MAGA House Republicans attack workers again
Rep. Virginia Foxx, MAGA Republican of North Carolina, is a ringleader in the effort to allow companies to underpay workers by calling them independent contractors with no labor rights. Foxx has said unions themselves are unconstitutional. | CQ Roll Call

WASHINGTON —The Republican House majority on the Education and the Workforce Committee—ideologues for whom “Labor” in its title was a dirty word so they removed it–attacked workers again.

This time, they approved House Joint Resolution 116, the equivalent of a law if a president signs it, would abolish the Biden Administration Labor Department’s new rule that makes it much tougher for shady businesses to misclassify their workers as “independent contractors.” The committee OK’d it on a party-line vote on March 21, just before lawmakers skipped town for another of their many two-week recesses.

In its place: A Trump-era rule which gives those bosses a much freer hand, and lets them deprive workers of the right to organize, while cutting “labor costs” for the crooks in half, one estimate says. HJRes 116 would enshrine the anti-worker Trump rule forever.

Under that Trump rule, when a worker is misclassified as an independent contractor, she must pay both the boss’s share and her share of Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, she can’t get jobless benefits or workers’ comp and her boss can pay her below the minimum wage, with no overtime pay

Needless to say, unions and their allies want to keep the new Biden rule, which curbs the corporate class’s exploitation. Rep. Kevin Kiley, R-Calif., the lawmaker who introduced the abolition move—which would be a permanent ban—and rabidly anti-union anti-worker panel chair Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., love abolition of Biden’s pro-worker rule.

Kiley said so when he introduced the ban of Biden’s rule. Foxx said so in the committee’s work session on March 21.

Tips the scale toward business

Trump’s “rule unfairly tipped the scales toward businesses rather than the workers DOL is supposed to protect,” the unions and their allies retorted in a joint letter to House and Senate legislative leaders, anticipating floor fights on this Republican brainstorm.

Signers included the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Communications Workers, the Coalition of Labor Union Women, both big teachers’ unions, and the Economic Policy Institute and its Florida affiliate.

The Teamsters, North America’s Building Trades, Jobs With Justice, the Service Employees, Pride at Work, Workers Circle, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and National Employment Law Project also backed the Biden “independent contractors” rule and opposed the Trump scheme.

So did two construction contractors’ associations, one representing 15,000 contractors overall, and the other representing sheet metal contractors. They said the Biden rule would level the playing field for honest contractors as opposed to low-ball operators.

Trump’s pro-corporate rule “had particularly damaging impacts for women, Black workers, immigrants, people of color, and people with disabilities who disproportionately hold precarious, low- paid jobs,” the letter says. “DOL’s 2024 Independent Contractor Rule honors the FLSA’s intent and restores the scope of the FLSA’s coverage so millions of workers are not left without bedrock minimum wage and overtime rights and protections.”

Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia, the panel’s top Democrat, tried futilely to head off the Republicans’ planned permanent ban on a pro-worker independent contractor rule. But to quote legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley about Hubert Humphrey’s presidential election defeat, Scott “lost because he didn’t have the votes.”

Foxx and Kiley blasted the Biden DOL’s independent contractor rule.

“This new rule is about to throw our entire workforce into chaos,” said Kiley in introducing his legislation earlier this year. “Fortunately, it has already invited four different lawsuits proceeding in different parts of the country.”

“The ability for American free enterprise to function has been more under attack,” Foxx squawked. “What’s more, the fundamental right for workers to earn an honest living on their own terms is even at stake.

“Allowing for entrepreneurship through pursuits such as independent contracting is how we will repair the American economy,” she said, disregarding—among other data—the nation’s low jobless rate and real wage increases outpacing inflation.

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Press Associates
Press Associates

Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.