Independent contractors question proposed bill that only protects golf caddies
A battle is brewing at the New Jersey State House over golf caddies. A bill in the Legislature would formalize caddies’ status as gig workers.
The law would protect independent contractors but only if they work as caddies. The effort is raising some questions.
“They wrote an entire bill to protect the guy who carries their clubs,” says Kim Kavin, with the group Fight for Freelancers.
Kavin and Debbie Abrams are freelance writers who have fought for two years to protect their status as independent contractors, along with owner-operator truck drivers and others.
“Bakers, musicians, per diem health workers – all of us need legislative protection,” Kavin says.
In 2019, the group pushed back against a bill that would have reclassified many of them as employees, which they said would destroy their careers.
“The answer is we are already being blacklisted on the threat of this legislation,” Kavin said at the time.
But the group says that they are baffled that the 2021 bill only protects golf caddies.
“I have nothing against golf caddies. And if they want to be independent contractors, I am not going to argue for or against them. They are welcome to do that. I would just like all of us to be protected,” says Abrams.
Republican lawmakers say there is a reason for this limitation.
“I wish we could put a lot more people in the bill. And I believe that the gig economy - independent contractors - is really important. Unfortunately, in Trenton, I can only get done when I can get done,” says Assemblyman Jon Bramnick.
Bramnick says the bill is limited because Democrats, like outgoing Senate President Steve Sweeney, won’t support a broader bill. Sweeney’s office declined to comment on this story.
“There were communications between a number of golf clubs between myself and the Senate president, indicating that because we have the No. 1 golf course in the world and many of the top, that this is important to keep our caddy programs going,” Bramnick says.
But the gig workers do not buy that explanation.
“Simply fix the law about who is and is not an independent contractor,” says Kavin.
Other Republicans like Sen. Mike Testa have introduced a broader bill. Bramnick says he supports the idea but the bill's path forward in the state Senate is unclear.
Fight for Freelancers says 77% of truck drivers at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are independent contractors.