I wrote this op-ed published today by The Washington Post, trying to alert everyone who works as an independent contractor, or whose business hires independent contractors, that what’s going on right now in New Jersey is going to affect employment law for all Americans going forward—for many years to come.
Please, give it a read and share widely. The upshot:
“The independent contractor laws now being written in a handful of states are setting precedents for how the language is going to be written across the country. If we screw this up in New Jersey now, then millions of Americans stand to be screwed over later.”
Today, I had an op-ed published in the Star-Ledger, which is the biggest newspaper in my home state of New Jersey. It explains how legislation that started out in California has now come here, and how it could wipe successful freelance journalists like me out of business altogether.
The crux of the problem is that we need to have a national conversation about the meaning of the term “independent contractor” in the age of the gig economy. Here in New Jersey, lawmakers are trying to solve a problem with improperly classified workers at companies like Uber and Lyft—who should be full-timers, but aren’t—in a way that loops all independent contractors into the chaos.
Independent contractors come in a lot of flavors, including freelance journalists like me, who are not misclassified. We’re independent contractors by choice, we’re successful and we pay our taxes. That’s why I wrote this op-ed, and why I hope that New Jersey’s lawmakers come to understand that they shouldn’t be solving one problem while creating an entirely new one.
And if you think it won’t happen in your state, think again: New York already has a version of this legislation on tap for 2020, and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has said she backs these types of laws. This is a New Jersey problem right now, but it’s a federal problem in the long run—and it matters to millions of people like me who earn their livings as independent contractors.
I’m humbled and thrilled to share the news that for the second year in a row, I’ve been named a finalist in the magazine industry’s Folio: Eddie Awards.
And even better this year, I’m a finalist with a friend. I’m one of three finalists in the category Best Range of Work by a Single Author, for articles I wrote in the marine magazine Soundings. One of the other two finalists in that category is Pim Van Hemmen, who is the executive editor at Soundings. We always have eyes on each other’s work, pushing to make the reporting and writing as great as we can under the watch of Editor-in-Chief Jeanne Craig.
So, the way I see it, if either Pim or I win, we all win this year. (The same goes for Anglers Journal, a sister publication to Soundings that I help to edit, and that is a finalist for best full issue.)
Each finalist in the Range of Work category had to submit multiple articles that show the ability to write across various topics. My pieces competing in this category are about national policy on offshore seismic blasting and its effect on the marine ecosystem, the American Civil Liberties Union joining the legal battle against suspicionless searches of boats out on the water, retired military divers putting their skills to use to protect coral reefs, a man trying to bring back wind-powered cargo shipping on the Hudson River, and the monstrous sargassum blooms happening in Florida and the Caribbean.
I’m honored to have been named a finalist for this award. My sincere thanks to the judges, along with best-of-luck wishes to all the other finalists when the winners are announced in October.
In 2016, I published the book The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers. A person who read that book was keenly interested in Chapter One, which took readers inside America’s biggest legal dog auction and showed that not just breeders, but also nonprofit rescuers are regularly doing business there. About 18 months after I first spoke with that person, in April 2018, I published the article “Dog Fight” on the Sunday front page of The Washington Post. It documented, for the first time in American history, a multimillion-dollar river of cash running through dozens of rescue nonprofits and into the pockets of the very breeders they decry as “puppy mills.”
Now, there’s another layer. A person who read the article “Dog Fight” reached out to me about six months ago and essentially said, “But wait, there’s more.” Today, my latest story about what’s really going on behind the scenes of America’s dog industry came online. It’s my first-ever piece for HuffPost, titled “When ‘Puppy Mill Rescue’ Blurs the Line Between Saving and Selling Dogs.”
The new story alone is based on interviews with nearly 40 people (including more than a dozen current and former staffers, volunteers and directors from the multimillion-dollar nonprofit rescue that is the focus); the rescue group’s inspection reports going back to early 2017; a slew of documents, photos and videos from inside the nonprofit; and more than 7,500 documents received through open-records requests in seven states where the nonprofit sources dogs and puppies.
To the best of my knowledge, this new story is the deepest-dive investigation ever taken by any journalist into the business model known all across America today as “puppy mill rescue.” And it’s eye-opening, in quite a few ways.
I wonder who will read it and reach out to me with more information next.