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On-Demand Platform Workers in New York State: The Challenges for Public Policy

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[Excerpt] This report examines one specific subset of New York state’s contingent workforce: on-demand workers who obtain work through online platforms or “apps.” Often referred to popularly as “gig” workers, we use the phrase “on-demand platform workers” in an attempt to clarify the workers to whom we refer. Our research shows that on-demand platform workers: Are notoriously difficult to count, due to factors such as the part-time quality of their work, high turnover rates and confusion over the definition of terms; Experience low and unstable earnings and a lack of benefits, requiring reliance on second or third jobs, other family members’ incomes, and various types of public aid; Experience a range of dangerous health and safety hazards on the job, most of which are uncompensated; Suffer from evaluations based primarily on consumer ratings of workers’ performance, with no recourse for workers to appeal disciplinary actions; and Are negatively impacted by automated matching between workers and consumers and other communication asymmetries. Forms of control vary across different platforms, but in general platforms transfer or externalize risks onto workers, with those that use strict automated control systems (known as algorithmic management) maximizing their control over the labor process. On-demand platform work, like other forms of contingent and temporary employment, destabilizes industries, undermines worker protections and living standards, and significantly contributes to wealth and income inequality. Correct classification of workers is a core issue for labor standards in the “on-demand” economy, in part because the impact of worker misclassification on New York state funds and tax revenues is severe. New York’s regulatory structure does not now provide the necessary level of oversight to curb abuse in the on-demand economy and protect worker, business, and taxpayer interests. Policymakers in New York state now have the opportunity to lead the way by making sure that on-demand platform workers will enjoy the same status and protections as all other workers in the state.

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on-demand workers; gig workers; working conditions; income inequality


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