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 universal 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.
For nearly a century, workers have fought for a universal foundation of rights and protections for all workers.
At the same time, corporations have characterized workers as “self-employed,” or “independent contractors,” or “employed” by a third party, as a tactic to shift risk downwards onto workers while channeling wealth upwards to investors and CEOs. These practices harm not only workers but also the integrity of our social benefits systems as well as the law-abiding businesses that are forced to compete on an uneven playing field.
These arrangements are rampant in sectors where people of color are overrepresented, such as home care, trucking, technology, janitorial, delivery, landscaping, and other work. More recently, well-capitalized online platform companies have joined the trend. No matter the sector, abusive outsourcing aggravates income and wealth inequality, intensifies the segregation of workers by race and gender into poor-quality jobs, and impairs the ability of workers to come together to negotiate with businesses over wages and working conditions.
Recently, campaigns across the country have brought new thinking and innovation—and revived some tried-and-true ideas—to the seemingly intractable issues of worker misclassification. These innovative policy proposals are meant to move us towards a system of universal labor rights, universally enforced. This policy brief outlines some of the most promising ideas for campaigners, state agencies, and policymakers.