Union leaders were already struggling to maintain their numbers in the pre-COVID-19 workplace. The growth in the so-called gig economy, now accelerated, will be a particular problem for them.
Gig workers are typically hired as contractors and therefore, not legally organizable by unions. That’s why unions have been fighting a rearguard effort to force companies to classify those workers as employees, most notably through California’s AB5 law.
Unfortunately, cracking down on companies like Uber and Lyft simultaneously curtailed the work of other freelance professions, too, causing considerable blowback against AB5.
Uber and Lyft have threatened to stop operating in the Golden State altogether if the law survives coming battles in court and at the ballot box. It is hoped that California’s misfortunes will deter other states from imposing such a draconian law.
Either way, the road ahead will be difficult for many people. The unemployment rate stands at 10.2 percent, twice what it was when President Trump took office and nearly three times what it was at this point last year.
There are 8.4 million people who are working only part-time, more than twice what the number was in February. More than 7 million cite “lack work or business conditions” as the reason they are part-timers. Businesses large and small alike have closed, taking jobs with them.