Thursday, May 30, 2013

Woot! N.J. Senate approves misclassification bill; now it's up to Christie

(UPDATES to CORRECT title to misclassification, sted misidentification)

The New Jersey Senate did its job this afternoon sticking up for companies that properly pay port and parcel delivery truck drivers. Now it's up to Gov. Chris Christie to show corporations and workers that he won't provide cover for those who duck taxes and employee benefit obligations by mislabeling their drivers as contractors.

By a 21-to-17 vote, the state Senate backed S-1450, siding with Teamsters and other pro-labor groups by approving strict penalties for companies that attempt to cheat the system and drivers. The bill makes it more difficult for trucking companies involved in short-distance hauling -- known as drayage trucking -- or package delivery (i.e., FedEx Ground) to improperly classify their drivers as contract workers. The Assembly passed its own version of the same legislation last week.

As part of the legislation:
... trucking services performed in the drayage trucking industry or parcel delivery industry by an individual for remuneration are deemed to be employment unless and until it is shown to the satisfaction of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that:
1. The individual has been and will continue to be free from control or direction over the performance of that service, both under his contract of service and in fact;
2. The service is either outside the usual course of the business for which the service is performed, or the service is performed outside of all the places of business of the employer for which the service is performed; and
3. The individual is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, profession or business.
The Teamsters have long advocated for an end of the practice known as misclassification across the country, noting that it not only hurts its membership but taxpayers as well. It allows companies to shirk their responsibilities by sparing them from paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance, as well as overtime and benefits.

Besides New Jersey, Teamsters have taken up the fight against misclassification this year in several others states, including Georgia and New York. Meanwhile, 14 states have joined up with the U.S. Department of Labor to fight the problem nationally.

The legislation now heads to Gov. Christie, who has not been kind to labor during his term in office. In an April town meeting, for example, he said "unions are the problem." The governor seems more interested in photo ops with President Obama than in securing fair wages for the state's workers. Don't let that continue. Contact Gov. Christie and tell him that cracking down on unscrupulous companies that cheat their workers is the right thing to do.