Pete Buttigieg says gig workers should be allowed to unionize

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said he would allow gig workers to unionize to “put the interest of workers first.”

“There are people in the gig economy who go through more jobs in a week than my parents went through in their lifetime,” Buttigieg said during the debate when answering a question about trade. “That’s why I propose that we allow gig workers to unionize, because a gig is a job and a worker is a worker.”

“That’s why we need to put the interest of workers first. Of course we need to do retraining — we’re doing it now in South Bend — we’ll continue to do it, but this is so much bigger than a trade fight,” Buttigieg said. “This is about a moment when the economy is changing before our eyes.”

Organizing among some gig-economy workers is already beginning.

Drivers for popular ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft, who are listed as independent contractors not employees, went on strike earlier this year, calling on passengers across the nation to boycott the ride-sharing companies until better wages were provided.

Seattle became the first city to allow ride-share drivers to unionize in 2015, though there have been legal challenges, The Guardian notes. In New York City, the Independent Drivers Guild represents around 70,000 drivers, according to The Guardian, and the city enacted a higher minimum wage for ride-share drivers in January of this year. Some Los Angeles drivers are also organizing.

“We have to respond to all of these changes,” Buttigieg said. “In addition to confronting tech, in addition to supporting workers by doubling unionization, as I’ve proposed to do.”

Read more: Uber and Lyft are trying to make an end-run around unionization

The California State Assembly passed “gig work” legislation in May that will allow independent workers to meet certain criteria to be determined employees. The bill still needs to go through the state senate and get the governor’s signature. The governor is encouraging unions to work with gig economy companies to figure out a compromise, Bloomberg reported.

In response, officials for the companies said that “a change to the employment classification of ride-share drivers would pose a risk to our businesses,” as written in an op-ed published in the San Francisco Chronicle written by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Lyft cofounders Logan Green and John Zimmer.

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