Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/public-policy 2017-12-12T12:14:30+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Time for the Mayor and the Governor to Work Together 2016-01-06T02:55:32+00:00 2016-01-06T02:55:32+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6065:time-for-the-mayor-and-the-governor-to-work-together Super User <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12181475174_8455aacfbb_z.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo smiles" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>De Blasio and Cuomo, via the Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>They are elected to lead millions of people, to handle billions of taxpayer dollars, and to develop effective public policy. To be as effective as possible, they must work together.</p> <p>Yet, they barely speak to each other and won't even say each other's name in public.</p> <p>There is simply no way that the ongoing feud between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't hurting New Yorkers. The behavior of the two men - New York City's top two elected leaders - is beneath the esteem of their offices.</p> <p>A leading advocate, Mary Brosnahan of Coalition for the Homeless, put it perfectly in <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8586782/cuomo-explains-his-new-homeless-policy-hints-more-come" target="_blank">an interview</a> with Politico New York: "They're both very smart people, let's just lower the testosterone and ramp up the cooperation. It just kills me to see homeless New Yorkers being played like pawns in the middle of it."</p> <p>Lately, it has been homeless people as pawns, but it has been all New Yorkers at some point over the past two years.</p> <p>Sure, the feud can be the source of fun for observers, even for the governor and his team, it seems. But, there are legitimate policy issues, livelihoods, and lives at stake. It's well past time for Cuomo and de Blasio to work together more closely. And there are steps, beyond the recent dinner they shared, that can easily be taken - if they care enough to try.</p> <p>The already toxic relationship took a turn for the worse when, in a now-infamous airing of grievances, de Blasio criticized the governor to the press at length on June 30. Remarkable for several reasons, de Blasio's words seemed to indicate he was giving up on the prospects of a strong working relationship with his former boss and longtime friend.</p> <p>Still, in November, Cuomo defied what observers were seeing when <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/11/cuomo-press-focusing-on-soap-opera-with-de-blasio/" target="_blank">he said</a>, "The relationship is good...This is a professional relationship."</p> <p>The governor added what appears to be nothing short of a lie, saying: "We coordinate the best we can."</p> <p>Perhaps Cuomo's statement was true if by "can" he was implying 'given the fact that we are both more concerned with our petty feud than with working for the people of New York.'</p> <p>When it has come to a series of issues: Ebola, the MTA, Legionnaires' Disease, homelessness, and more, the city and state have clearly not been coordinating "the best" they could.</p> <p>Of course members of the two administrations talk with each other all the time and coordinate on a variety of public policy matters - there are major day-to-day operations that necessitate this. But, it is abundantly clear that the collaboration is not as strong as it could or should be.</p> <p>Beyond beginning to speak more regularly by phone and in person, de Blasio and Cuomo could start regularly appearing at events together. Giving the semblance of a working relationship would at least instill more confidence that the two leaders have one and are not being negligent. A little bit of casual conversation, as the two had while awaiting the Pope in September, can only help repair the relationship.</p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio don't have to immediately hold joint announcements, they could simply share space when they're due to speak at the same event, something it appears they've avoided with intent.</p> <p>But, they could hold joint events immediately and start to move beyond The Feud. De Blasio is set to make a minimum wage announcement Wednesday - Cuomo should be there and have a speaking role. Then, de Blasio should be similarly welcomed to Cuomo's next minimum wage rally in the city (he's been conspicuously absent from several). Also Wednesday, Cuomo is <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/gov-cuomo-to-back-a-penn-station-overhaul-1452030404" target="_blank">expected to announce</a> a renovation plan for Penn Station - de Blasio should be there, not absent like he was when Cuomo announced plans for a new LaGaurdia Airport.</p> <p>The two Wednesday events are, of course, scheduled for the same time: 2 p.m.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio is set to sign an executive order mandating paid parental leave for some city employees. Cuomo should be there, too, and he should use the occasion to praise the mayor and explain his intention to push a statewide paid family leave policy.</p> <p>Though they have very different styles and somewhat different political philosophies, Cuomo and de Blasio actually agree on quite a bit and could find many ways to truly work together. The two should soon hold a joint announcement after coming to a New York/New York IV supportive housing deal.</p> <p>They missed a good opportunity to show a united front when they came to an agreement on MTA capital plan funding in October after a prolonged and too-public dispute.