Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
California is cracking down on the gig economy (vox.com)
264 points by luu 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 320 comments



This last year, I drove for GrubHub for about 6 months in order to pay rent while trying to build a business as well as do web development contract work(I'm now employed full time). The whole time, I was active in various gig economy subreddits.

There are some people out there who only want to drive for companies like GrubHub, but most of the drivers are people who already have jobs and are using the gig as supplementary income.

The topic has come up before in these communities about whether they want to be employees or contractors. At the end of the day, most people want to stay contractors because they already have other jobs and want to make some extra cash during their off hours and weekends, and being an employee would actually mean being their GrubHub's bitch because then they could be told that they can't refuse to pick up orders that are too far away.

While I do see the argument that businesses shouldn't be using contractors as a replacement for employees, unless we solve the problem of stagnating wages, doing so will take away a lot of needed extra income from people who don't feel wronged by these companies.


I really get confused about this. I wonder if it is because I'm a bit older. Plenty of part time employment is like that. For example, many people that work retail or service part time have very flexible schedules. They typically have an availability chart and then if they need a day off last minute, they are often required to find someone else to cover for them.

The reality is that the contractor part of this is to hide them(GrubHub) from the risk involved. That's what no one understands here. Bicycle messengers were notoriously the original "gig economy" job. The reason no one wanted to make them employees is that they would then be responsible for workers compensation when they got in an accident.

This is the same as GrubHub. You were lucky. You did not get in an accident. Someone else working for GrubHub somewhere else in the country probably did. And they very likely had very expensive medical expenses. Workers compensation also covers permanent long term disability payments if someone is injured and can no longer work. This can be millions of dollars.

When anyone does the math with these gig jobs, they leave out risk. That's the difference. GrubHub is pushing the risk of long term disability, and other things like unemployment due to business slowdown, entirely onto you. As well as other risks they are free from if you are not an employee.


> Plenty of part time employment is like that. For example, many people that work retail or service part time have very flexible schedules. They typically have an availability chart and then if they need a day off last minute, they are often required to find someone else to cover for them.

I think you are missing a large part of it. The "gig" economy is "on-demand" labor. There is no schedule to coordinate at the "worker level". Just a network of demand and a worker pool that grows and shrinks to meet demand.

"Oh, I'm free for the next 3 hours, maybe I'll make some money"

vs.

"I need to let my boss know I'm not coming in tomorrow so we have coverage"

That marketplace effect is "freedom".


That's orthogonal to whether the workers are contractors or employees.

Most companies don't let their employees work such flexible hours, but there's no reason why they couldn't.


> there's no reason why they couldn't.

Yes there is. Workers compensation insurance and other benefits have significant fixed costs per employee. If someone is treated as an employee, they'll be required to work a minimum number of hours to cover those costs.


That seems like a failure of the insurance market more than anything else. It seems like insurance companies are using employee count as a proxy for hours worked... is there really that much of an increase risk for 4 people working 2 hours each vs one person working 8? Maybe, but we should be able to price that risk and allow a company to insure people per hour.


Or, you can just pay them what their market salary is in cash including what would have gone into insurance, and let them figure it out themselves. Why are you trying to overcomplicate things?


>>Maybe, but we should be able to price that risk and allow a company to insure people per hour.

In many states regulations prevent customizing employee insurance packages to that extent. There are cookie cutter obligations that employers have to meet regardless of the hours an employee works.

Gig economy jobs get around the inefficiencies imposed by labor regulations.


Ideally, yes, but that's not how it works in general.

It's not unusual for some departments (like HR) to operate at a loss, with the costs covered by other parts of the business, or for one product to be a loss leader that guides customers to more profitable products and services.

In any case, the problem of covering those costs doesn't go away by making the employee a contractor, but it pushes the cost off to the worker.


Worker's compensation in Washington state is paid by the hour.

it is a unit cost, not a fixed cost.


And what is a unit of work? Is it the CPU time of the app? Good luck defining it.


This is exactly what casual/zero hours job contracts are for in the UK and other common law countries. Treating casual employees as contractors bollocks in a large part of the work.


I've worked a lot of part time jobs in my life. Very few respect your availability very well, and if it becomes too low they drop you. Most of the time the expectation is that you keep all hours available and they only have you work as is convenient for them not you. I only say this as I think you are a bit more optimistic about that than most who work those jobs would agree with.


> When anyone does the math with these gig jobs, they leave out risk. That's the difference. GrubHub is pushing the risk of long term disability, and other things like unemployment due to business slowdown, entirely onto you. As well as other risks they are free from if you are not an employee.

It's generally quite the opposite. It's employer regulations hiding the cost of insurance from you. There is nothing stopping you as an individual from buying disability or unemployment insurance.

But insurance typically has a negative expected value. With perfect efficiency the expected value is zero; probability of claim times payout from receiving claim equals average premium. Then you add the costs of administration and insurance fraud and it goes into the red. Whether the peace of mind from having the insurance is worth that cost to you is your own decision.

Requiring employers to provide it does two things. The first is that it hides the cost from you. The employer is a corporation and corporations don't really pay for anything, employees, customers and investors do. It'd be nice to think the investors are paying for it, but the kind of employers who hire unskilled workers are typically not in high margin industries. In practice it's generally going to be the workers and customers. And then people ask for more and more things like that, thinking someone else is paying for it when it's really still them.

Which leads to the second problem, which is that when it's required you can't decline it. If some double digit percentage of the people on unemployment are committing insurance fraud, you may be better off to just put the money you would have paid in premiums into a brokerage account to rely on if you lose your job, but you no longer have that option. You no longer even realize its cost, because you never receive a bill for unjustifiably high insurance premiums, you just get paid that much less or pay more when you buy stuff.


I'm sorry, but this all just sounds like free market ideology. We are saying the same thing. You just think someone needs to be at fault and there are good guys vs bad guys.

I'm talking to an individual. Please refer the comment I was replying to. I'm not trying to make generalized ideological debates about the gig economy or taxation or any other of the typically religious arguments people shout at each other about online.

To an _individual_ it is important for them to realize that they need to account for the risk involved in what they are doing. If you drive for a company as an employee and get injured and can never work again, you will receive payments from them for the rest of your life. If you do it as a contractor you will be disabled and at best be able to receive the very limited US government disability which would force you to live in poverty. Remember, driving all day is one of the most dangerous types of professions. And absolutely no, you cannot get an individual workers compensation policy because it would cost more money than the income from the gig. Its absurd you would think that exists.

Please do not go into online forums and just shoot idealism everywhere. We get it, you hate big government and taxation is theft. We've all heard it 10 million times. Unless it has a unique connection to the topic being discussed, you are just derailing the conversation.


I think you're missing the point as well, and that may be a generational difference.

You value security and loyalty, because that's what your generation was raised with.

My generation has no delusions of job security. It does not and will not exist in our future. We value independence and freedom, and the opportunity to pursue our careers.

I've done contract work my entire life and wouldn't have it any other way. I do not want to be tied to a company. I earn much, much work working independently.

My insurance is my savings account. My insurance is my adaptability. My insurance is my skillset.

Your reply indicates that you think that has something to do with idealism, and it doesn't. We want to do work, get paid for it, and fuck off to the next thing.

You don't have to agree with it, just don't participate in it if you don't. But don't try to get in the way of other people doing what they want because you don't understand it.


Ring ring Your generation calling. You can take your anecdotal statement and your "my generation" and kindly keep it to yourself. Not to mention, "Our generation" is so different thinking about this across countries that this idea is just so odd.

It's not realistic. It's not scalable to all people. It's survivalistic. You will get tired. You will get sick. You might have a family. You will affect others. You will die one day.

Your skill set won't save you. Your adaptability won't save you. Your material possessions won't save you. And your savings might not be able to even save you.

You will live in a community and by extension affect one. It is a fool's game to act as if youth and health are infinite.

We can have work freedom, that's fine. But without a community, a caring society, a caring government, something to back us up. When the work is gone and we are sick, distressed, and at out most helpless we will have nothing but our hopeful savings to help us. And honestly that's naive to think is a enough imo.


"You value security and loyalty, because that's what your generation was raised with."

How could you possibly know that much about the person you're responding to? He only state he's "older", but didn't say which country, city, religion etc. Even if he did so, it wouldn't say much.

I know people in their 60s that believe in may things you stated, and others in their 20s who disagree with you about everything you said (and I mean high income young software engineers, not someone in need of state help).

Also, it's just my personal opinion from now on:

Don't reason in such absolute ways, everything is much more complex than "your generation" and "my generation" could possibly convey, and even inside a specific age/region/education/income group, the way people think and act varies wildly (and they are probably all both right and wrong depending on subject).

Don't put so much trust on your adaptability and skillset, you never know how the world will change and how you will react to it. I really hope it will just get better, be you never know. I'm only 39yo and saw quite a few highly skilled people go down because of unexpected physical/mental health issues.

Anyway, please don't take it as me trying to "prove you wrong". Well, as humans we almost always do a little of it, but it seems to em I used to think like you at some point and it brought me quite some pain. Maybe I'm misinterpreting you and am just an idiot, but I felt like writing.

Have a great week!

contract work is just great


No. The comment was off topic.

I was replying to an individual. And then someone decided to add a reply to my comment with typical internet free market talking points. I was not discussing these debated to death boring religious debates about government and taxation. I was talking to an individual. Please refer to the comment I was originally replying to for context.

For an individual, the loss of worker compensation is a very very significant thing to consider. Driving is a very dangerous job. Most police officer deaths each year are from automobile accidents. Whether they should make that choice, or if a society should allow it, was absolutely nowhere in any way at all in my comment. Please reread my comment as it appears you seem to have missed that.

If you want to rehash the same typical talking points we've all heard 10,000 times, please do it in a different thread. I have a very difficult time seeing how repeating things that have been said so many times does anything but waste all of our time here.


These are not ideological talking points. They are basic economics.

Believing that markets work according to principles like the law of supply and demand is as ideological as believing that vaccines reduce population wide mortality.


> My generation has no delusions of job security.

It is a temporary thing that happens to any generation at a certain age range.


> I'm not trying to make generalized ideological debates about the gig economy or taxation or any other of the typically religious arguments people shout at each other about online.

You are in a discussion attached to an article about a piece of proposed legislation. It was a policy discussion from the start.

> To an _individual_ it is important for them to realize that they need to account for the risk involved in what they are doing.

That is true, but is it novel information that nobody is aware of? That seems to be the standard you want to apply.

> And absolutely no, you cannot get an individual workers compensation policy because it would cost more money than the income from the gig. Its absurd you would think that exists.

Disability insurance is typically 1-3% of your income because the payout in the event of a claim is proportional to your income. For the low income in most of these professions that comes to somewhere around $50/month. They may decide it isn't worth that much, but there is no basis to the idea that it would cost more than their overall compensation.

> Please do not go into online forums and just shoot idealism everywhere.

This feels like a double standard that in practice just means that you would prefer it if people with contrary opinions to yours would shut up.


> This feels like a double standard that in practice just means that you would prefer it if people with contrary opinions to yours would shut up.

No. Those opinions on either side of the debate have been done to absolute death online. I can't imagine a single person you could find on this forum that could not list for you the common talking points(for and against) government taxation and regulation. That is what these comments are about. Not detailed, unique, and specific insight into this particular situation. Just mindless regurgitation of the same stuff we've all heard way more times than is needed.

> That is true, but is it novel information that nobody is aware of? That seems to be the standard you want to apply.

Most people I talk to about workers compensation do not realize how different the outcomes are for them between contractor and employee. The most common ones people are aware of is that they have to pay both sides of their social security. Unemployment insurance is also something that some people do not realize. During that last economic slowdown, the US government extended unemployment benefits for years to millions of US workers. Contractors will not be eligible for any of that assistance in the next economic downturn.

See how that information is relevant and specific to the original comment(not article) I was responding to? They discussed how they did not see many downsides with being a gig worker. I was bringing up a couple, especially workers compensation because of how dangerous driving jobs are.

I never said GrubHub should or should not provide that. I certainly never mentioned if the US government should do anything. I would recommend that you please go back to my original comment and the comment I was replying to originally for more information and context.


> No. Those opinions on either side of the debate have been done to absolute death online. I can't imagine a single person you could find on this forum that could not list for you the common talking points(for and against) government taxation and regulation.

It is the misfortune of large online discussion forums that between filter bubbles and user churn, there are always people who actually haven't heard those arguments before. And the longer we avoid rehashing old arguments, the more people around who haven't heard them yet.

So it's never very long before we have the same arguments again and again. Except that they're not the same, because it's different people around each time. You may say the same thing you've said before but they're hearing it for the first time. Then maybe they give you a different response than you've ever heard before, and one or the other person is convinced. At least that's the idea.

What's the alternative? Stop discussing things that are still happening and affecting people, because some different people discussed them last year?

> During that last economic slowdown, the US government extended unemployment benefits for years to millions of US workers. Contractors will not be eligible for any of that assistance in the next economic downturn.

But that's policy. Maybe we should get rid of the distinction entirely, make everyone contractors, but then have taxpayer-funded unemployment compensation for everybody. Maybe we shouldn't have unemployment compensation at all and instead have a UBI.

Even if you're only making decisions as an individual, the possibility of those kinds of policy changes happening by the time it becomes relevant to you may be something you want to consider when making your decision.


> What's the alternative? Stop discussing things that are still happening and affecting people, because some different people discussed them last year?

Discussing government regulation and taxation may have been discussed by every single human being on the planet at this point(joking). It's absolutely worn out. There are likely fewer topics(especially around HN) that are more overused at this point.

If you seriously have something new and different to add, I am all ears. And I would say that is a good time to bring it up again. But all of the comments I have read in this thread have exactly the same stuff.

One side: People should be free to decide what to do with their money and the government should stay out of the way because people understand their lives better and governments can be corrupt.

Other side: Governments should impose restrictions and fees as society as a whole will be effected by certain actions of individuals and governments have a responsibility to look out for the people's best interest.

It's been done to absolute death dude. Its the same points, over and over and over and over again. We all have heard all of this 10,000 times.


> It's been done to absolute death dude. Its the same points, over and over and over and over again. We all have heard all of this 10,000 times.

Speak for yourself "dude". I, for one, find these discussions to be valuable. If you don't like them or are fed up with them, then don't partake. Even if you aren't in a position to change your mind, spectators like me are.


