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Modernizing labor laws in the online gig economy

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

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 second panel discussed the new Krueger-Harris proposal for modernizing labor laws for 21st-century work and 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.


8:15 AM Registration Opens

8:45 AM Welcome and Introductions

Robert E. Rubin
Co-Chair, Council on Foreign Relations;
Former U.S. Treasury Secretary

9:00 AM  Roundtable: Exploring the Impact of the Online Gig Economy on Work and Workers

Author: Alan Krueger
Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs, Princeton University

Discussant: The Honorable Mark Warner
U.S. Senator (D-Virginia)

Discussant: Edith Ramirez
Chairwoman, Federal Trade Commission

Discussant: Gene Sperling
President, Sperling Economic Strategies

Moderator: Gregory Ip
Chief Economics Commentator, Wall Street Journal

10:00 AM  Roundtable: Modernizing Labor Laws for 21st Century Work

Author: Seth Harris
Distinguished Scholar, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University

Discussant: Arun Sundararajan 
Professor of Information, Operations and Management Sciences, NYU Stern School of Business

Discussant: Marcela Sapone
Co-Founder and CEO, Hello Alfred

Discussant: Sara Horowitz
Executive Director, Freelancers Union

Discussant: Craig Becker
General Counsel, AFL-CIO

Moderator: Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach
Director, The Hamilton Project

11:00 AM  Forum Adjourns

Event Forum

National Press Club


Follow @hamiltonproj and see the conversation using #GigEconomy


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