Tech stocks tumbled on Thursday following a Reuters interview in which U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh stated that many of the millions of gig workers across the country should, in fact, be classified as employees, rather than independent contractors.
As Reuters noted in their own coverage, shares tanked to varying degrees for four companies in particular: Uber, Lyft, Doordash, and Grubhub. Each of these companies is notorious for screwing over the workers on their platforms to varying degrees, and each of these companies vocally supported California’s Prop 22, a measure that allowed rideshare companies and delivery apps to not classify their contractors as employees. The ballot measure ended up passing this past November, a move that wasn’t chalked up to the strength of the ballot itself as much as the millions of dollars these companies spent to sway the vote.
At least from this interview, it looks like there’s some hope that will change. “These companies are making profits and revenue, and I’m not [going to] begrudge anyone for that because that’s what we are about in America,” Walsh said in the interview. “But we also want to make sure that success trickles down to the worker.”
Walsh went on to add that the Labor Department, a cornerstone of some of the pro-worker promises that Biden campaigned on in the 2020 presidential race, is “looking into” these platforms, noting that “in a lot of cases gig workers should be classified as employees,” even if these companies think otherwise.
Over course of the ongoing pandemic, we’ve seen many of these contractors struggling to find enough work to pay the bills—and because they’re contractors, the companies weren’t obligated to offer certain perks like unemployment insurance once those workers are out the door. The government quickly put together provisions for self-employed workers towards the end of March 2020, which kept some workers afloat, at least temporarily, but did little to help others from plunging into poverty.