As more companies turn to the gig economy for help, workers are attempting to secure higher pay and better working conditions by organizing and protesting. However, existing U.S. antitrust law may stand in the way.
How does antitrust law impact the gig economy?
Antitrust law and the gig economy
Unions have protections that exempt them from federal statutes enacted to promote competition and prevent monopolies. However, because gig workers are independent contractors, they do not have these protections. Without these protections, the law may view strikes and other attempts to organize by gig workers as attempts to fix the price of labor.
Proposed legal changes
The Federal Trade Commission Chair is attempting to change federal law to extend protections to gig workers who wish to form unions. These proposed changes may become part of the ongoing battle between companies who hire gig workers, the government and workers. Businesses argue that gig workers are contractors who are not entitled to the same rights as employees. Some regulators fear that attempts to exempt unionizing gig workers from antitrust laws may lead to price-fixing schemes among independent contractors in other industries.
The FTC has previously shot down attempts by local officials to provide antitrust exemptions to gig workers in Seattle. The federal government does not currently have any antitrust legislation that changes gig worker status on the table. Legislators must write any such changes in a way that avoids potential price-fixing loopholes. Any guidance from the FTC may influence the policy debate, but would not have the force of law.