> One side: People should be free to decide what to do with their money and the government should stay out of the way because people understand their lives better and governments can be corrupt.

> Other side: Governments should impose restrictions and fees as society as a whole will be effected by certain actions of individuals and governments have a responsibility to look out for the people's best interest.

I feel like people are always talking past each other. In general what happens is that the policies enacted by Democrats and Republicans are both crap but in different ways, and then both sides argue for their ideal that their party doesn't actually uphold but against the other side's actual results which are in both cases terrible.

So they're both right. Markets are more efficient than governments but we don't want people starving in the streets. The Republicans' policies are terrible in practice and the Democrats' policies are terrible in practice. What now?

I tend to think the answer is a UBI, but the difficulty is in getting it passed. The right-wing objection is obvious; it's the purest incarnation of redistribution of wealth. But we already have such policies and replacing them with an equally-redistributive UBI is probably an easier sell than it is on the left, because it would evaporate their world. Unemployment insurance, disability, social security? Redundant, not required. Minimum wage? Food stamps? Housing subsidies? Same. Progressive income tax? Don't need it, flat tax plus UBI results in negative effective rates for low income people and low effective rates for middle income people.

So "employee benefits"? Bad policy, let's get rid of them all and do a UBI instead. Which is the right policy precisely because it would dismantle a century of accumulated inefficient bureaucracy -- but that very fact makes it hard to enact.

So in the meantime I end up arguing against all of this other stuff, as just more to repeal when we finally get the votes to do it properly, and more institutional inertia that makes it harder to get where we ought to be.

But I sometimes lean on the traditional arguments because, ironically, I'm less tired of those than having the same "does a UBI cause inflation" "not really but if it did that's what we need right now anyway" discussion for the hundredth time.


What does any of what you just typed out have to do with the original comment about someone who drives for GrubHub for supplemental income and feel that they prefer to be an independent contractor as opposed to an employee?

You are completely derailing the conversation with common discussions that have been had tens of thousands of times all over the internet. The information exists in excessive quantities for anyone to find.

Wouldn't it be better use of time to go find a discussion specifically about what you are talking about? There is a reason no one is upvoting stories about this stuff here. I imagine most people here don't find it as interesting because we've read this exact stuff so many times.


> What does any of what you just typed out have to do with the original comment about someone who drives for GrubHub for supplemental income and feel that they prefer to be an independent contractor as opposed to an employee?

It is a policy proposal that allows them to do so without suffering the risks you identified. If they like to be an independent contractor but don't like those risks, they should ask the government for a UBI rather than a law requiring them to be reclassified as an employee, which then mitigates those risks without requiring them to indirectly overpay for unemployment insurance that suffers from an insurance fraud problem that a UBI doesn't (among other advantages).

> Wouldn't it be better use of time to go find a discussion specifically about what you are talking about?

Here's one:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20069094

Based on their comment, the person there was apparently not aware of the details of the discussions that have been had about this numerous times by other people. Which is fine -- many people really are only having these discussions for the first time. There is nothing wrong with that.

But why do you assume that no one reading this thread has never been exposed to this information before? Some people have, but no one requires that they participate in a similar discussion again.

It's not as if we're on a totally irrelevant tangent here. The fact that some people have discussed it in the past doesn't reduce its relevance as a policy alternative.


I was not talking about policy _at_all_. I was giving some additional info to a specific person about their specific situation. Why are you doing this? How did we now arrive at a tangent about UBI? What does UBI have to do with how that specific person I was replying to should decide about driving for GrubHub? Are you suggesting that that person should first go lobby government officials to implement UBI and see if that works before deciding to drive for GrubHub or not? This is nuts.

Okay, you're obviously a troll. I fell for it. Lesson learned. I'm going to disengage. Got me, nice work.


Their comment was fine. Relax. They discussed why it actually might be more risky from an individual's perspective to be an employee than a contractor.

In my opinion anyway the individual perspective is a moot point. Unless there's some serious shortage of access to information the main consideration should be the benefit to society as a whole and not just a single company. How much more stable will a business and its impact on commerce be if it does provide reduced-premium insurance is the more important question to ask.


> It'd be nice to think the investors are paying for it, but the kind of employers who hire unskilled workers are typically not in high margin industries.

This is one of those cases where you're just abstracting things away from the issue at hand to justify your position, which hides nonsense like this because you're talking theoretically rather than concretely. But if we look at the actual companies targeted, no, GrubHub, Uber, DoorDash et al are NOT low-margin industries. With worldwide services like this where your costs per-unit are basically only server costs, the margins are extremely high because your costs approach zero as users increase. The costs these companies incur are mostly money they reinvest into business development.

For example, Uber taking a loss on rides should be seen as reinvestment into the business (trying to undercut competitors and drive them out of business) rather than a result of the fixed costs of a ride.

> You no longer even realize its cost, because you never receive a bill for unjustifiably high insurance premiums, you just get paid that much less or pay more when you buy stuff.

You don't think employees notice when they are paid less? You don't think customers realize when they pay more? If you really want to make the claim that employees don't notice lower pay and customers don't notice higher prices, that's tantamount to admitting that the free market doesn't work.

Yes, obviously investors will pass the cost off to employees and customers, but if they pay an unjustifiably high insurance premium and try to pass that cost off, they open up a business opportunity for a competitor to pay employees better and/or charge customers less by buying cheaper insurance and passing off less of that cost. There are additionally some regulations in place that prevent employers from passing off too much of the cost to employees or customers (i.e. minimum wage or fixed taxi fares).

The advantage that a big company has is that when they shop around for insurance, they're much more likely to be able to get a good price than an individual because they're a large, valuable customer.


> But if we look at the actual companies targeted, no, GrubHub, Uber, DoorDash et al are NOT low-margin industries. With worldwide services like this where your costs per-unit are basically only server costs, the margins are extremely high because your costs approach zero as users increase.

The dominant unit cost by far is paying the drivers, which doesn't go down with scale. Then you get a bunch of other stuff like credit card processing fees and customer service that also doesn't scale much if any better with volume either.

The server cost is barely a unit cost at all. That's fixed cost. Though it still needs to be paid from something.

> You don't think employees notice when they are paid less? You don't think customers realize when they pay more? If you really want to make the claim that employees don't notice lower pay and customers don't notice higher prices, that's tantamount to admitting that the free market doesn't work.

They notice how much they're paying and being paid, but they lack the information to know how much they would be paying or being paid in the alternative. So they think they're getting "free" insurance when they're really getting insurance instead of a cost of living increase.

> Yes, obviously investors will pass the cost off to employees and customers, but if they pay an unjustifiably high insurance premium and try to pass that cost off, they open up a business opportunity for a competitor to pay employees better and/or charge customers less by buying cheaper insurance and passing off less of that cost.

You're assuming that the problem is caused by which insurance company the employer chooses and not that it is difficult to accurately detect insurance fraud without using invasive methods, so all the insurance companies charge rates that exceed the value of the insurance and the companies only buy it at that price because it's required by law.

> There are additionally some regulations in place that prevent employers from passing off too much of the cost to employees or customers (i.e. minimum wage or fixed taxi fares).

There are two options here. One is that the money comes from somewhere. The other is that it doesn't, the cost of the service now exceeds its value, and you lose your job.

> The advantage that a big company has is that when they shop around for insurance, they're much more likely to be able to get a good price than an individual because they're a large, valuable customer.

Insurance companies compete aggressively on price for all customers. Historically larger buyers had a slight advantage because they could get a discount to account for the lower per-customer acquisition cost of getting many customers at once, but now that insurance is a thing that you buy from a website after comparing prices on the internet, even that is becoming an increasingly negligible advantage.

Meanwhile if you buy it yourself you get to choose the policy that you want rather than whatever your employer stuck you with.


> They notice how much they're paying and being paid, but they lack the information to know how much they would be paying or being paid in the alternative. So they think they're getting "free" insurance when they're really getting insurance instead of a cost of living increase.

When I lived in NYC, I talked to a lot of Uber drivers and cab drivers. Many Uber drivers are cab drivers and have been cab drivers. They're quite capable of making the comparison.

> You're assuming that the problem is caused by which insurance company the employer chooses and not that it is difficult to accurately detect insurance fraud without using invasive methods, so all the insurance companies charge rates that exceed the value of the insurance and the companies only buy it at that price because it's required by law.

No, I'm simply ignoring the possibility you're bringing up, because it's no less a problem for individuals buying their own insurance. This is just a red herring.

> There are two options here. One is that the money comes from somewhere. The other is that it doesn't, the cost of the service now exceeds its value, and you lose your job.

But we already know the answer to that. The cost of the service doesn't exceed its value because people payed for taxis for decades before Uber (and in fact, they paid a lot more than the insurance, since medallions were a humongous additional cost).

> Insurance companies compete aggressively on price for all customers. Historically larger buyers had a slight advantage because they could get a discount to account for the lower per-customer acquisition cost of getting many customers at once, but now that insurance is a thing that you buy from a website after comparing prices on the internet, even that is becoming an increasingly negligible advantage.

Alternative hypothesis: insurance companies compete aggressively on advertising for individual customers, which allows them to overcharge because the average person doesn't have the time to find cheaper alternatives. Larger customers can devote more resources to researching so competition is actually more based on price.

> Meanwhile if you buy it yourself you get to choose the policy that you want rather than whatever your employer stuck you with.

Which seems to be very okay with the drivers.


> insurance typically has a negative expected value

Only if you ignore externalities, like uninsured permanently disabled people begging on the streets or starving to death.


That's not an externality. The person starving to death is the same person who didn't buy insurance.

What you're getting at is that there is a reason people buy insurance anyway -- the peace of mind that that won't happen to you, as I mentioned. Because a million dollars in claims money even if you have to multiply it by the only 2% probability of that happening is worth more to you than the $20,000 in guaranteed premiums you'll have to pay over your life, because if the claim actually happens you need the money more. The value of the same dollar is higher to you then, which you can predict from the beginning and account for.

But that value still has to be balanced against the losses to administration and fraud, and balanced against what you need the money for today. If losing $100/month to premiums causes you to starve now, it doesn't matter that there is a 2% chance that you starve in ten years from now. If the majority of insurance claims are fraudulent, the higher value of the money in case you have a legitimate claim may no longer exceed the losses from buying the insurance.

It's possible that buying insurance makes sense. It's possible that it doesn't. But people should be able to make that choice for themselves instead of having it imposed on them.


> That's not an externality. The person starving to death is the same person who didn't buy insurance.

It is an externality. Maybe you don't mind having the streets of your town full of homeless people, but I do. In fact, I mind it very much. When someone ends up on the street, that makes my life less pleasant even though I'm not the one who was uninsured.


That's the kind of thinking that leads to old policies like New York City rounding up all the homeless and putting them on a bus with a mandatory one way ticket to Pennsylvania.

The person taking the brunt of the hardship is clearly the person suffering it and not the person with the misfortune of having to observe them, and they also have the best incentive to take steps to prevent that from happening. Forcing choices on them doesn't fix it. Maybe it makes it so you don't have to look at them, but if the net result is sufficiently worse that they wouldn't have chosen it given the choice, you're not actually helping them, you're just making the suffering less visible.


> The person taking the brunt of the hardship is clearly the person suffering

Of course that is true. That doesn't mean that the cost imposed on others is zero.


> Of course that is true. That doesn't mean that the cost imposed on others is zero.

It's never zero. But you're making it out to be a significant cost relative to the effect on the person making the decision. Having a way to internalize the cost of others' displeasure at being aware of their possible misfortune wouldn't materially affect their decision one way or the other, because it's so much smaller a factor than the possible misfortune to begin with.


For an individual, yes. For society as a whole, no. If you have one homeless person on the street who is seen by 1000 passers-by, their discomfort on an individual basis has to only be 0.1% as much as the homeless person's in order for the aggregate cost to be the same. This is just the tragedy of the commons in another form.


It's still true even with that kind of multiplier. Would you rather see a homeless person a thousand times, or be a homeless person? It's no comparison.

But you're making a fine argument for charity. If a thousand people don't want to see a person go homeless, it doesn't take much from each of them to make it so they don't have to.


That's the wrong analogy. The correct one is: would you rather be one poor person living amongst 1000 wealthy people, or one rich person living amongst 1000 poor ones?

And if 1000 is not a big enough number to make you think twice, then make it 10,000. Or 100,000. (The number of homeless in the U.S. is considerably larger than that BTW.)


> And if 1000 is not a big enough number to make you think twice, then make it 10,000. Or 100,000. (The number of homeless in the U.S. is considerably larger than that BTW.)

You're comparing the entire US homeless population to one person. The actual ratio is less than one in five hundred.


I guess you're right. Six million homeless people is nothing to worry about. Lost in the noise. What was I thinking?


It would be a harsh society indeed that didn't protect against some poor choices. You got injured and your insurance lapsed because you forgot to pay it/did not realize you should have it/didn't have the money/got ripped off/made a bad decision/the check was lost in the mail? Starve and die? I've traveled in countries that can be like that and its not a happy place to live. Medieval you might say.


The point you're making is that "starving" is an exaggeration. Which is true -- we have many charities and need-based assistance programs that have nothing to do with employers or insurance, so people don't typically starve in the US and the worst case from not having insurance is actually less bad than the exaggeration of the other poster.


> people don't typically starve in the US

That doesn't make the cost of feeding people who can't afford food any less of an externality.


It does if the charities are no less efficient and no more subject to fraud than the insurance would have been.


You have to decide what happens if for some reason voluntary supports are insufficient or unavailable.


> If some double digit percentage of the people on unemployment are committing insurance fraud, you may be better off to just put the money you would have paid in premiums into a brokerage account to rely on if you lose your job, but you no longer have that option

That doesn’t work if you lose your job after a short amount of time.


I think the ones that don't do the math are the ones that think the gig workers don't take into account the risk.

Why is unemployed casual employee better than employeed contractor for you? Because its definitely not for the gigers: if it were, only 1 of the gig companies has to offer the contract, take that into account into the pay they give the employees (or substitutes like insurance) and then they would get all the workers.

There are definite market failures, but the vast majority of denouncing of market failures are people not understanding the market has made a good decision.


If you have another job, you have benefits, right? If you don't have another job, being an employee and getting benefits (e.g., health insurance) would be a huge deal.


The real issue here is the struture of the US healthcare system, which massively penalizes the provision of healthcare as part of any plan besides benefits from a job.

