New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

Annie McDonough

City and State NYC Council bill could reignite gig worker debate by Annie McDonough

NYC Council bill could reignite gig worker debate

A simmering debate on whether gig workers should be classified as employees has become more urgent during the coronavirus pandemic, which has demonstrated the importance of essential workers like ride-hailing drivers and food delivery cyclists.

When the state Legislature finalized the budget earlier this month, it omitted a measure that would have created a task force to study whether gig workers should be considered employees and to propose new labor protections. With that, the debate on classifying gig workers seemed to have been mostly concluded for the year. Plus, it’s not clear if the Legislature will get a system for remote voting in place by the end of the session in June, meaning they may not be able to vote on a stand-alone gig worker bill.

But now, the New York City Council may make progress on the issue where the state Legislature has stalled – determining whether gig workers should be classified as independent contractors, as they currently are, or as employees. The council held its first official remote meeting on Wednesday, and City Councilmen Brad Lander and Ben Kallos introduced a bill that would extend paid sick leave to gig workers. The pair also introduced a nonbinding resolution that called on the state Legislature to classify gig workers as employees. Their bill would set an important precedent if it passed, or it could at the very least reignite the efforts of those who want gig workers to be classified as employees.

City and State How remote learning will work in New York City by Annie McDonough

How remote learning will work in New York City

On Friday, Charter Communications announced that it would begin providing its Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi for free to families with students in grades K-12 or in college who don’t already have a Spectrum broadband subscription. Altice USA announced a similar program on Friday.

Kallos said that sending out iPads with T-Mobile LTE data plans would likely be quicker than having families sign up for broadband internet service, but it might not be the best long-term solution. “I appreciate wanting to get the service up and running using LTE,” he said. “But I think that they’re really doing families a disservice by not taking advantage of the Charter offer.”

Kallos said that the city should instead be focusing on access to broadband service and providing devices like Chromebooks, which tend to be cheaper than iPads and may be able to run more programs at the same time. Laptops and Chromebooks also come with keyboards, while keyboard attachments are typically sold separately for iPads. Many city schools do also use Chromebooks for regular instruction, and the Education Department will be providing guidance to schools on how to lend those out to students. “Everything is on the table to ensure our students continue to get the quality education they deserve, and we’re grateful to Apple and T-Mobile for their partnership, as both companies are offering significant discounts for their products and services,” city Education Department spokeswoman Isabelle Boundy wrote in an email. “We are open to working with additional partners to serve the children of New York City at this challenging time, and look forward to further conversations with Charter.”

City and State Holden, Kallos to propose new city ‘moonshot’ division by Annie McDonough

Holden, Kallos to propose new city ‘moonshot’ division

Holden, Kallos to propose new city ‘moonshot’ division

Two New York City lawmakers are launching a moonshot bid to introduce more technological expertise to city government.

Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Robert Holden – who chairs the Council’s Committee on Technology – will propose the creation of a new city Office of Technology and Digital Services, the purpose of which would be to make tech expertise more readily available to city agencies through technology officers who could be embedded in different agencies to help problem-solve or build new software or digital services.