Axis of Politicians and Union Bosses Targets Independent Contractors of “Gig” Economy

The term “gig” is common parlance among musicians, who contract to play engagements at various clubs, festivals concert halls and such. One such gigging professional is tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander. He and other jazz artists might think it strange if politicians demanded that they lose independent status and became employees of the establishments in which they play. Politicians and union bosses are attempting to impose that sort of deal on rideshare companies.

Uber, Lyft and others provided riders with a long-overdue alternative to get where they need to go. The default response of politicians and union bosses was to make it a duplicate of the highly regulated and expensive taxi industry. As Katy Grimes notes at the California Globe, Assembly Bill 5  by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, formerly with the AFL-CIO’s San Diego-Imperial County Labor Council, is the most aggressive of the proposed bills to classify rideshare drivers as employees. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is pushing a separate bill to organize drivers, ignoring the April decision by the National Labor Relations Board and the US Department of Labor that Uber drivers are independent contractors.

According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, 89.5 percent of wage and salary workers nationwide are not union members. With only 10.5 percent of workers, unions do not represent “labor” in any meaningful sense. The numbers are dropping everywhere but government, where 33.9 percent of employees are union members. The attempt to herd rideshare drivers into unions is a legislative power play to boost the ranks of unions, a special interest that contributes heavily to one political party. 

The bid to unionize rideshare drivers is like making “gig economy” players Eric Alexander, Joshua Redman and Anat Cohen employees of the clubs where they play. It makes no sense and will do nothing for consumers, who don’t vote for union bosses. The SEIU, by the way, is the union that parades around the California capitol proclaiming “this is our house!”

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at The Daily Caller.
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