We should have either a heavily government-subsidized user-pay system like Japan, or a real open market without the absurd straitjacket or US healthcare market regulations. With needs-based welfare in both cases.

If the medical part of the economy wasn't so ridiculously wrongly regulated, it wouldn't be so distorting the rather academic difference between "contractor" and "employee".


ACA, particularly so in Medicaid Expansion states, is perfectly described as a “heavily government-subsidized user-pay system”.


And the exchange plans are, nonetheless, dramatically worse at a given price point than employer plans.

The primary reasons appear to be the giant tax subsidy for employer plans and the fact that insurers aggressively discriminate against people who don’t have employer plans.


It's not that they actively discriminate. It's because ACA plans are lumped into one big risk pool per market and ACA plans, by nature, attract more expensive people.


But what if it had everyone in the USA in the plan? It seems this, bigger, lumpier pool could aggregate the costs and reduce burden for everyone.


Yes. This is the nature of many of the “Medicare for all” plans that are winding their way through Congress.


Seems like the only answer would be one risk pool then.


Yes. That is one way to think about the invisible high risk pools and reinsurance plans that some states have now for their ACA plans. Essentially they cap the per-individual risk in each pool and transfer the excess to the state as a whole. Several national plans like that have been proposed in Congress over the years but have failed mostly for partisan reasons.


Not in my experience. Equivalent plans (gold level) were maybe 10% more expensive than my employer plan (Cobra rates).

Also what subsidy are you referring to?

Could you cite some data?


I’m curious how you fit in to the various risk pools. COBRA appears to be the actual (pre subsidy) cost plus 2%.

The subsidy is the fact that employer contributions to health insurance are not taxed. Here’s an estimate that this costs about $280 billion/year. This is more than Elizabeth Warren’s tax!

https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/briefing-book/how-does-tax-e...


Most people don’t realize how expensive their employer health plan is because they don’t even know the amount of their employer’s contribution.

If they ever lose/leave their job and try to get COBRA the sticker shock is intense. At that point it’s almost always better to get a Marketplace plan if you can, because the subsidized price will be much lower, if not even the unsubsidized price.

The exclusion from income of health insurance premium payments is the largest tax break on the books;

“According to a Joint Committee on Taxation analysis for 2007, the average savings for tax filers with incomes less than $30,000 was about $1,650 compared to about $4,580 for those with incomes over $200,000.” [2]

But I don’t agree that it should be eliminated. By comparison, ACA subsidies are about $6,300 per person on average. [1]

If you look at the exclusion in isolation it looks regressive. If you plot it alongside the ACA subsidies, in fact it’s not, it acts to smooth out the hyper-progressive ACA subsidy drop off.

[1] - https://www.cbo.gov/system/files?file=2018-06/51298-2018-05-...

[2] - https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/04/14/the-worst-t...


What risk pools? They can generally only consider age and family structure. I'm mid 30s, married with a kid.

I'm not following why this is a subsidy per se. I can deduct health insurance premiums from my self employment after all.


Not all jobs offer benefits, and not all benefits are worth much.


I feel like your argument is biased towards the contractor argument probably caused by your own experiences. Have you considered the opposite side where there are people who _only_ wants to be a full time employee so there's stability in their lives?

Its hard to take your words that _most_ people want it without anything backing.


In LA, a lot of drivers are struggling actors, who need flexible schedules, and nothing like working for ride-share companies.


Is the majority people who have other jobs and this is just their side job, or is their "gig job" their main job.


This is certainly terrible news for the drivers, but the companies will get by.


So the drivers think they are getting away with something (not being grubhub’s bitch) and the company is actually turning that misperception into profit. Sounds like good old fashioned exploitation to me. And I think if people had a first job that paid them a livable wage there would be no need for supplementary income. People don’t deliver pizza as a hobby, they do it for financial reasons.


Sometimes a living wage isn’t enough.


I'm coming to the view that gig workers are neither employees nor independent contractors. Employees don't get to unilaterally set their own hours, and contractors don't get prices unilaterally dictated to them or barred from their profession if their rating falls too low.

All this regulatory squabbling is arguing over whether a square peg fits a round hole or fits a triangular hole.

We need a third classification for gig workers that affords them some protections while preserving the economic viability of ridesharing companies. Disregarding any problems we might have with specific companies, I think ridesharing companies are a benefit to consumers.


Just because somethin has a benefit to the consumer does not mean we should keep it a viable business model, otherwise we should also allow slave labor. Moreover, while there might be an immediate benefit to consumers, as the article notes it might as well be detrimental overall, because it increases costs for everyone. The only people who are really benefiting are the large shareholders.


> Just because somethin has a benefit to the consumer does not mean we should keep it a viable business model, otherwise we should also allow slave labor.

How could you compare someone voluntarily engaging in employment to slave labor?

> well be detrimental overall, because it increases costs for everyone.

I don't buy it. The math that claims that these designations cost taxpayers is naive. As though applying additional costs to the employers would somehow just generate wealth and tax revenue from nowhere. The money would come from somewhere (consumers and gig workers), and would result in less business as an artificially higher price would scale back quantity demanded.

> The only people who are really benefiting are the large shareholders.

Most of these businesses are losing a lot of money. They're not fleecing anyone. It might not be viable by any means but increasing the costs arbitrarily would decrease their chances. It's important to remember that most of these gig workers work these jobs because they prefer them over any other job available to them. So removing options for them is unlikely to benefit them.


OC wasn't comparing voluntarily engaging in employment to slave labor, they were giving an example of something good for the consumer that we don't want as a business model.

My personal opinion on your last statement about removing options being unlikely to benefit, the other way of looking at it is a race to the bottom. If you create a job market segment where employees are being underpaid, but they're accepting it because there aren't better options for them, the overall job market can suffer. Hypothetically, some place like Walmart could see a chance to pay less for their workers, and if they actually went through with it then one of the largest employers would be taking a massive chunk of money out of the working class. They're a good example because they're already a burden on tax payers (about 6.2 billion depending on your source) since so many of their workers are on welfare. The reality is, if you let companies exploit workers, they will, and the workers will be happy to be exploited until it's too late. See: Working conditions in China over the past few decades

I'm not an economist, so maybe someone with more knowledge on the subject can hopefully put it more eloquently, or maybe even give an explanation as to why I might be wrong


> If you create a job market segment where employees are being underpaid, but they're accepting it because there aren't better options for them, the overall job market can suffer.

I think this statement is trivially true. The question becomes:

1) Are these people being underpaid, and would making them employees increase their pay?

2) Are there no better options available?

I am not convinced of either of these points. Uber's pay seems to be competitive [1]. We also have historically low unemployment. It is easier to get a job now than anytime in the past ten years[2], and much easier than the historical average. The fact that this is the case and people are still flocking to be gig workers should tell you that people want to be Uber drivers, they are not forced into it.

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2016/11/28/fare-d...

[2] https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/unemployment-rate


> Are these people being underpaid, and would making them employees increase their pay?

Maybe, maybe not. It would give them access to healthcare and other things a lot of people take for granted.

> The fact that this is the case and people are still flocking to be gig workers should tell you that people want to be Uber drivers, they are not forced into it.

Or, maybe it's an indication that there aren't other jobs available for the people flocking. The want is to make money, not to drive for Uber.


> It would give them access to healthcare and other things a lot of people take for granted.

This is something I'm not clear on. Couldn't Uber still hire the drivers and limit them to 39 hours a week? Wage workers don't get benefits like health insurance. Even being a salaried worker does not guarantee health insurance, etc.

Am I missing something? Maybe California's labor laws are different than my states.


It does vary - but where I am even part timers are included. https://cca.hawaii.gov/ins/faqs-2/hawaii-employers-faqs/


The whole point of a voluntary exchange of labor or goods is that it has to benefit both parties for it to take place.

Companies, including Walmart, don't set wages arbitrarily. Despite their size, they can't control the market for labor. They don't pay what they do because they are generous. There are frictions with hiring and onboarding people. They want their employees to be happy. And even if they were a significantly large employer, the market is not a closed system and things change

Regarding your welfare claim, it depends how you look at it. Walmart is offering these people the best employment opportunity they can get, otherwise they would work elsewhere. If they lost that opportunity which certainly some would with increased costs, they would likely be moved to more generous government benefits.


There is a long history of people deliberately selling themselves into slavery. Just because there is consent involved doesn’t mean it should be legal; there are many types of desperate / coercive situations under which people will make choices that compromise their own bodily autonomy or sacrifice their values.

> [Walmart] wants their employees to be happy

There is little evidence for this that I have seen. Rather, they want to provide as little support for employees possible consistent with maintaining their profits. But there are many, many horrific stories of Walmart abusing and taking unethical (often illegal) advantage of employees.

In addition Walmart spends considerable effort and money lobbying governments to undermine basic worker rights and protections.


> There is a long history of people deliberately selling themselves into slavery.

"Selling yourself into slavery" is a contradiction in terms. Willingly exchanging labor for compensation is not slavery. It's just an attempt to frame things in an inflammatory way.

Suppose that someone kidnaps you and forces you to work without compensation for the rest of your life. Suppose that you willingly agree to sign onto $250K in student loans that can't be discharged in bankruptcy and which you will never in your whole life be able to pay all back. Is agreeing to work for someone your whole life if they put you through college more like the first one or more like the second one? Clearly the second, I think, but then we see people calling it "selling yourself into slavery" on one hand and the government explicitly subsidizing it on the other.

Agreeing to either of those sets of terms is, of course, problematic. But the problem isn't caused by someone being willing to offer those terms, it's caused by people being desperate enough to accept them. And you can't solve that by limiting their alternatives to whatever even worse option that caused them to choose the objectionable one to begin with. You have to add better alternatives, not remove existing ones.

> In addition Walmart spends considerable effort and money lobbying governments to undermine basic worker rights and protections.

You say "undermine basic worker rights and protections" while they say creating jobs for unskilled workers who would otherwise have to rely fully on government assistance.


In practice what happens is the availability of exploitable labor creates incentive for abusive employers (and others in power in the society) to maintain poor conditions among their potential labor pool.

In many (both historical and ongoing) cases the societal abuses this goes with are quite horrific, and the large-scale power imbalances are extreme.

Removing abusive employment relations at a society-wide scale is a strong first step towards helping people out of the kind of desperate situations where such arrangements would seem better than alternatives.

The abstract libertarian fantasy-land where every “consensual” “contract” is mutually beneficial sounds nice if you don’t bother learning the details of specific past and present legal and social systems. In reality these abusive social relations are a nightmare, doing irreparable damage to countless people’s lives.


> There is a long history of people deliberately selling themselves into slavery.

Then think about how bad their alternatives must be

I will say this about Walmart, despite what you say about conditions and low pay, they are still above the board compared to smaller employers. They follow all the labor laws, pay taxes and afford their employees all the rights required by law. The alternatives such as small employers often don't pay taxes and pay their employees under the table, stripping them of legitimacy and rights. So again it depends on what you're comparing them to


If you think about the labor market as a market, individual employers/employees are willing to pay a variety of prices. Some people will be willing to work for $10, 12, or 14/hr, etc and some business can afford to pay $20/hr and some only $10 without going under. So if the labor price goes up from $10 to $12 there will be more workers (since the people willing to work for $12 are now in the pool), and if the labor price goes down from $20/hr to $10/hr there will be more jobs (since business that are only viable at $10/hr will exist now).

Normally the going rate for a given job would be around where supply=demand. If there are too few potential employees, the jobs that can pay $20/hr will get the workers and the jobs that can only pay $10/hr will go under. If there too few jobs, the going rate will go down, and now jobs that can only afford to pay less will be viable.

The danger I see with trying to achieve social progress by mandating every job be a "good job" is that it is very easy this way to create a situation where supply != demand. If you simply mandate no jobs pay less than $20/hr, the businesses that are only viable at $10/hr will go under. But if supply=demand before, and a bunch of jobs disappear, now you have people that can't get a job at all. So you've created some winners, but only at the expense of the people who are least competitive in the job market. And to use Uber as a specific example, sure they can raise their prices, but fewer people will take Uber and the demand for drivers will still be reduced.

This is a simplification of course. Maybe even if the overall market can't afford to pay more, particular companies can, and unions could achieve better price discrimination for labor. Or raising the minimum wage a moderate amount may only have a minimal effect on demand. But I think the overall model of individual employees and employers with individual prices is pretty solid.

If you follow this model, the best way to achieve progress is probably not to ban low-paying jobs from existing. It would be to create a greater number of jobs (some of which are higher paying) and then the low-paying jobs will be forced to either raise their wages or cease to exist naturally. By doing it that way there won't be a job shortage. I think the government still has a major role to play in this, but it's a more complicated one than just mandating what the market price should be for a transaction to be allowed.

China is probably an example of this sort of development. Before the trade war, factories were already moving out of China (to Vietnam, etc) because the wages there have gone up so much. There are certainly many problems and it is certainly not a developed country yet. But the wage (and overall economic) growth over the past few decades has been almost unimaginable [1].

[1] https://tradingeconomics.com/china/wages


Voluntarily doesn't disqualify something from being slavery. Historically, if you look at indentured servitude you'll see this very trend and indentured servitude is classified as a form of slavery (albeit, arguably, not as bad).

Interestingly, if you want to look at a modern parallel, it's not too far off from how H1Bs are used. There are of course more modern rights that allow individuals to quickly terminate these responsibilities but essentially contracts hold needs (income, assets) and desires (citizenship) hostage as the bargaining mechanisms, not too far from what many indentured servants entered into. To be fair, working conditions and treatment have also of course increased drastically.


> How could you compare someone voluntarily engaging in employment to slave labor?

The gig workers I talked to basically told me „it’s either that gig job or starving“, so I‘m not so sure about the voluntariness anymore.


>it’s either that gig job or starving

You could say the same about every American living paycheck to paycheck. Are they all slaves?


There are some people who are not well educated and they can't get other jobs. So yes, that might be the only job where they can work around limitations on child care or whatever.


Yes wage slavery is a key features of capitalism, and a key incentive for capitalists (the economic class) to oppose reforms to increase the economic security of the working class, as mitigating wage slavery frees employees to demand a greater share of the value produced.


maybe!?


You've been posting a whole lot of unsubstantive comments. Could you please review the guidelines and work on telling us more?

