Don't Drink the Tea. Think With the WE.
Jun
2013
7

“This is employment becoming like baseball contracts, instead of having full-time regular jobs, these employees have full-time, temporary fixed-term contracts.”

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Philly.com writer Jane von Bergen recently published a piece on how many workers are now “under contract” instead of on the traditional payroll.  This is largely due to companies trying to cut corners in terms of benefits, but von Bergen notes that it may also result from the ease with which companies can avoid firing workers if they simply let contracts expire.

Harry Griendling, CEO of Pennsylvania based staffing firm DoubleStar, Inc., told von Bergen that, “This is employment becoming like baseball contracts, instead of having full-time regular jobs, these employees have full-time, temporary fixed-term contracts.”

Burned twice since 2000 (the dot-com recession and the recent bad-mortgage recession), companies have been reluctant to hire permanent employees, he added:

“Employers are human beings, and human beings don’t like firing human beings,” Griendling said. “They’d rather end a contract. It’s the difference between divorcing your wife and dumping your girlfriend.”

Misclassifying workers as independent contractors when they are in fact employees robs both the worker of benefits and the local government of tax revenue. The Freelancer’s Union is looking to help organize the misclassified. Union founder Sara Horowitz spoke to von Bergen as well:

How do we build the security of the American workforce?” said Sara Horowitz, a retired New York lawyer, who founded the Freelancers Union 15 years ago.

Horowitz refuses to judge the trend - her point is that our nation’s institutions need to adjust to accommodate it.

“On this Labor Day,” she said, “we don’t even know how many of us there are. Instead, it’s ‘Let’s ignore this and not face up to the important issues for this growing workforce. ‘ ”

Estimates of the group’s size vary, from 7.4 percent, or 10.3 million independent contractors, as the U.S. Labor Department reported in 2005, in its most recent study, to one in three workers, according to Michigan researchers.

Data are spotty, but, in a sign of the group’s growing importance, the Labor Department will repeat its 2005 study in 2012 and in alternate years.

The staffing industry that organizes these workers is expanding - temporary- and contract-staffing sales totaled $87.4 billion in 2010, up 21.3 percent over 2009.

Lawyers are joining the anti-misclassification cause. The number of lawsuits in this area is increasing and the practice is becoming more of a workplace taboo than in the past.  Unions are also helping to crackdown on misclassification:

Union workers who become self-employed contractors lose their union affiliation, and the unions lose their dues.

That’s what happened at Amoroso Baking Co. in West Philadelphia in August.

Until Aug. 7, Jeffrey Schmidt, a father of three, drove a truck delivering the West Philadelphia bakery’s esteemed hoagie rolls to supermarkets and sandwich shops in Northeast Philadelphia and lower Bucks County.

A union driver with 16 years on the payroll, Schmidt, of Bensalem, had health insurance, paid days off, vacation time, a pension, workers’ compensation, and money paid into the state unemployment insurance fund on his behalf.

Earlier this year, company president Leonard Amoroso decided to make a change.

“In the Italian bread industry, all but one other company in the tristate area have independent distributors,” Amoroso said.

So Schmidt bought two side-by-side routes, consolidating them into one. He still drives a truck with the Amoroso’s logo on the side, except now he is working seven days instead of six and paying for the truck, gas, insurance, and repairs. No benefits, no vacation, no time off, and he’s no longer a Teamster.

“The option on the table was buy a route, or you’re unemployed,” Schmidt said.

Check out this entire, important piece on Philly.com.

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