Antitrust, the Gig Economy, and Labor Market Power

30 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2019

Date Written: March 6, 2019


In academic and public debate about the increasing imbalance of power between employers and workers, the role of antitrust policy and enforcement has heretofore gotten little attention. This paper shows that where there was once a sharp border — the border of the firm — where labor law ended and antitrust began, there is now a considerable legal gray area. Business models that rely on the control and exploitation of workers, independent contractors, and small businesses are increasingly immune from antitrust liability, without the associated responsibilities on the part of employers traditionally due to workers under labor law. At the same time, antitrust has been increasingly active preventing those workers, independent contractors, and small businesses from coordinating with one another against the interests of powerful corporations. Antitrust’s treatment of gig economy firms like Uber exemplifies its tendency to widen the options available to employers and “lead firms” and constrict them for workers. This paper concludes with a discussion of antitrust policy alternatives to rectify the perversion of antitrust’s original aim: to de-concentrate private power.

Suggested Citation

Steinbaum, Marshall, Antitrust, the Gig Economy, and Labor Market Power (March 6, 2019). Law and Contemporary Problems, 2019. Available at SSRN: or

Marshall Steinbaum (Contact Author)

Roosevelt Institute ( email )

1789 Lanier Pl. NW Apt. 1
Washington, DC 20009
United States

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