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gig economy

Labor Law and the Gig Economy: Why Stick with an Antiquated System?

The rapid growth of the gig economy—workers using Internet platforms to deliver personal services such as rides, legal services, and plumbing to consumers—has sparked a discussion on their impact and relationship to current law. A major topic in this debate has been whether gig workers should be classified as employees or as independent workers. On March 15, Ross Eisenbrey and Lawrence Mishel of the Economic Policy Institute criticized an earlier paper that Seth Harris and Alan Krueger had written for the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution. The Harris and Krueger paper recommended establishing a third legal category for gig workers. But Eisenbrey and Mishel’s assertion that current law can handle gig marketplaces misses the central point. The real question is not whether a centuries-old distinction can be contrived to apply to the gig economy. It is whether doing so is in the best interest of society.

Eisenbrey and Mishel primarily focus on the case of Uber. This is unfortunate because Uber probably represents the closest case to an employer-employee relationship. But even in this case the authors acknowledge that courts have given different opinions. The waters are muddied even

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