State Politics

NC Senate moves to make newspaper carriers company employees

Sen. Trudy Wade
Sen. Trudy Wade

Newspapers would have to treat carriers like employees rather than independent contractors under a bill the Senate approved Monday.

The bill, which would require newspapers to include carriers in workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment, and payroll tax payments, passed 29-14 and goes back to the House for a vote.

Senators supporting the bill said it closes a loophole carved out for newspapers.

The North Carolina Press Association opposes the bill. Carriers are “classic examples of independent contractors,” said John Bussian, a lobbyist for the press association.

Carriers often deliver newspapers for a second or third source of income, he said.

This is the second time in two years that Senate Republicans have tried to classify carriers as newspaper employees. In 2015, the House did not agree to the change.

The Senate added a provision to an unrelated House bill on workers’ compensation for some prisoners. The Senate change repeals a 2003 law that followed a split decision by the state Industrial Commission, finding that a carrier for a Monroe newspaper was entitled to workers’ compensation for injuries suffered in a car wreck while delivering papers.

Sen. Trudy Wade, a Guilford County Republican, said in a statement last week that the provision was partly inspired by a series in the News & Observer and Charlotte Observer on misclassification of employees.

The series focused on construction companies misclassifying workers to save money. Wade’s provision deals only with newspapers.

“We appreciate our state’s news media for shedding light on the far-too-common practice of employee misclassification in North Carolina,” Wade said in a statement last week. “Surely the same industry that brought the problem to our attention will recognize this inconsistency between what they report and editorialize on and what they practice, and support this important reform to protect their own hard workers.”

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner