Outreach and Education

DOL Should Recognize the Value of Independent Work for POC

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The Department of Labor must acknowledge the importance of contingent and alternative work arrangements to ‎the cause of worker equity. Underprivileged minority communities are increasingly turning to alternative work ‎arrangements to escape the paradigm of economic dependence imposed by traditional employer-employee work ‎arrangements, which have historically been exploitive towards many communities in the United States. ‎Particularly in industries like transportation and logistics, the independent contractor labor model has provided ‎many advantages over traditional employment for US minority groups. The prevailing "owner operator" model in ‎this industry has allowed many thousands of minorities to develop their own thriving small businesses, because ‎the absence of direction and control from an employer allows independent workers to make business decisions that ‎benefit themselves first. One only needs to look at the preponderance of African American, Latinx, and Asian ‎American truck drivers using the owner operator model to see how important the freedom to develop one's own ‎business is to minority communities in America. ‎

The Department of Labor must recognize that these communities do not prefer employment to their contingent ‎work arrangements – according to BLS statistics from the 2017-2018 Bureau of Labor Statistics survey on ‎Contingent and Alternative Employment Arrangements, which surveyed 10,614 workers, only 8.8% preferred ‎employment, whereas an astonishing 79.1% of those surveyed preferred the IC model. (About 7.5% said that their ‎preferences depended on the circumstances.) There is a reason why recent growth across all industries has often ‎been in the independent contractor and contingent worker segments – it is certainly not because there are no jobs ‎available for those interested in traditional employment! There are thousands and thousands of workers in the ‎status quo, particularly in fields like logistics and the building trades where demand for labor is at an all-time ‎high, who could take jobs as traditional employees if they wished to. Yet they have not, and likely never will, ‎unless the regulatory state forces their hand. ‎

It would be in the best interest of all Americans for the Department of Labor not to override the choices and ‎decisions of American workers, but it will particularly benefit the rising class of minority business owners who ‎have cleverly leveraged the independent contractor model to develop their own small businesses in niche markets ‎all across the United States. Being an IC allows the individual worker to negotiate the prices they think best. Being ‎an IC also allows the worker to build up and monetize their own capital – receiving compensation not only for ‎their time and expertise but also for the business infrastructure they have developed – the means of production ‎which they control. An independent contractor has a real opportunity to develop their own business – meaning that ‎their operations can be scaled beyond what they personally are able to produce in a day. The independent ‎contractor model provides a pathway out of economic dependence and into a prosperous capital-owning position in ‎society.‎

Obviously, all work arrangements have advantages and disadvantages. It would be disingenuous and harmful for ‎the DOL to remove the ability of workers, particularly the most motivated and industrious workers, to choose to ‎develop their own capital frameworks, seize the means of production for themselves, and use the tools of capital to ‎elevate themselves. The logistics industry in particular is one of a few places where laborers can realistically own ‎their own means of production and choose where and whether they work without harming another's ability to do ‎either of those things. It will not serve the cause of equity to steal this opportunity away from these workers.‎

The Department of Labor must not take away the freedom from workers to choose how they will work. ‎Workers in America have the opportunity to use the capitalist system to their own benefit – the growing number of ‎African American, Latinx, Asian American, and first-generation immigrants taking up the independent contractor ‎model to their own benefit shows the wisdom and the necessity of this approach. To advance equity for these ‎minority workers, the US DOL must continue to perform their proper role and determine employment status based ‎on the existence of direction and control. The Department should not take any action which will hamper workers ‎who are seeking their own self-empowerment by tying their hands with additional constraints and regulatory ‎burdens.‎

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Idea No. 238