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Gig Briefs: Airbnb in NYC, rising insurance premiums, a car made for sharing



In brief

Airbnb clashes with New York over new law

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that would impose a fine on short-term apartment rentals on platforms such as Airbnb on Oct. 21, The Wall Street Journal reported. The new law allows for fines of up to $7,500 for people who advertise rentals of fewer than 30 days in multiunit buildings. This new law is particularly worrisome for Airbnb, whose largest market in the U.S. is New York City. Airbnb filed a lawsuit the same day, claiming that the law violates the company’s constitutional rights to free speech and due process. It also asserted that websites cannot be held accountable for content published by their users. Lawmakers, however, believe that the law helps support affordable housing.

HealthCare.gov premiums jump 25 percent

In a development of interest to contract and freelance workers who buy health insurance on HealthCare.gov, premiums on the federal exchange are going up 25 percent next year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Oct. 24. With major insurance companies leaving or signaling a potential exit from the marketplace, the average number of insurers in states that use HealthCare.gov will be 3.9 per state in 2017, down from an average of 5.4 per state in 2016, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

HHS helps independent workers enroll in Obamacare

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Oct. 25 that it will collaborate with 17 on-demand companies such as Uber, Care.com and TaskRabbit to help independent workers and entrepreneurs enroll in the health insurance marketplace throughout the fourth open enrollment period starting Nov. 1, according to an HHS statement. “We want all individuals without workplace coverage to know that thanks to financial assistance, most HealthCare.gov enrollees have coverage options for less than $75 per month,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in the statement.

A car made for sharing

Lynk & Co, a new vehicle brand and subsidiary of Volvo’s Chinese parent company, Geely, was launched in Sweden Oct. 20. The company has a car-sharing scheme characterized by a share button on the car’s input screen. “We’re a car company that isn’t trying to make you buy a car,” the company’s promotional material says. “Imagine that.” Lynk’s site also promises: “No more garages, no more paperwork, no more insurance worries. Because why should this be your problem?”

New York passes first wage theft bill

The New York City Council voted unanimously on Oct. 27 to pass a law, commonly referred to as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, under which anyone who hires freelance workers has to agree in writing to a timetable and procedure for payment. People who repeatedly fail to do so could be fined up to $25,000, Money Magazine reported. The legislation is believed to be the first of its kind in the country to give freelance workers a set of protections against wage theft, and some believe it could pave the way for national change. The Freelancers Union, a group that played a key role in pushing for the measure, found that more than 70 percent of freelance workers nationwide have struggled to collect payment at some point in their careers. A petition from the group that aims to bring similar legislation to the entire country has already collected about 9,000 signatures.

Digging deeper

Who wins and loses in the gig economy?

“As the jobs-based economy gives way to the gig economy, winners and losers are determined by the type of worker you are — or can become,” author Diane Mulcahy wrote in Oct. 27 piece for the Harvard Business Review. Mulcahy, who wrote the forthcoming book, “The Gig Economy,” argues that workers with specialized skills, deep expertise, in-demand experience or an entrepreneurial spirit are most likely to attain work opportunities and gain higher compensation. Workers doing low-skill, poorly paid jobs have the chance to gain more control and autonomy by working for on-demand companies like Uber, she says, but people whose skills are common, commoditized or less in-demand will struggle.


Gig Briefs provides a roundup of top news and occasional long reads on the gig economy.

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