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MTA Launches Videos: “Keep Independent Contractors”

By: Alice Deters

Alice Deters

Alice is an American Studies & English Double Major at the University of Alabama and aspiring Homes Editor for Southern Living. When she’s not reading, writing, or volunteering with elementary school children, she enjoys spending her time catching up on SEC athletics, perusing the humane society website for possible four-legged friends, or watching PBS documentaries on various historical topics, particularly those related to the American South. Alice currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where her passion for elephant figurines flourishes at a rapid speed.

In the wake of the state’s impending legislation to change the definition of independent contractors (ICs), the Minnesota Trucking Association (MTA) has started a new campaign to “keep Minnesota’s independent contractors trucking.” MTA has recorded a series of videos to educate lawmakers and the general public on the value of ICs to the trucking industry.

The new legislation is beginning to pick up steam, leaving many owner-operators in Minnesota very worried. “Voting to change the statutory definition for independent contractors in the trucking industry takes away our choice, putting small businesses on wheels out of business,” MTA states on its website.

In 2009, the statutory language surrounding an IC changed due to conditions agreed upon by both the MTA and Teamsters. Following elections in 2012, after Minnesota’s government switched to the same party, the Teamsters stated that they sought to “open up the law.” The Teamsters have informed MTA that they will be dropping in a bill during the 2014 legislature session to address loopholes and misclassifications that hurt ICs. Similar bills have been submitted in other states by Teamsters, but MTA is concerned that the bill “would add barriers that would make it nearly impossible to be an IC.”

In the MTA videos, the ICs note the many positives of their job, driving home the freedom and realization of the American dream, something they don’t want to leave behind soon. Many of the drivers also noted the increased family time that accompanies working as an owner operator. “Nobody forced me to become an Independent Contractor,” explained Juan Colon in the video. “It was my own decision for my family and for me. Because family time in the most valuable time…”

Susie Trigloff-Gutierrez, another successful owner operator, echoed these sentiments in her video as well. “As an independent contractor, I am able to take time off when I want to. To see my kids…the pride that they show. They know that Mom works hard.” Another career IC, Sam Harman, noted that increased family time was his catalyst to make the switch from a Union job to being an independent contractor.

MTA for ICsEach of the ICs featured take pride in the important role that they hold and in serving as the leaders in important small businesses. “Being a small business, I’m the boss and what I do reflects on everybody, and I treat my carriers’ customers like they’re my customers,” explained Harman. “It’s up to me to keep this small business going.” Ultimately, Harman said that if Minnesota outlaws independent contractors, he is unsure if he will be able to continue working in the trucking industry.

Independent contractors are not the only ones who are concerned with the negative repercussions of the proposed legislation. Many trucking company owners rely on hard working ICs in order for their businesses to perform the best that they can and would certainly feel the effects of the proposed legislation. While hiring ICs is not the cheapest option for trucking companies, many still choose to do so, as owner operators offer small trucking companies to create more jobs and provide a level of service that is second to none.

“The independent contractors that come on with us bring to our company a different mindset, a different compassion for the customer,” said Joyce Brenny, owner of Brenny Specialized, Inc., a trucking company in Minnesota. “There’s definitely a difference in the commitment level, I think, that an Independent Contractor brings to the table. They have more at stake and it’s what provides our customers with the customer service that they need.”

Brenny explains that the impacts of the proposed legislation could have near catastrophic effects for her business as well as the Independent Contractors that she works with. “If we lost the ability to use Independent Contractors, the effect on our business and on the shipping community would be devastating to say the least. We definitely would see freight slow down, our business would lose millions of dollars… We can’t afford to see that happen.”

Many independent contractors have expressed frustration over being targeted by the legislation. According to the MTA website, successful ICs usually take home more pay than employee truck drivers. Becoming an independent contractor requires much hard work and planning, and IC’s are worried that the new legislation could cause all of that to go to waste.

“It’s something I chose to do. It’s something I love to do. I think that I can make a living at this. Why shouldn’t I have that choice?” said Trigloff-Gutierrez. “[A] Person that opens a business has their choice. Why shouldn’t I have that choice too?”

If you would like to get more information on MTA’s campaign, including access to all of the videos, visit their website. Here, they offer a host of information about many important aspects of the Minnesota Trucking Industry.

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