News Roundup: Texas Workforce Commission Approves New Rule Affecting Gig-Economy Workers

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelApril 9, 2019 1:00 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

The Texas Workforce Commission approved a controversial new rule on so-called gig economy workers during its meeting Tuesday morning.

As KUT News reports, it changes regulations for app-based companies that hire contractors, including people who drive for Uber or deliver food for DoorDash.

This past December, the three-member TWC board voted to eliminate a requirement for those firms to pay state taxes for unemployment insurance for contractors. Labor unions and workers’ rights groups say the rule was tailor-made by lobbyists from a firm called Handy.

Chuck Ross is with TWC. Before the vote, he testified that the agency received 211 comments on the proposed rule: 13 in support, two neutral comments and 196 concerns.

“In aggregate, commenters in support indicated proposed rules would provide clarity to business[es] who operate a marketplace platform,” Ross said during the meeting.

Ross said those opposed raised concerns that the proposed rule would be applied too broadly, infringing on other employment rights.

Sean Fortner is with the Central South Carpenters Regional Council, and spoke in opposition to the rule ahead of the vote. He said the rule will have consequences for his industry.

“As a construction worker, and a carpenter specifically, every day we’re out there face to face with people being exploited by unscrupulous and illegitimate contractors who misclassify their workers … just so they can not pay their portion of the taxes and push that burden onto the worker,” Fortner said.

The agency ultimately adopted the new rule after a vote of 2-1. Julian Alvarez, the commissioner representing labor, voted against the measure.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the upcoming execution of 50-year-old Mark Robertson because his original trial lawyer discriminated against potential jurors who were black. Robertson, who is white, was tried in front of an all-white jury.

Robertson was convicted for the 1989 shooting and killing 81-year-old Edna Brau and her 19-year-old grandson Sean Jason Hill, during a home robbery in Dallas. Robertson’s execution had been set for Thursday.

Texas has executed two people this year,  and four more executions are currently scheduled through early September.

Days after the largest worksite immigration raid in the country in a decade, volunteers have banded together in Collin County to provide assistance.

Jenifer Wolf Williams, a licensed counselor and trauma therapist, spoke with KERA News. She’s been talking to families of those arrested during last week’s raid at CVE Technology Group in Allen.

“The children don’t understand what’s happening. They want to know where their mommy or daddy is. They’re frightened, they’re sad and they don’t know whether they’re going to be reunited,” Williams says.

Williams says she wants people to understand those responses are normal. She also cautions that the separation from a parent can cause lifelong harm to children, such as being at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and physical ailments such as diabetes.