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According to a report in today’s Washington Examiner, we may be on the verge of getting some hard data that would show just exactly how big the gig economy really is. Reporter Sean Higgins says that the Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish the latest edition of its Contingent Worker Survey this spring that will offer new data on workers doing short-term, non-salaried gigs. An anonymous source in the Labor Department said the study probably will be published in April, according to Higgins.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals heard argument today over a proposal that would permit ride-sharing drivers who work for companies such as Uber and Lyft to organize and form unions. Given what could be at stake—the potential for the first-ever gig worker union—this has been a hard-fought legal battle to date, and today’s argument has been no different in nature.

Last week was a big week when it comes to shining the spotlight on sexual harassment in the gig economy arena. On Thursday, Nathan Heller wrote a piece for the New Yorker that garnered a lot of attention entitled, “The Gig Economy Is Especially Susceptible to Sexual Harassment.” The premise of the article is that freelance workers of all stripes outside the sphere of protection that typically covers W-2 employees, noting that human resources departments, collective bargaining, and federal and state laws cannot offer coverage over most independent contractors. Because of that, Heller writes, “freelance workers are highly vulnerable [to sexual harassment]. They have little institutional support and few, if any, supervisors. They are transient and easily replaceable as well. Those who gig with algorithmic ratings systems must stay on the good side of capricious clients. Others, who depend on word-of-mouth referrals, are obliged to embrace any gift horses that come.”

Of all the public policy debates surrounding the gig economy of late, one of the hottest topics has been “portable benefits” – the concept that gig economy workers should have flexible, portable benefits that they can take with them from job to job, or “gig to gig.” This push just got a major jumpstart that may turn out to be a game-changer. 

An international crowd of approximately 60,000 people attended the Web Summit Lisbon last month where one of the most pressing questions posed during the conference was: “How do we create a future of work that works for everyone?” As it relates to the gig economy, a three-person panel attempted to answer that question. And one of the panel members (Richard Socarides, the Head of Public Affairs at Gerson Lehrman Group) recently wrote an article highlighting the six big picture takeaways from the panel discussion.

We recently ran an article about some major developments that will impact all employers as a result of the recently passed tax reform bill. But now you might be asking what specific changes might be in store for gig economy businesses. You’ve come to the right place, because we have the answer.

By most objective measurements, the Labor Department’s December 4 jobs report was solid. CNN Money reported that employers added 228,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1%. Meanwhile, average weekly paychecks increased by 3.1% over the last 12-months, the first time that reading has topped 3% in nearly seven years. According to gloval talent solutions firm Randstand Sourceright, the strong November jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics can partly be credited to the gig economy. According to its analysis, 61% of employers plan to switch up a significant chunk of their full-time permanent positions (one-third or greater) to contingent jobs at some point in the near future. This continuing pivot towards a gig model has helped streamline operations and demonstrates the continued value of the freelance workforce for any organization.

The gig economy just got a strong ally in its fight to remain union-free: the federal government. The latest development in the ongoing saga involving an attempt to put into place the nation’s first unionization law that would cover certain gig economy companies involves the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission throwing its support behind gig companies.

Bad news out of Washington, D.C. late yesterday. Chris Opfer of Bloomberg BNA reports that the current version of the Senate tax reform bill, released yesterday, no longer includes the protection that had initially been proposed that would have prevented misclassification challenges against most gig economy companies. We discussed the proposal in a blog post last week with high hopes that we might start to see some movement on the federal regulatory front, but this latest development means that gig companies will be waiting longer for protection from the federal government.

It is no secret that labor laws have been unable to keep pace with the changing economy. Recently, however, it appears the effort to spur change has been resuscitated, as proposals come in from the left (former SIEU head Andrew Stern) and the right (R Street Institute’s Eli Lehrer and Garret Watson), and pressure is applied from the bench (eastern Pennsylvania federal judge Hon. Michael Baylson). 

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