Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s political sensibilities appear to be driven by a pendulum.
They swing back and forth as his tenure in office proceeds. What seemed to be a reasonable idea in one term becomes anathema in another.
At one point, Mr. Cuomo championed what’s known as the gig economy. He urged state lawmakers to pass legislation allowing ridesharing services in upstate New York, which they did in 2017.
But the governor has now changed his tune on corporations that make generous use of independent contractors.
“While we continue our economic agenda, we must move forward on our economic justice crusade. Large corporations have dominated and taken advantage of workers for too long,” Mr. Cuomo said Jan. 8 during his State of the State Address. “Today’s economy works brilliantly for innovators, shareholders and billionaires, but it abuses workers. As FDR, Al Smith and Frances Perkins protected workers after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, we too must protect workers from today’s threat: economic exploitation. This year more than 40 percent of the workforce will be in jobs related to the new Gig Economy — an economy which has spurred growth and many innovations, but which excludes many workers from the progress of fair pay and benefits. Too many corporations are increasing their profits at the expense of the employee and the taxpayer. That must end. A driver is not an independent contractor simply because she drives her own car on the job. A newspaper carrier is not an independent contractor because they ride their own bicycle. A domestic worker is not an independent contractor because she brings her own broom and mop. It is exploitive and abusive and a scam and a fraud, and it must stop here and it must stop now.”
There is a lot to unpack in the governor’s diatribe against growing economic opportunities for many people. But let’s start with a big whopper he told.
Comparing the gig economy to the notorious sweatshops of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is outrageous. People mired in abject poverty performed work often under perilous conditions during this period. They felt trapped because they had few job prospects other than the ones that were being offered in the sweatshops.
Many people today who participate in the gig economy accept assignments tailored around their schedule. They do these jobs to supplement their income.
Others make their living as independent contractors with multiple companies because they enjoy the flexibility of choosing when and where to work. Modern technology allows them to perform jobs more efficiently.
There’s no doubt that some people feel compelled to accept work as independent contractors because they find it difficult securing full-time employment. But the governor is partially to blame for this problem.
He and many Democrats in the state Legislature have deluded themselves into believing they can create a workers’ utopia in New York by micromanaging the private sector. This drives away firms that don’t want to deal with the egregious burdens placed upon them by the state — and they take their jobs with them.
Some independent contractors are less than thrilled with the conditions under which they must labor. But this also holds true for people who are full-time employees for numerous companies. It’s the nature of today’s workplace.
Unless there are documented violations of labor law, the central planners in Albany must trust the free market to function. There will always be complaints about working conditions, but “progress” won’t be made if legislators attempt to satisfy every whim.