The recent passage of Proposition 22 in California was a demonstration of the massive impact tech companies can have on politics. Gig economy companies like Uber and DoorDash flooded hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to classify gig workers as contractors, while consumers and contractors of the companies were inundated with popups when using their apps.
The ethics of lobbying in the tech industry is an issue for another post, but one thing is clear: these companies can shift public opinion if they want to. The “Yes on 22” campaign may have succeeded, but remains clear that there needs to be some compromise that bridges the needs of gig workers and gig economy companies.
A robust social safety net is that compromise. With the assurance of basic necessities like healthcare, gig workers would be less likely to churn in pursuit of full employment. Furthermore, gig companies would keep their flexible workforces, and would be able to shed some of the scrutiny they face for worker exploitation.
It seems unlikely that America would be able to fully legislate a robust social safety net, especially with the political gridlock the next four years will likely be plagued with, but a good place to start would be with universal healthcare.
Close to 70% of Americans already support Medicare for All. If the tech industry was able to succesfully lobby for a measure as controversial as Prop 22, they could certainly bump that number up.
Medicare for All would also boost entrepreneurship across the country. The biggest reason people don’t start companies is that they’re afraid of losing stability - a steady income, a reliable healthcare plan, etc. With public health insurance, entrepreneurs would be able to start companies while keeping some of the stability they were used to.
And as those companies scale, it would be significantly easier to hire new employees. Startups wouldn’t need to take on the operational and financial load of coordinating health insurance for their employees, and employees considering moving from a later-stage company to a startup could do so knowing that their healthcare coverage is not going to change.
The tech industry has the chance to make a massive impact once again by pushing for a universal safety net in the US - it’s only a question of willpower.