Independent Contracting & Gig Work

The Technology and Work Program provides worker organizations and policymakers with the research, policy analysis, and training they need in order to respond to rapid technological change in the workplace and ensure that technology benefits rather than harms workers. We focus on low-wage industries and the workers of color, women, and immigrants who are often on the frontlines of experimentation with emerging technologies.

Research & Publications
UC Berkeley Labor Center

Labor Center Research on the Rideshare Industry

Prop 22 carves out an exception from state labor law for app-based transportation and delivery gig companies, including Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Instacart, allowing the companies to continue to classify their workers as independent contractors rather than employees. Labor Center chair Ken Jacobs and economics professor Michael Reich have produced several papers that examine the implications of Prop 22 compared to employee status for drivers, consumers, taxpayers, and the companies.

Ken Jacobsand Michael Reich

Massachusetts Uber/Lyft Ballot Proposition Would Create Subminimum Wage: Drivers Could Earn as Little as $4.82 an Hour

Uber and Lyft, along with a group of delivery network companies, have filed a ballot proposition in Massachusetts to create a separate set of labor standards for their drivers. After considering multiple loopholes, we find that the majority of Massachusetts drivers could earn as little as the equivalent of a $4.82 wage, while the minority of drivers who qualify for a health care stipend could earn the equivalent of just $6.75 per hour.

Ken Jacobsand Michael Reich

What would Uber and Lyft owe to the State Unemployment Insurance Fund?

In this data brief, we estimate how much Uber and Lyft would have contributed to the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund between 2014 and 2019, had the companies classified the drivers as employees. Our finding: If Uber and Lyft had treated workers as employees, the two TNCs would have paid $413 million into the state’s Unemployment Insurance Fund between 2014 and 2019.

Ratna Sinroja, Sarah Thomasonand Ken Jacobs

Misclassification in California: A Snapshot of the Janitorial Services, Construction, and Trucking Industries

In this fact sheet we look at three industries in California where misclassification is known to be disproportionately high and could potentially be reduced by an ABC test – trucking, construction, and janitorial services. For each industry, we describe the demographics and wages of workers and misclassification practices by employers.

Doug Bloch

Freight drivers deserve better than a race to the bottom

Third in the Guest Blogger Series: Voices of Labor and Allies from Labor in the Climate Transition Conference. “Freight and delivery companies are finding ways to pass on the responsibility of cleaning up fleets to individual drivers, while minimizing their own investments. This is what corporations do when we don’t have policies that protect workers or incentivize companies to do the right thing.”

UC Berkeley Labor Center

RELEASE: Driverless trucks could replace many of the nation’s best long-distance trucking jobs, while shifting the industry towards more low-wage gig jobs

Without action from policymakers, driverless trucks are projected to eliminate some of America’s best trucking jobs while also creating low-wage gig jobs, according to the first in-depth study of how autonomous trucks could be adopted by specific segments of the industry and affect wages and working conditions.

Annette Bernhardt

Making Sense of the New Government Data on Contingent Work

If you’ve consumed any media on the gig economy during the last several years, you were probably seriously confused last Thursday. That’s when the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its new survey data on contingent workers, which was much anticipated because the last time the survey was conducted was in 2005. Given the endless coverage of Uber and freelancing as paradigmatic of the 21st century labor market, expectations were that the new data would show significant increases in contingent work.

Annette Bernhardtand Sarah Thomason

What Do We Know About Gig Work in California? An Analysis of Independent Contracting

In this paper we (1) provide a clear framework to help define gig work and understand how it relates to other forms of work being discussed and (2) draw on current research to identify what we know (and don’t know) about the prevalence of gig work, the demographics of the workforce, and job quality outcomes, using data on California where possible.