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Independent contractors would be unwisely restricted under federal proposals

u.s. capitol
Sen. Bob Casey’s Payroll Fraud Prevention Act of 2013 seeks to enact restrictions on independent contractors.

Independent contractors will be the quiet engine of Minnesota’s economy, and we can play an important role if our state is to become an economic leader. Our state has seen relatively strong growth. But I am concerned that there is an ongoing assault here on small business, and federally, there are concerns as well. Many of the workers involved in driving Minnesota’s economy, and with the potential to further drive our economy into the future, are independent contractors.

Mandy Benz

From potential precious-metals construction jobs in northeast Minnesota to expert agricultural consultants advising our farmers, to the plumbers and hairdressers serving our communities, independent contractors have been vital to Minnesota’s economic well-being.

My industry, independent consultants in fashion and cosmetics, has long played our own role in creating new jobs and a stable, local tax base especially among entrepreneurial, strong women.

A hearing, followed by a bill

Yet the federal government is pursuing policies in Washington, D.C., to make it more difficult for independent contractors to continue serving in this important and freeing capacity. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety recently held a hearing in Washington to discuss further restrictions on independent contractors and the businesses they serve.

Immediately after this hearing, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., introduced the Payroll Fraud Prevention Act of 2013, which seeks to enact such restrictions.

Beyond that, the federal government has actually allocated $25 million for a joint IRS-Department of Labor initiative to make it harder, if not illegal, for independent contractors and their clients to work together. I believe it has been a strategic decision to target smaller businesses. Small businesses are easier to prosecute than larger companies with deeper pockets. And larger companies tend to have deeper political connections.

Rules, laws are already adequate

I find that there are already adequate rules, regulations and laws to deal with any misclassification of workers. And these recent federal proposals are ill informed and are a real world attack on those of us interested in working for ourselves.

Technology, attitudes towards liberty, self-employment and the kind of flexibility that entrepreneurial work fosters and supports are leading toward a fundamental change in our work force.

It is important, as we move ahead, especially here in Minnesota, that we recognize and don’t punish the contributions of independent contractors across our Minnesota economy. 

Mandy Benz is an independent contractor in a direct sales company and a candidate for Minnesota House District 37A that includes areas of Blaine, Coon Rapids and Spring Lake Park.

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by jody rooney on 01/24/2014 - 04:22 pm.

    As an independent contractor I can tell you this article told

    me nothing. There is a lot of “who her” and not much what.

    It makes me wonder is she know what she is talking about or just mouthing something someone told her to say. The wolf crying about construction and mining is certainly a non sequitur.

    A bill that restricts firms from making people independent contractors instead of wage earning employees so that they can cut benefit costs and reduce their liability is certainly worth pursuing.

    Is this the best either party can do for a candidate. This is really someone who sounds like all style no substance.

    Any independent contractor knows the rules are the rules whatever they are they are just the cost of doing business. One would think this would be a job creation bill – you can always hire more paper pushers.

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 01/24/2014 - 04:38 pm.

    I’m surprised

    to see Minnpost print a blatant bit of campaign material.

    It’s well past time that the abuse of ‘independent contractor’ status was reigned in at both the state and federal levels. For far too many industries, it’s been nothing more than a means of avoiding paying the employer’s share of state and federal taxes and required insurance coverage, including but not limited to workers’ compensation, unemployment, Social Security and Medicare.

  3. Submitted by Sean Fahey on 01/24/2014 - 05:39 pm.

    Details?

    How will the congressional hearing, Casey’s bill, and the IRS effort hurt independent contractors? I skimmed the bill, and it seems to be about properly classifying workers as “employees” or “non-employees”, creating a Dept of Labor website that has employee rights info, and looking out for unreported wages.

    You may be right that it squeezes people, or that it’s harmful to the economy, but how can I know that’s true from what you wrote? What is it about these things that is harmful to independent contractors?

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 01/24/2014 - 05:57 pm.

    I’m an independent contractor, too, and I have no idea

    what she is talking about.

    She may be talking about proposals to rein in companies that hire people supposedly as independent contractors, except that they’re required to work under the employer’s direct supervision, during specified hours, with the employers’ equipment, and without the freedom to refuse assignments, thus violating at least four of the criteria for independent contractor status.

    This kind of abuse–a way of weaseling out of paying taxes and benefits to de facto employees–is especially common in the high tech sector.

  5. Submitted by Lauren Hebert on 01/24/2014 - 07:53 pm.

    I See…

    I am not the only one asking exactly what changes are proposed! A tiny little hint would suffice.

  6. Submitted by Matt Haas on 01/24/2014 - 09:43 pm.

    Ah yes

    The freedom for corporate America to further devalue the contribution labor makes tonnes bottom line. At will employment of course being to restrictive (pesky things like work comp, workplace regs, overtime and such), its if course much better, much more FREE to ensure that each and every person is an island. It is of course much more efficient to impose one’s will when the subject of such endeavour has no means to defend themselves and no entity outside themselves to turn to for support. Then again when one is involved in what is for lack of a better term, multi level marketing, one’s view of workplace ethics is probably somewhat distorted.
    .

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/25/2014 - 12:07 pm.

    Very disappointing

    Not a single scrap of actual information, just an opinion based on a belief that regulation is bad and unnecessary. This the same old Republican’s pretending to be a “fresh” face. Tell us Ms. Benz, how “good” are recessions and government shut downs for independent contractors? That’s what your policies always deliver. We heard the same story about how our regulations were killing the financial industry.

  8. Submitted by Lisa Citak on 01/25/2014 - 12:39 pm.

    What are you jabbering about?

    I love my status as an independent contractor and this very poorly written piece of blather told me absolutely nothing of the “dire” changes being contemplated. It seems more effort went into achieving just the right look for the photo than the substance of the article itself. And what is with the dopey flag pin?

  9. Submitted by Amy Farland on 01/25/2014 - 12:55 pm.

    this is a totally useless article

    i speak English and i think she speaks English too but i am not so sure she knows how to communicate. She uses words and mashes them together in a way that collectively the process defeats any attempts to communicate to an audience.

    Kind of reminds me of someone who has to write an essay in school on a subject she/he knows nothing about ….

  10. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 01/26/2014 - 04:41 am.

    Oh my

    I went and read up on this legislation and, as expected, it bears no relation whatsoever to what the author thinks it does. Did Minnpost publish this as a joke? This is one of the most idiotic things I have ever read.

  11. Submitted by David Frenkel on 01/26/2014 - 02:39 pm.

    Congress does a lot of talking but very little of it ends up in legislation. Labors laws are very politically charged and take years if not decades to change.

  12. Submitted by Graeme Allen on 01/27/2014 - 12:28 pm.

    Possible motivations for writing the article..

    Check out Mandy Benz. She’s running for Mn State Rep (Republican) http://mandybenz.nationbuilder.com/

    I think that gives some context to where this is coming from.

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