On Monday, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave an economic policy speech at The New School in Manhattan which Politico characterized as “an attempt to address the threat posed by Bernie Sanders’ populist crusade without being pinned to a set of liberal proposals that will hurt her in a general election.”
During the speech, which her campaign promoted as a major policy address, Clinton parroted recent criticisms that have been raised by left-leaning politicos against innovative sharing economy startups like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb for brokering the assets and skills of independent contractors rather than hiring employees directly.
“I’ll crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors or even steal their wages,” said Clinton.
She did not mention any specific companies by name, but said, “Many Americans are making extra money renting out a spare room, designing websites, selling products they design themselves at home, or even driving their own car. This ‘on demand’ or so-called ‘gig economy’ is creating exciting opportunities and unleashing innovation, but it’s also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”
“These are well-paying jobs, well above minimum wage when people drive, offer lots of flexibility in schedule, etc,” said Menlo Ventures partner and Uber investor Shawn Carolan in an email to Reuters on Clinton’s speech.
The New York Times notes that Uber currently faces a class-action lawsuit in California over its classification of its drivers as independent contractors and that labor activists have argued that the sharing economy’s innovative peer-to-peer business model is “simply a way for companies like Uber to minimize costs, even as they maintain considerable control over drivers’ workplace behavior.”
In an op-ed blasting Clinton’s speech as belonging in “1930s America,” National Review’s Charles C. W. Cooke wrote, “In the eyes of us free-marketeers, the teams behind the host of new peer-to-peer services are no less than digital liberators. For us, the arrival of a system such as Uber is salutary, not scary… it is the source of golden opportunities for those who wish to construct odd or custom-built work schedules or to make money without answering to a boss. That a few ingenious programmers have found a way around the artificial scarcity, state-union collusion, and high barriers to entry that The Man has seen fit to impose is, in our view, an extremely positive development.”
According to Politico, Clinton’s speech was interrupted by a protester who, prior to being escorted out by security, shouted, “Senator Clinton, will you restore Glass-Steagall?”
In 1999, Former President Bill Clinton signed the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act, which repealed two provisions of Glass-Steagall legislation that had previously created barriers between investment banks, commercial banks, and insurance companies.
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