Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Legislation Would Help Save the Paper Boy (and Girl)

Massachusetts state Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg of Northampton said today he would file a bill to help save the jobs of newspaper carriers. His statement followed the announcement earlier in the day that Northampton's newspaper, the Daily Hampshire Gazette, and its sibling paper, the Greenfield Recorder, would end their long-standing custom of having boys and girls deliver the newspaper to neighborhood homes.

Rosenberg's announcement said that he began working on the bill after learning that state employment officials had begun classifying newspaper carriers as employees, instead of as independent contractors, thereby requiring newspaper companies to pay their unemployment insurance fees.

Rosenberg’s bill, which has yet to be filed, would more clearly define the role of news carriers within a newspaper company and exempt the companies from state unemployment fees, his announcement said.
"Newspapers are absolutely critical to the advancement of our democracy, and news boys and girls are a part of Americana that I, personally, can’t stand the thought of losing. How many of us first learned the value of work delivering newspapers? These jobs are important for our local young people, and adults alike, and I’m not willing to see them go to big corporations without a fight."
Legislation to address this issue is badly needed. A 2004 change to Massachusetts law eliminated the traditional "right to control" test used to determine whether someone is an employee or an independent contractor. It was replaced with a new standard which required, among other things, that an independent contractor be providing a service that is "outside the usual course of the business of the employer." This makes virtually any freelancer an employee under the law if the freelancer's work has any relation to the business.

Today's announcement from the Gazette said it would shift home newspaper delivery to a national distribution company effective Oct. 26.

"Massachusetts, in a couple of areas, is taking a hard look at independent contractors," Gazette Publisher Jim Foudy said in the article. "They've been making some statements, taking some actions. We believe they're going to say these people need to be employees."

"This is a business decision. We just realized we needed to move on this before we end up finding ourselves with enormous additional costs," Foudy said.

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