</p> <p>But, as they go down a similar road on homelessness, wouldn't it be refreshing if early in the new year Cuomo and de Blasio could coordinate policy and hold a joint press conference to explain how they are going to work together to improve shelter conditions, get people off the streets and into housing, and keep people from becoming homeless in the first place?</p> <p>Like you, I am not holding my breath for such an announcement or for any of the joint appearances outlined above.</p> <p>As the New York Times editorial board <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/opinion/tackling-the-homeless-crisis-without-mr-cuomo.html" target="_blank">wrote</a> in late November, "In a better world, the mayor and governor would be mutually supportive allies working together to ease the suffering of tens of thousands of homeless residents of the state's most important city. But in reality, the two men are stuck in a malfunctioning relationship that has turned once-routine city-state partnerships and problem-solving exercises into an unusually fraught psychodrama."</p> <p>On Monday, the mayor was faced with a barrage of questions from reporters about the homelessness-related executive order the governor had issued with little warning to the de Blasio administration. It has become something of a pattern, state action without coordinating with the city, the governor showing the mayor who is in charge.</p> <p>"We are very willing to work with the state," de Blasio said in response to a question about why he and his old colleague couldn't simply get together and hash out joint homelessness policy.</p> <p>Being willing to work together is very different, obviously, from proactively seeking opportunities to mend fences and move forward for the good of the people of the city and state.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/12181475174_8455aacfbb_z.jpg" alt="de blasio cuomo smiles" height="399" width="600" /></p> <p>De Blasio and Cuomo, via the Governor's Office</p> <hr /> <p>They are elected to lead millions of people, to handle billions of taxpayer dollars, and to develop effective public policy. To be as effective as possible, they must work together.</p> <p>Yet, they barely speak to each other and won't even say each other's name in public.</p> <p>There is simply no way that the ongoing feud between Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio isn't hurting New Yorkers. The behavior of the two men - New York City's top two elected leaders - is beneath the esteem of their offices.</p> <p>A leading advocate, Mary Brosnahan of Coalition for the Homeless, put it perfectly in <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2016/01/8586782/cuomo-explains-his-new-homeless-policy-hints-more-come" target="_blank">an interview</a> with Politico New York: "They're both very smart people, let's just lower the testosterone and ramp up the cooperation. It just kills me to see homeless New Yorkers being played like pawns in the middle of it."</p> <p>Lately, it has been homeless people as pawns, but it has been all New Yorkers at some point over the past two years.</p> <p>Sure, the feud can be the source of fun for observers, even for the governor and his team, it seems. But, there are legitimate policy issues, livelihoods, and lives at stake. It's well past time for Cuomo and de Blasio to work together more closely. And there are steps, beyond the recent dinner they shared, that can easily be taken - if they care enough to try.</p> <p>The already toxic relationship took a turn for the worse when, in a now-infamous airing of grievances, de Blasio criticized the governor to the press at length on June 30. Remarkable for several reasons, de Blasio's words seemed to indicate he was giving up on the prospects of a strong working relationship with his former boss and longtime friend.</p> <p>Still, in November, Cuomo defied what observers were seeing when <a href="http://www.nystateofpolitics.com/2015/11/cuomo-press-focusing-on-soap-opera-with-de-blasio/" target="_blank">he said</a>, "The relationship is good...This is a professional relationship."</p> <p>The governor added what appears to be nothing short of a lie, saying: "We coordinate the best we can."</p> <p>Perhaps Cuomo's statement was true if by "can" he was implying 'given the fact that we are both more concerned with our petty feud than with working for the people of New York.'</p> <p>When it has come to a series of issues: Ebola, the MTA, Legionnaires' Disease, homelessness, and more, the city and state have clearly not been coordinating "the best" they could.</p> <p>Of course members of the two administrations talk with each other all the time and coordinate on a variety of public policy matters - there are major day-to-day operations that necessitate this. But, it is abundantly clear that the collaboration is not as strong as it could or should be.</p> <p>Beyond beginning to speak more regularly by phone and in person, de Blasio and Cuomo could start regularly appearing at events together. Giving the semblance of a working relationship would at least instill more confidence that the two leaders have one and are not being negligent. A little bit of casual conversation, as the two had while awaiting the Pope in September, can only help repair the relationship.</p> <p>Cuomo and de Blasio don't have to immediately hold joint announcements, they could simply share space when they're due to speak at the same event, something it appears they've avoided with intent.