December 17, 2019

New Democrat Coalition Urges Involvement on Future of Work Issues in Congress

Washington, DC – Today, the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) sent a letter urging Committee on Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott to include the Coalition’s perspective in finding innovative solutions to our shared priority of ensuring all Americans have the opportunity to earn a good life. Specifically, NDC requests to be involved in discussions around legislative action on the future of work, including the changing nature and structure of work and the economy. 

Our nation is facing a moment of immense economic change driven, in part, by rapid technological advancements that are reshaping entire industries and creating new ones, and changing the nature and structure of work, including a growth in independent work. The gig economy, for example, offers flexible opportunities for workers to earn on their own terms. It also carries unique employment risks, like a lack of full access to the social safety net or benefits. 

The letter reads:

“As policymakers, we must find the balance that preserves choice for workers and consumers: to allow flexible opportunities for workers within the gig economy to grow, and to provide every worker with decent wages, guaranteed fundamental protections, and access to a basic set of benefits that provide financial and structural security, such as retirement savings contributions or health care benefits. We applaud efforts already begun to understand the future of work and expand protections for all workers by the House Committee on Education and Labor. As the House of Representatives continues this work, we respectfully request that you collaborate with the New Democrat Coalition to craft innovative solutions providing all workers the right to organize and access to benefits and worker protections, while also preserving flexibility, value, and autonomy.”

Last Congress, the NDC released policy priorities to help ensure our workers are prepared for the jobs of the future in the Economic Opportunity Agenda: A Future that Works. The Agenda includes two reports, the Closing the Skills and Opportunity Gaps and Creating a 21st Century Social Contract. This Congress, the NDC helped secure language in the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill to require the Bureau of Labor statistics to collect data every two years on contingent and alternative work arrangements to better understand the realities of the evolving structure of work. The NDC stands ready to work with Members on both sides of the aisle to build on the labor advancements of the 20th century in a way that addresses the unique opportunities and challenges of the 21st century economy and workforce.

Read the full letter here or below:

Dear Chairman Scott,

As Members of the New Democrat Coalition (NDC), we have been working to understand how our economy and the nature of work is changing, and what that means for workers.[1] Generations of labor advocates, forward looking business leaders, policymakers, and thought leaders fought for the benefits, worker protections, and social safety net enjoyed by many working Americans, building the strong middle class that turned America into an economic superpower. Today, however, many American workers live in two different worlds: while many still enjoy the stability of a strong social contract, a growing number of workers find themselves left out of employment protections, benefits, and the financial security that comes with them. As lawmakers, we must promote greater access to economic opportunity that is shared by all as our economy evolves. We believe our Coalition’s perspective is valuable in finding innovative solutions to our shared priority of ensuring all Americans have the opportunity to earn a good life and therefore respectfully request we be involved in discussions around legislative action on these topics. 

As the American economy evolves, the NDC believes we must update the laws and regulations governing work and the social contract. Our nation is facing a moment of immense economic change driven, in part, by rapid technological advancements that are reshaping entire industries and creating new ones, and changing the nature and structure of work, including a growth in independent work. This is in part due to increased employer power by dominant firms in the labor market, amplified by attacks on organized labor and other tectonic shifts occurring in the economy over the last several decades, as well as a trend toward workers seeking more flexible models of primary and supplementary work.

The growth of the companies in the gig economy has led to new opportunities and challenges for millions of Americans. The gig economy offers the ability for Americans to monetize their time and assets and provide services on their own terms at all skill levels as a primary form of work, or in many cases, to supplement their income.[2] It also carries unique employment risks, like a lack of full access to the social safety net. Through the power of smart phones, for example, these workers include rideshare drivers, App-based deliverers, dog walkers, skilled artisans, tutors, and more. This hyperflexible workforce has also led to increased consumer choice and on-demand access to products and services previously unaffordable or geographically unavailable for millions of consumers. At its best, this kind of platform-enabled work, often referred to as the gig economy, provides a new stream of flexible income for workers to perform work on their own terms and time; and facilitates direct connection between workers and consumers. The gig economy can give workers low barrier to entry opportunities to earn and manage unexpected expenses like medical bills; expanded opportunities for the unemployed, vulnerable, or overlooked workers such as those formerly incarcerated for non-violent crimes; and significantly increased consumer choice. While studies indicate that a large majority of independent workers engage in that work by choice,[3] it is important that we address emerging concerns with disingenuous misclassifications, the risk of varying levels of net hourly pay, and the lack of full access to the social safety net and benefits.

As policymakers, we must find the balance that preserves choice for workers and consumers: to allow flexible opportunities for workers within the gig economy to grow, and to provide every worker with decent wages, guaranteed fundamental protections, and access to a basic set of benefits that provide financial and structural security, such as retirement savings contributions or health care benefits. We applaud efforts already begun to understand the future of work and expand protections for all workers by the House Committee on Education and Labor. As the House of Representatives continues this work, we respectfully request that you collaborate with the New Democrat Coalition to craft innovative solutions providing all workers the right to organize and access to benefits and worker protections, while also preserving flexibility, value, and autonomy.

We stand ready to work with our colleagues and build on the labor advancements of the 20th Century in a way that addresses the unique opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century economy and workforce.

Sincerely,



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