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Carpenters’ union official to administer unemployment benefits for state (UPDATE)

The longtime head of the Wisconsin carpenters’ union will be the top official administering the state’s unemployment system under Gov. Tony Evers.

The state’s Department of Workforce Development announced last week that Mark Reihl, an executive and lobbyist for the carpenters, will serve as the state’s unemployment-insurance administrator. Reihl had for years been executive director of the Wisconsin State Council Carpenters and then became government affairs and political director for the Wisconsin division of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters after the Wisconsin group was absorbed into the bigger organization.

Reihl said on Monday that he plans to resign his position at the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. He’ll be succeeded by his current assistant, Andrew Disch.

Reihl declined to go into details about what policies he wants to pursue at the Department of Workforce Development.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to work for Gov. Evers and the people of Wisconsin,” he said. “Leaving the Carpenters was a difficult decision, but I’m looking forward to working in state government on issues I care deeply about.”

Reihl’s policy interests in recent years have included worker misclassification, an abuse in which employers deliberately misclassify direct employees as independent contractors in order to avoid having to pay unemployment-insurance taxes and worker’s compensation premiums. In construction, contractors that misclassify employees can gain an advantage in bidding because they have no need to add those tax and premium costs into their bid prices.

Reihl has used his seat on the state’s Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council, a panel that advises lawmakers on ways to improve Wisconsin’s unemployment-benefit laws, to advocate for fighting misclassification. In 2016, legislators responded to recommendations made by Reihl and others on the council by passing a law allowing the state to charge companies $500 for every employee who is found to have been misclassified, although no more than $7,500 for a single incident of misclassification. The year before, the state had hired four investigators specifically for the task of rooting out worker misclassification.

Reihl was chosen for his new role by Caleb Frostman, Evers’ pick to lead the Department of Workforce Development.

“Mark will be an excellent leader in our unemployment insurance division,” Frostman said. “His work in policy, communications and government relations will be an asset to the mission of the agency.”

About Dan Shaw, [email protected]

Dan Shaw is the associate editor at The Daily Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 414-225-1807.

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