Hillary Clinton just laid out her economic agenda, and ambiguous statements about companies like Uber and Airbnb leave the entire sharing economy industry in limbo. Clinton said she “vows to crack down on employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors.” She also noted that the “so-called gig economy offers exciting opportunities but raises hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”
Startups that treat full-time employees as independent contractors have taken a lot of heat. Earlier this year, a California commission ruled that Uber must pay employee-like benefits to a driver who worked for the company full time, putting the contractor model in jeopardy. It is unclear whether companies like Uber and Airbnb could hire as many people or permit the same kind of flexibility if they were likewise forced to pay expensive benefits, such as overtime.
Clinton did not offer specifics, so we cannot say whether she’ll be a friend or foe to the sharing economy. But her ambiguous statements make it hard for startups to plan for the future. Investors may be scared to bet on sharing economy businesses if their planned model gets met with resistance at the presidential level.
On the flip side, according to Politico’s Mike Allen, Republican candidate Jeb Bush is planning to ride an Uber during a San Francisco trip to showcase his support for Silicon Valley startups. It is a transparent gimmick, but at the very least, it is easier to know that as president, he will not cause startups any uncertainty.
Clinton better offer specifics soon, or she will be branded an enemy of innovation.
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