The sharing economy is posing new challenges for lawmakers struggling to figure out how drivers for Uber, people who put rooms on Airbnb, and others could receive benefits like health care, unemployment, and workers' compensation.
In a speech Thursday at the New America Foundation, Sen. Mark Warner said that because many workers in the sharing economy are considered independent contractors rather than employees, many are not eligible for those benefits that other workers would be able to receive.
"Many of those programs which were administered and funded by both contributions from the employer and the employee—this is changing that whole relationship in extraordinarily fundamental ways," Warner said, adding that often workers operate without a safety net when something goes wrong.
"It's fairly stunning to me that this much transformation has already taken place but virtually nobody in Washington is starting to ask the policy questions," Warner said.
The Virginia Democrat listed a series of proposals that he thought could assist workers in the sharing economy, such as creating exchanges for unemployment benefits or workers' compensation in the model of Obamacare.
In the speech and in an interview with USA Today earlier in the week, Warner also suggested creating an "hour bank" that would serve as a third-party trusted entity to track workers' hours to administer benefits, not unlike ones used by trades.