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Last year our state legislature passed AB 5 that sought greater worker protections for what is called the ‘gig’ economy. The term likens independent contract workers to performers such as musicians who work erratically in temporary settings. Many workers now have this designation from Uber and Lyft drivers to, well, some of our congregational workers.
Employees are covered by contributions from employers to their taxes, state and federal, and to Workers Compensation and Unemployment. These come via the W-2 forms most of us know well. The employee pays a share. The employer pays an equivalent share plus disability and unemployment. This includes Social Security and Medicare contributions, both divided between employer and employee.
Contractors who receive their whole pay thus must pay their own taxes via the 1099 form. They will have no withholding and at tax time or quarterly, contractors file the full tax burden covering both their own and the hiring body’s contributions to state and federal taxes. They receive no coverage on Workers’ Compensation or Unemployment Insurance.
AB 5 sought full employee status for these people so that, among other things, they’d be covered by Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Insurance payments they could use in case of workplace injuries or illness.
AB 5 is well intended. Who among us proffering justice for working people doesn’t want employees to be cared for properly? However, the definition of a legitimate Independent contractor and an actual employee is now highly confusing.
Here is a short clarification of the standards. It does appear to us that many of our congregational people who perform the work of our churches and ministries have been designated as contractors when they should have been employees. None of this will clear up confusions about, say, temporary clergy or people fulfilling a short term project. Thus the final disposition is probably best found at the California Employee Development Department (EDD) in your local area.
It should also be said that there are now lawsuits against AB 5. Should any of them win, all this will again change. Will it be for the better? For the worse? It probably depends on who you are and how you are impacted.
Basic Test for Employee v Contractor status.
The three part “test” of contractor v employee status is the “A B C” provision in AB 5.
A person is a contractor IF:
(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.
(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.
(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.
In other words, the person either as a sole entity or with a business outside of the church who is fixing your overhead lighting now and then is a contractor. The person present every day or a few days to run the office or clean the sanctuary is an employee.
This in no way influences the amount of time, the flexibility of schedules, the hours, or any and all volunteer work. The fundamental rule on the latter is that if you are not paid at all, you are neither a contractor nor an employee. You are just what you appear to be – a volunteer. It also does not impact part-time work in relation to benefits other than as already established in law. It does give everyone reclassified as an employee far greater security in case of accident or illness than they have now. That's a common good we should try to honor.
The Southern Baptist Conference in Southern California has offered an excellent analysis we share here We do think there remain some very murky areas about employment status that are not going to be clarified without EDD advice. But this should help overall to get a sense of what to do - and what not to do.
The financial impact of transitioning from contractors to employees will be small if handled well. It is moral and proper to reduce what is paid to the new employee/former contractor by exactly the amount that person formally paid of the employer share of taxes so that the congregation or organization can have those funds to pay those new employer taxes. It’s an absolute trade off. No one is harmed financially. It does increase bookkeeping by the church, but it’s pretty minimal. What we do know about Workers’ Compensation is that it’s also very small. If we’ve read the directions properly, it’s $7.00 per employee per year maximum. The computation is annoyingly complicated. The financial impact on the congregation, however, is almost nil.
We trust you will turn to EDD for further clarification. No use coming to us. We’ve exhausted our knowledge here. We will try to provide updates on law suits and changes as they arise, but we aren’t attorneys, don’t even play one on TV, so it’s far better to go to the experts than to ask us. Good luck!
Our nation faces one of its most grave crises. We are watching the chief executive amass unprecedented power, defying the rule of law. Nothing in our history has prepared us for this challenge to our Constitution, to our statutes, to our interactions among the branches of government. We are fighting for the soul of democracy. No one can stay idle in the face of this challenge.
I was born in the early wave of the post war “baby boom”. I grew up with “Holocaust Consciousness” followed quickly by awareness of post-war threats to our own democracy in the wave of anti-communist fervor from many in Congress and society. Then came a growing awareness of the evils of Jim Crow segregation. To say I was a scared little kid would be an understatement. I remember my parents watching the Army-McCarthy hearings, not understanding much other than the danger to innocent people, Hearing my parents and their friends talk about those threats to democracy and equality, to justice and fairness was pretty overwhelming.
I have dreaded the day I’d have to find my courage to stand up against something as evil and scary as fascism had been in Europe. Would I have what it takes to resist? To be as brave as Miep Gies who hid the Frank family? To defy authority in the name of democracy and of my faith in Jesus’ teachings on justice for all people?
In 2003, just before the start of US bombing of Iraq, I participated in an 8-state convening against hate crimes that even then were on the rise. The last night we saw a film about German pastor and theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his anti-fascist resistance during the Third Reich. In the discussion that followed, the group leader said, “Be prepared from here on, to lay down your life for what you believe.” When asked what that meant, he said, “Devote your life to standing for justice. And, if needed, to lay down your life for that purpose.”
It was incredibly sobering and frightening to hear this. Would we need to do this? In America?
We at the Council of Churches have tried to live by that principle: lay down your life for what you believe. Some of you know that we have been under siege from vandalism and threats for doing exactly that. Some of our denominational affiliates have been contacted by extremists demanding they drop out of the Council, always by those who detest our stands for equality and for justice. No one has dropped out, and the retaliation, while minor, has resulted in vandalism, stalking, threats.
