Roosevelt Institute, NELP Release Report on 21st Century Worker Benefits

Senator Elizabeth Warren Endorses Plan to Strengthen Social Safety Net for the On-Demand Economy

NEW YORK, NY – In a new report titled “Work Benefits: Ensuring Economic Security in the 21st Century”, the Roosevelt Institute and the National Employment Law Project put forward key principles for expanding economic security for workers in the “gig” or “on-demand” economy. The report, which was endorsed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), looks beyond single-employer-based programs to propose a broad public/private system of social benefits that is universal, portable, and flexible for all workers.

Today’s report release coincides with recent lobbying efforts by gig-economy companies in New York State in support of a bill that would allow them to treat their workers as independent contractors. Although the proposed legislation claims to create a portable benefits system for on-demand economy workers, its actual value is worth only a fraction of the insurance, Social Security, paid leave, and other benefits workers are already entitled to under existing law. The proposal will face stiff opposition from labor and civil rights groups, including NELP.

“The rise in gig, contract, and other work arrangements that offer little economic security for hardworking Americans and their families is one more symptom of an economy where productivity continues to increase, but only a handful of corporate interests benefit from the growth these workers produce,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “This report puts to bed the myth that a decades-long race to the bottom by corporations that want to increase profits by shirking wages and benefits will be solved by a clever iPhone app or a tax break for giant corporations.”

“This report also outlines a vision for the future where both workers and employers can thrive by expanding the safety net and implementing a system of benefits negotiated by and for workers, benefits that can be funded by ensuring that corporations pay their fair share of taxes and that businesses pay for the full cost of the workforce they depend on to keep profits soaring,” Warren said. “I’m ready to fight for these kinds of policies alongside NELP and the Roosevelt Institute to provide better economic security for hardworking Americans.”

The growing power of business overall, coupled with the growth insecure work – part-time, temporary, and subcontracted jobs – has eroded the social safety net and the bargaining power of workers, and created the need for a re-imagining of what benefits all working people receive and how they are administered.

“It is undeniable that the our economy is no longer delivering for millions of working families and that a big part of this unacceptable dynamic is that even people who work full-time struggle to get by,” said Nell Abernathy, VP of Research and Policy at the Roosevelt Institute. “Our report explains how we got here – and, more importantly, how we can create new rules to give people who are currently being left behind a real shot at economic stability.”

“Simply put, too many businesses have broken the social contract that delivered economic security to many of us in the 20th century.” Said Rebecca Smith, Deputy Director of the National Employment Law Project. “In this century, we need to shore up and expand social insurance, and ensure that working people – no matter how their job is structured – can negotiate for the additional benefits that deliver real security.”

Supporting lawmakers seeking to address the growing vulnerabilities of workers in the gig-economy, the report goes beyond describing what new benefit models should look like to provide a detailed plan for how they could be funded. Benefits programs based on individual savings will not provide economic security to low-wage workers, the report concludes. A sustainable portable benefits model must include business contributions and public funds.


About the Roosevelt Institute
Until economic and social rules work for all Americans, they’re not working. Inspired by the legacy of Franklin and Eleanor, the Roosevelt Institute reimagines the rules to create a nation where everyone enjoys a fair share of our collective prosperity. We are a 21st century think tank bringing together multiple generations of thinkers and leaders to help drive key economic and social debates and have local and national impact.

About National Employment Law Project
For more than 45 years, the National Employment Law Project has sought to ensure that America upholds for all workers her promise of opportunity and economic security through work.  In partnership with grassroots and national allies, NELP promotes policies to create good jobs, enforce hard-won workplace rights, and help unemployed workers regain their economic footing.

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