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Comment 37

Proposed Rules
Chapter 815

From: Tobias Read

Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2019 10:17 AM
To: TWCPolicyComments
Subject: Independent Contractor Classification

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To the TWC

I’m writing in response to the recent ruling that maintains the status of workers as independent
contractors in marketplace platform companies.

I’m probably a rare voice in your in-box, but I very strongly support your move for 3 very
specific reasons:

Firstly these companies are creating of valuable part time roles that allow independent
contractors to earn money and build up their businesses in a way that has never been possible
before. I have seen a 74 year old man driving a delivery vehicle, a man who nobody else would
employ, a man who was provided a new lease of life and a man who earned enough money to
take his wife on an expensive vacation twice a year. This 74 year old would otherwise have been
stuck in his house fading away. But he was not an employee, he loved the freedom to work when
he wanted, he loved the freedom to work for whoever he wanted (and he worked for multiple
platforms). Then you get young university students who can fit part time work writing software
around their random schedules, mothers of young kids who can drop them off at school and work
a few short hours a day. Actors working as handymen who can make auditions because they now
have control over their agenda. Recently unemployed oil field workers who find an immediate
opportunity to put beans on the table. Rather than criticize the GIG economy, we should applaud
it for the value it has created, the taxes it helps raise and for the social good it generates. In fact
we should do everything we can to promote and expand this sector. We definitely should not
impose unnecessary and erroneous red tape which will only kill new efficient industry. That will
only serve to reduce employment opportunities, to reduce tax income and to return us to lower
quality service provision. Uber may be seen as the pariah by the media (and I don’t work for
Uber) but you would have to pay me to get into a yellow cab. Uber is safer and better in every
capacity and in Houston where I live it has had the unintended consequence of dramatically
reducing road fatalities. For that it should be applauded!

Secondly, I completely disagree with the inaccurate and politically charged sentiment expressed
by Chris Thomlinson in his recent Commentary in which he stated “The rule’s purpose is simple:
help companies maximize profits by excluding workers from as many protections and benefits as
possible. By creating a new classification for gig workers who rely on websites, the
commissioners help companies avoid fundamental labor laws.” His is a flawed assessment. Yes
these companies are trying to be successful but they are not trying to sidestep the law or to
exclude workers from protections. In the vast majority of cases these workers are correctly
classified as Independent Contractors. There may be some platforms where the workers are
engaged full time, paid, insured and controlled by a platform. In those case then sure, those
individuals may need to be classified as an employee. However for most platform companies the
workers are Independent Contractors, they are not full time, they are not controlled, they are
itinerant and they work for multiple end clients. They are therefore not employees and there is no
need to try to force them to be so. What is also interesting is that nobody has ever tried to convert
the taxi industry, where drivers were all independent contractors, to employee status. So why
start now with new economy companies that have similar business models or yellow pages that
connected placements. There is also a flawed argument that platform companies restrict the bad
performers and therefore provide implicit control. Surely that is a good thing, they are raising
standards (e.g. Angies list) and reducing the intense personal turmoil that can result from bad
service. And it is not control of employees, it is quality control.

Thirdly, the unions and the regulators need to be careful. Trying to misclassify workers as
employees and increasing red tape and providing employee benefits to an Independent
Contractor community may seem the right and honorable thing to do. It will also please the
government as it places the social responsibility on the shoulders of companies. However the
response will be counter-productive. We will see an acceleration in advanced technologies which
completely remove the worker from the equation. These industries will automate which could
lead to a massive reduction in profitable employment opportunities for those people in society
who benefit most. Omar the 74 year old driver. Rosemarie the single mother. Brian the student.
Frank the recently unemployed oil tech. These people may lose their opportunities. Trade unions
will have destroyed jobs, the government will lose tax revenues and the government will need to
support a wider base of unemployed.

I appreciate it is easy for those on the outside to criticize the classification of many people as
Independent Contractors, but this is based on a flawed understanding of the classification. Please
don’t fall into that trap and maintain the open market policies which you have developed which
will help increase the long term competitiveness of Texas.