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Gig Worker Protections Get a push in European proposals

Last year, gig-economic companies organized a successful referendum campaign in California to keep drivers classified as independent contractors, while giving them limited benefits. Although a judge ruled in August that the result was unconstitutional in California, his decision is being appealed, and the companies are pursuing similar laws in Massachusetts.

The Biden administration has proposed that concert workers be treated as employees, but it has not taken significant steps to change labor legislation. In May, the Ministry of Labor reversed a rule from the Trump era that would have made it more difficult to reclassify concert workers in the country as employees.

In Europe, Spain offers a preview of the potential effects of the EU proposal. The country’s so-called Riders Law, passed in August, required food delivery services such as Uber and Deliveroo to reclassify workers as employees, and covers an estimated 30,000 workers.

Uber responded by hiring several staffing agencies to hire a fleet of drivers for Uber Eats, a strategy to comply with the law but avoid responsibility for managing thousands of people directly. Deliveroo, which is partly owned by Amazon, left the Spanish market.

The companies prefer policies such as in France, where the government has proposed allowing workers to choose union representation that can negotiate with companies on issues such as wages and benefits. Uber also pointed to Italy, where a large trade union and food delivery companies entered into an agreement that guarantees minimum wages, insurance and safety equipment, but does not classify workers as employees.

Kim van Sparrentak, a green lawmaker in the European Parliament who helped draft a report on platform workers published this year, praised the commission’s proposal as “quite radical”.

“It could set a new standard for workers’ rights,” Van Sparrentak said.

Adam Satariano reported from London, and Elian Peltier from Brussels. Kate Conger contributed with reporting.

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