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Independent contractor classification bills miss the mark

By Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

Senate Bill 5513 by Senator Karen Keiser and House Bill 1515 by Representative Marcus Riccelli miss the mark on addressing a problem they purport to solve.

There is no disagreement on the issue; some unscrupulous employers mistreat and abuse the independent contractor system and skirt it by not paying unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and other taxes.  These businesses hurt the whole system and put honest, law-abiding businesses at a competitive disadvantage.  The businesses that do cheat the system are often referred to as “the underground economy.”  This practice is most prevalent in construction but on occasion occurs in other industries.

The problem with the bills is that they take a shotgun approach to what calls for a surgical solution.  The independent contractor system and test have been in place for years and have been working well for literally thousands of Washington citizens who want to work for themselves, and not for a company. If a bill passes, it would reclassify people who prefer to be independent contractors as employees of companies they work for on a temporary basis.

Independent contractors can be found throughout society and at all levels.  From the mom who sells Mary Kay, Avon or Amway to the immigrant drayage truck driver trying to live the American dream, to the janitor starting his or her own small, independent business, or the gardener.  At the bill hearings on Monday, an estimated 1,000 hair stylists/hairdressers showed up at the Capitol to voice their opposition to these bills being an attack on their way of life.

If the goal is to truly get at the cheats and underground economy, then let’s craft a bill that actually does that.  SB 5513 and HB 1515 are not the solutions.

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