Carol Kim on the gig economy

San Diego Building Trades political director Carol Kim lent an old-school twist today on the new trend in employment – the gig economy.

"The gig economy is where a worker goes from gig to gig, job to job. Construction,” Kim told Labor’s Joint Legislative Conference for 2018, “is the original gig economy.”

Experts say that within the next two years, as much as 40 percent of the nation’s entire work force will be classified by the employer class as “independent contractors,” going from gig to gig. 

Such a designation threatens the traditional employer-employee relationship by softening the responsibilities of the bosses to provide fair pay and decent benefits to their workers.

That is where politics and government come into play, Kim told the conference gathering of hundreds of union activists in Sacramento.

Kim said that the model for the new economy is already there for lawmakers to replicate, in the pay-and-benefit infrastructure enjoyed by union construction workers covered by Building Trades contracts in California.

At the top of the list: the prevailing wage. "Unlike the minimum wage that sets the floor of wages, the prevailing wage sets the wage bar at the top end,” Kim said, of the rates established by state officials through employer surveys.

Next up: strong apprenticeship standards and programs. In California, that means programs that are jointly managed by labor and management and registered by the state. Their product: skilled and trained journey members – defined as having completed the state-approved apprenticeship programs – who earn themselves what Kim called “a portable credential.” They can take it anywhere in California, anywhere in the United States, even anywhere in the world. And they are continually coming back to be “up-skilled,” to be the best in the industry. 

The logical goal: enactment of Project Labor Agreements that protect and provide for all the workers on any given job site and create opportunities for local hire and good jobs.

  “In the new gig economy, we continue to see misclassification happening, wage theft, and lack of worker protections." 

"However,” she added, “when we incentivize PLAs, we work together with our Building Trades councils to bring unions, contractors, and communities together to coordinate that work and those those jobs. That way it allows us to take what could be a fissured work place and create something more cohesive, whole, and sound for working families.”

       -- Andy Furillo



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