Poll: New York Voters Support Workers’ Demands for Full Employment Rights and Corporate Accountability

Nearly 80% support requiring app-based corporations to contribute to unemployment insurance and other social safety net programs

New York – On the heels of New York app-based drivers winning a first-of-its-kind settlement with Uber and Lyft, a recent poll of New York voters reveals overwhelming support for holding corporations that control working conditions—such as pay rates and access to work—legally responsible for complying with state and federal labor and employment laws.  

New York voters agree that app-based companies like Uber, Lyft, and Grubhub should pay into New York’s unemployment insurance (UI) system:

  • 78% responded that they support requiring the companies to pay into the UI system, when informed that some courts have ruled that app-based workers are entitled to unemployment insurance but that app-based corporations do not contribute to New York’s UI fund.

Drivers affiliated with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance have been organizing to demand basic employment protections, including minimum pay, paid leave, and unemployment insurance. On November 2, 2023, they scored two victories when the New York State Department of Labor and the New York State Attorney General’s Office announced settlements with Uber and Lyft that will require them to pay penalties and change their practices going forward.  

Under the agreements, Uber and Lyft must compensate current and former drivers a total of $328 million in pay that the corporations systematically stole from drivers over nine years. Going forward, they must pay drivers a minimum of $26 per hour while drivers are driving to pick up or transport passengers, and they must allow drivers to accrue paid sick leave.  

Additionally, Uber must make retroactive payments to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund dating back to the launch of its operations in New York in 2014, as well as begin making regular contributions to the fund going forward—something all businesses must do on behalf of their employees.  

These two victories are critical steps in ensuring that app-based drivers have the same rights and protections that all other employees in New York are entitled to. Yet, voters agree that more needs to be done, including adopting protections for workers who are sick or get injured on the job:  

  • 79% support ensuring that workers are not wrongly stripped of injury and illness protections—including workers’ compensation, health insurance, and accident insurance—by corporate policies that misclassify employees as independent contractors who are not covered.
  • 87% support requiring businesses to comply with minimum wage and overtime laws if they set their workers’ wages.
  • 79% said they support requiring app-based corporations to make employer contributions to Medicare and Social Security.

“These numbers confirm what we already know: New Yorkers overwhelmingly support workers’ demands for full employment protections and corporate accountability, particularly when it comes to app-based workers like Uber and Lyft drivers,” said Laura Padin, director of work structures at the National Employment Law Project. 

“These companies mislabel their workers as ‘independent contractors’ to deny them basic employment rights and protections. But voters want these companies to pay fairly, provide to their workers the same benefits other employees get, and contribute their fair share toward vital social safety net programs like unemployment insurance,” continued Padin. “When corporations fail to do so, they shirk their obligations to their workers and create a race to the bottom, unfairly competing with employers that are doing the right thing.” 

New Yorkers want lawmakers to make it harder for corporations to shirk their obligations to workers:

  • 81% support legislation that would extend employment rights and protections—including minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and paid leave—to many workers currently classified as independent contractors.
  • 74% favor increasing penalties on corporations that misclassify their employees as independent contractors.

“Given broad public support for holding corporations accountable to the working people who power their businesses, we call on New York’s lawmakers to introduce legislation establishing a straightforward test for employee status—one that creates a strong presumption of employment, so that all people who work for someone else are entitled to the fundamental rights and protections of New York’s employment and labor laws,” said Padin. “The Legislature also should impose strict penalties on employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors, and enhance workers’ and the labor commissioner’s ability to require employers to report wages and pay into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.”  

The poll of 740 likely voters was conducted over 10 days in March 2023 by the non-profit research group Data for Progress, with a sample weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, geography, and voting history. The margin of error is ±4 percentage points.  

Review the poll: Data for Progress Poll Results

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