Working for gig companies like DoorDash and Uber can give people a stream of income and the flexibility they may not get in more traditional jobs. However, there are limitations that come with these roles, such as being an independent contractor.
Independent contractors do not have the same rights and protections as regular employees. One such right is the right to unionize. However, a recent ruling could potentially change this.
Independent contractor or employee?
The recent case involves workers at an opera company, including hairstylists and makeup artists. These workers challenged their classification as independent contractors, saying they should instead be employees and, therefore, have the right to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act.
There is considerable debate regarding how to determine whether someone is an independent contractor or an employee. Gig workers are among those who could potentially fall into either category, depending on factors, including who is making the classification.
But the National Labor Relations Board ruled that in the case of the opera workers, they are employees. The Board explained that most common-law factors pointed to the workers being employees, and there was insufficient evidence to suggest they were providing services through an independent business.
The ruling could open the door for more workers like those at the opera to seek employee status, which would give them protection under numerous labor laws.
So, will gig workers organize?
Whether we will start to see people like Uber and Lyft drivers attempting to unionize is unknown, and it is certainly not a foregone conclusion. Between the ongoing challenges to how companies categorize gig workers and the nature of gig work, organizing can be quite complicated.
That said, the ruling marks another win for workers at companies that might assume their employees would never unionize, such as Starbucks and Amazon. Companies like Uber and Lyft could eventually find themselves among this group, and we will certainly follow any developments in this area.