This Pandemic Exposes the Downsides of Cheap Uber Rides

Blame ourselves, and our government:

I started writing this pointing the finger at Uber and other companies that summon contract workers at the tap of a smartphone app. It’s not that simple, though.

We have to admit that when Uber, Instacart and Postmates rely on contractors, it benefits us as well as those companies’ bottom lines. If these companies instead hired masses of employees with benefits, the services they provide probably wouldn’t be as ubiquitous or affordable. Uber might not exist at all outside big cities.

And Uber is far from the only company relying on non-employee workers, in part because it’s cheaper to hire and fire them. That exposes the downsides of government decisions in the United States to tie many basic protections to our employer.

I’m not sure companies like Uber can continue to rely on an all-contract work force. That’s going to be a huge challenge for Uber. It’s also a problem for all of us who enjoyed cheap, handy services that leave workers exposed.

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A reader, Caroline Ayres, recently asked us for advice on blocking out noise while she’s working from home:

I love my family, but with two teenagers, a dog, a cat and a preschool for kids of emergency providers in the downstairs of my building, working from home is a bit of a challenge during coronavirus. My question is: What noise-canceling headphones do I need to buy?

Lauren Dragan from the Wirecutter, a product recommendation site owned by The Times, shared this advice:

Hi, Caroline! The first thing you should know is that noise-canceling headphones — while fantastic for low frequency, sustained sounds like airplane noise — aren’t effective on human voices, dog barks or other high-pitched sounds.

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