Chalk up in the win column for businesses. Yesterday the National Labor Relations Board ruled that companies found to have misclassified workers as contractors will not automatically face liability for an unfair labor practice.
The Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has filed a complaint for unfair labor practices against Postmates, an on-demand delivery service that, according to its website, “connects customers with local couriers who can deliver anything from any store or restaurant in minutes.” The NLRB alleges that Postmates violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by prohibiting delivery workers from discussing the terms and conditions of their supposed “employment,” and by requiring the workers enter into arbitration agreements.
In its early years, the gig economy, led by ridesharing platforms Uber and Lyft, was touted as the new land of rugged individualism.
In a 2015 survey of Uber drivers in 20 cities across the United States, nine out of 10 Uber drivers reported that “being their own boss” was the primary reason they drive for the company. This new economic model upended the traditional notion that people want to have a permanent job for the financial security. Additionally, it replaced the idea of working one’s way up the corporate ladder with using new internet-based technologies to provide services on your own schedule, with your own equipment.
Yesterday, a federal court judge in Seattle gave a boost to those who want to unionize the gig economy. The August 9 ruling could end up having widespread implications, although unionization efforts for gig workers still have numerous hurdles to overcome before they become law.
The paradigm shift in labor and employment laws forced by the gig economy continues to develop as quickly as our technology. With the monumental decline in union organization over the past few decades, national unions recognize the potential for increasing membership by exploring how to unionize these new age workspaces.