Biden Labor Secretary Marty Walsh addressed the burning issue of the odd-job economy on Thursday, saying many people working without benefits in the odd-job economy should be classified as employees instead. .
In an interview with Reuters, Walsh said the Labor Department was “examining” the odd-job economy, suggesting that redeploying workers could be a priority in the Biden administration.
“… In many cases, construction workers should be classified as employees,” Walsh said. “In some cases they are treated with respect and in some cases they are not and I think that has to be consistent across the board.”
Walsh also said the Labor Department would talk to companies that benefit from on-demand workers to ensure that non-employees at those companies have the same benefits as an “average employee” in the United States.
“These companies are making profits and income and I am not [going to] blaming anyone because that’s what we do in America… but we also want to make sure that success spills over to the worker, ”Walsh said.
Walsh’s comments aren’t backed by federal action, anyway, but they still made significant waves among tech companies that take advantage of the self-employed workforce. Shares of Uber and Lyft dived into the news on Thursday, along with Doordash.
In the interview, Walsh also spoke about pandemic concerns over on-demand workers who do not have unemployment insurance and health care through their employers. The federal government took over during the pandemic with two major bills granting benefits to performing workers, but otherwise they are largely without a safety net.
Labor law reform has been a tenet of Biden’s platform for some time, and the president has been very vocal on strengthening worker protection and supporting organized labor. A section of then-President-elect Biden’s transition site was devoted to expanding worker protection, calling the misclassification of employees as contract workers an “epidemic.”
Biden echoed his previous support for unions in a joint address to Congress Wednesday night, touting the Protection of the Right to Organize Act – legislation that would protect workers seeking to form or join unions. This bill would also expand federal whistleblower protection.
“The middle class built this country,” Biden said. “And unions are building the middle class.”