About 150 years ago, American workers began a profound shift from farms to factories. After suffering through poor work conditions, low pay, and no workplace protections, the workers organized and successfully helped build the framework of laws that became known as FDR’s New Deal. This landmark legislation from the 1930s protected workers and supported labor unions by limiting the number of hours that could be worked and setting a baseline minimum pay. But from a larger perspective, the New Deal demonstrated that government had acknowledged the shift in the U.S. workforce, heard their voice, and created a new system in which they could thrive.
Now we find ourselves in the middle of an equally large transition: just as workers left the plow for the assembly line, they are now leaving the cubicle for the coffee shop. Welcome to the Gig Economy, where over 42 million Americans are working independently - as freelancers, part-timers, consultants, contractors, and the self-employed. They are simultaneously holding multiple jobs, working for different employers, and mastering diverse skills. They are accountants and fashion designers and website architects. And, they are completely left out of the New Deal, which protects the rest of the workforce.