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The benefit of benefits: New law meant to protect independents

By Darryl Enriquez

Change comes hard, I would imagine, to those who wear hardhats.

The state passed a new law to crack down on the misclassification of construction workers from staff to independents.

What that means in dollars and sense is that a misclassified worker is good enough to get paid “under the table” for a day’s work as an independent, but not worth enough to be on staff and paid added compensations, such as unemployment insurance, retirement benefits and/or social security.

What worries state officials is that unscrupulous contractors are foisting the status of independent workers onto their staff in order to cut labor costs up to 30 percent by eliminating the payment of benefits. The state promises on-site inspections to catch violators. It hopes a few whistle-blowers will step forward with info to investigate.

The culture among hardhats does not seem to tolerate tattle tales, which could make implementation of the new law difficult.

Industry and state officials say it will take time and education for contractors to embrace the initiative. It’s not that contractors disagree workers should be fairly compensated within the mandates of the law. They just don’t seem to trust the government bureaucracy that’s steering it. They loathe the idea of cooperating with government if they don’t’ have to.

Who can blame them?

Never volunteer for duty when you’re in the Army. No good deed goes unpunished.

Who can’t feel for the unemployed construction worker with a strong yearning to make an honest living and feed the family. He or she will take the $100 a day for their craft, which is a lot more concrete to them than some law out of Madison.

Besides, it’s better than watching daytime television or doing the dishes.

Darryl Enriquez is a staff writer at The Daily Reporter. He doesn’t do the dishes and TIVOs daytime TV.

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