NJ Independent Contractors Take on Bill That Would Decimate Their Businesses
TRENTON (December 2, 2019) — A group of independent contractors will attend the New Jersey Senate Labor Committee meeting in Trenton on Thursday, December 5, at 10 a.m. to voice opposition to two pending pieces of legislation–Senate bill S4204 and Assembly bill A5936–that threaten their ability to continue to work independently. Representatives of Fight for Freelancers, an ad hoc Facebook group of more than 735 independent workers who fear their livelihoods will be destroyed by these bills, will be present and available for interviews.
Supported by labor unions, the legislation was introduced in the NJ Senate on November 7 by sponsor and Senate President Steve Sweeney, and in the NJ Assembly on November 14 by sponsor Assemblyman Joseph Egan, to target employee misclassification in New Jersey. But the language of the bill conflates misclassified workers with successful and lawful independent contractors who wish to continue to be their own bosses.
If signed into law as currently written, companies that hire outside independent contractors would need to prove that the services are “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.” So, for instance, a subcontractor installing kitchen cabinets for a day may be considered an employee, and the subcontractor could be considered an employee of several companies at once. Any independent contractor who visits a client’s offices even for just a few hours would be considered an employee.
Several industries have received carve-outs from the bill’s effects, including accountants, clergy, multi-level marketers, commission-based travel agents, commission-based insurance salespeople, and Realtors. But many other types of independent contractors have been left out of the backroom deal-making and are now having their careers threatened.
Fight for Freelancers was created two weeks ago by freelance writers and has quickly grown to include a variety of independent workers, including writers, truck drivers, online teachers, yoga instructors, marketers, public-relations professionals, photographers, musicians, data analysts, social media specialists, and more. Nearly 80 percent of the 735-member Facebook group is women.
“Though well-meaning, the bill fails to consider that many independent contractors, especially mothers and people with disabilities, chronic illnesses, or caregiver duties, prefer the flexibility rarely afforded while working for someone else,” says group administrator Jen Singer, a freelance writer from Red Bank. “As a single mother, I made more money and had more flexibility to raise my two sons working from home as my own boss than I could have while working for a media company or content development firm, likely commuting to Manhattan.”
Singer joins Debbie Abrams Kaplan of Westfield, Kim Kavin of Washington Township in Morris County, and Gwen Moran of Wall Township as the leaders of the group. They have collected stories of how the bill threatens the livelihoods of a wide range of New Jersey independent contractors and posted some of those stories at FightForFreelancers.com. The group’s members also have published op-eds in the Asbury Park Press, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Star-Ledger and TAP into Westfield. The four leaders will be in Trenton at 8:30 a.m. December 5, ahead of the Senate Labor Committee hearing, and are all available for interviews.
The leaders have been empowered to speak as members of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and Kavin can also speak as the NJ legislative liaison for Boating Writers International and the Dog Writers Association of America.