Through technological advances, businesses today are able to connect customers to services more seamlessly than ever before. Popularly discussed as the “online gig economy,” this emerging form of labor centers on a web-based intermediary that enables workers to perform small “gigs” for a fee set by the intermediary. However, the workers providing these services are difficult to classify within the traditional labor-law dichotomy of employees and independent contractors, leaving questions about which benefits and legal protections are appropriate. This creates uncertainty for both businesses and workers, leading to costly legal battles and inefficiency that threaten future innovation.
On December 9, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a policy forum addressing these labor market challenges in the online gig economy, with a focus on a new Hamilton Project paper, authored by Alan Krueger (Princeton University) and Seth Harris (Cornell University), released in conjunction with this event. The forum included two moderated roundtable discussions. The first panel explored the impact of the online gig economy on work and workers. The panelists included: U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA); Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman, Federal Trade Commission; Gene Sperling, President of Sperling Economic Strategies; and Alan Krueger, Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University. Gregory Ip, Chief Economics Commentator, The Wall Street Journal moderated panel.
The event also featured a second panel, which discussed the Kruegger-Harrisproposal for modernizing labor laws for 21st-century work. Panelists included:Arun Sundararajan, Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences, NYU Stern School of Business; Craig Becker, General Counsel of the AFL-CIO; Sara Horowitz, Executive Director, Freelancers Union; Marcela Sapone, Co-Founder and CEO of Hello Alfred; and Seth Harris, Distinguished Scholar, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University. The discussion was moderated by Diane Schanzenbach, Director, the Hamilton Project.