The workforce of the 21st century has been changing for years. Government, only recently perceiving the movement from a traditional workforce to an independent contractor model, is stifling innovation and hurting workers in the process.
From Boston to Seattle, we are seeing a myriad of impulsive efforts to regulate everything from how an individual may use their vehicle to whom they allow the use of their spare bedroom for the night. With an economy crawling back from the recession of 2008, government should not be in the business of hindering an individual’s opportunity to capitalize on underutilized assets.
The data is everywhere. Vehicles sit unused for over 90% of the day. Spare bedrooms are used on occasion when family or friends come into town. Yet, despite the desire to control their own schedules, individuals are being forced to suspend their activities and talents when the clock strikes 5pm, and are being told that contracting their skills in the evening or on weekends through online matching platforms is not their choice to make.
The arguments for new and increased regulation in this space come from groups that claim the added red tape is in the name of protecting the worker. We are seeing archaic methods of vetting drivers and burdensome systems in place to ensure that an individual wishing to use their own assets, on their own time, is held up at every point conceivable.
Holding the industry hostage in the name of overtime pay, collective bargaining, or vacation accrued, shows just how outdated the conversations taking place by regulators truly are. A troubling theme is becoming ever-apparent, “vested interests, or else”.
Turning to the numbers, we know that over 80 percent of drivers have a second job. We know that insisting on fingerprinting creates a barrier to entry when better, more efficient background check alternatives are available.
We know the overtime pay and vacation hours accrued discussions for someone working on average less than 15 hours a week is irrelevant.
And worst of all, extraneous lawsuits targeting companies attempting to share helpful information with workers regarding taxes, insurance, and retirement accounts, are punishing the very individuals these groups falsely espouse.
With an industry of nearly 30 million and counting, we cannot afford to get the policy wrong. Time and time again, our regulatory structure proves hostile to innovation challenging the status quo; attempting to regulate this technology by drawing legitimacy from laws old enough to remember the Model-T.
It is my hope that legislators and regulators will take a fresh look at what the definition of “work” is for the 21st century worker. Let us not restrict an individual’s opportunity for fear they are incapable of making these choices themselves.