Workers’ comp in the “sharing economy”
As Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, and other app- and internet-based companies in the so-called “sharing economy” grow, concerns are rising about their workers’ lack of basic protections. Instead of hiring front-line workers as employees with workers’ comp coverage, health insurance, job security, and other protections, the companies dodge these responsibilities by classifying their workers as independent contractors.
Several recent physical assaults on Uber and Lyft drivers have highlighted the devastation that a lack of workers’ comp can cause for workers and their families. In an industry with one of the highest rates of on-the-job assault and homicide, adequate protections in case of occupational injury are an urgent matter for taxi drivers.
Indeed, workers’ comp is one of the worker protections that ‘traditional’ taxi drivers have worked hard to win, and these drivers now worry that their labor protections will be eroded as Uber and Lyft drive a race to the bottom. App-based drivers’ associations, meanwhile, face significant difficulties organizing due to workers’ fears of retaliation, lack of job security, and isolation. Nevertheless, they have managed to gain momentum in several cities, culminating in the first multi-city Uber strike last fall.
As the market for peer-to-peer services grows, drivers will struggle without adequate access to health care and income supports while they are recovering.