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.
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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