Today's News & Commentary — January 28
The Wall Street Journal reports on the challenges faced by so-called “on-demand” workers for companies like Uber and TaskRabbit who, as the paper observes, “don’t fit neatly into a regulatory landscape that recognizes only two types of worker: employees in traditional work relationships and independent contractors.” A number of companies in recent months have faced class-action lawsuits alleging that they misclassify workers as contractors rather than employees and that the workers “should be covered by minimum-wage rules and other employee protections because they lack the control over their work that characterizes a true freelancer.”
Meanwhile, writing in the New York Times, Eduardo Porter argues that the success of Uber supports loosening licensing requirements for other professions, since such requirements “serve as legal cudgels to protect practitioners from competition.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, the United Steelworkers union has rejected the latest contract proposal from Shell Oil in negotiations for some 30,000 workers. Reuters reports that the union “is seeking annual pay raises double those of the last agreement,” along with other concessions. The current contract expires this Sunday.
The Associated Press reports on the latest figures from the Labor Department, which show that unemployment rates dropped in 42 states last month. Unemployment rose in only four states. States with large oil and gas industries all saw healthy gains, “suggesting that plunging oil prices have yet to cause significant layoffs.”