In this episode, Mark shares a real life story of a woman who was loyal to the company and did everything they asked of her. We have modified the names and facts to conceal the identities and ensure confidentiality. Her boss was a billionaire but by his actions you would consider him a cheap capitalist. They refused to make her an employee with health benefits and she struggled for seven years as an independent contractor, working 60-70 hours per week, until the company finally made a her full time employee with health benefits. She had two pregnancies while working, and her employer forced her to work during her pregnancy leaves. Soon after, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and needed surgery and chemo therapy. She continued to work tirelessly even while on medical leave. Her cancer spread, she needed more surgery to remove her ovaries and more chemo therapy. She continued to work through her recovery. But then her employer forced her out on family medical leave without her consent, twice. The second time she was not allowed to return to work and forced into disability leave of absence. The company cut off her health insurance when they terminated her, just as she was to receive further cancer treatments. Her husband was also suffering from cancer and no access to health insurance. Mark provides commentary about the employer’s discriminatory and unlawful actions to get rid of this employee solely because she was a woman, over forty, and diagnosed with two forms of cancer.
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This article is directed at Google employees who participated in or wanted to participate in recent walkouts and signed open letters to management. Googlers stop wasting your time trying to form a union or engaging in public organizing efforts, there is a more effective way to get management to bow to your demands and without the risk of termination. There is no need to risk losing your job like Laurence Berland, Sophie Waldman, Paul Duke and Rebecca Rivers. Google management will squash your efforts to align with the Communication Workers of America. The CWA only wants your union dues and will never protect you from discrimination and retaliation under federal and state employment laws.
Back in the fall of 2019, the NY Times published an article about how disrespected Google employees were embracing and becoming inspired by a recently republished short book about labor organizing and solidarity to effect changes within the company. Curious, I purchased the small paperback to understand why Googlers were continuing to protest under the following call to action: “A company is nothing without its workers. From the moment we start at Google we’re told that we aren’t just employees; we’re owners. Every person who walked out today is an owner, and the owners say: Time’s up.” (Source).
The NY Times story summarized the current movement at Google as follows: “Some workers argued that they could win fairer pay policies and a full accounting of harassment claims by filing lawsuits or seeking to unionize. But the argument that gained the upper hand, especially as the debate escalated in the weeks after the walkout, held that those approaches would be futile, according to two people involved. Those who felt this way contended that only a less formal, worker-led organization could succeed, by waging mass resistance or implicitly threatening to do so.”
For Googlers, the way forward in their labor battle to effect positive change should not and cannot in any way remotely relate to a “labor organization” as that term is defined under the National Labor Relations Act. Management at Google has already brought in their consultants to “fix” the problem, mainly by convincing employees not to organize. There is a new way to maintain a collective voice but without the fear of reprisal and termination.
Just Say “No” To Unions
Googlers must vote “No” to unionization and collective bargaining, but vote “Yes”
to a decentralized and leaderless collective. Liz Shuler, the secretary-treasurer of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. stated in the NY Times article above, “You don’t have the law behind you to protect you like you would if you have recognized agents like a union,” Either you accept Ms. Shuler’s mantra, and that of union activists nationwide, or you move forward, all the way forward, and accept the advent of a new non-unionization movement that is happening right now. The NLRA won’t catch up to this new momentum because the statute is irrelevant. Management will not know how to quell this collectivism because there is no centralized labor organization to bargain with and that’s the essential point, it is leaderless and decentralized.
The Hong Kong Protest Method
Employees can now realize their true leverage to invoke change within their organizations, without the need to form a represented collective bargaining unit to address their concerns with management. I now propose the Hong Kong Protest Method to employment civil disobedience, but without the element of violence. A decentralized and leaderless movement that has no discernable identity for government regulators to challenge them. Yet the protest movement in Hong Kong fully describes its’ strategy of inclusion via Wikipedia, “[t]hrough a participatory process of digital democracy activists are able to collaborate by voting on tactics and brainstorming next moves in an egalitarian manner in which everybody has an equal say. Telegram chat groups and online forums with voting mechanisms to make collective decisions have facilitated this type of flexible co-ordination.”
