A new study shows that a majority of New Jerseyans support gig economy and freelance workers, and think that they should have the ability to remain independent contractors.
This comes as the Murphy administration cracks down on the illegal classification of employees as freelancers in order to avoid paying taxes, and lawmakers push forward similarly-goaled, controversial legislation
According to the Monday poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University, 54 percent of New Jersey residents think that part-time gig workers should be allowed to enjoy their freedom as freelancers—only 24 percent think they should be reclassified as employees.
Residents were still cautious, however, about letting full-time gig workers maintain a status of independent contractors rather than a regular employee – a scenario in which freelance work would be their main source of income.
“Overall, the public seems to like the idea of allowing greater workers autonomy over mandatory reclassification. However, the sentiment becomes more divided once the tradeoffs of autonomy versus protections and benefits are considered for those whose entire livelihoods are made in this new economy,” FDU Poll Director Krista Jenkins said in a Monday analysis.
FDU interviewed 805 New Jersey adults between Feb. 12 and 16 for the March 9 poll, which carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points. It was sponsored by Handy, a freelance home services referral app.
Gig workers have been increasingly common, especially with the spread of smartphones over the past decade. Many freelance services including ridehailing apps Uber and Lyft, and food delivery service DoorDash.
In November, the state’s labor department levied a $605 million fine against Uber for allegedly partaking in illegal employee misclassification. Gov. Phil Murphy also signed a host of bills just before the end of the current voting session, which would give his administration more teeth with enforcement.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are having another go at a bill that could reclassify tens of thousands of freelancers as regular employees. The bill was scaled back to simply codify into law the Murphy administration’s existing interpretation of the “ABC test,” which many states use to differentiate employees and freelancers. Legislators are also pushing ahead with a measure that would require app-based services such as Uber and Lyft to pay for the health, retirement, paid leave and other workplace benefits of freelance workers.
Senate Bill 943 creates a so-called “portable benefits system” in the state where an entity, independent of any business, would broker those benefits for participants. This kind of arrangement lets workers take the benefits with them at whatever job they work, and the measure sets up requirements for how much companies would have to pay into the system.
according to the poll, Over half of respondents – 58 percent – said they support gig workers having access to a portable benefits fund.
“Everyone wants the same thing – better wages and more affordable health care. The public believes this would do the most to improve the quality of life for gig workers too,” Jenkins added.