Comment: Press and Sun Steals from Workers, Employees Included!

As clearly demonstrated “A Newspaper Carrier’s Story or No Wonder the Community is in Bad Shape” by Sarah Jackman published in the last issue of PP, the Press and Sun’s business model puts wage theft at its center. The Press and Sun along with their parent company Gannett is stealing wages and benefits from their paper delivery people through a practice called “misclassification.”                                                                  Across the US employees are routinely called “independent contractors” instead of employees so that big companies can save big bucks. Independent contractors pay higher tax rates and take on costs otherwise born by the company. By misclassifying workers, companies don’t have to pay payroll tax, offer safety trainings, pay unemployment or disability benefits, and are not liable for job related injuries. The worker, however, has to pay higher taxes and is not eligible for social security, unemployment benefits, or legal recourse for off-site work place injuries.   The Press also does not pay for delivery peoples’ gas, car maintenance, rubber bands, etc.                                                                                                              According to the IRS’s definition of an independent contractor, paper delivery persons are NOT independent contractors. An independent contractor is really an employee if the worker is hired “with the expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely, rather than for a specific period” (CHECK!), “if the worker provides services that are a key aspect of the business” (CHECK, AGAIN!) and if the company determines how or when a worker performs their tasks (CHECK, CHECK, CHECK !). Delivery persons have to show up to retrieve papers at a specific time, their employment is not temporary, and they provide a critical part of the Press and Sun’s operations. Delivery persons are employees!                 Last May 1st Kim Bobo, who coined the term “wage theft,” gave an even simpler rule of thumb: “if you wake up in the morning and say ‘I work for myself’, you are an independent contractor. If you wake up in the morning and say ‘I work for so and so’, then you are an employee.” It doesn’t appear this worker would argue for the former.

New York State and BCIDA Enables Press Wage Theft                        

When judging Gannett’s potentially illegal wage theft policies we should also judge the levels of government that condone their actions. Between New York State brownfield tax credits and property tax abatements from BCIDA, the Virginia based company received over $10 in tax breaks to build its Johnson City printing facility. These figures do not include the sales tax and mortgage recording tax breaks the project also received, which could amount to several million more in tax breaks. Not only have our local and state political leaders enabled Gannett’s unjust policies toward delivery persons, but they also enable Gannett’s reliance on part-time labor within the plant itself. According to documents, most of the plant’s employees are part-timers. Wage theft, part-time workers, and tax breaks, and the backing by New York State: that’s how Gannett “earns” its profits!


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