As New York works to emerge from the COVID-19 recession, there are questions about whether regulations of gig economy workers could be on Albany’s upcoming legislative agenda, and how that could impact economic recovery for businesses.
“If the pandemic has shown us one thing, it’s clear that flexibility is not only desirable but valuable for workers and businesses,” Greg Biryla, New York state director with the National Federation of Independent Business, told The Center Square.
“Limiting potential by putting rigid rules on small businesses … that could be problematic and only slow economic development, like in California with AB5,” Biryla said.
Biryla noted that in response to recent New York lawmaker proposals on regulating gig workers, an NFIB NY poll of members showed 70% opposing a law like AB5, and only 16% expressing support.
In the Nov. 3 election, California voters overwhelmingly supported the Proposition 22 ballot measure that will exempt ride-share drivers from AB5 mandates.
“What you saw in California was rejection of AB5’s strictly designed regulations,” Biryla said. “I think all stakeholders need to keep an eye on worker classification legislation, or we’ll end up in a situation like California, and under the unintended consequences of an AB5.”
Since its passage last year, dozens of professions have sought exemptions from AB5.
“It’s not just about app-based drivers,” Biryla said. “We have concerns with worker classification laws, and how it can expose mom and pop businesses on Main Street to ruinous lawsuits, confusing compliance regulations, and costly enforcement action – that is our biggest concern with worker classification.”
“Should Albany consider this, they really have to understand how it would spread across the economy for all types of businesses that utilize independent contracting,” Biryla said.
New York’s legislative work on the issue was halted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has since highlighted the need for entrepreneurship, Biryla said.
“As we begin economic recovery in New York post-COVID, the last thing they should be doing is limiting opportunities for workers,” Biryla said.