By Katherine F. Mendez, Samantha L. Brooks, Susan Ryan, and Anastacia E. Topaltzas

Seyfarth Synopsis: The Iowa Democratic Presidential Caucus historically signals who the likely Democratic Presidential Candidate will be. As we dive in to the 2020 election season, we explore the potential candidates’ positions on key labor issues. Here, in our second installment, we focus on the candidates’ positions on collective bargaining rights of gig economy workers.

Although the bargaining rights of gig workers has not received much coverage at the televised Democratic debates, the issue has received a lot of attention on the campaign trail and the candidates seem to be competing to win votes from unions.  The issue is also on the minds of employers (particularly in light of a wave of gig worker initiated lawsuits over misclassification) and the minds of the House (the Education and Labor Committee held another hearing in the Future of Work series on February 5, with the topic of “Protecting Workers’ Civil Rights in the Digital Age”). Here is our run-down on where the candidates and President Trump stand.

Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang support the collective bargaining rights of gig economy workers.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who has referred to himself as a “union man,” supports a crack-down on employee misclassification, but has been vague as to his support of gig workers’ right to bargain.

Sen. Michael Bennet is generally in favor of increasing support for unions and collective bargaining rights, though he has not explicitly stated his opinion on this issue. However, in 2018, when Sen. Sanders introduced a bill that would have codified the “ABC test” to determine whether a worker is an employee (and presumably would have made it easier for gig workers to be considered employees and exercise collective bargaining rights), Sen. Bennet did not sign on (neither did Sen. Klobuchar or Sen. Gabbard).

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard and Tom Steyer have neither campaigned on nor publicized their positions on labor issues, and their positions on the rights of gig workers to unionize are not clear, though Steyer supports an increase in union jobs generally.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick, like Biden, supports increased enforcement to prevent worker misclassification, but has not expressed a position on this issue.

President Donald Trump has not explicitly stated his opinion on this issue, either. However, on April 29, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued an opinion letter finding that gig workers were independent contractors and not employees. This – combined with the Trump administration’s perceived roll-back of union and bargaining rights – likely signals that President Trump and his administration would not support the collective bargaining rights of gig workers.

The next installment of our campaign coverage will address the candidates’ positions on minimum wage.

For more information on this or any related topic please contact the authors, your Seyfarth attorney, or any member of the Workplace Counseling & Solutions Team.