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Just because something is voluntary doesn’t make it fair. There are many things, for many reasons, that are voluntary but unfair. Most of it is due to information asymmetry.

I would hypothesize that the gig economy gradually grows into a large economic underclass. And the larger it grows, the worse it is for each individual member. Maybe we should avoid that


> How could you compare someone voluntarily engaging in employment to slave labor?

Is it really voluntary if the alternative is to die of starvation?


Yes?

The vast majority of people in the world work in order to feed themselves and their families. This does not make the work “involuntary”.

Choice is obviously not an absolute, because we don’t live in magical fairy land. Choice is the ability to decide how you will go about feeding yourself and your family.

Gig economy simply increases the available choices, and provides quite a few fairly pleasant options, judging by how many people choose to do Gig work versus any other possible minimum wage (or below) job.

There is real slavery in the world. To equate Gig jobs with slavery is pretty terribly insulting both to Gig workers and the people actually suffering true slavery or slave-like conditions.


> The vast majority of people in the world work in order to feed themselves and their families.

Yes, and this is an inane state-of-affairs given 2019 technology. We could keep the entire world population fed with minimal effort, if we stopped acting in insane ways.


I agree. As someone who likes the idea of being able to drive for Uber for spare cash, I'm not very happy with the heavy-handed way California likes to regulate its economy. Many of these gig economy workers will end up simply relying on the government or foregoing the cash altogether if gigs are taken away.


Parent is suggesting a new regulatory category. Even if we accept that the gig economy is detrimental overall today, in theory this new regulation would bring it up to a different point. I'm not sure how you can conclude that it's "detrimental overall" without better defining the regulation. That is, I'm not sure your comment really addresses parent's comment.


You are correct that some business models are inherently bad. Ones that require violence like slavery or fraud like Ponzi schemes especially.

But I don't care for California to make sure privately hired cars are theoretically X% cheaper. If there are protections that are needed for drivers so their net income is more obvious or something, let's do that.


Slavery deprives someone of a basic human freedom. A free market is the exact opposite of that.


I think that second sentence this isn't as obvious as the first.


> Disregarding any problems we might have with specific companies, I think ridesharing companies are a benefit to consumers.

I am all for ridesharing. But Uber and Lyft, as an example, has nothing to do with that concept. It is not like your Uber driver was coincidentally going to the exact place that you were going.

Ridesharing, as understood before the gig economy, was someone in the company realizing that there were more employees in her neighbourhood and providing a ride for them for a price (some times just sharing gas expenses).

That is a really good approach. Uber/Lyft and others hide their business model calling themselves ridesharing when they are not, calling their employees contractors, when they are not, etc.


Except we never called that "ridesharing". It was just "carpooling".

As much as I hate the term ridesharing, since it doesn't actually describe what these companies and drivers do, it's not like it was a widely-used term that's been redefined over the past decade.


I believe it was called carpooling and ride sharing both, depending partly on where in the world you were. That’s a pedantic point anyhows; clearly ridesharing does not describe a taxi service like UberX.


When you "share a ride" you go to the same place or in the same general way?

Unless the Uber takes more than one passanger it's not any ride sharing involved. Maybe the could call it vehicle sharing ...


If the rest of us continue to incorrectly call Uber etc. "ridesharing" then that definition will soon become set in stone. Can we not just call them exactly what they are? Which is taxis. By every definition, they are taxis.


I'm pretty sure that ship has already sailed.


To me, the distinction comes down to: carpooling implies some kind of repeated/scheduled vehicle sharing (like coworkers coordinating a route to get to work at 9a every weekday, while ridesharing is much more ad-hoc/on-demand (like craigslist rideshares between Seattle and Portland to split the gas bill).

Definitely agree that Lyft/Uber aren’t really ride sharing in that sense though — the driver’s goal is to earn a fare on a trip he wasn’t going to take otherwise, while the original ride shares were a cost-reduction on a trip the driver was going to make anyway.


> carpooling implies some kind of repeated/scheduled vehicle sharing

In the Bay Area there's something called Casual Carpool; essentially it's just a series of locations you can go to around work-travel hours, and people who have cars and are willing to pick up people going to the same area will randomly show up and pick people up. No scheduling or prior arrangements aside from the locations. (And it's been around way longer than Uber/Lyft/etc.)


Ridesharing is when a group of people rent a van through a ridesharing program and one of those people drives it. The driver is kind of like a school bus driver.

Carpooling is when 2+ drivers ride together in a car one of them owns instead of everyone driving separately.


I've never heard of your ridesharing example before. When people do that I still hear it called carpooling, just perhaps, "we rent a van and carpool".


It's called vanpooling, often, obviously.


A service like BlaBlaCar (in Europe) is what can legitimately be called ride-sharing. Uber is fleet of pirate taxis.


In many cities of Europe (like Prague, where I live) we call Uber "savior". Using taxis used to be flat out dangerous (crazy drivers with no regards for anything, often drunk or on cocaine or meth) and it was guaranteed you're going to pay at least 3 but usually 5 times more than you should - Uber fixed that and is cheaper than the "correct" (by law) price, it solves safety, I don't have to wait 30+ minutes, ...

And the drivers are satisfied. I made a point to ask each one and they really like it, much more than any traditional work and MUCH more than being an "official" taxi.


It is also very nice when you are visiting a country with unreliable taxi services for work. Just skipping the hassle of learning to avoiding the scams, getting the correct price, getting a receipt is annoying and all that is removed with uber.


Yes, I would never use foreign taxi if it wasn't for Uber and friends


In many cities of Europe, and Greece, where I live we have apps like Beat that are basically Uber for actual taxis. That way you get good drivers, ratings, they have an incentive to be good or get booted off the platform and lose customers, etc, without the indentured servitude of Uber.


The problem in Prague is that the taxi lobby tries everything it can (including making hard to obey laws and stopping the whole city traffic as a protest) to stop new players from entering the official market. They (the official taxi drivers) have allies on the government side since the late 90's - the market actually used to be way more liberal (and it was better back then).


It's the same here, they just haven't managed to outlaw Beat yet (and it's hard because there's not much basis for that). Hopefully that strategy will work for you as well.


Just used one in Sofia. It was pretty great.

Ride to bus station cost me about 2Euros.


It feels like this says more about the status of the law and behaviour in Prague than it does about the apparent merits of Uber style services.

In London we used to have a good taxi system that was well run with trustworthy drivers in "Black cabs", but with the undercutting of Uber they are more likely to try underhand tactics.


>In London we used to have a good taxi system that was well run with trustworthy drivers in "Black cabs"

It is hard to deduce from your comment, which period of time you are describing ─ as black cabbies haven't been very popular or trustworthy for a very long time[1]. Also, there was a very similar campaign of resistance to 'mini-cabs' decades ago, as the one conducted against Uber et al. at present, by the 'Black cab' community.[2]

I am glad that these dinosaurs are slowly diminishing in their market share, who have been exploiting 'The Knowledge'[3] for far too long by regurgitating morally repugnant views/opinions, formed from a diet of gutter press/red-tops and forcing them upon unsuspecting passengers and blind siding visitors into thinking that it is the traditional experience!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Worboys

[2] https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/02/the-case-against-london-...

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxicabs_of_the_United_Kingdom...


It's not a precise timeframe nor a perfect correlation, but since Uber has been undercutting them there's been a trend to worse behaviour by cabs, with poor navigation and dishonesty around payments (keeping the meter running, disabling the regulation card payment devices etc).

I take your general point, although I'm not convinced the Warboys case is a reason to dislike Black cabs anymore than Harold Shipman is reason to dislike doctors!


I cited the case as an illustration, albeit an extreme one, that black cabbies operate under a code of silence and not explicitly as a reason to dislike them. They have always ran a similar campaign of black cabs are safe thus trustworthy, in order to justify the skewed figures reported to TfL[1].

The reasons to dislike them would be the 3x charges compared to their counterparts, knuckle-dragging attitude towards implementing technology and under-handed tactics e.g. insisting on only accepting cash, then never having change from high-denomination notes at the end of your journey, so you are forced to leave it as a hefty tip, ignoring disabled riders, surge pricing after late night public transport has stopped; only accepting rides if they end up in the general direction of their residence at the end of the shift - despite this practice being against their rules, always taking a longer route to rinse the rider and many more..

[1] https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-are-black-...


Yes I can see that in London it could make problems. It is not a silver bullet, I'd say. Some cities benefit from this Uber-like form, and other cities benefit from the former London form.

While it is not a silver bullet, it is also not an universally wrong/bad way - that's my point.


You know who else was called a savior? The guy who annexed Czechoslovakia. Bad things happen when people value expediency uber alles.


I don't know who called that guy savior but certainly not the Czechs that live in Prague. We value improvement, which Uber clearly is for all sides involved. I'm not sure about other cities, but definitely in Prague.


And why exactly should anybody care what you like and don’t like? If you don’t like Uber/Lyft, be my guest and call a taxi.

Nobody is using these services under the impression that the drivers just happen to be going to the same destination. So your semantic quibble is just that.


Uber offers ride-sharing services (Uber Pool) and Taxi services. As a frequent Pool rider, I'm not sure what else you would call it besides ride-sharing - the three of us taking the Pool don't own cars and wouldn't have otherwise gotten in touch with each other. Uber provides a car, a driver, and route coordination for a price and the three of us share the ride.


Edit: [mistaken reply to wrong post]


I thought that was called carpooling.


yeah the whole "sharing economy" is just bs marketing.


> Employees don't get to unilaterally set their own hours

Doesn’t it depends on the contract ? Nothing stops a company from letting their employee set their own hours.

That’s actually close to how door to door sales contracts work in some fields, where the company doesn’t care about how long or where the salesman works, and mostly pays by the sales number.


> We need a third classification for gig workers that affords them some protections while preserving the economic viability of ridesharing companies. Disregarding any problems we might have with specific companies, I think ridesharing companies are a benefit to consumers.

How about the ridesharing companies should provide - by law - for food and shelter (paid for with a pay cut from the gigs) until the employee/contractor can get his own food and roof ? That would offer some protections to people while keeping the economy going on ? It would also allow really poor people to get on the job wagon with some kind of peace of mind regarding the end of the month.

The companies could make a year-contract euro style so they would be certain the original investment isn't wasted and the employee/contractor has a job for a year until he becomes a regular contractor.


"How about the ridesharing companies should provide - by law - for food and shelter "

so basically making gig workers even more dependent on the company?


I have never understood the impulse of supposedly pro-labor people to expand the responsibility of employers towards their workers. Government is intended as the expression of our collective will, and as such is the conduit of our collective responsibility, including providing people with a resource floor to live with dignity.

Most people figure out as children that responsibility and power are intimately tied together, but apparently that concept escapes some people even into adulthood...


> Government is intended as the expression of our collective will, and as such is the conduit of our collective responsibility

Big if true


Do you want employers to provide housing because you think employers can spend money on housing and food better than employees? Believable.

But I am wary of the efficiency of company towns. In my perspective, things like housing, food, and medicine are "power vacuum" issues, where not taking up these issues is the same as leaving power (and responsibility) on the table for someone else to grab. I also think once power is taken away it's hard to get back.

I view the issues you're talking about as social and government issues, and I'm wary about ceding more and more responsibility to businesses simply because we think government sucks.


They'll do that right as soon as you are required, by law, to use their services no matter the price.


This is of course correct. Classifying workers into exactly two categories is logically absurd, but that's what the old law does, at least in USA.


Well said. The legal origins of the separation between contractors and employees pre-date computers, not to mention the internet.


From TFA:

Uber would likely have to reclassify tens of thousands of drivers in California as employees — something Uber drivers have been fighting for in court, unsuccessfully, for years.

"Fighting for in court" links to https://www.vox.com/2019/5/8/18535367/uber-drivers-strike-20... - which includes these choice paragraphs:

It’s worth reemphasizing this: Uber doesn’t want to pay drivers to take 15-minute rest breaks every few hours because it would cost too much, even though all US employers are required to give hourly workers paid breaks under federal law.

In the filing, the company says that dissatisfied drivers could become a business liability, as recent protests in India, the United Kingdom, and the United States have interrupted business on the platform. Instead of outlining ways to make drivers happy, Uber suggests it will just get worse.

“As we aim to reduce driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect Driver dissatisfaction will generally increase,” the company stated.

Sssssooo this maybe sounds like something employees who have been doing these jobs have been wanting for a while...


Drivers want it, but drivers probably don't look at Uber's finances. Ask drivers this:

You would get the benefits of employees, but now you would have to work at least 40 hours a week and now those hours will be set by Uber - you will not get to choose your own hours.

Do you think they'd want that situation?


now you would have to work at least 40 hours a week and now those hours will be set by Uber

Why would you have to work at least 40 hours a week? There is such a thing as a part-time employee In fact most low-rung jobs try to keep employees under full-time to avoid the extra benefits that FTEs qualify for.

Or, put it another way, if Uber required its drivers to work 40 hours a week and this resulted in unhappy drivers, what makes you think anyone would want to drive for Uber in the first place?


I will have to ask my coworkers who drive for uber/lyft but my impression is they can turn off the app/take breaks when they want and there is no let up in rides once they turn it back on.

As for the FTE quandary, blame the party who put themselves before the people and pushed the ACA out with a the twenty nine hour rule. That has done more damage to lower income workers than nearly any change before it.

Now if Uber or Lyft penalize drivers for turning the app off that could be regulated but mandating a break time when the use of the app is wholly in the hands of the driver?


> Why would you have to work at least 40 hours a week?

Because if you work less than that then the employee does not generate enough revenue to pay for the overhead cost of benefits.

> There is such a thing as a part-time employee In fact most low-rung jobs try to keep employees under full-time to avoid the extra benefits that FTEs qualify for.

If that's the case with Uber drivers then they don't get benefits either. And on top of that, the company will probably have to cap drivers' hours in order to keep them from qualifying for benefits.

> Or, put it another way, if Uber required its drivers to work 40 hours a week and this resulted in unhappy drivers, what makes you think anyone would want to drive for Uber in the first place?

They wouldn't. That's my point. If this legislation goes into effect, then driving for Uber will not be a viable employment option for many current drivers because of the loss of work flexibility.


Because if you work less than that then the employee does not generate enough revenue to pay for the overhead cost of benefits.

That's not how things work at a low wage job. Beyond a threshold (around 30 hours) employers are hit with extra mandates (e.g. health insurance).

