Thursday, June 25, 2015

Misclassification is another corporate trick

Too many corporations are taking advantage of hardworking Americans who are trying to earn a living to support their families. Instead of bringing them on as full-time workers, these companies go on the cheap by hiring temporary or contract workers who don't have the same job protections or benefits. Meanwhile, the employer avoids paying some taxes and unemployment insurance.

Some firms are using temp workers to sort recycling.
Misclassification is getting worse nationwide, as we noted in another blog last week. A Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GALA) report released this week details another such example, U.S. recycling workers, who are often temp workers who have fewer workplace protections and are less likely to be informed of their legal right to a safe and healthy workplace.

As detailed in the document:
Reliance on temporary staffing agencies has allowed companies to distance themselves from responsibility for worker health and safety. Among employers who use temporary labor, failure to properly train and orient workers who are new to the job, or have been brought on as temporary labor, is a common practice and a serious concern. Research about work-related injuries for low-wage workers shows that workers who have received health and safety training are more likely to seek medical attention and to notify employers of injuries than workers who have not received health and safety training.
Such practices are the latest example of corporate America trying to fleece the public. Following the same playbook it uses to jam lousy trade deals through Congress, big business insists it needs to change the rules so can remain in business. This at a time when companies are registering record profits.

Luckily, there are some instances where misclassification is not allowed to run rampant. Fed Ex Ground, for instance, recently agreed to pay $228 million to about 2,300 drivers in California that the company improperly classified as independent contractors from 2000 to 2007. The settlement came after a federal appeals court in San Francisco last August determined the workers were employees under California law.

That determination and others like it are causing some employers to act. Instacart, an on-demand delivery service, announced this week that it will transition some 300 workers in Boston and Chicago from independent contractors to employees with benefits.

But that in and of itself won't change the dynamic that seems to be increasingly gripping our government. Our elected officials too often are doing the bidding of big business and instituting policies that are hurting workers. It happened with the fast track trade bill and it's happening with misclassification. They say these moves create jobs, but there is no evidence that it does. Instead, there are just bigger profits for corporations.

This is part of the reason that a presidential candidate like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is resonating with so many people. He makes it clear he won't turn his back on people, like many on Capitol Hill already have. Too many believe government is of and by corporations now. It should be of and by the people like our founders intended.