</p> <p>But, they could hold joint events immediately and start to move beyond The Feud. De Blasio is set to make a minimum wage announcement Wednesday - Cuomo should be there and have a speaking role. Then, de Blasio should be similarly welcomed to Cuomo's next minimum wage rally in the city (he's been conspicuously absent from several). Also Wednesday, Cuomo is <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/gov-cuomo-to-back-a-penn-station-overhaul-1452030404" target="_blank">expected to announce</a> a renovation plan for Penn Station - de Blasio should be there, not absent like he was when Cuomo announced plans for a new LaGaurdia Airport.</p> <p>The two Wednesday events are, of course, scheduled for the same time: 2 p.m.</p> <p>On Thursday, de Blasio is set to sign an executive order mandating paid parental leave for some city employees. Cuomo should be there, too, and he should use the occasion to praise the mayor and explain his intention to push a statewide paid family leave policy.</p> <p>Though they have very different styles and somewhat different political philosophies, Cuomo and de Blasio actually agree on quite a bit and could find many ways to truly work together. The two should soon hold a joint announcement after coming to a New York/New York IV supportive housing deal.</p> <p>They missed a good opportunity to show a united front when they came to an agreement on MTA capital plan funding in October after a prolonged and too-public dispute.</p> <p>But, as they go down a similar road on homelessness, wouldn't it be refreshing if early in the new year Cuomo and de Blasio could coordinate policy and hold a joint press conference to explain how they are going to work together to improve shelter conditions, get people off the streets and into housing, and keep people from becoming homeless in the first place?</p> <p>Like you, I am not holding my breath for such an announcement or for any of the joint appearances outlined above.</p> <p>As the New York Times editorial board <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/20/opinion/tackling-the-homeless-crisis-without-mr-cuomo.html" target="_blank">wrote</a> in late November, "In a better world, the mayor and governor would be mutually supportive allies working together to ease the suffering of tens of thousands of homeless residents of the state's most important city. But in reality, the two men are stuck in a malfunctioning relationship that has turned once-routine city-state partnerships and problem-solving exercises into an unusually fraught psychodrama."</p> <p>On Monday, the mayor was faced with a barrage of questions from reporters about the homelessness-related executive order the governor had issued with little warning to the de Blasio administration. It has become something of a pattern, state action without coordinating with the city, the governor showing the mayor who is in charge.</p> <p>"We are very willing to work with the state," de Blasio said in response to a question about why he and his old colleague couldn't simply get together and hash out joint homelessness policy.</p> <p>Being willing to work together is very different, obviously, from proactively seeking opportunities to mend fences and move forward for the good of the people of the city and state.</p> <p>***<br />by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/TweetBenMax" target="_blank">@tweetBenMax</a></p> City Council Developing New Protections for Workers in ‘Gig’ Economy 2015-11-04T23:08:43+00:00 2015-11-04T23:08:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5971:city-council-developing-new-protections-for-workers-in-gig-economy Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lander_car_wash_workers.jpg" alt="lander car wash workers" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Lander with carwash workers (<a href="https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/573135755742203904" target="_blank">photo</a>: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There are more than 1.3 million freelancers working in New York City and with the help of the City Council, these workers may soon be afforded certain protections on par with full-time workers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Initially focused on wage protection and health benefits, Council members and advocates are also looking at legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to certain groups of workers in the “gig” economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">The on-demand economy of such workers has mushroomed in the city with Uber and Lyft drivers, Handy.com cleaners, and the more traditional writers, graphic designers, and other artists. These temporary, “for-hire” workers largely perform their various efforts without the benefits of job security, health insurance, pension buy-in, or paid sick leave. Even their wages are regularly not guaranteed. Eight out of ten freelancers have complained of being victims of late payment or non-payment of wages according to <a href="https://fu-web-storage-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/pdf/nonpayment-factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">reports</a> compiled by the Freelancers Union.