News Releases

Senator Murray: Gig economy puts new face on “damaging trend of erosion in workers’ protections and benefits” 

Senator Murray calls for increased accessibility, portability, and security in retirement plans 

Almost half of families in the country do not have a retirement account 

Senator Murray working on federal version of Washington state’s Small Business Retirement Marketplace

***WATCH SEN. MURRAY’S SPEECH HERE***

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, spoke at a hearing of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Retirement Security focused on the gig economy. In her remarks, Senator Murray emphasized how the challenges of the gig economy highlight a decades-long trend of erosion in workers’ protections and benefits, and the importance of solutions that make retirement plans more accessible, portable, and secure for workers and families. Senator Murray pointed to the Small Business Retirement Marketplace in Washington state as a solution she is working on scaling up to the federal level.

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“The hype of the ‘gig economy’ has put a new face on the damaging trend of erosion in workers’ protections and benefits—a trend that has been occurring for decades. We may be discussing new technology and using new lingo, but the challenges are not new. How do we make sure all workers are well protected and fairly compensated? How do we make sure all workers have the rights and protections we’ve fought for since the New Deal? In a changing world, how do we address the new threats and provide new protections to ensure workers’ safety, economic security, and voice? I am optimistic we can look for bipartisan answers to these questions, and work together toward solutions”

“We need to expand access to plans as almost half of the families in this country don’t have a retirement account. In fact, one third of private industry workers don’t even have access to a retirement plan through their employer. And many employers who offer retirement plans still don’t offer part-time workers the opportunity to participate in them. We also need to provide better portability in retirement plans, as the average worker today will change jobs ten times before the age of forty.  We need to provide security for the many workers who are concerned about the pension crisis and whether they can expect the promised benefits they have earned. We need to address the concerns of a generation uncertain about whether Social Security will still be there for them in retirement. And we need to address the unfair disadvantages facing women as they plan for the future by making sure they earn equal pay for equal work, and are not penalized in retirement for time devoted to family care.”

“One approach I’ve been working on is to take the Small Business Retirement Marketplace being pioneered in Washington state, scale it up to the federal level, and expand the offerings to marry existing and underutilized plan options to those who want to save for retirement. Washington’s online retirement marketplace has provided a new resource to make it easier for small business owners and sole proprietors to offer employees voluntary, privately managed, individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.”

Video of Sen. Murray’s remarks available HERE.

Full text below of Sen. Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you Senator Enzi for organizing this important discussion. And thank you to our witnesses, we’re grateful to have your insight on the challenges facing workers and retirees.

“The hype of the ‘gig economy’ has put a new face on the damaging trend of erosion in workers’ protections and benefits—a trend that has been occurring for decades. We may be discussing new technology and using new lingo, but the challenges are not new. How do we make sure all workers are well protected and fairly compensated? How do we make sure all workers have the rights and protections we’ve fought for since the New Deal? In a changing world, how do we address the new threats and provide new protections to ensure workers’ safety, economic security, and voice? I am optimistic we can look for bipartisan answers to these questions, and work together toward solutions.

“Of course, even as we fight for worker’s protections today, we must also fight to secure the financial stability they will depend on tomorrow. Retirement often seems years away, but the challenges we face are urgent.

“We need to expand access to plans as almost half of the families in this country don’t have a retirement account. In fact, one third of private industry workers don’t even have access to a retirement plan through their employer. And many employers who offer retirement plans still don’t offer part-time workers the opportunity to participate in them.

“We also need to provide better portability in retirement plans, as the average worker today will change jobs ten times before the age of forty.

“We need to provide security for the many workers who are concerned about the pension crisis and whether they can expect the promised benefits they have earned. We need to address the concerns of a generation uncertain about whether Social Security will still be there for them in retirement.

“And we need to address the unfair disadvantages facing women as they plan for the future by making sure they earn equal pay for equal work, and are not penalized in retirement for time devoted to family care.

“Ultimately, we need to look at new solutions and protections to guarantee the promise of retirement for hardworking families.

“That’s why I’m working on legislation like the Women’s Pension Protection Act, which would provide access to retirement plans for many low-wage and part-time workers. That’s why I’m working on legislation to modernize, enhance, and protect Social Security and ensure we have a strong safety net for our families.

“And that’s why I’m looking for new solutions too.

“One approach I’ve been working on is to take the Small Business Retirement Marketplace being pioneered in Washington state, scale it up to the federal level, and expand the offerings to marry existing and underutilized plan options to those who want to save for retirement. Washington’s online retirement marketplace has provided a new resource to make it easier for small business owners and sole proprietors to offer employees voluntary, privately managed, individual retirement accounts, or IRAs.  And that is certainly something that we want to do on a bigger scale to address some of the issues we are talking about today.  

“As today’s discussion continues, I will continue highlighting the lessons we can learn from Washington state’s leadership to address the retirement crisis. I will continue refocusing the spotlight of the ‘gig economy’ on the broader, ongoing challenge of reversing the erosion of workers’ protections and benefits. And I will continue fighting to give more workers, more seniors, and more families the certainty of a secure financial future.

“I’m grateful to Senator Enzi for bringing together this discussion today, and hope we can continue to work in bipartisan way to address these important challenges.”