By Amanda Becker
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton does not have a problem with ride service company Uber, a top aide said on Tuesday, but the candidate does have questions about what it and its sharing-economy peers mean for workers.
Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan was asked Tuesday morning whether the Democratic front-runner had a "beef" with the San Francisco-based startup company Uber [UBER.UL].
"It’s an interesting question with a totally wrong premise," Sullivan said at a breakfast in Washington organized by the Christian Science Monitor newspaper.
Sullivan said that Clinton believes that the Internet- and smartphone-powered "sharing economy" and "on-demand" economy provide exciting opportunities.
"But it also does raise hard questions about workplace protections and the future of work," he said.
Clinton, who is seeking her party's nomination for the November 2016 presidential race, said in a speech on Monday that the gig economy, where people provide others with services on a case-by-case basis, is "creating exciting opportunities" but also "raising hard questions about workplace protections."
She did not mention any companies by name, but said many workers were making money by renting spare rooms or driving their own cars.
Uber is one of the best known sharing-economy companies. Its business has expanded to 57 countries and its estimated value has exploded to more than $40 billion. But it has generated controversy or outright opposition around the world.
In France, for example, Uber suspended its UberPOP ride-hailing service after it faced sometimes-violent protests and local authorities denounced it as an illegal taxi service.
And the California Labor Commission last month said that Uber drivers are employees, not contractors, which the company is appealing.
The difference could be crucial for the nascent sharing economy, which also includes such companies as Airbnb, the room rental service, which has seen its own share of controversy.
A contractor model is cheaper for companies - but comes with fewer benefits for workers at a time when middle- and working-class wages have largely been stagnant.
Middle-class insecurities have lingered more than six years after the recession ended, and have become a major theme for both Democrats and Republicans in the presidential campaign.
(Reporting by Amanda Becker; Writing by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)