It’s hard to describe the sheer number of Tony Hsieh’s friends who are in mourning after the shocking news of his death Today. I say this because one of the secrets to Tony’s professional life was that, in the background, he had a stupendously large circle of people he cared for personally.

And, if I remember one thing about him, it will be his larger-than-life commitment to being the most welcoming human you could meet and how this made the world better.

I want to illustrate this through my experience with him, over about five years of writing journalistic articles…


This post makes the case that there are millions of gig workers who genuinely benefit from being independent contractors; the law should reflect their voice with public policies that improve conditions for self-employment, rather than restricting access to it.

For almost 7 years, since the beginning of Uber, I’ve done extensive interviewing and polling of gig workers’ political beliefs. I’m sympathetic to voters who feel utterly confused by Proposition 22 since I’ve been tracking the issue for years and still find it frustratingly complex.

So, I’ve written my opinion in a Q&A format, answering the questions I had while investigating…


Summary: This is a comprehensive guide to California Proposition 22, including every argument and counterargument, paired with statements from gig workers themselves.

The guide is written in a Q&A format and follows my journalistic process as I try to figure out, for myself, the answer to this question: what’s the best way to vote?

I’ve done 7 years of journalistic reporting on gig policy, 3 years managing economic field pilots with gig workers directly, and a series of original state-wide surveys on recent California law. …


Summary: Current regulations mandating reclassification of ‘gig’ independent contractors as employees do not represent the desires of the drivers they are intended to help. The little available polling suggests that over 70% of gig drivers want to be independent contractors but do not have any consensus about policy solutions to issues with wage guarantees and benefits. …


Summary: This post is part of a series on the future of work from Tech4america. It summarizes findings from a new dataset of American residents who were trained how to increase their income through freelance work in the “gig economy.” Part 2 reveals how the pilot training program did, in fact, increase the earnings of participants, indicating that self-employment is a skill that can be enhanced through education. Training may increase income for gig workers as much as other forms of government labor policies and regulations.

As I wrote about in part 1, state agencies face a complicated dilemma helping…


Summary: This post reviews data from a pilot program that taught people how to use freelance work to increase their monthly earnings. In month 6 after training, the median graduate had earned $2,375 in extra income. By month 9, gig work was about 20% of their total income. The initial success of the program is a proof-of-concept for how cities can use job training to avoid the more concerning aspects of the “gig economy” while also aiding in regional workforce recovery from COVID-19. This post is part of a series on the Future of Work from Tech4America.

Much of the…


This post is part of a series on the Future of Work from Tech4America

As I’ve previously written, self-employment is one of the strongest predictors of how well a regional economy can bounce back from a recession. The previous post was somewhat abstract. So, practically speaking, what can regional governments do to spur entrepreneurship?

In general, entrepreneurs need funding. This can come in the form of public cash transfers or easier access to self-employment.

Here’s a look at some evidence on these strategies:

Cash Transfers

There’s pretty robust evidence that cash transfers can meaningfully increase the number of small business entrepreneurs. Starting…


Summary: This post is about how traditional schooling and vocational education can only play a very small role in recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In order for people to get into new occupations that will arise out of the recession, workers will need job experience, and this will come from a variety of sources including freelancing, temp jobs, or part-time internships. Traditional school-based training paths are incompatible with many people who have family, financial or medical obligations that prevents them from taking regular time out of their lives to re-skill. …


This story is part of a series from Tech4America on the future of work

As policymakers in California fiercely debate the future of independent contracting, I think it’s important to look at the evidence surrounding the major reason why so many pursue gig work in the first place: extra income. The number of Americans filing both employer and independent contractor forms with the IRS skyrocketed after 2008.

Why are so many people seeking supplemental income? A review of the evidence suggests a few reasons, including the rising costs of big expenses like healthcare and higher education.

But, perhaps the most…


As U.S. states begin to reopen from the economic paralysis of COVID-19, they are beginning to explore recovery plans. The federal government has already implemented the most pressing recovery need: immediate financial assistance. But, when workers come back, the economy will not be the same. More stores will be online, more companies will be offering work-for-home. Of those jobs that are still available, many will be different.

A new economy will require new innovations for workers to earn a stable income. …

Greg Ferenstein

Writer. Researcher. Educator. Policy Wonk. Optimist.

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