Proposal To Nick Hanauer And SEIU Leaders To Fund Portable Benefits Initiative

Given the legal threat against me by Big Taxi on Christmas Eve, I kind of need to accelerate this initiative!

Here’s my initial email describing the proposal.

From: Gordon Gossage <>
Date: Wed, Nov 30, 2016 at 12:40 PM
Subject: Portable Benefits Initiative in Boston

Hi Neal,

It was so great to meet you yesterday and witness your hands-on participation from 6 am at McDonald’s in Cambridge through the State House rally.

As we discussed, I would like to explore how we could work together to launch a Portable Benefits Initiative in Boston as soon as possible by securing startup funding from Nick Hanauer.

I would like to replace my private sector consulting work as soon as I can so I can devote my time to non-profit work.

As you can see from my LinkedIn profile, for over 39 years I’ve lead and worked with startup and rapidly growing software and web-based companies.

I’ve been working in the Uber, Lyft and taxi medallion world since the early days of the sharing economy in August 2013.

Between 8/21/2013 and 6/30/2014 I gave over 2,400 rides, more than any other driver during the first year after Lyft’s launch in Boston. As of today, I’ve given over 3,500 rides as an Uber and Lyft driver. I also recently received my Boston taxi driver’s license. Both personally and through online driver forums I know hundreds of Uber, Lyft and taxi drivers.

Like you, Neal, I love being hands-on!

Whether driving for Uber, Lyft or taxi medallion owners, all 30,000 For-Hire Drivers in Boston are independent contractors.

I’m certain by working together we can mobilize thousands of these drivers behind the Portable Benefits Initiative in Boston. Our very progressive city would serve as an excellent pilot to prove the portable benefits concept for all cities and all independent workers across the country.

For a while I’ve been working on a project focused on New York, Chicago and Boston researching:

  • Predatory lending to small medallion owners
  • Bank fraud due to false reporting of medallion loan asset values on balance sheets
  • Securities fraud by publicly held companies also due to false asset values

There are 453 owner operators of Boston taxis who only own one medallion and work behind the wheel for 12 hours a day to pay their medallion loans after plummeting passenger revenue post-Uber. Their New American Dream is dying.

An additional 257 owners of small taxi businesses with between 2 and 9 medallions each possess underwater medallion assets way below market value and crippling negative cash flow.

6,800 licensed shift drivers in Boston make less than a $15 living wage under horrible working conditions.

Only 18 owners of the Big Taxi fleets in Boston own 10 or more medallions.

Real money has been made by the Top Twelve Big Taxi Lenders who hold $5.7 billion of the total of $7.5 billion taxi medallion loans outstanding in the country. Almost all of these loans have been made to people of color in New York, Chicago and Boston. Despite the devastation to their ability to pay after Uber, these lenders continue to extract every dollar they can.

As you know, Logan Green and John Zimmer, co-founders of Lyft joined Nick, David, Andy Stern and 37 others in signing the Common Ground for Independent Workers letter on 11/9/2015.

Driver demand for benefits continues to be a major PR nightmare for Uber. I would like to work together with you and the large group of influential supporters to convince Uber and Lyft to collect a percentage of every dollar paid by riders to a Portable Benefits Fund for drivers.

The taxi campaign will be more adversarial, however evidence of illegal exploitation uncovered by me and others can be used to force all Big Taxi players to make payments to a Big Taxi Reparations Fund.

Big Taxi players will pay into the Reparations Fund due to court order, media pressure, direct action and by voluntary payments made after reorienting their moral compasses.

A significant portion of these funds could finance the Portable Benefits Fund for taxi drivers.

I realize you know more than I do about the potential for a nationwide portable benefits program for independent workers. So it would be great to get your feedback on whether I should continue to promote this new thinking by sharing the Democracy Journal article with prospective supporters. I always use the content below.

The most eloquent description of the best program including portable benefits is described below in Shared Security, Shared Growth written by David Rolf, the leader of the SEIU’s Fight for $15 movement in Seattle and Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist very active in promoting social change.

A Twenty-First-Century Social Contract

An economy based on micro-employment requires the accrual of micro-benefits, and a twenty-first-century sharing economy requires a twenty-first-century social contract that assures shared economic security and broad prosperity.

We propose a new Shared Security System that endows every American worker with, first, a “Shared Security Account” in which to accrue the basic employment benefits necessary for a thriving middle class, and second, a new set of “Shared Security Standards” that complement and reinforce that account.

One can think of the Shared Security Account as analogous to Social Security, but encompassing all of the employment benefits traditionally provided by a full-time salaried job. Shared Security benefits would be earned and accrued via automatic payroll deductions, regardless of the employment relationship, and, like Social Security, these benefits would be fully prorated, portable, and universal. 

Subject to Nick’s agreement with my proposal, I will approach my colleague Donna Blythe-Shaw, former organizer of the Boston Taxi Drivers Association (BTDA), a United Steelworkers (USW) affiliate. Donna and I have worked on the feasibility of creating a taxi driver coop in Boston. Donna has also worked with Shannon Liss-Riordan on high profile legal actions involving Uber and taxi drivers.

The extraordinary Portable Benefits Resource Guide from the Aspen Institute will serve as the foundation for our project plan.

Are you available for a conversation on a convenient day and time range over the next few days?





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