If America's economic future includes on-demand labor in a "gig economy," then American policymakers will need to build modern safety nets to protect and support tens of millions of people seeking income on mobile platforms like Uber.
In a Facebook question-and-answer forum on Monday, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton signaled support when The Huffington Post asked whether workers' compensation or unemployment insurance should be independent of any given employer:
I had a feeling this might come up! You are asking exactly the kinds of questions that we all need to be asking about the future of work in an age of accelerating technological change. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But we have to resolve these questions while embracing the promise and potential of these new technologies and without stifling innovation or limiting the ability of working moms and veterans and young people to get ahead. On the issue of benefits, the experience of the Affordable Care act shows that we need to make sure people have access to benefits and that they are portable as they move from job to job. -H
The former secretary of state's comment is not binding, nor, frankly, does it specifically address the question. "I certainly don’t have all the answers" would not be a satisfying or sufficient response to a direct question from a debate moderator.
At a time when Republican politicians are seeking credibility on tech issues by praising Uber, Clinton is stepping carefully around the labor issues raised by the emerging "sharing economy." She didn’t answer a related question posed by journalist Kevin Roose at all.
Given the increasing politicization of Uber in New York City, Clinton's decision to include a caveat about "embracing the promise and potential of these new technologies without stifling innovation " certainly suggests that she and her strategists are wary of being portrayed as opposed to technological progress.
Read Clinton's entire Facebook Q&A below: