April 01, 2020

KENNEDY TO GIG ECONOMY EXECS: PROTECT YOUR WORKERS

Stands in solidarity with striking workers nationwide to demand enhanced protections & permanent paid sick leave

Newton, MA – As gig workers demanding better health protections strike nationwide, Congressman Joe Kennedy III called on the executives of Instacart, DoorDash, Uber, and Lyft to guarantee personal protective equipment, hazard pay and permanent paid sick leave for all their workers. Citing the unique health and economic threats facing gig workers, Kennedy wrote that the COVID-19 outbreak has exposed the dangers of misclassifying gig economy workers, whether in the midst of a pandemic or not.

“COVID-19 did not create the economic injustices that exist for gig workers in our modern economy, but it exposed the depths of the pain caused by our failure to proactively protect them. Lost wages, long hours and hollow protections have left millions of workers uniquely vulnerable to the health and economic consequences of this pandemic. If these executives choose not to fulfill their obligation to protect their employees, Congress must act immediately to safeguard their lives and livelihoods.”

The full text of Kennedy’s letter is below:

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has underscored what many have long known, the misclassification of “gig economy” workers is unjust, poses a major health, safety, and fairness challenge to workers, and that companies like yours must do more to address these inequities. As the country grapples with the COVID-19 virus, many Americans who comprise the gig economy risk exposure to the virus, all while lacking basic worker protections. Millions of workers have and will continue to endure this unfortunate reality unless urgent action is taken. As leaders of some of the leading gig worker platform companies, I urge you to do more to ensure the wellbeing of gig workers by offering paid sick-leave permanently and fully complying with laws at the local and state level recognizing their rights.

This crisis should serve as a wake-up call to the many challenges confronting the millions of gig workers. While the gig economy provides needed flexibility in earning a paycheck for American workers, the men and women who comprise this workforce are often at heightened risk of contracting communicable illnesses simply by the nature of their work. In such circumstances, these workers are put in the untenable position of having to choose between their health and their livelihood when they fall ill. 

No American who is ill, be it a full-time or part-time employee, independent contractor, or otherwise, should feel compelled to work simply because they lack paid sick-leave. Every day, Americans continue to work while suffering from illnesses like COVID-19 for fear of missing their next paycheck, risking not only their own personal health and safety but also those with whom they interact. This includes the millions who utilize ride-sharing services and grocery-delivery services. Despite the high health risks to which they are being exposed, I am concerned gig companies are not taking necessary precautions to ensure the health and wellbeing of some the people working at the frontlines of this crisis.

The misclassification of these workers as independent contractors does not simply absolve gig companies from responsibility. First and foremost, it is imperative you adopt policies that prevent workers from falling ill. This includes providing, at no charge to them, personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant. Additionally, I urge you to supply hazard pay to reflect the high level of risks these individuals are undertaking every day in order to perform their jobs. While the announcement that certain companies like DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, and Uber would provide those who have been infected or quarantined due to COVID-19 with paid leave was an overdue step in the right direction, I am troubled by the accounts of infected workers describing the many hurdles needed to access relief. In addition, I am concerned by verification requirements that are too onerous for sick workers at a time in which nationwide access to test kits is severely limited. Limiting sick leave solely to workers with a positive test for COVID-19 or pursuant to an order by a health official to self-quarantine still leaves far too many gig workers to choose between their health and their paycheck. Further, these temporary pledges fall far short of the permanent protections that are desperately needed.

Many states, including California and Massachusetts, have already enacted laws to provide critically needed protections for these workers. I urge you to join these efforts, in addition to ensuring personal protective equipment, providing hazard pay, and extending and honoring paid sick-leave for these workers permanently. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the simple fact that we must all do our part to protect our neighbors from harm. To that end, I urge you to put the health, safety, and fairness of your workers and passengers at the forefront of your consideration.

Sincerely,

Joseph P. Kennedy, III
Member of Congress

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For Immediate Release:
April 1, 2020

Contact:
Dan Black (202) 225-5931