WEST CALDWELL, NEW JERSEY – OCTOBER 08: Wenyung Keh of New Zealand talks with her caddie on the 11th fairway during the second round of the Cognizant Founders Cup at Mountain Ridge Country Club on October 08, 2021 in West Caldwell, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
A measure that would protect golf caddies’ employment status as independent contractors is swiftly making its way through the state New Jersey Legislature.
The bill, A6033, would exempt golf caddies from certain employment laws and some taxes as well as make them ineligible for benefits like unemployment. It advanced the Assembly Labor Committee Monday, and passed through the Senate Labor Committee unanimously last week.
It comes nearly two years after a bill (S4204) was killed that would have updated worker misclassification laws, but independent contractors argued the measure would harm their ability to make a living. Now, those workers want their jobs protected as well.
Kim Kavin, a Washington Township freelance writer who led the charge against the 2019 worker misclassification bill, said at the Assembly Labor committee hearing that the bill was an “egregious example of playing favorites that has absolutely no business being part of our legislative process.”
She recalled all the people who came to fight against the worker misclassification bill — from musicians and tutors to newspaper reporters and truckers who own their vehicles. She called it an unfair process where some professions with political connections were seeking carveouts.
Senate President Stephen Sweeney, prime sponsor of the bill, did not immediately respond for comment. In 2020, he told NJ.com he wanted to address businesses that were “gaming the system” and exploiting workers by misclassifying them and paying less.
An advocate for golfers stressed it was important to codify golf caddies’ status because many of them work part time in New Jersey before heading South for the winter, and are paid with fees by the members they’re contracted to work for.
Still, another freelancer, Debbie Abrams Kaplan, urged the committee to rewrite the bill to include dozens of other professions. She said it was ironic she had to come speak against a bill protecting independent contractors after fiercely fighting the 2019 bill.
“One small group of people at a bunch of golf courses are being handed this labor bill on a silver platter while hundreds of other professions are left to the whims of the New Jersey Department of Labor,” Kaplan said, urging the committee to rewrite the bill to include dozens of other professions.
Kavin also urged them to vote against the bill and rework it to protect all legitimate independent contractors, “not just the ones who hold your golf clubs.”
The measure moved forward unanimously. It heads to the full Senate and Assembly for votes, but has not been scheduled in either chamber yet.
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