Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys recently hosted a scholarship essay contest that delved into a highly relevant and disputed issue: Should Uber, Lyft drivers and other Gig economy workers be reclassified from independent contractors to employees with benefits (in light of recent California measure that failed to pass)?
The topic generated a significant amount of interest and led to numerous thoughtful entries. While it was a challenge to narrow it down, we ultimately chose one winner—Connor Brown, a first-year graduate student at National Louis University.
Along with Connor’s essay, we’d like to share some excerpts from our other favorite essays that we believe best capture the complexities and differing viewpoints of this crucial topic.
Our scholarship winner—Connor Brown from National Louis University
“The rise of the gig economy has revolutionized the way people work. In this arrangement, workers forego traditional work arrangements in favor of freelance or contract-based employment. There are many benefits to this kind of work: flexible environment and schedules, little to no job oversight, and steady work, to name a few. Freelancers in the United States, however, often have difficulty accessing healthcare. As the gig economy continues to grow, this arrangement will become a greater restraint on individuals seeking flexible, sustainable employment options. The companies at the forefront of this industry must therefore reassess the healthcare provisions for freelancers without restricting the liberties they desire.
While ride-share services like Uber played a large role in popularizing this approach to work, the gig economy has now expanded far beyond transportation to make up a significant portion of the U.S. workforce. By 2018, some 36% of the workforce relied on some degree of gig-based income (McFeely and Pendell). As the effects of Covid-19 linger into 2023, that figure has increased by 10%, or roughly 73.3 million people. Economists expect this number to grow to another 3.1 million by next year (Wilson, 2023).”
Jayda Stamatellos from Mercer University
“As of May 2022, the Californian court has decided to err on the side of labor suppression. Because hostile workplaces are a predominant concern in America, this is no surprise. In its founding, Uber, Lyft, and similar work-related gigs evaded workplace standards and requirements by misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors instead of employees (Department of Industrial Relations). Both sought to bypass standard practices in a business strategy to build more profit. Consequently, a lawsuit ensued for over 100,000 employees without benefits (DIR Press Release). After extensive evaluation, I conclude that the exploitation of laborers by Uber, Lyft, and other gig employers is unlawful, unjust, and ethically predatory. Overall, this should be amended by supplying compensation and promoting workers from independent contractors to employees with benefits.”
Natalie Ku from University of Minnesota
“Gig work not only has a myriad of benefits, but the reclassification of gig economy workers is also adverse to current workers. If reclassified, sharing economy businesses would need to comply with the higher costs associated with the more stringent regulations. As a result, there would be a tremendous amount of layoffs. Uber projected that the employment of drivers would deny 75 percent of current drivers (926,000 workers) the ability to work. Researchers have found that reclassification increases the cost of employing Lyft and Uber drivers to $3,525 a year per year (Palagashvili 2022). While some gig workers may have some benefits associated with full employment, many would be unemployed.”
Elizabeth Marie from University of Florida
“I still believe gig workers should be classified as independent contractors. This job field is a choice that is known to not have the same benefits as an employee. Still, gig workers conduct their business outside of a company building, and have the ability to earn a fair amount of money in ways that the traditional employee can’t. Therefore, I agree gig workers should continue to be categorized as independent contractors.”
Tanka Neupane from The Ohio State University
“The reclassification of Uber, Lyft drivers, and other gig economy workers as employees with benefits is crucial for ensuring fair labor practices and addressing growing concerns surrounding the gig economy. These workers deserve access to benefits and protections that reflect the true nature of their work. By considering international approaches and learning from their successes, as well as incorporating American statistics, the United States can adapt its labor laws and practices to promote a just and equitable future for all workers.”
Think you have what it takes to write a winning essay?
If you’re a college student, don’t miss out on our upcoming essay contests, where you could win a $1,000 scholarship. Check out our scholarship page to view the next essay topic and submit your work.
A big thank you to all the students who participated in our recent contest. We wish you the best of luck in your academic endeavors!