March 13, 2020

What do Samantha Bee, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden have in common? They're all having their big shows without audiences.

On Wednesday night, Full Frontal was taped in front of a mostly empty studio (except for staff) because of COVID-19 precautions, but she wasn't complaining. At least not on her own behalf. She wasn't even complaining on behalf of the people who couldn't get in to see her show, or the people who have actually contracted the virus and become ill. No, this segment was dedicated to making sure we understand the impact of the massive economic and societal slowdown on the growing segment of the population known as "gig workers."

People in the gig economy either supplement their incomes, or make their entire incomes by acting as independent contractors for companies like Uber, Lyft, Doordash, Amazon, etc. While it's great that they get to make their own hours, they also have to make their own inventories and take on their own liabilities, buy their own health insurance, sometimes even fight for their own tips.

BEE: The gig economy is so big that there are services for pet care, moving, cooking, lawn care, car maintenance, massage, and even a home cleaning and repair service called, "Handy." That's right, "Handy." It's not just a name. It's also a way to say "Thank you!" after getting a ride home from your Toronto improv class!

The downside to working for a company like Uber or Lyft comes down to two words: Independent Contractor. When you hire official employees, you need to pay for things like health insurance, overtime, sick leave, and worker's comp. But if you hire independent contractors, all you need are excited workers, and the dark, dark soul of the bad guy from "Newsies," Joseph Pulitzer.

And then the added expense of equipment. Uber and Lyft expect drivers to own or rent their own cars, while Handy expects you to buy a whole f*ckin Home Depot!

Don't even ASK what people who work for Amazon Mechanical Turk have to do, but suffice it to say, it's horrendous, and certainly merits more than that $1.77 per hour they end up earning. You read that right. $1.77 per hour. The people at Uber earn less than $10 per hour, including tips, and until recently, workers for Doordash and Instacart weren't even guaranteed the ability to keep their tips.

BEE: Gig economy workers and other contractors deserve the same wages and protections as any employee. In a time when we're all hoarding food, toilet paper, and supplies, maybe we can take a second to think about the f*ckin people delivering those things to us? After all, they're the people who DON'T judge us when we order one, SINGLE McFlurry. And we need that.

Uber is, at least, allowing drivers with COVID-19 to take two full weeks off with pay. The trick for the driver, of course, is to first find a place that will have an actual test to administer, and second, to find a way to pay for it, since they likely don't have health insurance.


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