If that's the case with Uber drivers then they don't get benefits either. And on top of that, the company will probably have to cap drivers' hours in order to keep them from qualifying for benefits.

That's not true either. Being classed as an employee will mean that the drivers qualify for unemployment insurance, that Uber will pay half of some of the taxes typically levied on wages, oh and having W2 wages will qualify you for a tax-advantaged IRA (retirement account). There are some other perks as well depending on the locality. Being an employee versus contractor comes with a number of benefits that aren't health insurance.


The whole idea of "unemployment insurance" for an Uber driver is not compatible with their business model. This isn't a factory where workers come in at 9 and leave at 5 and you either have a job or you don't. Uber drivers set their own hours. What would unemployment insurance for an Uber or Lyft driver look like? If you get less than X rides per hour you get unemployment insurance?

Regardless, let me make this simpler because we seem to be getting lost on tangents. Each Uber driver bring in $X revenue per hour. For each Uber driver there are $Y hourly expenses (almost certainly dominated by the drivers' wages). So for every hour of work each Uber driver generates $X - $Y dollars for Uber. But that's not the whole situation. Uber also has overhead costs for each driver. Currently this is minimal, probably just the cost of operating the web service. Let's say $X is 20, $Y is 15, and each driver has a $50 a week overhead cost. So Uber drivers have to drive for 10 hours a week to make even.

Benefits almost always take the form of overhead costs. So now lets say these overhead costs go up from $50 a week to $150 a week. Now each driver needs to drive for at least 30 hours a week to break even. Uber now has a strong incentive to get rid of the drivers working less than that amount because they're costing the company more in expenses than they're bringing in.

Money doesn't appear out of nowhere. If Uber drivers are getting more benefits, then that costs money and that money needs to come from somewhere. It's either going to be lower pay, less flexible hours, or something we're not thinking of. There's no having your cake and eating it too.


Why should I as a taxpayer (mind you I am not American, argument still holds though) subsidise ubers business practices? Because that is exactly what you are arguing for. The article clearly states, that uber is extwrnalising costs, which results in significant losses for the state. Somebody will have to pick up the tap, and your argument seems to be that regular taxpayers should do it.


I am an American, and I think we should switch to the model that is successful in many other high standard of living countries, namely, decoupling benefits from employers entirely and offering them without qualifications to all Americans. Healthcare, unemployment, retirement accounts, disability insurance, etc., should not come from your employer at all. All you should be getting from your employer is your salary.

This neatly solves the Uber problem too, as full-time/part-time/contractor becomes a near-meaningless distinction. All of them just end up earning money for work done, with the only difference being whether you choose your hours or are given regular working hours, and if you're paid by the hour or by the week.


You are aware that we are all subsidizing the money losing operations of the state all the time? Pretty much anything the state does is assumed to be a money losing proposition. Is it right for the state to externalize its costs on business?

If I'm an independent contractor, then it is my responsibility to get insurance, etc. It is my responsibility to make sure I'm taking in enough money to cover that stuff. So, the state is going after the wrong entity here.


> money losing proposition.

You are defining money losing as not funded by selling goods and services. Most accountants would define it as costs exceeding revenue.


Uber also has overhead costs for each driver. Currently this is minimal, probably just the cost of operating the web service. Let's say $X is 20, $Y is 15, and each driver has a $50 a week overhead cost. So Uber drivers have to drive for 10 hours a week to make even.

No, you're talking about Uber breaking even — not the drivers. If you're worried about the drivers, how much does their individual health insurance cost versus a group plan for a large company like Uber? How about the rates they'd get with an IRA versus a 401k that only a W2 employee is eligible for? The employee's share of the costs go down when they are classified as an employee and not an individual contractor.

You're conflating the costs of driving for Uber (most of which Uber has shifted to their pseudo-employees) with the costs to run Uber. Uber itself loses money on every ride, it's entirely subsidized with VC money. That's why their stated goal is to develop autonomous vehicles and dump the drivers ASAP.


> having W2 wages will qualify you for a tax-advantaged IRA (retirement account)

You don't need W2 income to contribute to an IRA, any "earned income" is suitable. 1099 income is fine.


> Because if you work less than that then the employee does not generate enough revenue to pay for the overhead cost of benefits.

Nonsense. If this were true part-time jobs wouldn't exist, but they do. There's no shortage of stories of people working at major retailers and being unable to get >29 hours / week because the employer doesn't want them crossing into full-time status (IRS defines this at 30 hours, many companies follow this for benefits purposes as well).


Benefits can be given at less than 40 hours per week. The policy of many companies is a 30 hour per week threshold for that.


“If only we could have drivers work for free and be extremely satisfied...”

I’m wondering if Uber will seek to collaboration with the correctional facilities which can provide staffing for similar scenarios.


It's unclear how many drivers are actually fighting this and how many are actually happy in the current situation and do not want to be classified as employees.

The article mentions "Last month, Uber settled the main court case with 13,600 Uber drivers". That doesn't seem like a lot of drivers (or the majority) of drivers.


The next sentence explained how 350,000 other employees are unable to fight this is courts due to mandatory arbitration clauses, another abomination that should have never existed.


I wonder what federal law they are referring to there. I'm under the impression that there's no requirement for paid breaks.

(There's a requirement that short breaks be treated as compensated time for the purposes of determining when overtime pay starts, but that's not what your quote is getting at.)


Its most likely state law in California and not a federal law. A lot of states require employers to allow paid breaks.


Is there any particular reason (beyond lazy, motivated reasoning) that you think that these drivers represent an appreciable fraction of the Uber workforce? "Some drivers are unhappy" seems roughly as useful a data point as "every Uber driver I've talked to seems happy", which would be rightfully dismissed as unrepresentative by anyone with a modicum of intellectual honesty.


> That small status change is huge. These workers would suddenly get labor protections and benefits that all employees get, such as unemployment insurance, health care subsidies, paid parental leave, overtime pay, workers’ compensation, and a guaranteed $12 minimum hourly wage.

That’s an pretty optimistic take on the situation. What these new “employees” are going to get, is fired.

I know some people are OK with that, if the task isn’t profitable enough to pay a human full benefits to work on it, then it’s not profitable enough to employ a human to do it at all.

But there’s a lot of space to integrate under the employment curve for these types of super-low-skill jobs that people mostly use to fill in the gaps in their earnings. I think ultimately this does a huge disservice to the people who worked these gigs to earn some extra money, because it will no longer be possible to do that.

What will be left is full-time workers in these roles who have no other choice, who probably have a significantly shittier work experience doing jobs or working hours they previously would have passed on.

Which honestly is sad, because there is little to no advancement opportunity, so this is not supposed to be a career, and you’ve taken away the option for all these low friction ways to make up a financial gap that might come up one month to the next.

If someone finds themselves struggling to pay rent next week and they know they’ll be facing an eviction notice in 10 days, today they can jump on any number of apps and make up that couple hundred dollar shortfall. That’s not going to be possible if they’re classified as an employee.


> What these new “employees” are going to get, is fired.

If the choice is between raising prices to support higher employee expenditures, and firing all of their drivers and leaving the California market, you think they'll choose the latter?

Or is there a third option I'm not thinking of?


Firing some of their drivers, not all. And making it harder for someone to become a driver. Like say someone wants to drive 2 days a month, they won't be able too anymore. Uber will probably pick only the serious drivers willing to do it full time, fire all the others, and we have ourself a taxi industry again.


Although Uber touts their casual drivers, I'm sure that a huge % of the rides are actually served by very serious drivers working roughly full time.


Bankruptcy? Uber and Lyft bleed money now, I can't imagine what it would be like if they had to add employee benefit costs on top of that.


They'll raise prices (which will drop demand) and fire drivers (which will increase waiting time, and hence drop demand).


This is always the right wing take on this, that they're going to get fired, create fear, uncertainty, doubt, and inject that right into others minds, repeat for the next issue that helps anyone except for a corporation. That FUD works really well on the general public too. Surely Uber wants to do business and make money in one of the worlds largest economies, California, right? Why would they fire all of their employees? It makes absolutely no sense. Surely they will adapt, AI cars are not currently a threat, drivers will still be needed and hired.

When Seattle raised it's minimum wage to $15/hr the same FUD was being pushed, that all restaurants would fire all of their employee's, that Seattle would become literal hell and the local economy would crash. Didn't happen and restaurants now enjoy one of the top markets in the USA.


Where were the uber/lyft drivers before these companies existed?


While I am sympathetic to Uber and Lyft drivers and other gig economy workers, I am wondering if anyone has the done the calculus on job losses vs. making something. And whether making something is better than being jobless. I met a Uber driver the other day who drives 5000 miles per month. Clearly that is close to exploitation. But if Uber is forced to pay drivers 100% more surely there will be fewer drivers. And many people may not have a path to make money. In addition, I have met many Uber drivers who are retired and only do few hours over the weekend for supplemental income. This sweeping bill will also take out those positions. It feels like short sighted without accounting for these edge cases.

Also, what is the difference between Uber and eBay / Airbnb ? Can a seller in eBay or a host at Airbnb be considered an employee ? Essentially both eBay and Airbnb have no business without their sellers or hosts. One can claim that these are marketplaces, but the only difference between these marketplaces and Uber is that Uber sets price (according to the ABC test). Can Uber then simply skirt the law by allowing a price "opt-in" suggestion ? or even outsourcing pricing to another LLC ?

Edit: just thinking more about my last point. Uber can easily let drivers set their own price and simply show the lower price range to the passenger. Will be interesting to see how that plays out


> I met a Uber driver the other day who drives 5000 miles per month. Clearly that is close to exploitation.

It seems to me like you skipped a step or two in your explanation there. What inherently makes driving 5000 miles per month exploitation? There are many paid driving gigs (some employee, some owner-operator) that drive at least that much and I'm not sure I'd classify any of them as exploitative.


> I met a Uber driver the other day who drives 5000 miles per month. Clearly that is close to exploitation.

Averaging 30 miles an hour, that's 166 hours a month.


How did you know 30mph is the right average speed? For instance, average driving speed in Manhattan in 2016 was 7.1mph.

Your working time calculation also needs to consider loading and unloading passengers, gaps between fares, time for comfort breaks, refueling, vehicle cleaning and maintenance, etc.


> How did you know 30mph is the right average speed? For instance, average driving speed in Manhattan in 2016 was 7.1mph.

And on the highway, it's 60-80 MPH. It could very well be under 160 hours.

> Your working time calculation also needs to consider loading and unloading passengers, gaps between fares, time for comfort breaks, refueling, vehicle cleaning and maintenance, etc.

True, and the 5000 mile count also needs to subtract driving for personal reasons. Judging by the previous comment the figure of 5000 was not limited to miles specifically driven for Uber.


My commute to work which excludes downtime waiting for fares averages between 10 and 20 mph. Some of the streets I take have 40mph limit which is higher than average.

So by these calculations, that person is driving close to or above 300h/month. Possibly with few bathroom brakes and no rest.

While absorbing the cost for insurance and car amortization. If this is not exploration and a great deal for an unscrupulous employer I don’t know what is.

Yes, the “economy” is doing great. And yes, for a frighteningly large proportion of its citizens the US feels more and more like a 3rd world country.


166 hours of driving can mean 8 hrs of driving for 20 days. This is very different than 8 hrs of sitting in front of a computer. I get tired driving 2 hrs every day back and forth from work. Not to mention that that hours can be way more in an urban area as most rides are short distances and traffic is very tight


Yeah, but that's what it is to be a full-time driver. It's no different than commercial truck drivers (long-haul or short haul), taxi drivers, limousine drivers, or really just anyone else whose job amounts to "driver".


eBay and Airbnb sellers are using their own capital to buy and sell goods that they own. They are not selling their labor in any sense. Uber drivers use their own cars but they are primarily selling their labor.


They include the cost of all of that in their prices, at least, someone who ran a good business would. This is not comparable to Uber, because drivers do not set their own prices. I also am pretty certain Uber takes much higher percent cut than eBay and Paypal/payment processing.


Does it matter whether labor or capital is sold ? The ABC test doesn’t check for that. Uber drivers also use their own capital to buy cars. The major difference is setting prices


> The ABC test doesn’t check for that.

It does. It is labor law, and it applies to labor, not to transactions performed in a market place.

>The ruling and the bill instruct businesses to use the so-called “ABC test” to figure out whether a worker is an employee.

> (b) is doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business

Workers doing work.


> The California bill, known as AB5, expands a groundbreaking California Supreme Court decision last year known as Dynamex. The ruling and the bill instruct businesses to use the so-called “ABC test” to figure out whether a worker is an employee. To hire an independent contractor, businesses must prove that the worker (a) is free from the company’s control, (b) is doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business, and (c) has an independent business in that industry. If they don’t meet all three of those conditions, then they have to be classified as employees.

What does this mean for engineers who are independent contractors in California? It's arguable that an engineer would likely be working on something that is central to a company's business, and whether said engineer has an "independent business" in their industry.


> What does this mean for engineers who are independent contractors in California?

The state’s Chamber of Commerce and dozens of industry groups have been lobbying for exemptions, and a long list of professions were excluded from the bill: doctors, dentists, lawyers, architects, insurance agents, accountants, engineers, financial advisers, real estate agents, and hairstylists who rent booths at salons.


I'd be interested in knowing whether any of us would be considered "engineers" under the law, given that many of us don't have engineering degrees or certifications of any kind.

My job title at my current employer is "software engineer", but I don't have a formal education in engineering, and who knows if the California legislature sees that as engineering or a glorification of "what my nephew does on his computer with a thing called Word Press." Perhaps I'm too cynical.


The actual text would seem to be: "Require an active license from the State of California and involve the practice of one of the following recognized professions: law, dentistry, architecture, engineering, or accounting." http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml...

So, presumably no. Only engineers with a P.E. license (which has been pretty much phased out for software engineering).


Colloquially, we use profession to mean "I get paid for this thing." Traditionally, there are requirements for something to be a profession. A central licensing body must assert a professional has gained the requisite knowledge to practice. (The Bar serves this purpose for lawyers.)

The examples given imply this classical meaning of "profession". As you've pointed out, engineering in this context means jobs you'd need a license for, like civil engineering.


That's "law smell" if I ever saw one, already so many carveouts. It means the law/the ABC test is shitty as written, makes no sense, and should be scrapped.


