South Bend, Indiana mayor and 2020 presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg thinks “gig economy” workers are getting a raw deal as independent contractors, and promised to rectify that if elected.
In a video Buttigieg posted to Twitter on Friday, the presidential hopeful called the U.S. economy “the most unequal economy of modern times,” as workers are being forced into working two or three jobs just to pay bills. He added that economic progress should be defined not by stock market performance, but by “actually earning enough to live well.”
Today I'm proud to announce a new plan that will empower all workers, lift wages, and give workers and employers the tools they need to thrive.
Our economy is changing. Our laws and policies should too.
— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) July 26, 2019
Buttigieg’s plan, which is a play on the JFK quote “a rising tide lifts all boats,” is dubbed “A New Rising Tide: Empowering Workers in a Changing Economy.” The South Bend mayor pointed out that, while companies like Uber and Lyft classify rideshare drivers as independent contractors in order to deny them benefits typically afforded to full-time employees — like health insurance and paid time off — other more established companies like Google and McDonalds also deny workers collective bargaining power by classifying them as employees of an independent franchise, or as independent temp workers.
Language in the plan Buttigieg rolled out appears to have been heavily influenced by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (who was the subject of an award-winning essay Buttigieg wrote in his teens).
“Since the turn of the century–when Pete and his generation entered the workforce–GDP growth has gone entirely to the richest tenth of Americans,” Buttigieg’s website states. “The 90% of Americans who are not in that tiny tenth have experienced almost no income growth.”
Sanders, for his part, is widely known for frequently mentioning the fact that the top 1% of Americans have gotten more than 90% of income growth in recent history — as he did in his 2015 campaign kickoff speech.
The stated goals of Buttigieg’s plan are to “guarantee gig economy workers their labor rights, including unionization,” “enshrine the right to multi-employer bargaining,” and “expand federal protections to cover farm and domestic workers,” among others. He also promised to come down hard on what he called “payroll fraud” on behalf of employers that mischaracterize employees as independent contractors.
“Employers who call workers ‘independent contractors’ instead of employees make it harder for workers to collect on the promise of core protections like overtime, civil rights protections, and unemployment insurance,” Buttigieg’s website states. “Pete will support substantially increasing funding for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), among other agencies that fight misclassification, to ensure that employers are not misclassifying their workers as contractors rather than employees.”
“He will likewise empower agencies at the state and federal level to share enforcement information through an interagency misclassification taskforce,” the site continued. “Pete also endorses the Payroll Fraud Prevention Act, which makes misclassification a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violation.”
(Featured image: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.