Gig Economy Solutions

ILR classmates propose labor law modernization
Thursday, December 3, 2015

Two ILR alumni are proposing solutions to labor market challenges created by the online gig economy.

In a policy forum entitled “Modernizing Labor Laws in the Online Gig Economy” at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Seth Harris ’83 and Alan Krueger ’83 will present a paper they co-authored.

After presenting the paper, entitled “A Proposal for Modernizing Labor Laws for 21st-Century Work: The ‘Independent Worker,’” Harris and Krueger will participate in panel discussions with other experts in the field.  

Harris is Distinguished Scholar at the ILR School and former acting secretary and deputy secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama Administration.

Krueger is the Bendheim Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University and former chair of President Obama’s Counsel of Economic Advisors.

Harris and Krueger have been friends since their days as ILR students at Cornell.

They also worked together at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Clinton Administration; however, this is their first scholarly collaboration.

The forum will focus on their paper, produced as part of The Hamilton Project, an initiative of the Brookings Institute

Workers providing services through web-based intermediaries are difficult to classify within traditional labor law categories of “employees” and “independent contractors,” Harris and Krueger explain in their paper.

Questions about benefits and legal protections create uncertainty for both businesses and workers and could lead to costly legal battles, the co-authors said.

They propose a new “independent workers” category that, among other things, would allow “intermediaries” -- companies that connect gig workers with customers -- to pool benefits for workers without facing the risk that gig employees will be categorized as employees.

Discussion panelists are slated to include Sara Horowitz ’84, founder and executive director, Freelancers Union; U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA); Edith Ramirez, chairwoman, Federal Trade Commission, and others.

Krueger will lead the discussion entitled “Exploring the Impact of the Online Gig Economy on Work and Workers” and Harris will lead a discussion about “Modernizing Labor Laws for 21st Century Work.”

More information is available at