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Coronavirus Pandemic Exposes the Gig Economy for the Flawed Industry That It Is

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
Aubrey Hansen
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:40 PM
  • As coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, we’ve seen economic pain for many workers in numerous industries.
  • The gig economy workforce already lacks sick pay and health care.
  • Coronavirus has shone a light on the gig economy, highlighting just how fragile the industry is.

Back in November, before the coronavirus was a factor in day to day life, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi interviewed with HBO.

During his Axios on HBO interview, the Uber CEO was asked about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government.

His response? The Saudi government “made a mistake”: 

I think that government said that they made a mistake. We’ve made mistakes too, right? With self-driving, and we stopped driving, and we’re recovering from that mistake. I think that people make mistakes; it doesn’t mean that they can never be forgiven.

It should surprise no one to learn that Saudi Arabia is Uber’s fifth-largest shareholder.

You have a CEO who is willing to describe the killing of a journalist who was dismembered with a bone saw as “a mistake.” It’s probably safe to assume that they aren’t all that concerned with driver healthcare and pay rate.

Source: Twitter 

Fast forward to today, and those in the gig economy are suffering in a post-coronavirus world

Jaime Maldonado is a driver for Lyft. Like most in the gig economy, he’s finding life tough as the coronavirus tears through the United States. Speaking to the New York Times, he commented: 

What am I going to do to pump gas and feed my kids tomorrow?

Drivers like Maldonado have seen their work drop by as much as 50% in recent weeks. From that reduced income, he still has to pay Lyft their rental fee for his vehicle.

These issues aren’t just confined to workers of Uber and Lyft. The entire gig economy has been operating in a precarious position for years now. A lack of guaranteed wages, health care and sick pay has long drawn the ire of people like Senator Mark Warner. 

Warner has proposed federal legislation to ensure the 15 million-strong gig economy workforce is provided with benefits.

Source: Twitter 

Of course, coronavirus is a pandemic, and gig workers in other parts of the world are suffering just as much. As one London Uber driver remarked: 

I’ll take paracetamol if I have a temperature and pull myself up because I don’t have any other means of earning, and this is my livelihood.

Will gig workers qualify for help during the pandemic?

In the U.S., we’ve seen growing demand for paid sick leave and insurance for people suffering from coronavirus.

Well, for employees.

What about independent contractors and gig economy workers? Many are not sure they’ll qualify. 

Industry leaders have made the right noises in light of coronavirus, but workers remain unconvinced

Following the increasingly severe situation surrounding the coronavirus, gig economy leaders pledge to support workers who are struggling with the virus.

Still, according to The Guardian, some drivers don’t trust the companies to pay up. 

To qualify for any sick pay, a worker would have to confirm a diagnosis for Covid-19, or prove they are subject to government-enforced quarantine.

Source: Twitter 

With actual testing very difficult to access, this option won’t be available for many workers in the immediate future.

As always, gig workers will have to do what they always do. Suck it up and get on with it.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.