Greetings from Washington, D.C. where, this week, the House of Representatives is poised to repeal the Affordable Care Act (the ACA) and replace it with the American Health Care Act (the AHCA).
Meantime, on the Left Coast comes word that ride-sharing giant Uber has lost yet another president. Jeff Jones suddenly bailed from his leadership position after realizing that his values squared Uber’s. From the Associated Press’s story of his departure:
“The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride sharing business.”
Uber is one of the largest engagers of Gig Talent in the U.S., a formidable subset of the workforce that has relied overwhelmingly on healthcare coverage provided to them under the ACA (aka “Obamacare”). But if the ACA is, as is expected, repealed and replaced by a law that foregoes the ACA’s individual insurance mandate, then it is possible that your Uber driver may soon go without healthcare coverage, and, stop being a part of the Gig workforce.
And that is not a good thing.
Jeff Jones’s sudden exit offers symbolism that is as important to the American workforce as is having insurance coverage for sudden and unforeseen illnesses: an increasing share of talent in our workforce will not work for, or abide by, a work culture that is toxic, non-inclusive, and does not align with purpose values such as protecting the planet and empowering people.
Setting aside all of its faults — and there are many — the ACA has facilitated in millions of professionals a considerable amount of self-determination. No longer were disgruntled professionals compelled to stay at an unsatisfactory job or a company, because leaving meant going without health coverage. Instead, the ACA allowed more of us to make work choices that worked best: as a full-time employee of a company or organization, as an entrepreneur, or as gig talent.
And that is where the feelings expressed by Jones are so important. I don’t know if his is pro-ACA or anti. But I do know that he does not abide by toxic cultures that treat hard working talent like chattel. Here, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick is caught expressing the kind of toxicity that we now know sent Jones packing:
Upon release of the YouTube video, Kalanick responded:
The ACA is, for lack of a better description, a designed-by-committee Rube Goldberg invention. It is a muddled mess that has caused as many problems as it fixed. In its current form, the ACA may not be financially sustainable.
But, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the offered AHCA replacement, aka Trumpcare, will knock 24 million already-covered-by-the-ACA insured individuals off of the rolls. Along with it, Uber’s pricing plan leaves less money in the pockets of hardworking Uber drivers. Gig talent lose big.
I am no economist. I cannot tell you how these programs work. And I reckon that most legislators who pass these things don’t know how they work, either.
I am also not a CEO who is faced with daily crises that revolve around shareholder value. And I reckon most of them don’t know how their talent working on factory floors or behind the wheel help scale revenue.
But I do know this: our workforce has reinvented what it means to work. No longer does work constitute full-time employment at a job; we are free to follow two other pathways to workforce engagement and success which are as entrepreneurs or as Gig talent. If we mess up these pathways through intended or unintended consequences, then we may prevent our economy from expanding. For certain, we may also prevent our clean energy and sustainability workforce from scaling as it is poised to do during the next 40 to 50 years.
Until and unless we create a stable and affordable healthcare system, then we will never scale the non-traditional part of our workforce. And until and unless companies embrace their talent in a way that makes these professionals feel truly valued, then our economy will miss achieving its true potential.
I’m a cockeyed optimist who believes that the journey will be long, but that we will ultimately find our way. And when we do our best days lie ahead.
DAN SMOLEN is executive producer and host of the new professional career empowerment podcast, Green Suits Radio (soon to become The Tightrope with Dan Smolen). He is author of Tailoring the Green Suit: Empowering Yourself for an Executive Career in the New Green Economy and member of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). He is also Founder and Managing Director of The Green Suits, LLC, which provides talent recruitment, workforce planning, and success management to green business and social good enterprises.
Image credits: Office scene and queued workers, “Joe Versus the Volcano,” Warner Brothers (1990); YouTube video of Uber Driver and CEO Travis Kalanick (March, 2017)