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Leave it to Evers: Tony’s Big Labor payback

Empower Wisconsin | March 16,  2020

MADISON — As expected, Gov. Tony Evers Big Labor-ladened Joint Task Force on Payroll and Worker Misclassification has unanimously approved recommendations aimed to please some of Evers’ biggest contributors.

The recommendations ultimately target all contractors, not just the bad apples, and players in the emerging gig economy.

State Sen. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) and Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) did not attend Thursday’s teleconference. That left an already union-heavy task force to approve proposals that would:

  • Recreate the contractor registry program that was created in 2009 and eliminated in July 2013.
  • Create an interagency coordinated enforcement team.
  • Hire more state employees to investigate and enforce.
  • Increase penalties, eliminate caps, and expand the current construction-only penalties to other industries.

Firms with repeat violations or contractors hiring unregistered or suspended contractors would not be allowed to participate in the contractor registry. Penalties would include a ban from bidding on any public project and certain tax credits.

John Schulze, director of legal and government relations for Associated Builders and Contractors of Wisconsin, said bad employers breaking the law and taking advantage of their workers should be punished. Evers’ task force’s recommendations, however, are “all stick and no carrot.”

“Currently, Wisconsin employers have to follow as many as five different tests to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee,” Schulze said. “The task force should have recommended consolidating those various standards into one bright line rule. Also, the task force should have recommended a ‘no-fault audit’ for employers to help them follow the law.”

While the governor has painted a picture of corrupt companies robbing Wisconsin’s working men and women, his task force has failed to address the problematic patchwork of confusing, disconnected labor laws that have cost well-intentioned businesses big, industry advocates say.

Call it return on investment for Big Labor. As MacIver News Service reported, the governor’s campaign hauled in north of $1.57 million from unions, or about 40 percent of the nearly $4 million Evers collected in 2018 campaign contributions. The Carpenters union, for instance, contributed $172,000 to Evers’ campaign.

It’s expected the Democrat will roll the task force’s recommendations into his state budget proposal next year.

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