Marco Rubio says one startup would have vastly improved life for his mum

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) says that one high-profile “gig-economy” startup would have vastly improved life for one of the most important people in his life: his mother.

In a speech in front of an audience of tech industry workers at the Civic Hall in New York, Rubio said his mother, who worked for years as a maid, would have benefited enormously if she had been a contractor for the home-service company Handy, which connects cleaners, plumbers, and handymen with potential customers.

“In the last century, my mother worked as a maid in hotels. She had no control over her schedule, no influence over how much she earned, and few opportunities to set herself apart, yet she still achieved the American Dream. Just think what she could have achieved cleaning homes through a company like Handy. She would have had total control over her own financial life,” Rubio said Tuesday during a speech at Civic Hall in New York.

“Innovations like Handy are part of the reason I’m so optimistic about not only saving the American Dream in this century, but actually expanding it to reach more people than ever before.”

After praising Handy extensively and mentioning that its CEO, Oisin Hanrahan, was in the audience, Rubio used the home-service startup to illustrate his plan for ensuring that the future of the so-called “gig economy” is not subject to strict regulations. He said that worker classification tax laws are needlessly burdening Handy with regulations that keep Handy workers from wearing uniforms and receiving benefits.

“The company can’t provide training to its contractors, they can’t make recommendations to them based on customer feedback, and they can’t even ask them to wear a shirt or uniform with the Handy logo on it,” Rubio said.

“Think about how ironic that is. Our outdated politicians bash the on-demand economy for not taking better care of workers, yet our outdated government is the exact force preventing it from doing so,” Rubio added.

HandyHandyA screenshot of a Handy promotional video

Rubio, a presidential candidate who has seen his poll numbers rise in recent weeks, was in New York selling his economic vision for the “sharing-economy,” a term that applies to businesses that connect users and contractors who sell services. Rubio spoke at length about the macroeconomic benefits of businesses like Handy, as well as the ride-sharing service Uber and the room-sharing company Airbnb.

Rubio’s emphasis on gig economy businesses is no accident — Rubio, along with rival Floridian and former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), has made overtures to the tech community as some sharing economy companies have clashed with state regulators. Though the tech industry has long leaned left, many Republicans are hoping to peel away support as companies like Uber and Airbnb, both popular with young consumers, clash with Democratic leaders.

Earlier this year, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was forced to back down after an attempt to regulate Uber’s growth prompted a full-scale public-relations assault from the ride-sharing company.

On Tuesday, Rubio criticised lawmakers taking the side of taxi companies against Uber.

“These companies are also the victims of a coordinated attack from established businesses, which influence the political process to pass new regulations that block competition. We’ve seen this play out with taxi companies lobbying to stop Uber,” Rubio said.

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