I wrote last week that Gov. Pat McCrory hadn’t made any effort to fix the problem of construction companies treating laborers as independent contractors.
This practice breaks the law. It gives cheating companies an unfair advantage over their competitors. It saves the dishonest companies money but typically leaves workers without Social Security contributions or workers’ comp coverage. This cheating, which happens in North Carolina and across the country, also deprives governments of billions of tax dollars.
This was the subject of our “Contract to Cheat” series, which we published this week. You can read it at nando.com/contracttocheat.
After my column was published, McCrory’s communications officers said he had taken steps to address the problem and had made progress. They said that the state Industrial Commission, whose chairman was appointed by McCrory, developed a fraud-alerting tool and that in the past 14 months, 26 criminal charges have been filed against employers who failed to maintain workers’ comp insurance.
Workers’ comp is part of this problem – but there are many other aspects. A task force reported to McCrory in early 2013 with several steps that could have been taken long before now.
McCrory told News & Observer reporter Mandy Locke this week that he would support legislation to penalize companies that knowingly treat workers as independent contractors when they should be treated as hourly employees.
Absent from our coverage has been any comment from Cherie Berry, the state labor commissioner who, like McCrory, is a Republican. Berry has declined to be interviewed by The N&O, saying she would respond only to written questions.
We want to interview Berry in person or on the phone so we can ask follow-up questions. If Berry has concerns about accuracy, she’s free to tape the interview and post it on her website.
Berry is a statewide elected official who makes good money ($125,000 a year) and supervises an important department. She should be able to talk about a serious problem that harms honest employers and employees.
Rep. Rick Glazier, a Democrat from Fayetteville, criticized “the willful blindness and the woeful inadequacy” of Berry’s department.
Berry’s silence on this matter is puzzling. She is, after all, the state labor commissioner, charged with protecting the workers in the state, including enforcing the Wage and Hour Act. If she has any thoughts about the cheating, we would be glad to report them.
The Triangle arts scene is booming. To help cover this community, we’ve launched ArtsNowNC.com, a digital home connecting those who create and support the arts.
“We’ll do this by giving artists and their supporters a platform to introduce themselves and their work through guest blog posts and videos,” says The N&O’s Mike Williams, curator for ArtsNow. “We’ll help you make an emotional connection with performers and artists through behind-the-scenes videos and photos on social media.”
PNC Bank underwrites the cost of the site. The N&O retains editorial control.
For more, please see Williams’ article in Sunday’s Arts & Living section. Even better, please visit the site and see what it’s all about.
Support Thumbs Up?
We started our youth achievement page, Thumbs Up, four years ago. Readers love the feature in Monday’s paper. We report about school-age kids and their successes in Scouts, spelling bees, science contests, dance, music, volunteering and other activities.
However, we’ve lost underwriting support, and the page is in jeopardy. If you are interested in underwriting Thumbs Up, please contact The N&O’s development director, Tonya Taylor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.