All of us deserve meaningful work that provides us with the stability and security to thrive as individuals and families, and to build thriving communities and a healthy democracy. For nearly a century, workers have fought for a foundation of rights and protections for all workers. In the last decades, many workers have won higher minimum wages, secure scheduling, paid sick and safe time, and paid family leave in jurisdictions across the United States.
But not all working people are protected by labor rights. Digital labor platform companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart have, ever since their founding during the Great Recession, told their workers that they have no rights as workers, and have dedicated enormous resources to carve them out from labor laws that form a baseline for other workers. The companies’ extensive lobbying efforts led half the states to exempt them mainly or entirely from complying with any state laws whatsoever related to employee rights.
Digital labor platform companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart are actively lobbying and marketing for a workplace that forces workers to accept jobs with only a sliver of the baseline rights and protections other workers have.
Digital labor platform companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart are actively lobbying and marketing for a workplace that forces workers to accept jobs with only a sliver of the baseline rights and protections other workers have. To back their lobbying and marketing agenda, the companies have funded unscientific surveys, often using misleading questions, and cited the results as evidence that app-based workers are successful, profitable entrepreneurs when the reality is most are barely making ends meet.
This brief provides a roundup of more than a dozen scientific surveys of workers, voters, and taxpayers, as well as independent reviews of data supplied or required by law from “gig” companies, as defined above, on the wages and working conditions of digital labor platform jobs in the United States. We supplement those findings with community-based reports and the voices of workers themselves.
This brief is meant to illustrate the real experiences of app-based workers via worker stories and scientific studies, and to counteract the false narratives being pushed by the companies. We call for universal labor rights for all those who work for a living.
I work in restaurants and catering on top of driving for Uber and Instacart. It might seem like being controlled by an algorithm would mean Black people would be treated more fairly, but it just hides the low wages and customer abuse.
driver and president of Philadelphia Drivers Union
Black and Latinx workers provide a disproportionate share of digital labor platform work in the United States. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that Black and Latinx workers make up almost 42 percent of workers for Uber, Lyft, and other “electronically mediated work” companies, although they comprise less than 29 percent of the overall U.S. workforce.
U.S. history is rife with instances in which business elites and policymakers exclude Black and Latinx workers from core labor standards or shunt workers of color into a narrow set of low-paying jobs. It is in this context that we examine the real conditions for workers in app-dispatched jobs.
 We define “digital labor companies” as companies that use internet-based technology platforms, accessible via personal computing devices like smartphones, to coordinate and manage on-demand piecework in a variety of service industries, from taxi to food delivery to domestic work.
 Maya Pinto, Rebecca Smith and Irene Tung, Rights at Risk: Gig Companies’ Campaign to Upend Employment as we Know it, National Employment Law Project, 2019, https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Rights-at-Risk-4-2019.pdf.
 Josh Eidelson, N.Y. Lawmaker Drops Bid for Uber Driver Union Deal This Year, Bloomberg, June 8, 2021, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-06-08/uber-new-york-union-bill-is-dead-for-this-year-sponsor-says.
 Testimony of Rebecca Dixon, National Employment Law Project, From Excluded to Essential: Tracing the Racist Exclusion of Farmworkers, Domestic Workers, and Tipped Workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act, Hearing before the US House of Representatives Education and Labor Committee, Workforce Protections Subcommittee, May 3, 2021, https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/NELP-Testimony-FLSA-May-2021.pdf.