Gig workers can organize without fearing antitrust, Bedoya says The Denver Post

By Leah Nylen, Bloomberg

Independent contractors such as those who work for Uber Technologies Inc., Lyft Inc. and DoorDash Inc. aren’t barred by antitrust law from collectively seeking better pay and working conditions, Democratic FTC commissioner Alvaro Bedoya said Monday.

Bedoya’s remarks herald a shift in the FTC’s approach to labor: As recently as 2017, the agency opposed a Seattle law that would have allowed Uber and Lyft drivers to collectively bargain by arguing it violated antitrust law.

“Congress has made it clear that worker organizing and collective bargaining are not violations of the antitrust laws,” Bedoya said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “From the beginning, American antitrust law aimed to protect worker organizing – not limit it.”

Antitrust law generally restricts independent contractors — how most gig companies classify their workers — from forming union-like groups. In his remarks at a conference in Salt Lake City, Bedoya argued that courts have interpreted the labor exemption too narrowly, and contractors whose work is largely controlled by a company should be immune.

The FTC under Chair Lina Khan has taken a more aggressive approach to antitrust, particularly against the biggest companies. Bedoya is one of three Democrats who control the agency alongside Khan; the FTC currently has no GOP commissioners. In September, the agency released a policy statement vowing to crack down on deceptive or anticompetitive conduct aimed at gig workers.

In 2021, the agency forced Inc. to pay $61.7 million for withholding tips meant for delivery drivers. Under its Flex program, Amazon pays independent contractors to deliver packages from their own vehicles. The company promised drivers a pay rate of $18 to $25 an hour and the full value of their tips, but instead used a portion of the gratuities to pay the basic hourly rate, the FTC said.

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