“Right to Work” cause is misleading, benefits employers, not workers

Dear editor,

In this past week’s edition Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, wrote an opinion telling us that in order to improve the job market in Vermont we need to become a “right-to-work” state and that all workers should become “independent contractors” instead of employees. If employees became contractors, business owners would not have to pay for any employee benefits like FICA, social security, medicare, worker’s compensation, health care. Employees turned contractors would have to pay for these themselves! Business benefits, workers lose.

In actuality, most employees do not even fit the legal definition of independent contractor. According to the IRS, “you are not an independent contractor if you perform services that can be controlled by an employer (what will be done and how it will be done).” Basically, you cannot be considered a contractor if you work under the direction of an employer. Independent contractors work for themselves and decide what and how the work is accomplished for the people paying them.

In addition, the employee-turned-contractor scenario also effectively wipes out unions and negates the power of the workforce to negotiate for higher pay. Remember, it was unions that bravely fought for and won the 40-hour work week, overtime after 40 hours, child labor laws, workplace safety laws, minimum wage, pensions, health care benefits and social security, to name just a few. Instead, Roper wants hundreds of employees trekking into their employer’s office on an individual basis to negotiate for themselves. Ridiculous. This is the exact reason why collective bargaining was born. The fact is: strong unions create a strong and healthy workforce for ALL workers.

It appears that Roper, along with the industrial multi-billionaire Koch brothers and others like them, who bankroll the Ethan Allen Institute, is pushing for a right-to-work state for a good reason: more profits for large corporations. For more about Ethan Allen Institute’s out-of-state funding see: https://thevpo.org/2015/04/20/ethan-allen-institute-follow-the-money/. If the Ethan Allen Institute had to rely on monetary support from Vermonters, it would probably cease to exist.

Billionaires and conservative think tanks like the Ethan Allen Institute are not concerned about improving the lives of ordinary Vermonters; their interests revolve around profits, even at the expense of working people. Conservative representatives right here in Vermont are voting against workers’ interests. An example is the recent paid Sick Day Bills that passed the House this session.

Jim and Cindy Weed, Enosburg, Vt.

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