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In this Jan. 31, 2018, file photo, a Lyft driver opens the Lyft app on his phone while waiting for a fare in Pittsburgh. 

New polling released Thursday shows the vast majority of Colorado app-based workers for companies including Uber, Lyft and Instacart prefer to be classified as independent contractors but also want access to some benefits typically available only to employees.

The survey, conducted by Global Strategy Group for a new organization formed by some of the largest players in the burgeoning, so-called gig economy, lands amid a spate of contentious and expensive battles over the app-based business model and the status of its workers.

According to the survey, 77% of the drivers and shoppers would rather be independent contractors than employees, and 91% said they would stop working for the app-based companies if they lost the flexibility they currently enjoy.

A strong majority — 87% — liked the sound of a hybrid relationship with the companies, maintaining their independent contractor status and its flexibility while requiring companies to provide some but not all of the benefits employees receive, such as health care, workers compensation, unemployment insurance and retirement savings.

Few of the workers are full-time, the poll found, with 79% saying they work part-time or occasionally, and 65% saying they drive to supplement other income. In addition, 78% say they get some benefits from other sources.

"The results of this survey could not be clearer: rideshare and delivery drivers in Colorado largely drive on the side, in order to supplement other income, and they prioritize flexibility above almost all other considerations," the pollsters said.

Asked whether they would support a proposal to keep workers for the app-based companies classified as contractors but also set statewide regulations to make sure workers can maintain their independence — working whenever they wanted, including for competitors — and create portable benefits tied to the worker, 84% said they liked what they heard.

While there was some chatter around the state Capitol earlier this year about potential legislation creating a program like that, no bills have yet emerged.

In a statement, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce — one of the groups involved in commissioning the poll — said the survey points toward a way to provide the kind of work many Coloradans are seeking along with critical benefits for workers and their families

"Our app-based workers have been on the front lines during this pandemic, and we support solutions like this that would expand the benefits available to them while also ensuring they retain their independence and flexibility as gig workers," the business group said.

Last fall, in the most expensive ballot measure campaign in the state's history, California voters passed by a wide margin an initiative that lets Uber and Lyft treat their drivers as contractors instead of employees. The measure quashed efforts by labor unions to enact a state law that would have given app-based workers protections like a minimum wage, overtime and some benefits.

The pollsters surveyed 722 rideshare and delivery drivers online from Feb. 25-March 9, reaching Coloradans who had performed work for Uber, Lyft, DoorDash or Instacart at least once in the last 18 months. The margin of error is 3.6 percentage points. In order to encourage frank responses, those who took the survey didn't know who paid for it, pollsters said.

The poll was sponsored by the recently formed Colorado Coalition for Independent Work, an organization spearheaded by some of the app-based companies with an aim to "elevate the voices of independent workers and to support a policy framework to extend new benefits and protections for workers while maintaining their independence."

In addition to individual drivers and shoppers, members include DoorDash, Instacart, Lyft, Postmates, Uber, the Colorado Chamber of Commerce, the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Technology Association.

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