Don’t Let the Corporate Gig Lie Become the Freelancer Truth

Authors: Ra Criscitiello, SEIU-UHW Deputy Director of Research; David Levine, ASBI President & Cofounder; Michael A. Peck, 1Worker1Vote executive director & cofounder

Another Big Corporate Lie rises to scare Generations Y, Z & Alpha workers into false choices with bad outcomes.  In an opinion piece published last month in The Hill, “Biden’s war on freelancers hurts young entrepreneurs most”, the author claims the Biden Administration is going after worker-friendly gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash to stifle workplace freedom and gig economy entrepreneurialism for “fifty-eight million Americans — about 36 percent of our workforce”. (

The stated false choice becomes one of “the perils of a traditional job with standard benefits and access to join a labor union”, versus daring to insist on living wages, fair working conditions, family and community sustaining benefits, and the right to unionize.  Hard to square this in a country where over 80% of Americans support unions and would like to be part of one as shown  by autoworkers, Starbucks baristas, Ben & Jerry’s scoopers, and SAG-AFTRA media professionals going the extra distance to protect their livelihood rights.

Companies exploiting 1099 labor, like Uber, admit that avoiding costs and benefits associated with decent employment practice are vital strategies to goose profit margins (UBER admitted this formally when filing its IPO).  These companies are immensely profitable and have played the regulatory scare game on autopilot locking workers into unfair corporate contracts, exploiting technology, shirking responsibility, and pocketing profit margin differentials.  

According to Ra Criscitiello, Deputy Director for Research, SEIU-UHW, “There is nothing even remotely new about predatory, low-wage work. Calling it “gig work” is just giving a new name to a sadly very long lineage of corporations rigging the system against workers for their own gain.  The creativity, flexibility, and entrepreneurialism either actually or theoretically desired by workers is in no way at odds with formal employment and is not hindered by the Biden administration or various states’ efforts to safeguard against predatory gig work practices, including misclassification.” 

Deliberate employee misclassification denies living wages and benefits to the wage-dependent workers who earn them.  In this distorted, “American entrepreneurialism” mindset, only suckers choose to pay benefits and living wages, organize to strike, or care about what they can do for others to advance a greater common good.  David Levine, American Sustainable Institute President, observes there is no gig free lunch, and that “opportunities to make greater financial profits come with equal mandates to treat workers responsibility starting with employee-worthy living wages and benefits.”

Allowing predatory gig economy companies the option to extend benefits to workers  solidifies even more power favoring corporate hearts and minds already predisposed to unfair worker practices.    So-called “Benefit Savings Accounts” would let companies extend special bonuses to their freelancers.”  Fair pay with healthcare for decent work undergirding lives deserving basic dignity cannot be considered someone’s corporate bonus pool to award by fiat when the simple act of doing so represents basic social justice. 

Where are the zero-sum preconditions determining that the Sharing Economy & the On-Demand Economy can’t be structurally as profitable for workers as for owners and for workers becoming owners?  Values- aligned and purpose-driven enterprises embracing worker ownership with democratic governance prove that it’s humanly, operationally, and mathematically possible to achieve all of the above.  

Collective bargaining stands as antidote to predatory gig labor companies promoting union busting, deliberate wage misclassification, workplace discrimination and retaliation.  Collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) consolidate mission-aligned values, build workplace solidarity, and enhance productivity through worker satisfaction, and more organic workforce knowledge impacting enterprises.   

Importantly, collective bargaining agreements can be crafted to allow for and even encourage flexibility and entrepreneurialism. The high water mark is exemplified by unionized worker cooperative CBAs which tend to be light on work rules and, since they are inherently values aligned among ‘labor/management,’ centralize worker committees and other solidarity pathways for worker voice, impact, empowerment and control.

 The fight over false choices with bad outcomes for gig workers continues with recurring headlines such as, “Uber to counter California's labor muscle with $30M political spend” (example: POLITICO  Instead of the endless back and forth, let’s level the playing field for workforces driving multinational gig enterprises forward through customized collective bargaining agreements that offer workplace stakeholders creativity, flexibility, and entrepreneurial opportunities based on a fair choice and a fair deal to lead professional lives with dignity and aspiration.  

Michael Peck is “Humanity@Work&Life” (Oak Tree Press/Ireland) co-editor, 1worker1vote executive director/cofounder, Mondragon’s former USA/Canada delegate, & part of Mondragon/USW collaboration MOU.

View Website