Gig Workers Face New Rules

Happy Tuesday! Reddit is preparing to go public, seeking a $6.4 billion valuation. But the heads of the social media network—which gave rise to r/wallstreetbets, the seedbed of meme stocks—are a little worried their users could wreck the IPO.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • President Joe Biden unveiled a $7.3 trillion fiscal year 2025 budget proposal on Monday, building on the economic message laid out in his State of the Union address last week. The document—more of a policy vision board than a spending blueprint—included a plan to introduce a new mortgage tax credit and Medicare’s $2,000 out-of-pocket prescription drug cost cap to the commercial insurance market. The budget also aims to shore up Medicare and Social Security finances and cut low- and middle-income tax rates over the next decade. To fund these initiatives, the budget document proposed tax increases for corporations and higher-income households, plus a new 25 percent minimum tax on people worth $100 million or more.
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge announced on Monday she’d be stepping down from her post effective next week in order to spend more time with her 92-year-old mother. The secretary is only the second cabinet member to resign since Biden took office—the first was Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who stepped down last year to head the National Hockey League Players’ Association. 
  • Peter Navarro, a White House trade policy adviser in the Trump administration involved in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election, was ordered to report to prison on Monday to serve a four-month sentence for failing to comply with subpoenas from the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack. Navarro’s lawyers are challenging the order in an effort to keep their client out of prison while they appeal the case. 
  • One of the key witnesses cooperating with investigators in special counsel Jack Smith’s classified documents case against former President Donald Trump publicly identified himself in a Monday night interview with CNN. Brian Butler, previously known in public legal filings only as “Trump Employee 5,” discussed his role in unwittingly moving the classified documents at the heart of the case. “I think the American people have the right to know the facts,” Butler said, “that this is not a witch hunt.”
  • Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa plans to run for Senate Republican Conference Chair, Politico reported on Monday, challenging Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas for the third-ranking leadership position in the conference. Ernst currently serves as Republican Policy Committee chair, and yesterday Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia announced that she will run for Ernst’s old job.

The Gig Is Up 

Lawrence Thomas—a delivery driver for Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub—pictured in his car at his home in Orange County, California, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Lawrence Thomas—a delivery driver for Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub—pictured in his car at his home in Orange County, California, on Wednesday, March 9, 2022. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

So ubiquitous is the gig economy in American life that, for many of us, the “taxi” has gone the way of the “tissue.” Just as a “Kleenex” is now the thing we blow our noses into, we now take an “Uber” when we want to go somewhere. And anyone who’s ever ridden in an Uber likely knows that for many drivers, that job may be but one of their many streams of income—one among a series of “gigs.” 

A new Biden administration rule that changes the criteria for determining who is considered an independent contractor under the Federal Labor Standards Act went into effect Monday, potentially redefining “gig work” as we know it. Advocates of the new rule say it will expand the benefits of full employment—federal minimum wage, unemployment insurance, overtime, and Social Security benefits—to millions of independent contractors, particularly those who are “misclassified” as such. Opponents, however, worry the change will have a chilling effect on hiring contractors, undermining the independent contracting model and forcing genuine contract workers out of the market.

Though estimates for how many people engage in contract-based and independent work can vary widely, workforce surveys suggest that at least 25 percent of U.S. workers engage in some form of gig work—as independent contractors, freelancers, or through other non-standard work arrangements—and that roughly 10 percent of the workforce rely exclusively on gig work as their primary source of income, according to figures compiled by Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations’ Gig Economy Data Hub. According to Upwork’s annual survey tracking freelancers, the proportion of independent contractors in the workforce has increased gradually over the last decade, with many workers being drawn to the flexibility—in both hours and location—that accompanies gig work.

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