A Labor Secretary Who Cares About Labor

Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, American workers have suffered a steady erosion of rights guaranteed to “employees” under federal labor laws.

But Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh took a step this week to reverse the trend.

Walsh said he wants to make it easier to classify gig workers as employees so they are entitled to a “safety net” of basic protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In other words, he wants to stop employers from classifying workers as independent contractors simply to avoid paying minimum wage, holiday and overtime pay, etc.

Walsh said he will not enforce a rule adopted by the Trump administration that would have made it harder for employees who are wrongly classified as independent contractors to demand their right to be treated like employees.

1 in 6

Gig workers represent a rapidly growing segment of the American workforce due to the explosive rise of app-based services like Uber, Airbnb, Fiverr and Task Rabbit.

The ADP Research Institute estimates that one in six “enterprise” workers are gig workers.

Some gig workers prize flexibility and want to work when they choose. About 20% of gig workers are retired.

However, ADP found that more than half of independent contractors work for 12 months or more alongside regular company employees without the same protections. These gig workers are ripe for exploitation.

Gig workers generally have no right to minimum wage, meal breaks, overtime, health insurance, holiday pay, Social Security. etc. Moreover, gig workers may be required to pay expenses that should be borne by employers, such as internet or car maintenance.

Share The Wealth

Walsh told USA Today that he doesn’t begrudge companies their profits but “we also want to make sure that success trickles down to the worker.” The department is expected to launch investigations of companies engaged in worker misclassification and propose a new rule that supports greater protections for gig workers.

Prior to entering public service, Walsh was a labor leader. He served as head the Building and Construction Trades Council from 2011 to 2013

He also is a former mayor of Boston who secured a statewide $15/hour minimum wage, paid sick leave and paid parental leave. He established universal, high-quality pre-kindergarten for all children and free community college for low income students.

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