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Marco Rubio wants to be a friend to the on-demand economy

Presidential Candidates Speak At Iowa State Fair SoapboxPresidential Candidates Speak At Iowa State Fair Soapbox
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines in August 2015.Photograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg/Getty Images

Every election season, candidates pick a large demographic toward which they craft their policy stances and most everything they say. This year, it’s the so-called “gig economy,” or “on-demand economy,” or “sharing economy.”

On Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio visited Civic Hall, a coworking space for civic-minded startups in New York, according to Wired. His pitch to the audience: elect him and he will fight the regulatory battles on behalf of companies like Uber and Airbnb.

“We’re not experiencing an economic downturn. We’re experiencing a massive economic restructuring,” he said, likening the current rise of these startups and the shift toward freelance work to the Industrial Revolution.

Rubio pointed to the current debate over whether we should classify workers at those companies as contractors — “1099 workers” — or company employees with full benefits. Many companies, including Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Postmates, Doordash, and Homejoy, among others, are facing lawsuits over the use of contract workers instead of employees. Though he didn’t exactly outline an answer, he conceded that neither classification truly works, but with the increasing labor shift in that direction, we’ll need a solution soon.

Rubio also acknowledged the current tension between incumbents, like the taxi industry, and newcomers, like Uber. Civic Hall founder and CEO Andrew Rasiej told Wired that Rubio seemed to both be weary of protecting incumbents simply for political and fundraising reasons, while also understanding the challenges and monopolies that the new-era companies create of their own.

 

But some of Rubio’s comments about the nation’s workforce didn’t resonate with everyone. Civic Hall member Martin Roeck, who is originally from Germany, wasn’t sold on Rubio’s arguments against raising the minimum wage.

“Millions of Americans are working 14 to 15 hours a day and they barely survive,” Roeck told Wired. “As a government, you have to provide enough of a safety net and a minimum wage for people to be happy.” He added that leaving education to the states, as Rubio believes it should be, means putting at risk those people’s abilities to make decent living if the states fail to provide the education and training needed for high-paying professions.

Rubio isn’t the only one to turn to this segment of the tech industry. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have visited Munchery and Thumbtack respectively.