FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Thursday, January 30, 2020
Buffalo, NY – Today, the Buffalo Niagara Partnership joined with the Business Council of NYS, Unshackle Upstate and a diverse group of Upstate New York chambers of commerce and business advocates to sign a letter addressed to Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, urging the Legislature to consider the devastating economic impacts and unintended consequences of overly broad legislation that seeks to reclassify flexible workers.
In the letter, they write, “But by trying to force a new and innovative industry to fit into a decades old employment model will only serve to hurt those who rely on it the most, and will harm small cities and rural areas upstate that have benefited from these new opportunities over the past several years. As you consider legislation, I urge you to think about a new solution that allows these workers to maintain their independence and ability to work on a flexible schedule while also ensuring that they are afforded basic protections.”
The full text of the letter is below:
Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Temporary President and Majority Leader
Hon. Carl Heastie
Speaker of the Assembly
Dear Leader Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Heastie:
Over the past several months, the gig economy has become an important topic of conversation and debate, and we have seen every indication that leadership in the State plans to take action and create new regulations for the industry in this legislative session. Over the next several weeks and months and as conversations progress, we urge you to consider the regions and communities we represent and the unintended consequences that could occur if there are major changes to how the gig economy operates in New York.
New York State is diverse. New York City is booming with economic productivity, while Upstate cities are working to successfully revitalize their economies and rural regions have been struggling for decades with population decline and a lack of economic opportunity. However, over the past several years, as the gig economy has grown and expanded, it has brought a boon of positive economic impact to our communities. Through innovations in food delivery, thousands of restaurants and eateries have been able to increase their revenue and growth and reach a larger pool of customers. When rideshare expansion reached upstate New York in the summer of 2017, transportation was no longer a barrier for millions of people to move around affordable and efficiently. These are but two examples of how the gig economy is improving the lives of New Yorkers. And, of course, this is in addition to earning opportunities the gig economy has created for tens of thousands of people who choose to participate through one of the dozens of apps and opportunities that allow them to work flexibly and independently.
One option that has been discussed is to change the classification of individuals who find work through the gig economy from independent contractors to employees. 33% of the US workforce now participates in the gig economy, defined as digital, service based, and on-demand platforms that enable flexible working arrangements like ridesharing, food delivery, or general labor. Changing this classification would ignore the fact that the majority of people who work within the gig economy do so on a part-time basis to supplement their income. According to a 2017 working paper from the National Bureau of Economics, only 18% of Uber drivers drive more than 30 hours per week. More drivers (19%) drive zero hours in any given week than drive more than 30 hours per week (18%). And 60% of Uber drivers work less than 10 hours a week. Lyft’s 2019 Economic Impact Report cites that 91% of drivers who get trips through the platform drive fewer than 20 hours per week.
Companies would likely be forced to reduce the access to the app to only those who are able to work 35-40 hours per week, and are also willing to do so during peak scheduled times—the opposite of how anyone has interacted with these apps to date.
This would result in many upstate communities losing access to benefits the gig economy has to offer – like safe rides home, affordable food delivery and other freelance work. Seniors, those with physical impairments, or anyone who does not have the ability to access a personal vehicle would once again be left stranded. Eateries that have been able to grow their business around the ability to offer delivery service would lose out on an important stream of revenue, and the tens of thousands of individuals who depend on a flexible schedule so they can go to college, fit in important appointments, or augment another schedule will be left in the cold and unable to earn money that they have come to depend on.
The gig economy is not perfect. Creating smart regulations to make sure that those who find work through apps are also guaranteed important protections is key in making sure that nobody is left behind. But by trying to force a new and innovative industry to fit into a decades old employment model will only serve to hurt those who rely on it the most, and will harm small cities and rural areas upstate that have benefited from these new opportunities over the past several years. As you consider legislation, I urge you to think about a new solution that allows these workers to maintain their independence and ability to work on a flexible schedule while also ensuring that they are afforded basic protections.
We would be grateful to be a part of the conversation on this important issue.
Dottie Gallagher, President & CEO, Buffalo Niagara Partnership
Heather Briccetti, President & CEO, Business Council of New York State
Robert M. Simpson, President & CEO, Centerstate CEO
Robert J. Duffy, President & CEO, Rochester Chamber of Commerce
Kory Schuler, Executive Director, Niagara USA Chamber
AJ Baynes, President & CEO, Amherst Chamber of Commerce
Stacey Duncan, President & CEO, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce
Kristina Groff, President & CEO, Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce
Mark Eagan, President & CEO, Capital Region Chamber of Commerce
Garry Douglas, President & CEO, North Country Chamber of Commerce
Michael Kracker, Executive Director, Unshackle Upstate
Flexible Work for New York is a diverse coalition of app-based technology companies, business groups, and civic organizations from across New York State, which is leading the charge to protect workers’ rights to work when, where, and for however long they want. A full list of coalition members can be found at nycoalition4independentwork.com.