In other words, for some, gig work has become shorthand for instability and low wages. That’s what state lawmakers in Minnesota thought, too, when they passed a bill this month guaranteeing minimum pay for Uber and Lyft drivers that they said would add a layer of security to a challenging career. It was vetoed by the governor Thursday, one sign of how fraught the question of protections for an ad hoc work force has become.
The writers’ strike and demands have prompted renewed attention to gig work, where someone might work for a variety of companies, or for themselves, often with irregular hours. It’s an old concept, with musicians playing gigs and artists and other creative types working their own hours while selling their work.
Over the last decade, the idea of gig work has been popularized by app-based platforms like Uber and Lyft, which classify their drivers as independent contractors and avoid treating them as employees. Many full-time workers, especially those in low-wage jobs, were enticed to these platforms by the prospect of working flexible hours and driving passengers around to make money.
The allure of flexibility soon gave way to a reality of low pay and unreliable hours, labor advocates say, though the companies say drivers’ wages are still increasing and that record numbers of people are driving on their platforms.
Still, the shifting perception of Uber and similar companies has caused some workers to sour on the idea of gig labor, even though workers for online platforms make up only a small part of the gig economy and less than 1 percent of the overall labor force, by some estimates.