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Superior Court Judge Lisa Foster on Sept. 21 ruled that a suit by 1,300 newspaper carriers against the Union-Tribune can be certified as a class action. The carriers charge that they were misclassified as independent contractors when they were actually employees of the company.

The law firm pressing the suit, Orange County's Callahan & Blaine, previously got class action status for 5,000 carriers of the Orange County Register. This resulted in a $40 million settlement that some say was a factor in helping to shove the paper's parent, Freedom Communications, into bankruptcy.

Daniel Callahan of the law firm says, "It is a nationwide trend when delivery personnel are essential to the conduct of a company's business that those individuals be treated as employees and not independent contractors."

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 Sept. 27, 2011 @ 9:26 a.m.

Independent contractors can make their own hours, which automatically takes a carrier out of the IC status.

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Don Bauder Sept. 27, 2011 @ 12:52 p.m.

If that is the criterion, U-T should settle, as OC Register did. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Sept. 27, 2011 @ 2:33 p.m.

It is not surprising to learn of another instance of the U-T taking a very hard-ball stance with a group of its employees. The carriers are key players in keeping paid circulation up. Yet so often the newspapers treat delivery as an afterthought. Anyone can pretend that his/her employees are independent contractors, thus avoiding the employer share of payroll taxes and workers compensation. But not just anyone can make it stick if scrutinized. Right now it is a favored scam, and oddly enough many workers rather like it, because they can also avoid paying as much in payroll taxes. (Later on, in retirement, they will learn that they outsmarted themselves.)

I remember the former Sunbeam bakery in the downtown SD area trying this sort of thing with their delivery drivers. They obliged the employees to buy the truck and then paid them on a basis of loaves delivered. While I don't remember how it came out when some of the drivers sued, I do know that the business is no more. Later it changed its name to Fornaca Family Bakers or something similar, and built a brand new, supposedly state-of-the-art plant in Escondido. That didn't work out, and the family lost a fortune. That the family was supposedly Sicilian might explain things; the reader can reach his/her own conclusions.

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Don Bauder Sept. 27, 2011 @ 8:29 p.m.

I was with the U-T for 30 years, and the subject of making the carriers independent contractors would frequently come up in conversations. I always thought it was a shabby practice. Best, Don Bauder

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Submariner Sept. 27, 2011 @ 10:15 p.m.

Way to go, U-T carriers. May your class action stick it to the same company that has stuck it to so many of us over the past five years.

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Don Bauder Sept. 28, 2011 @ 3:29 p.m.

This categorization of carriers goes back many more years than five. Best, Don Bauder

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Burwell Sept. 27, 2011 @ 11:39 p.m.

The U-Ts attempt to exploit these carriers by robbing them of unemployment, workers compensation, and disability benefits is truly sickening. It is not clear who is being sued: the old Copley Press or Platinum Equity. If David Copley is the responsible party, I hope the jury goes hog wild and ruins him with a huge judgment. I am very concerned that if Platinum Equity is culpable, it will fire more U-T employees if it is hit with a judgment.

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Don Bauder Sept. 28, 2011 @ 3:31 p.m.

Some say the $40 million judgment against the OC Register was one reason the parent company went into bankruptcy. I can't say whether that is true or not. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 28, 2011 @ 4:57 p.m.

I am very concerned that if Platinum Equity is culpable, it will fire more U-T employees if it is hit with a judgment. == B-if they fired the carriers the paper would cease to exist, so that is not really an option, they will just have toi cowboy up and pay an honest days wage for an honest days work.

These IC scams are done for one reason, to get out of the payroll taxes and boost the bottom line at the expense of the poor who are doing these skilless, but necessary, jobs. Businesses who do this deserve to be sued and deserve to be hit with major liabiltiy judgments. Ripping off the poor and those least abole to care for themselves because they ares tuck in deadend jobs like this is the bottom of the barrel, the lowest of the low.

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Scorekeeper Sept. 28, 2011 @ 11:39 a.m.

For the sake of accuracy, the carriers at UT and , as far as I know, virtually all newspapers in this country are independent contractors and have been so for decades. Its nothing new. What is new was a successful lawsuit in Orange County which went against the usual precedent of the courts siding with the companies. I don't know the specifics of the case up there, ( I believe Freedom changed attorneys in mid stream!) but do know that the same firm that represented the carriers is handling not only the case against UT but also one involving the Sacramento Bee.

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Don Bauder Sept. 28, 2011 @ 3:33 p.m.

Yes, Callahan & Blaine filed the Orange County and Sacramento cases. Best, Don Bauder

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WhatGoesAround Sept. 28, 2011 @ 1:20 p.m.

Question for Don and/or SurfPuppy: In addition to independent contractors making their own hours -- doesn't the IRS also look at whether the employer establishes the ground rules -- that is, directs -- the work of an alleged IC? Apparently the single criterion of who sets the hours was sufficient, but it seems like the other one I've mentioned could have also applied. This is a fascinating legal case and sounds like it is long overdue.

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Don Bauder Sept. 28, 2011 @ 3:35 p.m.

There is not much leeway on hours. Newspapers have to be delivered in the wee hours of the morning. Ditto for papers that go in dispensing machines. Best, Don Bauder

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 28, 2011 @ 4:52 p.m.

In addition to independent contractors making their own hours -- doesn't the IRS also look at whether the employer establishes the ground rules -- that is, directs -- the work of an alleged IC? == Absolutely. This exactly why these carriers are NOT independant contractors. They are employees, with set hours and set wages.

Many employers TRY to pull the IC scam so they get around paying payroll taxes, costs like SS, workers comp, things like that. But the IC rule is very simple, you are essentially your own boss working under the flag/license of another. You call the shots on hours. you are generally not supervised, not directed, you have broad discretion on how to work your business splan. For example when I was a commercial real estate broker, I worked in UTC where we had an office, and everyone came in M-F usually from 7 or 8 until 5 or 6. But if I wanted to come in at 11AM I would. If I wanted to work form home I would. If I wanted to leave at 11:30 to work out at my gym in Solana Beach from 12-1 I would. If I wanted to play golf on Friday's I would. No one could stop me or interfer. Of course I was also on straight commission.

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Don Bauder Sept. 28, 2011 @ 10:47 p.m.

Sounds like you think that's why the OC Register settled. Best, Don Bauder

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Visduh Sept. 28, 2011 @ 9:42 p.m.

Yes, a major crackdown on this scam is long overdue. It is just another way to making the public pay for things the employer should cover. No workers comp? Well, the hospital must provide emergency medical care to all, and a basically destitute IC will never pay for the care given. Wonderful Texas pioneered this scam; I heard of some absolutely scandalous abuses of it there as far back as the 70's. Things such as factories with assembly lines claiming its employees were IC's and paying nothing in payroll taxes. Small, tinhorn employers doing such things might be expected and allowed to slip under the regulatory radar, but when large, established employers, such as the U-T get into it, it needs to be challenged and smacked down. If an employer such at the U-T can get away with that abuse, who is safe?

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Don Bauder Sept. 28, 2011 @ 10:49 p.m.

Good point. In the courts, though, media get away with things that other kinds of businesses don't -- for reasons which I am sure you understand. Best, Don Bauder

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