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.