And yet we have stayed the course. Did we have any real alternative?
Now we call on all of you to do whatever you can for love of our fellow human beings, for the preservation of democracy, for the protection of the rule of law.
Remember the “Faithful Five Minutes” of calls to your elected officials every day. Bolster the strong, chastise the weak. Speak up and out for justice and our Constitution.
Rally when you are able. Join diverse coalitions of immigrant rights groups, labor, racial justice groups, civil rights groups, and diverse faiths then go to your representatives’ and senators’ offices, both federal and state level. Fight for the rule of law. Stand against oppression. Keep abreast of current events. Speak out where needed. Your voice is powerful.
We are struggling to keep the soul of our nation intact. This is the greatest threat we have faced since the Civil War. Today as I write, it is the 154thanniversary of the Confederate surrender, the Army of Virginia, to the forces of the Union Army at Appomattox. It saved the nation. Can we do this again, this time we hope without the bloodshed?
Only our actions through law can prevent another civil war, another rise of dictatorial power, another threat to democracy and our constitution.
I may be retired, but I will never stop working against injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
Please do whatever you can, however you can, for as long as you can. Our nation’s survival is on the line.
Thank you. Blessings on all you do.
Director Emerita Public Policy
Black Lives Matter Madonna (Copyright: Bromickeymcgrath)
Art by Mickey McGrath, O.S.F.S,: We need images of the Black Madonna now more than ever
A powerful reimagining of The Magnificat by our dear friend, the Rev. Jim Burklo, Senior Associate Dean of Religious Life at the University of Southern California. You can read more in his blog, musings, here.
God in the Belly
Full of God, full to birthing,
Mary howls: head back, hair tossed,
Hands skyward with joy
That wrongs are about to be righted,
Salvation's about to be sighted.
No more groveling for crumbs of charity:
She pronounces justice with crystal clarity.
She's done waiting for the concentrated wealth of the 1%
To trickle down magically to the other 99.
The Santa System is stuck in the chimney;
And she won't be burned by it again!
A new kind of Christmas is coming -
To undo the dogma of domination,
Snap out of blame-the-victim hypnosis,
Chase money-changers out of the temple,
Redistribute the common wealth,
Restore power to the people,
And send the Religious Right empty away.
With one magnificent rhetorical swing,
Mary bats the political center into left field.
Pundits fumble, talk-show hosts mutter,
Super-PAC donors quiver, campaign strategists stutter:
Mary out-Magnificats them all.
So let's get in her line and carry her sign
And holler and act as if we, too,
Have God in our bellies!
In the recent weeks we have seen an increase in stunning violence against our fellow humans. From the horrors of the Pittsburgh shootings to the threats against asylum seekers to yet another mass murder at a neighborhood nightclub, violence has touched millions of lives.
What can we do?
We offer a few steps you can take, from the fairly easy to more complex, to stop the angry actions and open peace and kindness bringing more sun in a dark and stormy world.
First, from a former Board member, Joan Leslie, something you can do quickly and easily. Following the horrors at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA, her church set up a table during coffee hour where each person could write a note of sympathy and support. The address is Tree of Life Congregation, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217. If you wish to address the note to the Rabbi, he is Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers. Otherwise general notes to the entire congregation are fine. Be prepared for the unfortunate “next time” this sort of thing happens to a group; it will occur. Stand ready to offer comfort and compassion.
Second, consider reviving our post-911 study guide, Building Bridges of Understanding and beginning a new discussion on religious tolerance. You may find the guide here. Within your own congregation you may have safe discussions about other faiths to learn what’s true – and what is not – about our fellow human beings’ faith perspectives.
Third, consider opening discussions in your community with “the other”, anyone who is not part of your congregation or neighborhood. Perhaps, as Pioneer Congregational UCC did in Sacramento, your minister and a local imam can trade pulpits to share insights into what we have in common, how we differ and why. Community dinners (being mindful of dietary laws for others, Jews and Muslims in particular) bring people together.
Fourth, reach out to groups serving those embattled – immigrants, felons, the poor, Black communities beset by police brutality and gun violence, etc. – to see how you can help. How you can become a voice for their justice by using your resources.
Fifth, hold community forums on issues within your area. Good guidelines can come from the National Issues Forum that helps develop discussions, not debates, by shaping presentations based on multiple options for growth and change, not just two sides on each concern. They have guidebooks on key concerns such as immigration and many other issues. You may find them here.
Whatever you do and however you choose to do it, bring your light and humanity to the endeavor. The only way to cast out darkness is to be the sun. Let the healing rays bring greater peace.
The deadline to register for the November 6 general election in California is October 22. To check your registration status, please go here.
If you or friends need to register or re-register, please visit the Secretary of State sites.
For general voter registration information, please see here.
To register or re-register, find the online forms here.
Can you host a voter registration table at your congregation or community organization? You may download and print the registration application and help people fill it out, sign it, and return it by mail. It must be postmarked October 22 by midnight or earlier.
If you are interested in the IMPACT ballot guide, recommendations on the propositions by our sister organization, please find them here.
If you wish to continue in a language other than English, please select your language below.
The upcoming election is important on all matters. Please make sure you are registered and then vote on or before November 6.
Your vote is how democracy thrives!
The Rev Dr Rick Schlosser