I had been a journalist for 27 years when I was laid off the first time in December 2010, an event that left me looking for full-time work for 19 months and birthed this blog, originally called Laid off at 51: Seeking joy in change. In early 2014, after a little more than 30 years in the industry, I was laid off a second time. Change is inevitable, so now I seek a new career.
Friday, April 27, 2012
Labor law protections diminishing
Increasing use of freelancers aids business more than workers
(Image by Stock.xchng vi)
When news came out Monday that the Tribune was laying off a
score of its suburban TribLocal reporters and editors in favor of outsourcing
the work to another company, it caught me unawares and left me disappointed, but
it failed to shock me.
The Trib seemed to have invested a lot in its TribLocal
venture to cover suburban news. Its hiring of reporters and editors to provide
that coverage was a hopeful sign in an industry that in recent years frequently
inspires Dante’s “Abandon all hope ye who enter” this profession. Don’t get me
wrong, I still am excited about the possibilities digital media brings to news
storytelling, but my optimism about re-entering the industry full-time has
plunged to depths I never expected when I was laid off in December 2010.
He admits it’s not Pulitzer-quality material, but it is
community news, from schools to police, that the company produces at a very low
cost. That part of the company’s operation appears to me to be brilliant.
But Journatic does
need some local workers, and is hiring people like me for less than half of
what some of us were getting paid just two years ago; further, Journatic is making the same, perfectly legal
end run around our nation’s labor laws that many newspaper companies and other
corporations are doing these days.
By hiring contractors instead of full-time employees, the
employer avoids paying into Social Security and providing perks like health
insurance. Further, at least in Illinois, companies don’t have to pay unemployment
insurance for contractors. All this comes at a huge savings for employers.
But workers are left holding the bag — having to provide
their own health coverage, no longer assured of steady hours or steady income, and
lacking some of the legal protections enjoyed by full-time employees. Finally, laid-off
workers can collect unemployment benefits, as small as they are. Freelancers/contractors,
however, are restricted in that. Technically, they don’t get laid off, they
lose or end their contract.
To be fair, some freelancers I have come to know over the
years relish their independence, but many others chose that route with hopes of
getting a foot in the door toward full-time work as an employee, not as a
As I continue to descend through what continues to be one of
the worst, most challenging periods of my life, I finding myself questioning
the state of this country. In a nation that is supposed to espouse individual
freedoms, and despite all the laws and regulations pertaining to corporate
America, why does it seem that big business ultimately gets more breaks, more
deals than the little guys do? Even labor laws seem to have lost their luster
in recent years. Is it just me, or does it seem as if we are becoming the land
of the free market and the home of the slave laborers?
The growing use of freelancers/contractors appears to me to
erode the laws geared toward protecting workers, and I do not believe that is
good for our nation.
it is legal, and politicians will defend it as necessary for the nation as a
result of the Great Recession. In tough times, we all have to bite the bullet,
you know — some of us, apparently, more than others.