Gig Economy Workers Deserve Rights

A growing population of the workforce now gets employment through app platforms and that number is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. Many of these gig economy workers currently do this to supplement their wages but more workers are using this as their primary source of income. As the sector grows, more workers will turn to this type of employment full time. There is no question that within the next decade the gig economy will dominate employment. 

The technology may be new, but the age-old argument by employers that somehow this new tech means workers are independent contractors rings hollow. The qualifications and hiring of these workers are determined solely by the employer; the rate of compensation is determined by the employer; how and whether jobs are assigned to workers and the quality of performance on the job is determined by the employer. The employer accepts payment from customers and remits the pay to the workers and makes a profit. There is little or no recourse when an employee has a pay dispute or complaint of unfair treatment.   

In other words, the terms and conditions of employment are controlled by the employer. It’s a finding relevant state agencies such as the Department of Labor agree with. Unfortunately, these companies see the writing on the wall, which is why they have been trying to codify that gig workers are independent contractors. In many right-to-work states they have succeeded. This will alleviate gig economy employers of the costs associated with worker rights and puts traditional employers, who pay these costs, at a competitive disadvantage with gig employers.

In New York we must do better. This is not just a matter of fair pay but of other basic employee rights, like the right to workers’ compensation if an employee is injured and unemployment benefits if they are laid off or terminated for no good reason. Employees should have the right to paid family leave and fair hiring. Equal opportunity laws should also apply. The right for these workers to decide for themselves whether they need to collectively bargain is also at stake.   

The NYS AFL-CIO will push for legislation that clarifies gig economy workers are entitled to the same basic employee rights as all workers have and we will fight to make sure gig economy workers are treated fairly and with respect. We look forward to working with our elected officials to make that happen.

Mario Cilento, President 

Learn more about a new Cornell Research report on the Gig Economy at