Today’s News & Commentary — May 29, 2019
Google’s temporary employees and contractors now outnumber full-time employees, according to a New York Times expose. Contingent employees are formally employed by independent staffing agencies, but work side-by-side with Google employees, but “make less money, have different benefits plans and have no paid vacation time.” Both Google employees and contract workers say that, in reality, Google decides what jobs contingent workers do, when and where they work, and often whether or not to discipline them, raising the possibility that Google exercises sufficient control over contract workers that they should legally be considered Google employees. Google appears to exercise at least some control over contractors pay and benefits; last month, the company announced that it would require staffing agencies that formally employ its contingent workers to pay at least $15 an hour and paid parental leave. On top of sub-standard pay and benefits, contingent workers face two tiers of workplace conditions: they are “barred from company events like holiday parties,” still subject to forced arbitration after massive protests forced Google to end mandatory arbitration for employees, prohibited from looking at internal job postings, and in some cases, were even left out of emails about workplace safety issues—including security updates about active shooting at Youtube offices last year.
The Federal Reserve just released a report confirming that gig economy workers are even more likely to be economically precarious than other workers, highlighting the financial struggle many workers face even in an era of historically low unemployment. According to the report, a staggering 58% of big workers would struggle to cover an unexpected $400 bill (compared to the also disturbing 38% of workers who don’t work in the gig economy). Gig work is notoriously difficult to define, and the survey used a expansive definition include Uber and TaskRabbit as well as gigs like baby-sitting or selling used items. According to the Federal Reserve’s survey, the large majority of people who do some independent work don’t do so full-time, but rather to supplement other sources of income. Still, five percent of workers surveyed said gig work was their main source of income—and this group was most likely to report living in “financial distress.”
A new report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that “relatively little” of the money corporations saved under the Trump Tax Cuts “was directed to paying worker bonuses” — but the report did find that companies spend significantly on stock buybacks. The report found “no indication of a surge in wages,” undercutting claims that the tax cuts would boost workers’ take-home pay. The CRS also reported that GDP “grew at 2.9%, about the Congressional Budget Office’s projected rate published in 2017 before the tax cut,” concluding that “the grown effects tend to show a relatively small (if any) first-year effect on the economy.”
Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders yesterday told the Washington Post that he intends to introduce policy proposals that aim to give work more influence in their workplaces. Senator Sanders announced that his campaign is “working on a plan to require large businesses to regularly contribute a portion of their stocks” to an employee-run fund that would pay dividends out to workers (much like shareholders). The campaign also announced that Sanders will introduce a plan to place workers on boards of directors. The campaign told the Post that the ideas are in “formative stage,” so details of the plans have not yet been released. Sanders’ plan mirrors his fellow Presidential contender Elizabeth Warren, who last year proposed co-determination legislation that would require that workers make up 40 percent of the board of directors for U.S. corporations.
A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that nearly one in four American workers get no paid vacation or holidays. The United States is the only advanced economy that does not guarantee workers paid vacation time.