Steven, I totally disagree with this analysis. There are serious consequences to employee determination.

  1. Overtime. You say “it would be easy…for the app to turn off after a 40-hour workweek to prevent overtime.” This totally misses the point. There is a good reason that most taxi drivers (88.5% the last time it was measured) are independent contractors. In order to make a good living, most of them do work long hours. Doing what you say would make Uber not workable for these kinds of drivers, leaving it exclusively the realm of part time occasional workers. This is already a large part of the pool, but excluding professional drivers would be a big problem. And frankly, you’d be putting many of those professional drivers out of work, because they wouldn’t get enough hours to fully participate in the platform.
  2. Health and retirement benefits. Many companies have very different benefits for part time and full time employees, and this distinction is what leads companies to keep workers below not only the 40 hour threshold for overtime, but the 30 hour threshold for these kinds of benefits.

I love the idea of portable, pro-rated benefits. That would solve the problem and put every worker on a level playing field. But simply converting 1099 workers would not. It would lead these new economy companies into exactly the same worker-hostile practices that characterize the rest of the low-wage economy, and that I wrote about in Workers in a World of Continuous Partial Employment.

Founder and CEO, O'Reilly Media. Watching the alpha geeks, sharing their stories, helping the future unfold.

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