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A public option in gig economy


When Franklin Roosevelt became president in 1933, he inherited a job market racked by collapsing demand and exploitative middlemen. Then, like now, unprecedented federal stimulus tackled demand. But FDR’s solution to the middlemen problem was very different. Today, the “Uberization” of work has spurred that problem once more, suggesting we need to update FDR’s solution and establish a public option for gig economy workers to find good work.

In the 1930s, thousands of employment agencies connected job seekers with jobs. But as economic desperation deepened during the Great Depression, those agencies developed scams such as charging for lists of fake openings.

Sadly, monetizing the desperation of job seekers has once again become a highly profitable business model. As certain kinds of jobs disappear , millions have turned to gig platforms such as Uber (NYSE: UBER) and DoorDash (NYSE: DASH) for work. And that’s a problem: Investigations of Uber have caught them slashing workers’ earnings, misleading job seekers, interfering with competitors, and systematically deceiving regulators. Research makes clear that Uber is far from an outlier.

Gig work isn’t just on the margins of our economy anymore. By 2018, over 35 percent of American workers were dependent on at least some ad-hoc employment. Many […]

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