NCRA has set up a campaign to oppose a rule change around independent contractors. We are all entitled to make public comments via the little comment bubble on this page.
Sadly, I have to take the complete opposite stance on this. I’ve written about misclassification in many articles. My public comment will reflect as much, and I’d like to share it here.
“The proposed rule change is exactly what my industry needs. I am in the court reporting industry, and though our national association, the National Court Reporters Association, stands against this change, I feel it is of paramount importance. Many stenographers today are treated as common law employees. The agencies/companies control the customer. They decide the prices. They have the advertising. We do the work, and despite being the mainstay of the business, many of us are labeled independent contractors. All of the ‘benefits’ of being labeled an independent contractor could be secured through unionization and adequate employment contracts.
I suspect there are many industries like mine where people will be rallied against change by the powers that be because the powers that be benefit the most from the status quo and the people cannot take the time to read through and understand your wall of text.
The true independent contractors of my field would be unaffected by this change whether or not they are willing to acknowledge it. Please go forward, do the right thing, and consider the economic dependence of workers when deciding whether they are independent contractors or employees. It will secure a lot more rights for a lot more people.”
Why? For better or worse, I have decided to be an advocate of the working reporter. We have been conditioned to think “independent contracting good.” It has been used to systematically rob us of rights we should have as working people. Rights against illegal discrimination, something that probably saved my career after my mental health episode. Rights to compensation when injured on the job. Rights to unionize. Even our most basic right of free speech is destroyed by the independent contractor label under the cloud of “we can’t discuss rates.” As an employee, the working reporter would have the absolute right to discuss pay and working conditions.
To the extent that trade associations are groups of independent contractors, this kind of thing probably seems threatening to NCRA. If there are fewer independent contractors, they may have fewer members, fewer dollars, and less power. But this is a shortsighted observation. My publications stating that the New York market is 30 years behind inflation have gone undisputed. Many of you in many markets across the country are feeling a pinch in the wallet thanks to stagnating pay and rising inflation. That’s while the agencies charge consumers sky-high prices and blame us for them. If associations want to survive, they need to understand that court reporters at the bottom end of the pay gap need to make more money. We can’t afford to rally against things that are good for the overall long-term health of our profession, and in my estimation, this is such a moment.
Note that the big box agencies will likely be really quiet about this and let the NCRA handle it. They wouldn’t be quiet if it wasn’t in their interest to be so. They benefit from the status quo more than NCRA or any other player on the field. If they come out in opposition to the rule change, it’s a dead giveaway that it’s bad news for the working reporter.
I understand these ideas may be unpopular, but I am a believer in the power of one. This is an issue that, from my research and experience, touches my soul so deeply I’m willing to speak out against an organization I’ve been a member of for over a decade. Ask yourself what you would do if you found yourself in such a position, and you’ll know exactly how I feel today.