Millions of Americans who are employed still live near the poverty line. The cost of living has increased substantially across the country, but wages are not keeping pace. Too many workers can’t afford day-to-day expenses, much less unplanned medical expenses or a major home repair. For these workers, economic dignity – being able to care for oneself and one’s family and participating in the economy with a sense of pride and accomplishment – is out of reach.
The National Institute for Workers’ Rights is advancing economic dignity through the following initiatives:
Right to Talk to Coworkers
Workers have the right to speak with their colleagues about wages, benefits, and working conditions. When workers have access to this information, they are more empowered to advocate for themselves or seek outside counsel to address mistreatment. Employers cannot bar workers from talking to each other about these issues, nor can they retaliate against workers for having these conversations.
Read our piece in Slate: Elon Musk Smacked Down for Violating Free Speech Pillar
Employers use noncompete clauses to severely restrict employees’ ability to seek reasonable employment elsewhere. Noncompetes impose extreme hardships on workers, such as having to move to another city to take a new job or being forced to work in a different field altogether. Most employees do not have the financial ability to fight noncompetes, which leaves them with limited options and little protection. Noncompetes have been shown to lower wages for all workers, not just those subject to the clause.
There is no defensible reason for any worker, particularly a low-wage worker, to be permanently bound to their employer. The Federal Trade Commission agrees and is considering formally banning noncompetes in almost all circumstances. The FTC’s decision is expected in the Spring of 2024.
Ending the Exploitation of Gig Workers
For hard-won workers’ rights to be meaningful, workers must have access to them—including minimum wage, overtime, paid medical leave, protections from wage theft, anti-discrimination laws, and occupational safety protections. However, an increasingly large subset of workers is excluded from these laws and basic workers’ rights. The misclassification of gig workers as “independent contractors” rather than employees leads to unfair labor practices, financial instability, and racial discrimination. This exploitation disproportionately affects Black and Latinx workers, who comprise 42% of workers on apps like Uber and Postmates.
It’s long past time for corporations to do the right thing – give workers the pay, benefits and protections they deserve and that they should have provided all along.
- Download The Gig Economy By The Numbers, NIWR’s presentation on trends in the gig economy and the harms workers experience.