I think it's clear it will cause a lot of contractors in the software industry to be reclassified as employees.

To me, the real test is what will happen is this passes. Will it move hiring to other states and offshore?

I'm in CA and I haven't hired someone from CA in a long time. Poland and Ukraine are the main places. The last 3 candidates wanted more than the CEO makes. We're small and can't afford Bay Area salaries.


That's an interesting angle I didn't think of. As someone who lives in California and has gotten to where they are now through various forms of contract work, I feel like this bill is potentially a bad idea, but I can see how it can also shift the "balance of power", if you will, away from California, which would probably be a good thing for the rest of world.

Still, I'm not a fan of losing more freedom, which is what my state government is seemingly doing. If I couldn't work as a contractor this last year, I don't know if I could have made ends meet in one of the country's most expensive cities and have the time to get hired making 6 figures as a software engineer. Maybe, but I imagine it would have been more difficult.

When I was driving for GrubHub, I was making about $17.50 per hour after tax, and the faster I was, the more I would make in cash tips. Not having the freedom to work when I want and only take the delivery orders I wanted probably would have meant flipping burgers for $11 an hour(minimum wage) pre-tax and having to work the hours dictated to me. That's if I could even get said minimum wage job, given that even when I was a college student employers would refuse me because I was "overqualified".

Either I would have had to stick to a job I didn't care for and not take a shot at starting a business, or I would have spent months or years trying to get on my feet on minimum wage without having as much time to do interviews and coding challenges.


Is that 17.5$ also include additional wear-and-tear on capital assets, e.g., your car? I spent years desperately poor, and having a very good idea of capital asset depreciation was critical to maintaining my weekly budget. For instance, my very cheap car, in the early 2000s, cost about 4.5$/hour-of-operation — and only because it was used as a shop car by mechanics who did all the maintenance for free. My current vehicle (a Kia Optima) is right at about 6$/hour to operate; although I’m “at the bottom of the tub” in terms of operating costs. In the next few years I expect that cost to increase to 7$/hour.


Honestly, I didn't think much about wear-and-tear and I probably should have. When I calculated it, it was way below a dollar per mile, which makes me curious how you arrived at $4.5 per hour of operation. That sounds like an awful lot. Are you talking USD? Just curious because you used the dollar sign as a suffix.

It's certainly possible that I'll end up paying down the road for the increase in wear and tear from when I was driving, but at least now I'm in a secure position where I could actually afford the repairs or to get a new car without worrying about paying the bills.


$/hr is sort of an odd way to measure depreciation that is mostly mileage based. In the US, IRS reimbursement for business driving is 58 cents per mile and that's probably not a bad estimate to start with for vehicle costs. (It probably overstates it if you would own a car anyway and you have a vehicle that's more efficient/cheaper to operate than average, but it's a reasonable stake in the ground.)


The mechanics I lived with were boat & big diesel. Those engines (and aircraft) are maintained on an hourly basis. In fact, your car is too: you change your oil every 3000 miles or 3 months. The idea being that there is an expected speed, and you’ve accumulated (say) 100 operating hours after driving 3000 miles, or in any 3 month period. As such, all these guys computed engine/vehicle life in terms of cost-per-hour.

It’s weird to me that just about every piece of mechanical equipment you’ve ever heard of is measured in terms of operating hours, but not cars? Color me skeptical.

As to the 0.58$/mile: an hour at 55mph would be, what? 31.90$?


Certainly there's a correlation between operating time and total mileage. It's going to be different for city driving and highway driving but there's a relationship that holds for most normal use cases.

That said, there are specific costs that are primarily about distance (fuel, tires). Furthermore, probably overly conservative oil change recommendations notwithstanding, essentially all car makers express maintenance intervals in terms of mileage not hours (which could easily be measured). I'm inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt that they know what they're doing.


> In fact, your car is too: you change your oil every 3000 miles or 3 months.

Most synthetic oil I’ve seen can last 10,000 miles or even more.


You're probably aware, but it bears repeating that a lot of that mileage figure goes towards fuel costs, and there have been emergency/out-of-band updates to the figure when fuel costs have increased significantly in the middle of a year.


I don't think the IRS officially breaks it out but the estimates I've seen say that gas is about 20-30% of the total. (30 mpg @$3/gal is 10 cents/mile.)


The bill exempts a number of professions explicitly (including engineers), but for some reason it doesn't do the obvious thing of exempting by pay. I think it'd be reasonable to include an exemption for >$100k in annualized revenue, regardless of industry. If you're paying someone that much or more, which works out to roughly $50/hour, then I don't see any reason to automatically classify them as FTEs, especially against their will.


Are you in the Bay Area though? If you are, then the people applying may well not be able to afford living without Bay Area salaries.


That's kind of the point, right? We in the bay area have basically priced ourselves out of the remote work market because that "making ends meet" salary here is much higher than practically anywhere else in the world.


Alternatively, companies are able to keep a larger share of the value generated by labor by exploiting differences in living conditions and standards of living (usually unfavorable conditions/standards).


That's a two way street, As a media person, I can't survive in the bay area without freelancing for various media companies. My rates are far higher than salary if I can stay in demand. I guess I could survive, but it's a huge cut to what I could make in a good year.


> What does this mean for engineers who are independent contractors in California? It's arguable that an engineer would likely be working on something that is central to a company's business, and whether said engineer has an "independent business" in their industry.

Are they, though? It's not just related to the business, it's central to the business. If you're an engineer working as an IC at a bank to beef up their IT security, for example, I don't see how that'd classify as being "central to the company's business." Similarly if you're an IC hired to help with QA or testing would that ever really be central to the business? It's a part of the companies product/offerings, yes, but is it central? Does the company's existence hinge on your role specifically?

Take away most IC engineers from most IT companies and the company gets worse but probably still exists. Take away the drivers from uber and there's literally no uber anymore.


Journalists, photographers, video editors, live/TB production crews, movie crews, artists, illustrators, designers, programmers, almost EVERY construction worker...


The people I see working gig economy jobs seem to come from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, ranging from people with new Teslas to those who look like they are on the margins of society.

With respect to the latter, these are people who I don't see in any other occupation. I assume the reason they work these jobs is that they cannot get traditional jobs which generally have higher barriers-to-entry due to higher guaranteed wages and more benefits.

If gig economy jobs are made to be more like other jobs, then the same barriers to entry are going to emerge.

It's the very low-cost nature of providing these jobs that makes them accessible to those at the lower end of the skill scale.

Th US has actually seen wages for low-skilled workers grow very quickly over the last couple of years and perhaps it is not a coincidence that it has been over the last couple of years when the number of gig economy jobs has grown to become a significant portion of the total job market.

Basic economy theory dictates that increasing the sources of demand for low-skilled labor will increase wages for low-skilled labor. That's why gig economy jobs shouldn't be prohibited.


I've never been picked up by a Tesla when requesting Uber or Lyft rides.


It might happen if you change your preferences in the app, but then you'd be paying a higher fare. I usually use Uber for "occasions" and I wouldn't be surprised by a model X or model S. Usually it's an Escalade or similar.


In the 80s IBM got the federal law changed so that tech workers no longer had a safe harbor provision to be 1099s. They wanted to pay less for the workers, and they got their wish. The take home for tech workers dropped a lot. You have to wonder what the big interest is that is pushing this puff piece from vox.

This law will have an overall negative impact on people who want to work independently and take care of their own stuff.

Here's how its already impacting freelance journalists:

https://www.cjr.org/united_states_project/california-freelan...

We're not talking about slave labor here. It's a consensual relationship.

If I want to be a 1099 and be more independent, I'm not sure what the state's interest is here.


I fall under this umbrella, as I do journalism, media and TV production work. It looks as if it will have a HUGE impact. But to be honest, I don't think many of the freelancers/contractors really understand any of the fine print. I barely do.


I totally get the negative consequences of gig jobs: no benefits, security and so forth. But whenever I take an Uber or Lyft (maybe 100 in the US and UK) I ask the driver how they feel about the job. Almost all of them are happy with it - some gripe about the pay but they like the flexibility. It's possible they aren't thinking far enough ahead - and I'm talking to the self selected group who didn't get a disabling injury or illness and fall into poverty.


I think people in general want to put up a positive persona up. I think most people (certainly not all) aren’t going to tell strangers how awful their job is, even if they think that.


I have a couple of friends who have driven for Uber and found it to be a positive experience. It's not very many peoples' dream job, but it's a way to make money with a fairly low barrier to entry for anyone who already has a suitable car. It offers a lot more flexibility than, for example a retail or restaurant job.


People don’t want to admit that they have a horrible job in general but I would bet that’s especially true in a context where everything is so dependent on getting a 5 star review. I don’t think they’re all secretly miserable but I would love to see public stats on turnover.


What is that supposed to mean, "they aren't thinking far enough ahead"? Are you trying to say that since Uber drivers didn't complain about a lack of benefits or lay out their ten year plan for a stranger that it's evidence that they "can't think ahead" and plan to be an Uber driver forever?


I'm saying they may not have thought through what they will do in the case of sudden debilitating illness. Most of us don't.


Of course they thought it through. They just don't get health insurance. The choice was between having an income with no health insurance and having no income. It's not easy to get work.


I just don’t understand who is being protected here.

When I talk to people doing these jobs they are glad to have them, and don’t have a problem with the terms. They like the flexibility and many are doing them as a stepping stone to the next thing.

If an Uber ride becomes more expensive, how does that benefit an elderly person living on social security who can’t walk well and has to get across town?


The marxists that believe any money taken from a corporation is recuperating the thievery of labor surplus.


Just charge drivers $1/day to use the platform and now they aren't contractors, they're customers.


Even better, categorize your app as a game. Now they're players.

Pokémon Go players don't even get paid, yet they drive from pokestop to pokestop just to earn virtual items.


By default you get 5 uses of GPS per day, for more than that use in-app purchases. Also try our lootbox for a chance at winning fancy avatars to display near your name!


Actually, this might happen in the future. You could totally see it as, any independent person who want to offer rides as a service might need a platform for it. And if Uber offers itself more as a marketplace, this could make sense. Pay Uber a fixed price to be on the app, or have them take a percentage, and be routed through calls, but set your own prices for the rides.

I'm surprised there isn't an Uber like app that operates this way yet actually.


This will most likely result in a loss of many jobs. If Uber/Lyft is going to be forced to reclassify contractors as employees, there will be stricter guidelines on who will actually be able to work for them (which means less people working for them), because the company simply will not be able to afford to pay insurance and a higher wage for everyone and anyone that wants to drive for them.

Everyone has a choice: You can choose to work for Uber/Lyft and make extra money or get a job somewhere else that provides benefits and a higher wage. There is no scam going on and everyone is trying to make a buck. I see no problem with classifying the drivers as contractors.


We finally have the closest thing to a guaranteed jobs program that's ever existed in the USA, and California (and New York) wants to destroy it? This is disgusting.

If I want to drive for Uber, all I have to do is pass a background check. When I want to drive for them, all I have to do is turn on an app. When I'm done, I turn off the app. I can work whenever I feel like it. Very low stress! I get wanting to "protect" workers but this ain't it. I want Uber/Uber-like things to exist so I can earn a few dollars here and there if I need to.

Ugh, sorry, this makes me so angry and other people have been much more eloquent on the subject.


This, along with the need to offset $1B operating losses will severely cripple Uber. I enjoy the convenience of using an Uber to get around town but afraid these coming actions will raise prices significantly.


It would be interesting if I could see someone do the math on where all the money (for example) Uber would need to pay as a result of this actually goes.

How much of a bill like this is actually the government looking to increase revenue, and how much of it would ultimately benefit pole dancers?

Uber drivers are a particularly weird case because there is no way to really stop them from working for Lyft at the same time ... so they are supposed to get a guaranteed minimum wage? From each ride service they drive for?


And what is minimum wage? When are they actually "working", especially if they are working multiple gigs at the same time? Dumb grandstanding lawmakers did not think about these.


I don't understand the implications of the second item in the test: "doing work that isn’t central to the company’s business."

How does this apply to business-to-business contracting arrangements, especially in the world of software engineering? Businesses hire contract labor from vendors all the time--are those laborers to be considered employees of both the vendor and hiring company now?


In most B2B contracting arrangements, the contractors are full-time employees of the contracting firm, and get their benefits from that company. (This was my first job out of college.)


Yes; I've done this myself. It's also not uncommon for individuals to contract themselves out through a shell corporation.

The test as indicated in the article doesn't say anything about this kind of B2B arrangement, though. Why wouldn't this law apply to individuals in this case?


The law is about classifying individual contractors as employees. It's not going to re-classify employees of one company as employees of another.


I wish they would rework the laws so that being an employee or contractor mattered less. It seems we've created a perverse financial incentive to encourage this behavior of pretending everyone is a contractor.


“Here we are in a great economy and yet most working people have no money saved,” Caitlin Vega, legislative director for the California Labor Federation, told me.

This quote from the article resounds heavily with me.


Why don't we start with extending some employee coverage to 1099? Like just one thing healthcare, and idk car insurance for Uber/Lyft and then see how it goes.

Sounds better than dealing with extremes.


That sounds far more reasonable of a solution.


Then what's the point if gig economy?

With these laws it won't be profitable for those companies to run their business.


Well Uber has not been profitable for 10 years. So, changing the laws will make it worse. But uber is horrible anyway.


Yeah Uber is quite terrible, they are aiming for the autonomous taxis, that's where they might start being profitable.

But the delivery companies, and the scooter companies that pay people to charge the scooters.

Overall the gig economy is the future, we shouldn't harm it because of greed.



Ah yes, legislation from a "helpful government" which will ultimately drive companies which depend on quasi-contractors to develop their robot replacements at an accelerated rate.

Classic political short-sightedness.


Your FUD is basically saying "I approve of major exploitation". Robots are coming, but not any time really soon. Autonomous vehicles are not a current threat in the slightest, might as well make drivers lives better at the expense of a corporation who's executives and corporate employee's will do just great.

Remove the drivers, Uber doesn't have a business. Their drivers are the most important thing to them.


Gig economy is a capitalisam at it’s worst.


Consumers, make no mistake, This will drive up costs of using uber just like everything else in CA

And it will reduce the # of uber driver demand / work pool


>Consumers, make no mistake, This will drive up costs of using uber just like everything else in CA.