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the City Council aggressively tackling workforce issues, Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn, has taken the lead in developing legislation to help people in the gig economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander is working with the New York City-based Freelancers Union to create a legislative framework for wage protection for freelance employees. In September, He appeared at a Brooklyn town hall hosted by the Freelancers Union to launch the #FreelanceIsntFree <a href="https://www.freelancersunion.org/advocacy/" target="_blank">campaign</a>, seeking to raise awareness and push for legislation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It has very real dark sides to it,” Lander said in a recent phone interview with Gotham Gazette, referring to freelancing and the company payment cycles that cause hardships for freelancers. “The rent is due and you still gotta put groceries on the table,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander believes that the best possible scenario would be a “cutting edge,” enforceable administrative solution, similar to protections guaranteed by the state Department of Labor and the Attorney General. Currently, the only legal recourse freelancers have is civil court, an expensive and time-consuming option. Lander wants to introduce a bill within the next two months.</p> <p dir="ltr">But worker protections go beyond simply wages and Lander has found support from his colleagues for other ideas. Lander and Council Member Corey Johnson are working closely with the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance on a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/how-to-build-the-movement-for-progressive-power-the-urban-way/" target="_blank">“drivers benefit fund”</a> that would use a small fare surcharge to provide health benefits to for-hire drivers. After wage protections for freelancers, drafting this legislation is Lander’s next priority; and with the city looking at rules reform for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, he said this “is a good time to move it forward.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Inevitably, workforce issues revolve in some important way around organized labor. On-demand gig workers are by their very nature unorganized. That’s where the Freelancers Union stepped in and now the City Council is moving toward creating new worker protections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eyeing Seattle, where a City Council member is <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-lawmaker-plans-to-help-for-hire-drivers-unionize/" target="_blank">pushing a bill</a> to allow taxi drivers, for-hire drivers, and those from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to unionize and exercise collective bargaining, Lander is considering a similar path in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber’s success in the city, and its disruption of the long-standing taxi/black car marketplace, has garnered the for-hire industry new attention. The ability for drivers, who are seen as independent contractors, to unionize would change the game for thousands, and the company, of course.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber has added more than 20,000 cars to their service in the last three years and also <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-logs-major-gains-in-new-york-city-figures-show-1445821132" target="_blank">handled</a> more than 100,000 rides each day in July, four times its record from last year. &nbsp;During a summer face-off between city lawmakers and Uber, the Mayor de Blasio and the City Council brought about a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/nyregion/de-blasio-administration-dropping-plan-for-uber-cap-for-now.html" target="_blank">temporary detente</a> by landing on a four-month study of the effects of ride-sharing companies like Uber (and no cap on the growth of the industry). The results of that study are due soon and will likely play an important role in the future of ride-sharing in the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">An Uber representative declined to comment for this story.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s efforts to create space for independent contractors to unionize may run up against federal law. The <a href="https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act" target="_blank">National Labor Relations Act of 1935</a> protects the right of employees to collectively bargain with their employers. It lays down specific definitions for employees and employers which could preempt local jurisdictions from taking action since independent contractors do not qualify under the law’s criteria.</p> <p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-appeals-class-action-ruling-for-drivers-suit-1442362190" target="_blank">class-action lawsuit</a> brought by three drivers in California against Uber highlights this basic issue. The drivers are arguing for benefits as employees of the company while Uber maintains they are independent contractors who are not eligible for these benefits, and therefore should not <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/02/436820824/california-court-grants-uber-drivers-class-action-status" target="_blank">have received</a> class-action status.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“Seattle’s leading the way,” said Council Member Lander. The proposed legislation in Seattle would create a precedent and likely face numerous legal challenges. Lander recognizes this fact. Even though the NLRA preempts the City Council from legislating, he believes there is room for cities to take action for workers not covered under the federal legislation. Currently there is no draft legislation but Lander said any proposal would attempt to protect workers across the on-demand economy and not just specific companies.