Listen to audio version of this article
Following an epic, contentious and impassioned hearing, the Senate Labor Committee today moved an
amended S-4204, part of a Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3)-authored package of bills, ostensibly aimed at management misuse of independent contractors.
Senator Tony Bucco (R-25) took ill today and left Trenton early, but first indicated his no vote.
The three Democrats on the committee voted “yes” to move the bill out of committee.
The final committee vote was 3-1 along party lines.
Written in the same vein as a recently enacted controversial California law, the bill requires a designation of individuals who perform services for remuneration as employees, not independent contractors, subject to the provisions of employment law, and entitled to all remedies for any violations.
Critics of the bill – and they were voluble at today’s hearing conducted by Senator Fred Madden (D-4) –
said the legislation would impede their ability to adjust to a contemporary economy.
“There is a lot of emotion attached to testimony like this, but frankly there’s a lot of hurt,” Madden said. “People are misclassified. There are some business decisions making employees pay for things.”
Freelance writers, among many others, had a problem with the bills.
“The bills will put me out of business,” said writer Caren Chesler.
Another writer, Kristen Caven, chastised the committee chair. “You seem genuinely confused, Chairman Madden,” she said. “This is an assault on independent contractors. One in 10 [people] work in independent contractor work.” As a consequence of similar legislation, Reuters fired its California freelancers, she noted.
State chamber of Commerce Spokesman Mike Egenton, New Jersey Business and Industry (NJBIA) Vice President Mike Wallace and other business leaders testified against the legislation.
Wedding photographers and musicians likewise objected.
So did truckers.
But labor leaders praised Sweeney’s intentions with the bill.
Kevin Brown, who heads SEIU 32BJ in New Jersey, said, “Workers deserve real jobs with real worker protections.”
The committee took most of the day to hear people express their misgivings and support for the bill.
“In 20 years in the legislature, I find this bill the most confusing,” said state Senator Linda Greenstein (D-14).
At one point, Assemblyman Bob Auth (R-39) tried to get the labor committee to delay voting on Sweeney’s bills.
Speaking directly to S-4204, Auth said, “It stifles entrepreneurialism.
“Hold the bill,” he added. “Be a little more deliberative.”
Greenstein, while voting yes to get the bill out of committee, said, “The devil could be in the details. We heard an amazing level of opposition. We can’t ignore how many groups came out to speak against this.”
“I’m happy the senate president has indicated his willingness to entertain amendments,” said Senator Joe Lagana (D-38), who also voted aye.