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Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 18, 2020

COVID-19 AND THE GIG ECONOMY:

Labor advocates and gig workers warn of widespread suffering without dramatic action

CHICAGO– Workers’ rights advocacy organizations have joined with gig workers organizing across the Chicagoland area to demand quick and effective action to prevent widespread suffering for workers classified as independent contractors—workers including rideshare, taxi and app-based delivery drivers who are excluded from critical city, state and federal labor protections.

Workers and advocates are hosting a virtual briefing via video& phone conference on Thursday March 19 at 11:30 AM:  https://zoom.us/j/4350514206 Meeting ID: 435 051 4206/ 312-626-6799, 4350514206#.

 The message from experts and workers is clear. Working people are already in crisis as the economic toll of the global pandemic is already taking place and we need employers, the state of Illinois and federal government to take immediate action.

First and foremost, we need to prioritize immediate cash assistance to working people. The federal government and employers can offer direct cash payments to people experiencing layoffs due to the pandemic and economic fallout resulting from it.

Secondly, we need to rewrite the rules immediately on who is able to qualify for unemployment insurance and Medicaid. Designating workers as independent contractors has exploded since the 2008 recession. Examples include adjunct faculty, substitute teachers, rideshare drivers, homecare workers, nannies, temp workers in countless industries, other freelance and gig workers. The list is long and represents 1 out of every 3 workers in our economy which mean millions of workers are impacted by job displacement as our economy contracts in this public health crises.  These workers are categorically excluded from paid sick leave laws, minimum wage protections, workers’ compensation coverage and unemployment insurance as well as prohibited from forming a union to advocate for their rights at work.  The effort of companies to dodge any and all financial liabilities for their employees is leading far too many workers to be classified as independent contractors. This COVID-19 crisis is precisely, acutely why this is a catastrophe for workers, the public and our economy.

More than 114,000 people in the Chicago area work as rideshare drivers (40% full-time) and 12,000 as taxi drivers.  Tens of thousands of others work for app-based delivery services.

 It has been reported by media outlets that just yesterday Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told members of Congress that unemployment could soar to as high as 20%. It has also been reported that large employers, who are seeking bailouts from Washington, are also preventing laid off workers from receiving unemployment compensation.  This is obviously unacceptable. If airlines, hotel chains, and other industries are seeking bailouts from the American taxpayer we must stipulate that all workers will receive cash assistance and unemployment insurance compensation.

During the recession beginning in 2008, Congress acted quickly to subsidize states offering extended unemployment benefits up to 12, 18 or 24 months. We need Congress to act again to support state effort to extend this lifeline to all workers being displaced. The State of Illinois and IDES need to adjust who qualifies for unemployment insurance. The critical distinction for eligibility for unemployment is people in jobs considered “Insured Work” vs “Uninsured Work.”   Corporations and industries which operate a “gig economy” business model—including traditional taxi, app-based ridesharing, app-dispatched service work and app-based delivery save billions by not paying into public social insurance programs leaving their workers vulnerable.

The bottom line is that if your employer considers you an “independent contractor” that company is NOT paying into the unemployment insurance program at the State of Illinois, and neither are you as an employee, and you are NOT eligible for unemployment insurance.

Longer term, we must pass state legislation to end employee misclassification and expand employment protections to the millions of workers excluded from basic labor protections.

But right now, we must take care of the workers and start holding the companies accountable.  We recommend:

1.)    All large, app-based Gig Employers with workers being displaced due to COVID-19 and economic recession shall immediately grant workers an emergency relief payment of $2,000, deposited straight to their accounts for as long as emergency closure orders are in effect.

2.)    The City of Chicago should use the Ground Transportation Fund to provide emergency assistance to taxi drivers.

3.)    All Gig Employers will pay a percentage fee per Independent contractor to the City of Chicago, Cook County and State of Illinois to offset costs in providing access to Medicaid and unemployment insurance to their workforce.

4.)    The State of Illinois will allow all temporary workers and independent contractors to file for unemployment with proof of wages paid over the last 4 weeks including payments made via app-based companies.

5.)    Governmental bodies can use this proof of wages paid to individual workers to cumulatively assess fees to gig employers to recoup costs of extending Medicaid and unemployment compensation to gig workers.

6.)    The state of Illinois will pass legislation that will prohibit the misclassification of workers.

7.)    The state of Illinois will extend unemployment benefits to 12 months.

VIDEO/PHONE PRESS BRIEFING WITH ADVOCATES AND GIG WORKERS

THURSDAY MARCH 19, 2020

11:30 AM

https://zoom.us/j/4350514206

Meeting ID: 435 051 4206

One tap mobile

+13126266799,,4350514206# US (Chicago)

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Susan HurleyExecutive DirectorChicago Jobs with Justice773.412.2386 Cell312.738.6161 Office333 S. AshlandChicago, IL 60607