This article originally appeared in the Southeast Texas Record.
(March 12, 2021) – I am proud to say that I’m a working mom who has earned three college degrees and owned multiple businesses. I’ve worked hard all my life, and I recently found the perfect way to earn an income while taking care of my daughter -- independent, app-based work. I started driving for Uber Eats about a month ago, and I haven’t looked back.
Being a mother is my most important role in life, and I always do whatever I can to put my daughter first. With independent work, I can craft my own schedule around my daughter’s needs and still make enough money to support the both of us. If she needs help with homework or a ride to volleyball practice, I don’t have to think twice about being there for her. My income is completely dependent on myself, rather than having to adhere to a 9 to 5 work schedule or report to a boss.
The flexibility Uber Eats gives me as a mother is incredible, and that flexibility translates to all independent workers across the board who constantly juggle real world responsibility, whether they are parents like me, college students, or people struggling to find work during the pandemic.
There is one thing that continues to present the independent workforce with challenges, however -- the absence of a benefits system.
Most employees are fortunate enough to receive benefits through their full-time employer. Many independent workers, who choose to work part-time, however, are left without access to health insurance, paid sick leave, retirement, and other necessary benefits. To put it simply, we need the certainty of knowing that we wouldn’t lose a giant portion of our income to hospital bills if we injured ourselves in an accident.
What can our lawmakers do to provide workers with access to these benefits and preserve our flexibility? They can create a portable benefits system for those who need benefits.
A portable benefits system is the idea that both workers and the company they work for make contributions to a benefits plan that would stay with them if they began contracting for a new company or, like many independent workers do, contract for multiple companies. Portable benefits wouldn’t strip us of the flexibility we rely upon, but would rather celebrate that flexibility by allowing working parents like me to gain access to benefits while earning an income.
There have been attempts to undermine independent workers’ flexibility, such as bills like Assembly Bill 5 in California. Though it may not have been the legislation’s primary goal, AB-5 would have classified independent workers as full-time employees. If I was classified as a full-time employee, I wouldn’t have the time to focus on my daughter, and other workers would lose the ability to contract for multiple app-based platforms or work multiple jobs. This is more important now than ever, when so many Americans have turned to independent work during the pandemic.
Portable benefits, in contrast, would protect and provide, rather than making us choose between flexibility and benefits. Instead of turning to AB-5 style legislation, our lawmakers need to listen to what independent workers on the ground need. Portable benefits are a smart solution that would protect workers like me who can’t stand to lose the flexibility of their schedule. I hope that Texas’ lawmakers, such as both Senators, and our local representatives of both parties like Congressman Michael McCaul and Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, will listen to the voices of independent workers and advocate for portable benefits in Congress this session.
The App-Based Work Alliance was formed by several app-based platforms that represent millions of app-based workers, including DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, Postmates, and Uber. Learn more about the App-Based Work Alliance here.