The future of the gig economy

Newsom wants to give workers, particularly the 200,000-plus rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft, the right to organize a union. By allowing workers to bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions, the Democratic governor believes unions will help close the state’s wage gap.

Employers are fighting back. Truck drivers have already sued. Industries as varied as news publishers and health care have lined up against what they say is a rewriting of rules that had been around for decades. Gig companies have pledged $100 million for a ballot initiative to keep drivers classified as freelancers.

There’s also criticism from some labor leaders. Robbie Hunter, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council, which represents 450,000 construction workers, was disinvited from Newsom’s future of work commission after an apparent disagreement over a strategy Newsom views as a “third way” for classifying gig workers. 

The building trades opposed such a compromise fearing online home service sites such as would devalue plumbers, electricians, and other trades — middle-class jobs the union has built up over decades through apprenticeship programs and fighting for prevailing wages. Hunter’s dispute with Newsom is wide-ranging but here’s the irony: In tasking the Future of Work Commission to turn low-paying jobs into good-paying jobs, the governor has effectively shut out one of California’s most powerful advocates for middle-class workers in private-sector jobs.