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Elizabeth Warren: No Need to Stop Uber-ized Workforce, but Must Invest in Education (Video)

Senator Warren isn't worried about the robot economy.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

Elizabeth Warren, the firebrand Massachusetts senator, disagrees with corporate CEOs on many issues. On one point, however, she may be on the same track.

At the opening night of the Code Conference, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher asked Senator Warren for her thoughts on the tech industry’s significant, and growing, impact on labor — how the on-demand economy is creating full-time jobs out of part-time work. Several startups, like Uber, rely on contract employers. Google CEO Larry Page has predicted that part-time working will soon be the norm.

Warren said the trend is inevitable.

“Our only chance for survival is to innovate our way out of this,” she replied. “We’re not going to stop tech so that lots of people will work. That’s like saying, ‘Let’s get rid of heavy equipment and let people dig with a spoon.’ That won’t work.”

Instead, she returned to her argument, made several times during the interview, that the government’s position should pour more investment into education and infrastructure. “We have to invest in the two places where it works,” she said. “We have to invest in brains and people who are willing to do the long, long arc research.”

Asked later if she would push on-demand companies to classify contract workers as full-time employees, Warren did not answer directly. “Work is changing in America,” she said, appearing to placate startups like Uber that rely on a temporary workforce that doesn’t pull in benefits. She did add that it’s an issue the Department of Labor should still investigate.

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