</p> <p dir="ltr">(He also talked of changes to the city’s human rights laws to clarify the workers covered. He said this could happen in the next few months after these initial bills.)</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council recently took controversial action to help car wash workers unionize, but that is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/nyregion/carwash-owners-in-new-york-sue-city-over-unionization-rules.html?_r=0" target="_blank">being challenged in court</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member I. Daneek Miller is firmly in support of any proposal that would help on-demand drivers organize. As a former labor union leader, Miller’s perspective on the issue is decidedly pro-labor, and his position as chair of the Council's civil service and labor committee puts him at the front lines in addressing it.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“The whole concept of the shared economy has to be put into perspective,” Miller told Gotham Gazette. “I don’t think it’s a sustainable model.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He said the “irony” of the situation is that the shared, gig economy is contributing to its own demise and disempowerment -- a younger generation with few responsibilities finds flexibility and mobility attractive and then later on when people want security, they find themselves left out in the cold.</p> <p dir="ltr">For the system to work, he said, there need to be checks and balances in the form of collective bargaining and the right to organize.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m less inclined to create public policy legislation around this,” he said about the issue of unionization, perhaps recognizing the challenges involved. “We’ll let them do their job and give them the tools to support them. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of organized labor.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samark Khurshid<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/lander_car_wash_workers.jpg" alt="lander car wash workers" width="600" height="429" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Council Member Lander with carwash workers (<a href="https://twitter.com/willalatriste/status/573135755742203904" target="_blank">photo</a>: William Alatriste)</span></p> <hr /> <p>There are more than 1.3 million freelancers working in New York City and with the help of the City Council, these workers may soon be afforded certain protections on par with full-time workers.</p> <p dir="ltr">Initially focused on wage protection and health benefits, Council members and advocates are also looking at legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to certain groups of workers in the “gig” economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">The on-demand economy of such workers has mushroomed in the city with Uber and Lyft drivers, Handy.com cleaners, and the more traditional writers, graphic designers, and other artists. These temporary, “for-hire” workers largely perform their various efforts without the benefits of job security, health insurance, pension buy-in, or paid sick leave. Even their wages are regularly not guaranteed. Eight out of ten freelancers have complained of being victims of late payment or non-payment of wages according to <a href="https://fu-web-storage-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/pdf/nonpayment-factsheet.pdf" target="_blank">reports</a> compiled by the Freelancers Union.</p> <p dir="ltr">With the City Council aggressively tackling workforce issues, Council Member Brad Lander, a Democrat who represents part of Brooklyn, has taken the lead in developing legislation to help people in the gig economy.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander is working with the New York City-based Freelancers Union to create a legislative framework for wage protection for freelance employees. In September, He appeared at a Brooklyn town hall hosted by the Freelancers Union to launch the #FreelanceIsntFree <a href="https://www.freelancersunion.org/advocacy/" target="_blank">campaign</a>, seeking to raise awareness and push for legislation.</p> <p dir="ltr">“It has very real dark sides to it,” Lander said in a recent phone interview with Gotham Gazette, referring to freelancing and the company payment cycles that cause hardships for freelancers. “The rent is due and you still gotta put groceries on the table,” he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Lander believes that the best possible scenario would be a “cutting edge,” enforceable administrative solution, similar to protections guaranteed by the state Department of Labor and the Attorney General. Currently, the only legal recourse freelancers have is civil court, an expensive and time-consuming option. Lander wants to introduce a bill within the next two months.</p> <p dir="ltr">But worker protections go beyond simply wages and Lander has found support from his colleagues for other ideas. Lander and Council Member Corey Johnson are working closely with the New York City Taxi Workers Alliance on a <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/how-to-build-the-movement-for-progressive-power-the-urban-way/" target="_blank">“drivers benefit fund”</a> that would use a small fare surcharge to provide health benefits to for-hire drivers. After wage protections for freelancers, drafting this legislation is Lander’s next priority; and with the city looking at rules reform for the Taxi and Limousine Commission, he said this “is a good time to move it forward.