State government theft from workers shows we need trust in ourselves, not new laws.

With a bit of spectacularly bad timing for Rhode Island insiders (who may very well win anyway), an employee of the state Department of Labor and Training has been charged with stealing funds from exactly an area that labor unions are trying to make more flush:

An employee of the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training is accused of stealing $115,000 in settlement checks.

Rhode Island State Police said Wendy Antonelli of Foster faces charges of obtaining money under false pretenses, forgery, counterfeiting and money laundering. …

“In her capacity as Chief Labor Standards Examiner, Ms. Antonelli was responsible for overseeing employee misclassification investigations and distribution of misclassification settlement checks intended for employees of the businesses investigated. An employee is misclassified when their employer incorrectly deems the employee as an independent contractor,” state police said in a release.

“Misclassification” is what labor unions misleading call “wage theft.”  They imply that employers are stealing from their employees, but it can be — and may often be — simply the case that the employer and worker have agreed to have an independent contractor relationship.  I’ve certainly known both carpenters and office workers who’ve preferred that arrangement.

But the more unions can restrict the ability of employers and workers to come to mutually beneficial arrangements on their own — and the more they can be made to distrust each other — the more likely unions will be able to insert themselves into the deal and take a cut that otherwise would have been divided between the parties.  Politicians and bureaucrats (most of them active union members, themselves) are happy to facilitate this third-party intervention.

According to the state police, we here have a state employee (who makes $87,000 per year) taking the money that employers have paid to settle these claims for herself.  One only stretches slightly to suggest that this action is only a more-direct redistribution than the unions are seeking by lobbying for stronger laws.

Obviously, we shouldn’t take this example as representative, but the lessons are broader.  The unions’ rhetoric suggests that Rhode Islanders can’t trust their employers, so government must step in to take their side.  Well, we obviously can’t trust state government, either.

Maybe we should start trusting ourselves to live as professionals and adults.


Featured image by Devin Kaselnak on Unsplash.

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