as minimum wage and overtime. That’s because they either are classified—sometimes falsely—as independent contractors or, like Dr. Lin, work at arm’s length from the organization where they do their job, as they are formally employed by staffing agencies, third-party managers, or subcontractors.
Read entire piece.
“Why Americans Don’t Know About Their Right To Paid Sick
Leave,” Op-Ed piece by by Chris Lu, Patricia Smith, and David Weil.
Newsweek, 5.20.20. Read the piece.
“Why having fewer OSHA inspectors matters,” Op-Ed piece by
David Weil. The Conversation, 3.6.20. Read.
“Long-sought U.S. labor rule change raises worker safety questions
in coronavirus crisis,” by Tom Hals. Reuters, 4.30.20. Read.
“Gig Workers Still Waiting for Help After 22 Million Jobs Vanish,”
by Shawn Donnan, Reade Pickert, and Catarina Saraiva, Bloomberg,
“What it’s like to be a delivery person during the coronavirus pandemic,”
by Katie Brigham, CNBC, 4.16.20. Read.
“Coronavirus pandemic shines a light on gig workers’ scant protections,”
by Katie Johnson, The Boston Globe, 4.14.20. Read.
“Gig-Working Through the Apocalypse,” by Andrew Schwartz,
The New Republic, 4.8.20. Read.
“Our Political System Is Hostile to Real Reform,” by Mikwe Konczal,
Dissent magazine, 3.26.20. Read.
“Delivery drivers face pandemic without sick pay, insurance, sanitizer,”
by Chris Kirkham, and Jeffrey Dastin, Reuters, 3.25.20. Read.
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