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Working in the Gig Economy? Protections May be Eliminated in TN

Thousands of Tennesseans are working in the so-called gig economy and legislation currently in the State Assembly would eliminate some worker protections for them. (Twenty20)

Tennessee lawmakers are currently considering legislation (HB 1978) that will impact the thousands of people who are members of the so-called gig economy in the Volunteer State.
The bill would classify them as marketplace contractors and remove protections provided by worker’s compensation law and the Tennessee Employment Security Law.
Unions and workers’ rights groups oppose the legislation. At the same time a new report from the
The Economic Policy Institute shows the impact of tech companies such as Uber is overrated.
Lawrence Mishel, a distinguished fellow with the institute, says widely publicized hourly earnings for Uber drivers frequently leave out expenses the independent contractors have to cover.
“And they have to pay extra taxes for Social Security and Medicare that regular workers don’t,” Mishel points out. “And it turns out they get paid around $9.21 an hour. And that’s in spite of the fact that half the Uber drivers actually have a college degree.”
Uber drivers generate nearly $25 an hour in passenger fares, but Mishel says the company takes more than $8 of that upfront in fees.
An Uber representative says the report ignores the flexibility drivers say they value and cannot find in traditional jobs.
The report also suggests that the gig economy may not be the future of employment, a boast Mishel says platform-based companies frequently make.
He says Uber, with more than 800,000 drivers in a given year, accounts for as much as two-thirds of the total gig economy.
Mishel says for most drivers, it’s about earning supplementary income.
“So you can’t have a future of work of things that supplement your main job,” he states. “The future of work has to be people having their main jobs.”
Georgia, Indiana, Utah, Kentucky, Florida, Iowa and Colorado are considering similar legislation to Tennessee’s when it comes to reclassifying contract employees of tech companies like Uber.
Earlier this spring, the National Domestic Workers Alliance visited Tennessee to caution lawmakers that the bill would permanently carve many workers out of rights to which they would be entitled as employees.