Excellent. Consumers should be paying more for these things so that drivers have benefits and good pay. Solidarity with your fellow American worker. I personally leave huge tips and 5/5 stars no matter what unless I almost physically die or am assaulted. I know they aren't making great money and some probably live in their cars. I don't use them unless it's a non-medical emergency though.

"We the people"


“I don’t use them unless it is a non-medical emergency.”

I think the drivers would like it if you used it more, not less, because then they would make more money.


"I leave a large tip only in a non-medical emergency." lol


Good news for workers


Increasing benefits and worker protections also increases the cost of hiring employees. This is widely understood. In countries where employees have extensive benefits and protections like France, employers are very picky about which employees they hire because it will be difficult or expensive to fire them if they turn out to be poor workers. Hence, and unemployment rate over twice that of the US.

The ease of entering and exiting the gig economy is one of its most valuable aspects. What other kinds of jobs can you set your own hours, and join and quit largely at whim? If Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, etc. all now have to consider their contractors employees then they will have to start setting hours. If they have to give their workers the same benefits as employees, then it will be financially unsustainable to let them set their own hours. People who depended on Uber for flexible employment will not be able to continue working.

This seems like political posturing that's going to hurt the majority of employees if it passes.


The problem is that most are not making much money [0] and most would be better off working a min wage job.

Most Uber/lyft drivers are recent immigrants , working poor who end up taking on a lot of risk for little if any reward.

Uber also uses psychological tricks to trick drivers into driving more then is rational [1]

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/technology/uber-driver-ip...

[1]

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/04/02/technology/ub...


> The problem is that most are not making much money [0] and most would be better off working a min wage job.

$40,000 a year is hardly minimum wage. Most of the drivers I've talked to explain that it does usually equate to between minimum wage to $20-$25 an hour after expenses depending on how effective you are at getting surge priced rides. But, unlike a minimum wage job you can set your own hours which is a huge advantage.

> Most Uber/lyft drivers are recent immigrants , working poor who end up taking on a lot of risk for little if any reward.

Yeah, and what would poor recent immigrants be doing instead? Probably work that is much riskier (e.g. farm work).

> Uber also uses psychological tricks to trick drivers into driving more then is rational

I don't see any "psychological tricks" in this article. Telling drivers where the most riders are and where surge pricing is happening helps drivers get more money. And I'm supposed to think this is a bad thing?

Also, I would advise against trusting the NYT when it comes to reporting on the tech industry - especially large tech companies. I have observed grossly exaggerated stories and even outright falsehoods portraying tech companies in a negative light with enough consistency that I do not consider them a reliable source on this topic. Remember, traditional media like the New York Times is being decimated by Google and social media. Fanning the fires of the "techlash" is in their best interest.


Inferiorhuman pointed to a marketwatch article where Uber drivers make $11 on average - that is less then min wage in California


Nyt is the paper of record , what do you recommend ? Can you point to the exaggerated/falsehood stories ?


I've identified some in other comments. The New York Times is overall still a reputable and rigorous publication, and I read it regularly. Just be aware that they have a vested interest in portraying large tech companies, especially social media, in a negative light and be cognizant of that conflict of interest when you read their content.


>>$40,000 a year is hardly minimum wage.

No, but it gets pretty close when you factor in all the expenses that contractors have to deal with.


Expenses are tax deductible. The article reports that his adjusted income was $22,378. The article did not mention how many hours he worked per year, so determining his hourly post-expense earnings is not possible.

And regardless, this is exactly one data point. Hardly enough to draw any meaningful conclusions. And as I have said before, I am not inclined to trust the New York Times' coverage of large tech companies.


you allege bias without giving any semblance of a factual proof, only an alleged motive.


The above author did not ask for specific examples. Prominent I have seen in the past, among others:

* Attempting to depict high profile YouTubers as promoting Nazism despite the given examples unambiguously not promoting nazism in context.

* Alleging YouTube pushes users towards right wing content when quantitative analysis shows left-leaning content outnumbers right leaning content more than 2:!, and a slim minority of recommendations going to right leaning content.

Here's one recent example: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/28/technology/google-temp-wo...

The NYT is portraying Google's use of contractors as some nefarious and unfair system of two tiers of employees. In reality this not at all specific to Google, or even tech companies. Most companies use contractors for security, office maintenance, and recruiting. This is not new. Nor is it secret. Calling it a "shadow" workforce is deceptive.

The pattern of portraying large tech companies (especially Google) in a negative light is a consistent pattern I have observed for years. Bias is inevitable when there is a conflict of interest like this. Established media and news organizations are losing huge amounts of money and influence to technology companies. Trusting them to be unbiased in their reporting face of such a conflict of interest is highly naive.


So in your deranged conspiracy theory, the New York Times hates Uber because Uber is "a technology company" and therefore competes with the New York Times?


I can't speak to the validity of the conspiracy theory, but there is a stronger basis for it than that:

The writers at the NYT are unionized and consequently derive above-market wages as a result of labor regulations.

Gig economy companies like Uber undermine labor regulations, like the kind that empower unionized workforces like the NYT's.

Still the theory has a pretty flimsy basis of support.


If you think I am accusing the New York Times of engaging in a "deranged conspiracy theory" then you either have not read my comments, or you are deliberately stuffing words into my mouth. A conflict of interest is not a conspiracy theory. If you want to get a response from me, read my comments and make a response based on what I actually wrote.


This seems like political posturing that's going to hurt the majority of employees if it passes.

Will it hurt them more than making roughly minimum wage or less?

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/this-is-how-much-uber-driv...

Marketwatch is estimating under $11/hr with no insurance, no retirement benefits, etc. Even In-n-Out and Starbucks pay more, offer better benefits (even for part timers), and generally offer flexible schedules.


Mostly no, because the majority of gig economy workers already have full time employment and are working for Uber or DoorDash to make supplemental income. I'm saying this as someone who drove for GrubHub for months and knew other drivers.


What job will they get if this one stops existing?


[flagged]


So why don't they go work there then? Come back when you have an answer.

You'd prefer that I answer "because gig economy companies provide unmatched flexibility and freedom to their employees^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hcontractors", right? I'm not really here to play that game, so how's this?

- They may not work in an area where In-n-Out exists or Starbucks is hiring. Note: this doesn't mean that the other available low/no skill work pays less than Uber or other "gig economy" jobs.

- They may not realize that retail work pays more than Uber or they may believe Uber's exaggerated wage claims while not realizing that Uber would continue to take a larger and larger share of the driver's earnings

- They may have fallen prey to Uber's predatory financing and bought a vehicle expressly to drive for Uber

- They may believe that working in "gig economy" serfdom makes financial sense. I've a friend like that. They "work" for Instacart, but instead of driving their own vehicle (which they're upside down on) they use Uber to get to the grocery store, then another Uber to the person's house, and then another Uber home. Trust me, it's costing them money to do this but in their head it makes sense

- They could be Travis Kalanick and drive under the Boober[1] model — basically driving as a means of meeting sexual conquests.

- They could believe that retail work is beneath them

- Back before Uber was forced to institute background checks another option is that the driver failed a background check elsewhere or was otherwise unemployable in retail.

1: https://qz.com/1011300/uber-ceo-travis-kalanick-pissed-peopl...


So basically your answer tldr is "gig economy workers are dumb and financial/life decisions must be made for them in group and disregarding their particular situation and free will"


lol, for the people that parent describes, if the whole gig economy died, what kind of poor life decisions would they be making instead? What a ridiculous thought process to think the problem is the gig economy.


Nope


Germany has similar workers' rights and protection from firing, yet it has a lower unemployment rate.


German labour law and culture are utterly unlike the US. Under NLRB regulations the kind of long term, relatively collegial, give and take contract negotiation that is mundane in Germany is illegal. Volkswagen and other German car companies would like to have the same system in the US as in Germany. They don’t because it’s illegal.


Remember that the unions is in the VW board.

I don't think VW should want to want that even if they do.

Having 3 months mutual contract disbandment time favours the employer way more than the employee. It's huge being able to replace a person in an orderly manner.

Also I believe given big corps. inefficiencys and internal "politics" not being able to fire who you want at random but in predetermined order is also good for the corparations since you will automatically keep the employees with the most experience and not make stupid shortsighted savings or fireing people the bosses don't like.


Plus in Germany, you have what's called a probezeit, or probationary time. It can't be longer than one year, but it's a time where either party can end the work contract if it's not working out.


Those German worker rights, and strong ties between companies and unions were supposedly among the reasons why Walmart failed in Germany:

“They didn’t understand that in Germany, companies and unions are closely connected,” Mr. Poschmann said. “Bentonville didn’t want to have anything to do with unions. They thought we were communists.” [0]

[0] https://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/02/business/worldbusiness/02...


and nothing of value was lost


>In Germany, Wal-Mart stopped requiring sales clerks to smile at customers — a practice that some male shoppers interpreted as flirting — and scrapped the morning Wal-Mart chant by staff members.

This is just fucking insane. That's not a supermarket, that's like a cult.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpPUUWp5sO4


It's one of those awful ideas that seems to bubble back up into the corporate mind periodically. IBM actually did the same thing back in the first half of the 20th century (see https://www.networkworld.com/article/2333702/a-history-of-si... for the full history), even going so far as to publish a songbook titled "Songs of the I.B.M": https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2014/08/tripp...

They kept it up into the 1950s, when Tom Watson died and control of the company passed to his son.

I like this note from the end of the Network World article, where they ask a Harvard Business School professor if there's anything similar going on in the contemporary tech world:

> "I don't think there is a Microsoft company song other than 'Get to the bank as fast as possible so you can deposit the check,' " Tedlow adds.


How can you be a grown adult having to work at a minimum wage job, see this and not die inside?


Its still easier to fire employees in Germany than in France from what I understand. Germany also has also averaged roughly half the yearly population growth rate as compared to France for the last several decades (even dipping into the negatives for several years). So the supply of labor is more constrained.


Not that I think employment rate means much (look at japan's very low employment rate compare to their economic growth since 1989, its very low [2.4% now]), but their unemployment rate for April came in at 4.9%, whereas in the US was at 3.6%.


https://data.oecd.org/chart/5A9X is the harmonized unemployment rate for Germany and the USA, which they define as:

"Harmonised unemployment rates define the unemployed as people of working age who are without work, are available for work, and have taken specific steps to find work. The uniform application of this definition results in estimates of unemployment rates that are more internationally comparable than estimates based on national definitions of unemployment. This indicator is measured in numbers of unemployed people as a percentage of the labour force and it is seasonally adjusted. The labour force is defined as the total number of unemployed people plus those in civilian employment." (https://data.oecd.org/unemp/harmonised-unemployment-rate-hur...)


I'm just reporting what the German statistical office reports (https://m.investing.com/economic-calendar/german-unemploymen...).

Besides, harmonized or not, doesn't explain the economic weakness in Germany over the past decade compared to the US.


What's the point of the economic strength of the US, if the results of that strength disproportionately go to the so-called elites and building war machines? Healthcare, homelessness, massive inequality are perennial awkward topics for an allegedly rich country like the US.

If anything, the US should scale back profits and rebuild its social supports structures, the same structures which were torn down in the name of profit.


I was speaking to relative economic strength, It's not that I think the US employment rate means much either: without government debt financing deficits, US gdp would be in contraction (like nearly other OECD economy).

>If anything, the US should scale back profits and rebuild its social supports structures, the same structures which were torn down in the name of profit.

All of this sounds like more debt, which if we learned (we haven't) anything from 2008, will not solve the problems, just exacerbate it more when it blows up (again).


Funny as I remember it 2008 was all about bailing out the banks, that is giving money to the rich, not rebuilding social structures. It seems increasing debt is always fine if it goes to the elites (via tax breaks or bailouts), while it's the bogeyman idf it actually going to help people that need it. You know that the US during the golden age of the 50s and 60s had a marginal tax rate of 90%?


I also recall 2008 about programs like cash for clunkers, nationalization of fannie mae and freddie mac (and the eventual roll out of their 3% down mortgages with no income restrictions). You know that during the US during the 50s and 60's the labor force primarily benefited one subclass of people where the rest were marginalized?


> I'm just reporting what the German statistical office reports

... which is meaningless when you compare it to the official US statistics (as you did) because they count things differently. The harmonization helps make the numbers comparable in the first place.


Fair, still doesn't change the rather meaninglessness of the numbers in the first place.


Don’t German companies penalize you for quitting sometimes?


Germany essentially leveraging the poor countries in the EU to subsidize their economy may also have something to do with their low unemployment rate.


Take the wider view.

Let's posit as a hypothetical that 1% of the workforce is deplorably bad at the notion of being employed (let's define that as: It'll take them 100s+ of trying things until they find a job where the employer is better off employing them vs. not employing them). Let's say a further 1% is rated as 'quite bad' (defined as: More than half the jobs they would on paper qualify for, they'd do such a bad job the employer is better off not employing them).

Why employ these people? In western europe the common song and dance routine is a calvinistic 'because work is good for you, otherwise they'd be lazy gits'... at which point apparently the argument becomes: The employers of the notion must carry the burden of dealing with these folks, for the good of society.

In the US and a lot of right wing euro parties the sentiment is more: Well, they are lazy! I don't wanna pay taxes to enable these morons. Except that is an economic falsehood; they drag society down no matter what you do. I guess unless you're willing to take the moral position of just casually killing them in a way that is really cheap and easy (and thus, probably quite imprecise – few to no people are morally okay with this I assume), you just have to grin and bear it. Yeah, they drag a bit. It's fine; the economy can easily accomodate them.

The point is: A system that does let such people be employed here and there for a while is not inherently better than one that does not, and, 0% unemployment is a crazy goal.


> Let's posit as a hypothetical that 1% of the workforce is deplorably bad at the notion of being employed (let's define that as: It'll take them 100s+ of trying things until they find a job where the employer is better off employing them vs. not employing them). Let's say a further 1% is rated as 'quite bad' (defined as: More than half the jobs they would on paper qualify for, they'd do such a bad job the employer is better off not employing them).

This is an overly coarse grained depiction of the situation. An individual is not blanket "bad employee" who can't be productive. I'm a good software developer, but if you hired me to be a concert pianist I'd suck at it. I'd say probably 5-10% of employees end up being under productive or non-productive at their jobs. This is consistent with the performance review scores I've seen.

