SEATTLE, Wash.—A proposal by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, Service Employees International Union Local 775 President David Rolf, and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer to create portable benefits for gig-economy workers has drawn skepticism from other unions, who suspect it’s a subterfuge to buttress defining workers as “independent contractors.”

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In a Jan. 23 open letter, the three proposed that as the American social safety system was “designed in the 20th century for a very different economy,” state governments should establish “a system of individual accounts that follow workers and enable them to readily change the nature, structure, and intensity of their work.” An Uber spokesperson told Bloomberg News that the company wants such laws to specify that workers like its drivers are not employees. “This type of bogus agreement only gives them cover for exploitation,” responded New York Taxi Workers Alliance Director Bhairavi Desai. “I just cannot comprehend how today, as a labor leader, I would be encouraging the spread of ‘independent’ work,” said SEIU 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. Teamsters Local 117, which has been trying to organize Uber drivers in Seattle, hasn’t taken a formal position, business representative Dawn Gearhart told the weekly The Stranger. Drivers, she said, “told us they’re glad Uber realized they need benefits, but the thing that would make a difference at work would be higher pay.”

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