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The 1099 Economy: Exploring a New Social Contract for Employers, Employees, & Society

October 20, 2015  • Economic Opportunities Program

Headlines about work abound with projections that employment as we know it is quickly fading away. Jobs are sliced-and-diced into “micro-tasks,” and employees are replaced by an army of contractors. Some blue-collar workers do not even know whom they work for, technically, due to the layers of contracting that separate them from the company to which they deliver services. The on-demand or “sharing” economy is exploding. Microenterprises are proliferating. Estimates of the percentage of the workforce that is “contingent” (or freelance, contract or self-employed) range widely from four to 40 percent.

This panel discusses the scope of these phenomena, what is driving this trend, and the implications for workers trying to earn a living in today’s economy. As the social contract between employers and employees deteriorates, how do workers access stable and adequate incomes, protections from abuse, and basic benefits like health care and retirement? As the nature of work evolves, how should labor and social policies evolve to ensure work in America can still lead families to a better future? Panelists explore policy alternatives for today and for the future.


Senator Mark Warner
US Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia

Jared Bernstein
Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and Board Chair, National Employment Law Project

Natalie Foster
Fellow, The Institute for the Future

Saket Soni
Director, National Guestworker Alliance and New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice

David Williams
Chief Tax Officer, Intuit

Moderated By: Yuki Noguchi, National Correspondent, NPR