Thursday, August 23, 2012

NC guv takes on misclassification

Good news from North Carolina! Gov. Bev Perdue ordered a task force yesterday to investigate the misclassification of workers (can you say FedEx Ground?).

According to a press release from the governor's office, the task force will "identify effective mechanisms to combat unlawful practices like employee misclassification that harm workers". It will:
...strive to: (a) protect the health, safety and benefits of workers; (b) eliminate any competitive advantage currently enjoyed by businesses who violate the law; and (c) educate employers and employees regarding applicable legal requirements relevant to the practice of employee misclassification.
The task force was set up after the News Observer ran a series on how companies misclassify workers to cheat the government of revenue.

Misclassification is part of a huge problem. A consensus among experts and labor organizers is that 30 percent of U.S. workers are freelancers, temporary workers, on contract, on call, or illegally defined "independent contractors."

That's according to a terrific story in Alternet that laid bare the precarious existence of temporary workers, the "precariat:"
These workers are often called the “precariat,” a combination of “precarious” and “proletariat,” because the traditional social safety nets for workers don’t cover them. They have no job security as they hustle from one gig to the next, and they often don’t know where their next job is coming from or when it will come. They very rarely get paid sick days or vacation. They don’t get paid extra for working overtime. They are usually not eligible for unemployment benefits. They generally have to pay both the worker’s and the employer’s share of Social Security taxes. They have to pay for their own health insurance...
The story went right where you'd expect: at FedEx Ground. Our friends at American Rights at Work point the finger:
FedEx Ground, for example, defines its 15,000 drivers as independent contractors, even though they drive company-assigned routes and must drive vans with the FedEx logo and color scheme. 
“There are millions of Americans classified as independent contractors by the companies they work for, but effectively working as employees,” American Rights at Work, a Washington-based labor-rights nonprofit, said in a 2007 report on FedEx Ground. “These workers suffer the worst of both worlds: they toil without the protections and benefits of employees, yet are without the control over their work that true independent contractors enjoy.”...
The scam’s advantage for employers is that they don’t have to pay minimum wage or overtime, Social Security, Medicare, or unemployment taxes, or workers’ compensation. The result, the American Rights at Work report said, is that FedEx drivers not only make less money than those at UPS, who are permanent workers with a union; they also have to pay for gas and maintenance for their vans. Many lease vans from a company-approved supplier, Ruckelshaus says. 
Read the whole thing here.