Business, community, faith and tech groups form N.J. Coalition for Independent Work

The number of workers in the gig economy — often called independent app-based workers — was growing before the COVID-19 pandemic. Their numbers have only grown in the past year.

With this in mind, a group of community, faith-based, business and tech organizations are announcing Tuesday morning that they have formed the New Jersey Coalition for Independent Work — an organization launched to help elevate the voices and needs of New Jersey’s independent app-based workers.

The group, which includes numerous chambers of commerce as well as app-based companies such as DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft and Uber, says it is committed to protecting the independence and flexibility of app-based workers while also working to find solutions to improve their access to benefits and other workforce protections.

Senior Pastor the Rev. Dr. Steffie Bartley Sr., a founding member of the coalition and Northeast regional director of National Action Network, said the group will be vital for all — but especially in underserved communities — moving forward.

“This type of independent work provides a critical lifeline to so many of our communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by the economic downturn,” he said.

“These jobs offer control over one’s own schedule and the ability to balance family and work responsibilities as people see fit. Folks can build work around their lives, not the other way around.”

One-third of American workers choose independent work, and thousands of New Jersey residents supplement their incomes on multiple app-based platforms. Independent app-based workers have overwhelmingly expressed a desire to remain independent — in a survey, drivers reported wanting to remain independent by 6-to-1 margin.

Christina Renna, the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey, said the organization can have a big impact in South Jersey.

“Communities and families across South Jersey have relied increasingly upon the on-demand economy, with many individuals benefiting from new sources of income,” she said. “As individuals find innovative ways to be part of a more flexible economy, we must ensure they have the necessary protections and benefits to support their work.”

The coalition will support policy solutions that meet the needs of the rapidly evolving 21st century workforce and will amplify workers’ voices with state and local officials about the benefits of independent work and the need for a modernized benefits structure.

The recent passage of Proposition 22 in California demonstrates the widespread support for preserving flexible work with access to benefits. The broad support from drivers and voters across the political spectrum underscored that policymakers and other stakeholders must find solutions that provide independence plus benefits.

The New Jersey Coalition for Independent Work said it also will work to:

  • Expand opportunities for workers across all demographics, ethnicities and backgrounds;
  • Strengthen transportation and delivery equity that helps all communities grow and thrive;
  • Help brick-and-mortar small businesses, restaurants and retailers compete in an increasingly online economy; and
  • Protect those communities that rely on independent workers and app-based services for their essential needs.

The coalition was formed by app-based platforms that represent millions of app-based workers.

Here are a number of statements from some of the groups that are involved:

  • Michael Egenton, executive vice president, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce: “The New Jersey Coalition for Independent Work is committed to building an economy where everyone has an opportunity to thrive and grow. The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce looks forward to supporting this important effort as we work to strengthen our economy and meet the needs of the 21st century workforce.”
  • William Elliott, chairman and CEO, the John R. Elliott HERO Campaign: “The John R. Elliott HERO Campaign for Designated Drivers is pleased to participate as a member of the New Jersey Coalition for Independent Work and supports its mission to provide transferable benefits to drivers for transportation and delivery network companies. Ride-sharing providers and their drivers have helped us reduce drunk driving by increasing safe ride options for customers seeking to avoid drinking and driving.”
  • Vivian Fraser, CEO, Urban League of Essex County: “The Urban League of Essex County is committed to helping everyone achieve economic and social success and prosperity. Flexible work opportunities and quality transportation options are helping families attain economic self-sufficiency. We look forward to working with the New Jersey Coalition for Independent Work to create a 21st Century economy that works for everyone.”
  • Carlos Medina, CEO, Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey: “The Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is excited to join the New Jersey Coalition for Independent Work, a critical organization that will further strengthen worker protections and benefits, while safeguarding the flexibility workers deserve in today’s modern economy.”
  • Michele Siekerka, CEO, New Jersey Business & Industry Association: “The strength of the New Jersey economy relies on our ability to innovate and adapt as we reopen and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic. We must embrace and strengthen the gig economy moving forward with innovative solutions that reflect how people are working and living in today’s modern economy.”

Coalition members:

  • African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey;
  • DoorDash;
  • Instacart;
  • Internet Association;
  • Lyft;
  • Metropolitan Baptist Church;
  • NAN Newark Tech World;
  • Newark Regional Business Partnership;
  • New Hope Baptist Church;
  • New Jersey Business & Industry Association;
  • New Jersey Chamber of Commerce;
  • Postmates;
  • Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey;
  • Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey;
  • TechNet;
  • The John R. Elliott HERO Campaign;
  • Uber;
  • Urban League of Essex County.