It’s Time to Modernize the Workforce While Protecting Independent Workers

By: Nathan Brown

Throughout the past 10 years, the different ways in which Americans work have fundamentally changed. Thanks to technology, there are more innovative and flexible job opportunities for people to pursue outside of a traditional nine-to-five office job. 

A prime example of this transformation in how we work can be seen by the millions of people who operate in the on-demand economy, like those who choose to work in online or app-based platforms. Today, over 57 million Americans, including me, work on their own schedule, and that number will surely increase as more people realize the benefits that come with working in this sector – especially the flexibility it offers.

As a driver for Amazon myself, I value the flexibility that my work gives me. For many drivers like me, working independently allows us to balance our personal and professional life, particularly during these unprecedented times where many have to juggle multiple things like work, childcare, and virtual schooling. 

This is precisely why lawmakers, like Arizona’s U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, as well as my Congressman Greg Stanton, must work to address the needs of this growing sector of the workforce. It is long overdue for policymakers to recognize that today’s labor laws and social safety nets are outdated. 

First and foremost, implementing a portable benefits program would be one meaningful way to address this issue. Establishing a portable benefits program will protect millions of independent workers and give them peace of mind in addition to expanding opportunities for people across all demographics, ethnicities, and backgrounds. In the long run, this would help brick and mortar small businesses, restaurants, and retail establishments compete in what has become an increasingly online economy that shows no sign of slowing down.

Independent workers in this space would also benefit tremendously from a portable benefits program. Having access to key items like health insurance, paid family and medical leave, and disability insurance that they can take with them no matter where they work would be a huge improvement that could attract even more people to work in this industry. 

Remaining independent while receiving these types of benefits is an overwhelming popular opinion among current workers as well, according to one poll, by a 4-to-1 margin. Given this large majority, it’s no surprise that recently in California, Proposition 22 passed with over 58% support. This proves even further that allowing independent contractors to stay independent while receiving benefits is wildly popular and is not a partisan issue – it is a pro-worker issue.

The reason that Proposition 22 was so effective and successful can be summed up simply: workers – and those who support workers – in California wanted these crucial independent contractors and app-based earners to be able to keep their flexibility and independence. This is great news for Californians, and now it’s time to focus attention and effort on this issue nationally.

Utilizing the success of Proposition 22 and federalizing the issue would be a huge step forward for workers across the country. Private companies are doing their part to elevate worker standards, and policymakers in Washington must match that enthusiasm.

Nathan Brown is gig economy worker and voter in Congressional District 9


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