Give Gig Economy Workers Equity? The S.E.C. Is Considering It
The gig economy has created economic opportunities for millions of people. Uber and Lyft have empowered everyday drivers to become paid chauffeurs. Airbnb has made homeowners hoteliers. And TaskRabbit has opened new markets for handymen and other laborers.
But much of the wealth created by these companies is not passed along to workers through conventional wages, but to a small number of insiders who own stock.
Uber is eyeing an initial public offering that would value the company at $120 billion. Airbnb was valued at $31 billion last year. Lyft was recently valued at $15 billion. TaskRabbit was bought by Ikea last year for an undisclosed amount.
In each case, employees and investors reap the vast majority of those profits, while the gig economy workers — arguably the ones creating much of the value for these companies — can’t partake in those winnings. That’s because they are contractors, not regular employees, and federal securities law restricts private companies from issuing shares to such workers.