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Portable Benefits Reading List

Here are some introductory readings written by experts to get you acquainted with Portable Benefits. We believe could help independent contractors -- otherwise known as the 1099 workforce or gig workers -- and potentially other workers who lack benefits such as health insurance, worker’s compensation, and retirement plans.

Common ground for Independent Workers- A 2015 open letter that envisions principles for stable and flexible portable benefits systems.

Shaping A New System- A handy summary of the Aspen Institute’s 2016 report on Portable Benefits for the 21st Century. It identifies lessons learned from five existing benefits models to inform the design of a universal, prorated and portable benefits system for independent workers.

Portable Benefits for an Insecure Workforce- Nick Hanauer and David Rolf explain how portable benefits can raise standards for all contingent workers, even those traditionally excluded from labor protections like agricultural and domestic workers, by transferring ownership of benefits from the job to the worker.

Why We Need Portable Benefits for the Contingent Workforce

Will Work for No Benefits: The challenges of being in the New Contract Workforce- NPR - NPR/Marist Poll looks at how a range of benefits differ for workers under employee and contract status, and the many ways workers in the contingent workforce lag behind their W-2 peers.

How to Make Employment Fair in an Age of Contracting and Temp Work- Harvard Business Review - Public Policy analyst David Weil explains the phenomenon of fissured workplaces that contribute to growing income inequality through

The Real Future of Work- Politico - Outside the gig economy, alternative work arrangements like temp and on-call work rose over 50% since 2005 as companies focused on the bottom line. Many jobs continue to be reclassified as part-time or contract-based to avoid the costs of employee benefits, since the Department of Labor lacks the resources to investigate and enforce misclassification cases.

The Gig Economy’s Great Delusion- Boston Review - Policymakers in the UK and EU are working on minimum wage standards and extending benefits to contract workers in the gig economy. This article delves into how misperceptions of platform work have slowed progress for similar regulations in the United States.

Workplace Benefits to Benefits for Working- The Workers Lab - A statistical look at the lag in benefits across sectors. Carmen Rojas from the Workers Lab suggests we finally give all America’s workers benefits for working, instead of attaching them to a prized W-2 status for a privileged few.

The Freedom, Insecurity and Future of Independent Work- Stanford Social Innovation Review - The Rockefeller Foundation estimates at least 36 million workers are members of the independent workforce. Here is a look at the daily challenges independent workers face because of the gaps in benefit coverage.

New Data on Contingent and Alternative Employment Hides Mounting Job Quality Issues- The Century Foundation - Century Foundation economists find the Bureau of Labor Statistics underestimates Americans engaged in part-time and other forms of contingent work. They also note a marked increase in black and latino workers turning to alternative work arrangements between 2005 and 2017.

Shared Security, Shared Growth- Democracy Journal - Hanauer and Rolf propose a system of micro-benefits in ‘shared security accounts’ for all workers to reduce the risk carried by independent workers in today’s economy.

Samaschool Primer on Independent Work- Sama School - A comprehensive literature review of recent studies on independent work

Recommendations and Proposed Solutions

Protecting Workers in a Patchwork Economy- The Century Foundation - After contextualizing the position of non-traditional workers in the American social contract, this report offers solutions for increasing worker protections by changing their legal status, legislative action, increasing access to collective bargaining, and providing financial security through portable benefits.

Designing Portable Benefits: A Resource Guide for Policymakers - The Aspen Institute - A guide with concrete steps for state and local level policymakers to better understand the non-traditional work population in their area, explore specific policy solutions, and support innovation in the non-profit and private sectors. It also includes a toolkit on existing models for background.

Work Benefits: Ensuring Economic Security in the 21st Century - Roosevelt Institute - This report argues for a system of portable benefits that 1) expands the existing public safety net, 2) supports models of negotiated benefits, and 3) ensures businesses and public funds supplement worker and consumer contributions to portable benefit funds.

New Economy, New Social Contract: A Plan for a Safety Net in a Multi-Employer World- New America Foundation - This paper proposes a solution to closing the gap between 1099 workers and traditional workers by creating Individual Security accounts for each worker. Modeled from Social Security accounts, each account would receive benefits from employers on a prorated basis to purchase benefits.

A Proposal for Modernizing Labor Laws for Twenty-First Century Work: The “Independent Worker”- The Hamilton Project- This proposal introduces a type of worker: the independent worker. It argues that extending many of the legal benefits of traditional employment to non-traditional workers can increase the efficiency of the labor market, and reduce the legal uncertainty and high costs personally borne by these workers.

Three Paths to Update Labor Law for the Gig Economy- Information Technology and Innovation Foundation- This paper offers long and short-term reforms towards reducing the costs outmoded labor laws place on workers seeking a living as independent contractors through Internet based market platforms.

Portable Non-Employer Retirement Benefits- Common Wealth and The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program - This paper explores six potential models involving innovation in the private, public, and not-for-profit sector with the aim to expand retirement plan coverage to over 55 million Americans who lack access to a traditional workplace retirement plan.

Portable Benefits in the 21st Century- The Aspen Institute - An early report explaining the concept of portable benefits, and details models new systems of benefit allocation can take inspiration from; including the Ghent system, The Black Car Fund, multiemployer plans and Securechoice retirement plans.

Aspen Institute’s Portable Benefit’s Resource Guide- The Aspen Institute - A resource guide for policymakers that provide context on challenges facing today’s workforce and the need for updating and broadening the safety net. Through sections on existing models, key design questions and legislative recommendations, this guide provides a starting point for policymakers looking to secure benefits and protections, without sacrificing flexibility.

Working Models for Portable Benefits

Drivers Benefits- In New York City, a surcharge funds benefits like workers compensation, telemedicine and vision for all black car drivers. This includes Uber, Lyft, Juno and Via drivers.

Alia- The National Domestic Workers Alliance created Alia hoping to provide benefits like disability, retirement, and paid time-off with support from the people who hire them.

Tilr- This is a platform for temporary workers to connect with jobs, that has partnered with Anthem, Cengage and HonestDollar to provide benefits like health care, training, retirement savings and other perks.

Trupo: These are benefits for members of the NY Freelancer’s Union.

Launching Soon

Common Good Retirement Plan- Retirement program for Canada’s non-profit sector workers, including all full-time, part-time and freelancers in the sector.

Interested in hearing more about how you can help workers get access to twenty-first century benefits? Reach out to us at

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