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Inevitably, workforce issues revolve in some important way around organized labor. On-demand gig workers are by their very nature unorganized. That’s where the Freelancers Union stepped in and now the City Council is moving toward creating new worker protections.</p> <p dir="ltr">Eyeing Seattle, where a City Council member is <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/seattle-lawmaker-plans-to-help-for-hire-drivers-unionize/" target="_blank">pushing a bill</a> to allow taxi drivers, for-hire drivers, and those from ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to unionize and exercise collective bargaining, Lander is considering a similar path in New York.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber’s success in the city, and its disruption of the long-standing taxi/black car marketplace, has garnered the for-hire industry new attention. The ability for drivers, who are seen as independent contractors, to unionize would change the game for thousands, and the company, of course.</p> <p dir="ltr">Uber has added more than 20,000 cars to their service in the last three years and also <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-logs-major-gains-in-new-york-city-figures-show-1445821132" target="_blank">handled</a> more than 100,000 rides each day in July, four times its record from last year. &nbsp;During a summer face-off between city lawmakers and Uber, the Mayor de Blasio and the City Council brought about a <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/23/nyregion/de-blasio-administration-dropping-plan-for-uber-cap-for-now.html" target="_blank">temporary detente</a> by landing on a four-month study of the effects of ride-sharing companies like Uber (and no cap on the growth of the industry). The results of that study are due soon and will likely play an important role in the future of ride-sharing in the city.</p> <p dir="ltr">An Uber representative declined to comment for this story.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s efforts to create space for independent contractors to unionize may run up against federal law. The <a href="https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act" target="_blank">National Labor Relations Act of 1935</a> protects the right of employees to collectively bargain with their employers. It lays down specific definitions for employees and employers which could preempt local jurisdictions from taking action since independent contractors do not qualify under the law’s criteria.</p> <p dir="ltr">A <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-appeals-class-action-ruling-for-drivers-suit-1442362190" target="_blank">class-action lawsuit</a> brought by three drivers in California against Uber highlights this basic issue. The drivers are arguing for benefits as employees of the company while Uber maintains they are independent contractors who are not eligible for these benefits, and therefore should not <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/02/436820824/california-court-grants-uber-drivers-class-action-status" target="_blank">have received</a> class-action status.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“Seattle’s leading the way,” said Council Member Lander. The proposed legislation in Seattle would create a precedent and likely face numerous legal challenges. Lander recognizes this fact. Even though the NLRA preempts the City Council from legislating, he believes there is room for cities to take action for workers not covered under the federal legislation. Currently there is no draft legislation but Lander said any proposal would attempt to protect workers across the on-demand economy and not just specific companies.</p> <p dir="ltr">(He also talked of changes to the city’s human rights laws to clarify the workers covered. He said this could happen in the next few months after these initial bills.)</p> <p dir="ltr">The Council recently took controversial action to help car wash workers unionize, but that is <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/19/nyregion/carwash-owners-in-new-york-sue-city-over-unionization-rules.html?_r=0" target="_blank">being challenged in court</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Council Member I. Daneek Miller is firmly in support of any proposal that would help on-demand drivers organize. As a former labor union leader, Miller’s perspective on the issue is decidedly pro-labor, and his position as chair of the Council's civil service and labor committee puts him at the front lines in addressing it.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">“The whole concept of the shared economy has to be put into perspective,” Miller told Gotham Gazette. “I don’t think it’s a sustainable model.”</p> <p dir="ltr">He said the “irony” of the situation is that the shared, gig economy is contributing to its own demise and disempowerment -- a younger generation with few responsibilities finds flexibility and mobility attractive and then later on when people want security, they find themselves left out in the cold.</p> <p dir="ltr">For the system to work, he said, there need to be checks and balances in the form of collective bargaining and the right to organize.</p> <p dir="ltr">“I’m less inclined to create public policy legislation around this,” he said about the issue of unionization, perhaps recognizing the challenges involved. “We’ll let them do their job and give them the tools to support them. We’ve got our finger on the pulse of organized labor.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Samark Khurshid<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>