When firing an employee is easy, employers are much more willing to hire because they know that they will be able to terminate employees that are not productive. When firing an employee is hard, employers will be reluctant to hire employees and will only hire the ones that they are confident will do well. This usually makes it very hard to get started in an industry, because companies are leery of workers without experience.

> Why employ these people? In western europe the common song and dance routine is a calvinistic 'because work is good for you, otherwise they'd be lazy gits'... at which point apparently the argument becomes: The employers of the notion must carry the burden of dealing with these folks, for the good of society.

This doesn't seem to be the case seeing as how most of Western Europe has a higher unemployment rate than the US.

> In the US and a lot of right wing euro parties the sentiment is more: Well, they are lazy! I don't wanna pay taxes to enable these morons. Except that is an economic falsehood; they drag society down no matter what you do. I guess unless you're willing to take the moral position of just casually killing them in a way that is really cheap and easy (and thus, probably quite imprecise – few to no people are morally okay with this I assume), you just have to grin and bear it. Yeah, they drag a bit. It's fine; the economy can easily accomodate them.

You're seriously saying that if we don't employ people who are incapable of doing their jobs, then the only other option is summary execution? This is absurd to the point that I can only assume this is a bad joke.

The much more likely approach is to let them continue to be unemployed and search for a job that they are capable of doing.

> The point is: A system that does let such people be employed here and there for a while is not inherently better than one that does not, and, 0% unemployment is a crazy goal.

0% unemployment is a crazy goal and I don't know why you seem to think that making it harder or easier to fire employees will ever bring it closer to zero. Even in fields where the number of job openings vastly exceed the available positions, unemployment is still usually at 1-2%.


>This is an overly coarse grained depiction of the situation. An individual is not blanket "bad employee" who can't be productive. I'm a good software developer, but if you hired me to be a concert pianist I'd suck at it. I'd say probably 5-10% of employees end up being under productive or non-productive at their jobs. This is consistent with the performance review scores I've seen.

I explicitly defined 'bad employee' as 'takes many job hops to find a place'. It's coarse grained to make a point, which you perhaps missed.

My point is: There is a % of the workforce that could work, but it is economically more efficient for them not to.

> When firing an employee is easy, employers are much more willing to hire because they know that they will be able to terminate employees that are not productive.

This is a separate idea: The job market should be such that people are free to find the best place for them. It'd take multiple essays to cover all the angles on how to best do that, or why the US is as it is, etc. For example, different cultural standards play quite a role there.

> This doesn't seem to be the case seeing as how most of Western Europe has a higher unemployment rate than the US.

It is the case now. Check just about any european politician's speeches. Unemployment rates don't prove anything here.

> You're seriously saying that if we don't employ people who are incapable of doing their jobs, then the only other option is summary execution?

Not what I said. I said: If you want to make an economic argument, given the fact that there are a few people where it's economically more efficient to not employ them, one should accept this. Or take on ridiculous extremist positions such as summary execution, which I assume nobody wants to take.

> 0% unemployment is a crazy goal and I don't know why you seem to think that making it harder or easier to fire employees

You seemed to be making the point that gig economy jobs are a good solution for perennially bad employees because they can easily get these jobs and be easily fired from them. I was countering said point.


As someone that has worked across several European countries, all of them with better employee protection laws than US, I pretty much prefer our view of how employees should be handled. And yes I also enjoyed the French Alps as part of it.

There is an limit to exploitation capitalism.


>> This seems like political posturing that's going to hurt the majority of employees if it passes.

That reminds me of the posturing when they passed those child labor laws. And what did we get? A bunch of unemployed children.


The child unemployment rate in America is more than twice that of China!


That reads like a Zippy the Pinhead strip


Categorizing contract workers as employees and forbidding or limiting child labor are vastly different situations. I can only assume that this is some failed attempt at a joke.

Child labor laws prevented parents from sacrificing their children' educations to use them for immediate economic gain. This is not at all related to extending employee benefits to contract workers that set their own hours.


And gig labor laws could prevent people from sacrificing their healthcare and other benefits for immediate economic gain. Uber's, cause the drivers aren't gaining much, apparently.


> And gig labor laws could prevent people from sacrificing their healthcare and other benefits for immediate economic gain.

You make the unqualified assumption that these people had healthcare and benefits before driving for Uber. And regardless, unlike child labor these are adults that are making these decisions for themselves. They looked at their opportunities and decided that driving for Uber or Lyft was best. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these individuals are more qualified to make their own life choices than people on the internet who know nothing about their lives.


Well, the US is a primitive country for worker's rights, so I might be wrong when I say that if they had a job they would have had benefits. And by benefits I don't mean free gym memberships, I mean guaranteed vacation days, protection from being fired at anybody's whim, etc.

Regardless, other countries have these worker protections and benefits for all jobs and Uber drivers don't have them. So Uber is a worse employer than most.

And still, people chose them you would say. Well, the problem with that is that there will always be people desperate enough, or naive enough or greedy enough to jump on opportunities. At the beginning, Uber was paying its drivers more and there were also fewer drivers.

Currently it's a predatory company. And society shouldn't tolerate such companies.


>>I'm going to go out on a limb and say that these individuals are more qualified to make their own life choices than people on the internet who know nothing about their lives.

At the risk of going down the partisan rabbit hole, this reminds me of the video segment where Ami Horowitz questioned people of liberal political persuasions on the ability of black voters to meet photo ID requirements, and then asked black Americans the same questions:

https://youtu.be/rrBxZGWCdgs


He should have asked some Republican strategists, many are on record saying their voter ID laws are meant to suppress the black vote.

He also isn't asking the black voters "the same questions" at all.


The black voters were saying every black person they know had photo ID and that instituting photo ID requirements would not prevent blacks from voting.


Surely you're not arguing that adults have the same degree of agency and consent as children.


this is exactly what some people are arguing about. they treat other people like children, and then wonder why they aren't getting votes.


Is there a name for this type of reasoning? An extreme version is that sweat shops are more beneficial then letting kids starve to death.

Can we try and improve the situation for low wage workers as well as additional methods to address unemployment?


TINA? Paternalism (think of factory owners building Falansteriums for their workers)


Interesting. I googled it and found that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanst%C3%A8re


> Increasing benefits and worker protections also increases the cost of hiring employees.

Majority of land owners over the course of history had come to the conclusion that serfdom and slavery is beneficial to positive returns on landholding.

Also multiple countries had been greatly improving their GDP from forced labor (Nazi Germany, Mao's China, Stalin's Russia and other).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unfree_labour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serfdom


Are you seriously comparing gig workers to slavery? This is just beyond absurd, and it makes me dubious as to whether you're participating in this conversation in good faith.

On the off chance that you're not trolling, contractors - unlike slaves - have the freedom to choose what work they'll do. Drivers for Uber often also drive for Lyft when it pays better. There's nothing stopping them leaving if their opinion is that the pay is not worth the work. By comparison, slaves are not free and are forced to do whatever work their masters tell them to.


Slaves and serf were historically also free to go if they have paid off their masters. You could also argue thst they had received some protection and benefits.

"Freedom" of choice is relative term here.


No, slaves weren't free to go. The whole point of slaves is that they don't need to be paid so saying that they could pay off their masters is moot. There was also no requirement that theirs masters set them free even if a slave could somehow reimburse them for their initial purchase cost. They were their master's personal property, and their master could decide not to sell them if he so wished.

Slaves also had next to no protection. Slaves could be killed in gladiatorial fights, and were often used to work in the most unhealthy and unsafe jobs. Masters could rape their slaves at will, or prostitute their slaves. The only "protection" they had was the fact that it was in their masters' self-interest to keep them alive so that they could continue working.

I seriously cannot fathom as to how you can think that the gig economy is comparable to owning other human beings as property.


> Slaves also had next to no protection.

One should not base their notion of slavery on popular culture like Game of Thrones or Gladiator but on reading historic books. Or Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_ancient_Rome

> Although in general freed slaves could become citizens, with the right to vote if they were male

> Roman slaves could hold property which, despite the fact that it belonged to their masters, they were allowed to use as if it were their own.

> Claudius announced that if a slave was abandoned by his master, he became free. Nero granted slaves the right to complain against their masters in a court. And under Antoninus Pius, a master who killed a slave without just cause could be tried for homicide.[65] Legal protection of slaves continued to grow as the empire expanded. It became common throughout the mid to late 2nd century AD to allow slaves to complain of cruel or unfair treatment by their owners.

Also some slave had been administering largest empires on Earth (China, Roman Empire) or establishing empires of their own with control over lifes of milions of free people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mamluk

> Particularly in Egypt, but also in the Levant, Mesopotamia, and India, mamluks held political and military power. In some cases, they attained the rank of sultan, while in others they held regional power as emirs or beys. Most notably, mamluk factions seized the sultanate centered on Egypt and Syria, and controlled it as the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517).

So back to the subject. Slavery and serfdom had been complex institutions spanning thousands of years and multiple cultures and historical circumstances.

And yes. I am personally convinced that bringing poor people and immigrants with limited citizenship rights into perpetuating economic relation where they cannot make economic progress and mostly accumulate debt and obligations with limited social benefits is modern version of serfdom.


You deceptively omit parts of the paragraphs you quote:

> Roman slaves could hold property which, despite the fact that it belonged to their masters, they were allowed to use as if it were their own.[58] Skilled or educated slaves were allowed to earn their own money, and might hope to save enough to buy their freedom.[59][60] Such slaves were often freed by the terms of their master's will, or for services rendered. A notable example of a high-status slave was Tiro, the secretary of Cicero. Tiro was freed before his master's death, and was successful enough to retire on his own country estate, where he died at the age of 99.[61][62][63] However, the master could arrange that slaves would only have enough money to buy their freedom when they were too old to work. They could then use the money to buy a new young slave while the old slave, unable to work, would be forced to rely on charity to stay alive.

The opportunity to buy one's way to freedom was not the norm, and typically only skilled or educated slaves could aspire to do this. And, as the article mentioned, this could take a very long amount of time and its only something that skilled or educated slaves might aspire to achieve.

> Although in general freed slaves could become citizens, with the right to vote if they were male, those categorized as dediticii suffered permanent disbarment from citizenship. The dediticii were mainly slaves whose masters had felt compelled to punish them for serious misconduct by placing them in chains, branding them, torturing them to confess a crime, imprisoning them or sending them involuntarily to a gladiatorial school (ludus), or condemning them to fight with gladiator or wild beasts (their subsequent status was obviously a concern only to those who survived). Dediticii were regarded as a threat to society, regardless of whether their master's punishments had been justified, and if they came within a hundred miles of Rome, they were subject to reenslavement.

First of all, this only applies if the slave was freed which is up to the discretion of their master. Also, I wrote an essay on Roman slavery and the patterns of slavery evolved over the course of Rome's roughly millennium long existence. Some periods saw reduced or even eliminated paths for slaves to become free let along citizens. Slaves in the Roman Empire varied as far as their conditions. Educated slaves might lead decent lives, but on the whole slaves are on the lowest rungs of society and did not even remotely have the kinds of worker protections we have today.

Middle Eastern soldier-slaves aren't really slaves as Westerners understand the term. They were effectively a military caste. In fact, the article even says this in its opening section, "The most enduring Mamluk realm was the knightly military caste in Egypt in the Middle Ages, which developed from the ranks of slave soldiers."

> And yes. I am personally convinced that bringing poor people and immigrants with limited citizenship rights into perpetuating economic relation where they cannot make economic progress and mostly accumulate debt and obligations with limited social benefits is modern version of serfdom.

These companies don't set immigration policy so I'm not sure what you're trying to say in this paragraph. And besides, many citizens also drive for these companies. And most importantly, if they decide that there are better opportunities than Uber and Lyft they are free to take those opportunities. This isn't serfdom at all, it's objectively wrong to call it that. The defining feature of serfdom and slavery is that the workers do not have agency to decide their form of employment. Uber and Lyft drivers do. If a serf thinks they can make more money as a craftsman instead of as a farmer they are not allowed to change their jobs because they're a serf. If an Uber or Lyft driver decides they can make more money working the checkout counter at Safeway they have the agency to take up that opportunity because they're not slaves or serfs. Calling Uber and Lyft the "modern version of serfdom" either demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of these terms on your part, of it's a bald faced lie.

The point remains, comparing Uber and Lyft drivers to slaves is absolutely inane.


> You deceptively omit parts of the paragraphs you quote

I do not intend to be deceptive. You have provided overly simplistic vision of slavery and I have provided some counterexamples.

> The opportunity to buy one's way to freedom was not the norm, and typically only skilled or educated slaves could aspire to do this. And, as the article mentioned, this could take a very long amount of time and its only something that skilled or educated slaves might aspire to achieve.

This seems to me like a vision of an American dream of sorts. Promise of social mobility for a choosen few members of lower class to become middle class.

The problem is that for the last 30 years American dream isn't working anymore. It is rather that middle class poeple are pushed in lower class ranks.


> I do not intend to be deceptive. You have provided overly simplistic vision of slavery and I have provided some counterexamples.

No you have not. You have selectively quoted parts of a Wikipedia article to portray Roman slavery as though slaves were treated well and had reliable paths to freedom. This is absolutely not the case, slaves had little to no protection and were subject to whim of their masters who could harm them without repercussion.

> This seems to me like a vision of an American dream of sorts. Promise of social mobility for a choosen [sic] few members of lower class to become middle class. The problem is that for the last 30 years American dream isn't working anymore. It is rather that middle class poeple are pushed in lower class ranks.

Sure. But how on Earth do you go from, "social mobility isn't as good as I would like" to "gig workers are comparable to slaves"? You're clearly reluctant to defend this statement, probably because you've realized how inane it really is.


Talking about the historical situation of slaves while referring only to ancient Rome is incredibly contrived considering slavery was alive and well not that long ago.


“Slavery” doesn’t have just one configuration.

It’s just a word that we sometimes use to describe certain kinds of superior-inferior relationships: master-servant, lord-peasant, employer-employee, landlord-tenant, etc.

Or how about debtpeon-bank?

Taxman-taxpayer...

Government-citizen...

State-subject...

You say “slavery” and you think of “black slavery”, but do you think of the ruthlessly exploited sharecropper?

How about the fresh-faced grad indentured to his debt for life?

The newlywed with the mortgage on the house that cost him 10x what it cost his father?

Slavery is closer than you think.


You left out USA


Registration is open for Startup School 2019. Classes start July 22nd.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: