The Right Issues at the Right Time

The Right Issues at the Right Time

Portable Benefits & Worker Power

The momentum for our work continued unabated over the last month. Our Board Chair David Rolf and CEO Carmen Rojas joined an impressive list of signatories to a letter declaring that our country needs to address the growing issues facing 1099 workers. They pointed to portable benefits as a starting point. Our nation does not have a plan to ensure benefits for its 54 million self-employed Americans, including independent contractors and freelancers. As contract work becomes more pervasive, we believe that portable benefits offer workers a level of protection and stability necessary to make it in today’s economy. Everyone, regardless of employment classification, should have access to the option of an affordable safety net. This is why companies, labor, venture capitalists, and academics across the political spectrum are uniting to call for portable benefits‬ for workers.

This letter, titled Common Ground for Independent Workers, was posted on Medium, and was covered heavily in the mainstream media. Judging by this partial list of the media coverage to-date, there is a growing sense that this is the right issue at the right time:

Wall Street Journal “On-Demand Workers Need ‘Portable Benefits,’ Tech and Labor Leaders Say”
New York Times “Coalition of Start-Ups and Labor Call for Rethinking of Worker Policies”
Marketplace “How to give gig-economy workers stability”
New York Business Journal “Sharing economy startups — sans Uber — write open letter backing freelance workers”
Inc “Meet the Founders Trying to Solve the Sharing Economy’s Big Problem”
Weekly Standard The Next Big Thing: ‘Gig Economy’ Workers’ Rights
Buzzfeed “Companies Sued By Workers Want To Find A Way To Protect Them”
Silicon Valley Business World “Surprising allies join together in support of tech gig workers”
PC World “On-demand app companies propose new model for worker benefits.”

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The Fall Enterprise Institute is in the books!
We hosted our Fall Enterprise Institute, where six organizations engaged in a day-long business model generation exercise, identified their value propositions, and developed their 9 block business model canvasses. You can read about the Fall Participants on the Program page of our website. One highlight was having our Lab Partner, Workers Defense Project/Better Builder, walk participants through the 9 building blocks of its business model, using it’s own traction in developing Better Builder Program as the example. Participants then broke into small groups that included mentors (listed on our Team page) to develop their own business model canvasses. Participants and mentors found the process and planning tools to be enlightening, challenging, and valuable for their work moving forward.

PolicyLink Equity Summit
Our Institute was co-located with the larger PolicyLink Equity Institute in order to intersect with and build on the momentum of the broader equity movement. More than 3,000 people attended the event, including many national leaders in the social justice, environmental, transportation, health, and labor movements. Over the next few weeks, PolicyLink will maintain the momentum of this powerful event with a dozen first-person accounts of the summit on its website. Our CEO Carmen Rojas spoke on a panel titled Business Finding New Success Through Equity. “As businesses, we should connect our value propositions with our values,” said Carmen.



Sponsored by O’Reilly Media, this gathering of experts looked at the future of work, with a focus on on-demand platforms and robotics. Our Lab Partner Coworker and Board Chair David Rolf were featured speakers. Coworker was the focus of the “Worker Voice in the 21st Century” panel, and David was on the panel titled “Portable Benefits and the Shared Security Account”, where he made the case for a national portable benefits policy as a response to the decline of the American middle class.

Other Events

Other convenings we participated in include:
Advancing Economic Opportunities for Black Communities, sponsored by Northern California Grantmakers.
Investing in Innovation for Jobs, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Forum
Platform Cooperativism

Stay abreast of our public engagements by following our Events page. Below is a clip from the recent Bay Area Bold Event, sponsored by The San Francisco Foundation, where Carmen was part of the opening plenary panel. Carmen noted that we are at an interesting intersection of social justice and social enterprise, where organizations are taking a leap of faith and using for-profit revenue generating strategies to support their nonprofit work. Hear more by clicking on the link below.

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Program Partners: Demo Day and an Indiegogo Campaign
Our inaugural Lab Partner class is coming to the end of its time with The Workers Lab. The Partners will share their challenges, successes, and next steps at a Demo Day in early December. They will also be joined by a few of our Enterprise Institute participants. We will send out lessons learned from the Demo Day as well as our 2016 plan in January.

Finally, our Lab Partner, ROC United, is conducting an Indiegogo campaign to help fund its Top Server video game. Top Server uses a video game curriculum to help restaurant workers learn new skills and move into higher-pay jobs. For a limited time, we will be matching your donation to this great program! Visit our Partner’s Indiegogo site and be a part of our growing movement for worker power.