Keith Ellison is misguided in going after the gig economy

According to the Star Tribune,

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Thursday filed a lawsuit alleging that Shipt, the grocery delivery business of Target Corp., cheats workers of benefits and rights by classifying them as independent contractors.

The suit marks the first time in the decade or so since the so-called gig economy became a feature of American work culture that a Minnesota policymaker has challenged one of its fundamental traits.

From California’s passage of AB5 in 2019, and the Federal government’s proposal to limit the ability of companies to classify workers as independent workers, our leaders are undoubtedly hell-bent on disrupting the gig. But why is that the case? Supposedly, they want to protect workers from exploitation.

“I think that it is a fair question to ask: In this gig economy, are workers being treated fairly?” Ellison said at a news conference.

Workers who are not classified as company employees don’t qualify for many benefits that are seen as normal in a workplace, including overtime pay and paid sick leave, Ellison said. His suit came just hours after a similar action against Shipt by Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine.

But as evidence from California shows, workers in the gig economy do value their flexibility. If such laws limiting contracting were indeed helpful to workers, California gig workers would not have applied for exemptions from AB5 as they did.

Workers in the gig economy, much like other employees, have the freedom to not engage with the gig companies like Shipt. But obviously, they choose to engage because they benefit from such arrangements.

As I wrote previously,

Students, for example, are able to work for companies like Uber and Lyft at flexible schedules that fit their academic needs. And in this period of high inflation, where workers are taking on multiple jobs just to stay afloat, gig work offers an especially good opportunity for flexible part-time work.

The Attorney General’s office will not only be wasting taxpayers’ money going after these companies but will also make it hard for many Minnesotans to make a living.