Googlers now have access to technology on their phones to air their concerns collectively under the radar in order to defeat a formidable opponent like management. Under the cloak of pseudonyms on message boards, airdrop communication broadcasts and other forms of subversive communications, employees can complain about important issues such as forced arbitration, sexual harassment, ending pay inequality, boycotting Project Dragonfly, without the fear of retaliation. What has worked in Hong Kong can work here inside of Google.
It is time to begin and give the real owners of Google a fair say in the direction of the company. Management will have no choice but to tolerate your dissent, because Google can’t fire all of you!
If you would like more information about this article, please contact Mark Carey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-255-4150.
California’s just passed a bill that, once signed by Governor Gavin Newsom, will require gig economy workers to be reclassified as employees. The bill codified a recent decision by the California Supreme Court, Dynamex Operations West v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County, which laid out a new standard for when workers should be classified as employees rather than independent contractors for purposes of California’s wage order rules. Under the new California bill, workers are classified as employees if the company directs their tasks and their work is part of the company’s main business.
Unlike contractors, employees are entitled to a number of benefits and protections under both federal and state laws. Restricting the standards for classifying workers as independent contractors will make it harder for gig economy companies to prove that their workers aren’t staff, while ensuring key benefits and protections, like minimum wage, insurance and overtime pay.
Other states have adopted legislation extending benefits such as unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation to independent contractors, but California’s bill is the strongest and most comprehensive to date. Similar bills aimed at protecting workers have been drafted in other states such as New York, Oregon and Washington.
Governor Newsom is still engaged in negotiations with Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies about possible exceptions or caveats to the bill. According to Uber, the work of its drivers falls outside the scope of the company’s usual course of business: serving as a technology platform. It remains to be seen whether this argument will allow the company, and those with a similar business model, to keep its drivers from being classified as employees.
Reactions to the bill are split. Some argue that that the new classification framework will force employers to cut back on hiring in the face of rising costs. Some Uber and Lyft drivers worry that that it will curtail their work schedule flexibility. California contractors in remote-based fields have expressed concern that if other states do not follow suit, they will be unable to find work when companies opt for workers from other states who can be classified as independent contractors without needing to be added to the payroll.
But the bill could affect not only gig workers at companies like Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart, it could change the employment status of more than a million low-wage workers in California, including nail salon workers, janitors and construction workers who are not covered by labor laws.
If you would like more information about your independent contractor situation, please contact us or email to email@example.com and speak with one of our employment attorneys.
By Mark Carey
Imagine you could save thousands, millions if not billions of dollars by refusing to pay your taxes. Oh and there’s a catch, you have to be an employer here in the U.S. Well, it is happening and we are all victims of this well-worn business scheme to misclassify employees as independent contractors, even though the employer controls every aspect of their employment. Independent contractors pay more in self-employment tax, receive no health insurance and state and federal governments lose payroll tax deposits.
On May 28, 2019, the New York Times report that nearly one half of Google’s workforce are independent contractors. Google employs 102,000 full time employees and 121,000 independent contractors. According to an Inc.com article, nearly 20 percent of all business intentionally misclassify employees as independent contractors, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute.
At Google, employees revolted and threatened a walkout on twitter, writing “It’s time to end the two-tier system that treats some workers as expendable. From rideshare drivers, to cafeteria workers, to the many contractors who build and maintain tech products: we all contribute, and we all deserve a share”. Another group of independent contractors sent an open letter to the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, complaining of unfair treatment and abuse. The company responded with some vague illusory statement of change. Nothing is going to change and I would place this item in the political basket. When enough people become aware and then outraged by this gross fraudulent conduct, just maybe the issue will perk into a political football to be debated in the next election.
What are we all waiting for? How and when will this change? I say never. So long as businesses are motivated by the financial profit of misclassifying employees, this illegal and fraudulent practice will continue. Companies reap billions in savings by not paying FICA, unemployment benefits, workers compensation and health insurance to their independent contractors. Sure, employee and class action lawsuits help but do not deter further abuse by companies. Both state and federal governments are overwhelmed and underfunded, thus there is no remedy in sight.
If you need more information about working as an independent contractor, please do not hesitate to contact our office.