13 Comments

  1. The Andertoons is a good chuckle, despite being slightly flawed. A conflict of interest is not a contest between two parties. It’s something experienced by a single person (or firm), with potentially conflicting loyalties.

  2. Re “Cornered”. Fifty years ago, a high school classmate got a job mostly cleaning floors in a hospital, as an employee of the hospital. He worked his way up (floor by floor??) to being head administrator of several hospitals before his recent retirement. One of the problems with the contracting out of services is that it makes this type of upward mobility more difficult to achieve. Not impossible, but more difficult.

  3. The argument about “independent contractor” versus “employee” has been big in the news for a couple years with particular application to rideshare systems and associated delivery drivers. But it does go well beyond that into what long looked like conventional office jobs – when pandemic safety forced more WFH situations, some companies took that as an opportunity to try reclassifying some employees as freelances.

    There’s an intermediate-level tactic some largish institutions have been using since the 80s at least. The focus is not status of individual workers but of a whole category of service. An institution I’m familiar with, which has a “campus” and several buildings, decided to out-source services like Housekeeping. Where formerly they had over 100 direct employees in a company Housekeeping department, at some point they dismissed almost all of them and encouraged them to accept hire offers from the contractors who were now taking over housekeeping services for the institution. Fred who emptied your wastebaskets and cleaned the windows in Building A might still be doing that after the switch. He now has a different uniform and a different ID tag (but it still has to work the card readers!). But when he needs a day off, it’s CleanCo Contractors who give him a hard time, not Institute of Progressive Thought. And the Institute’s rules about retirement funding doesn’t apply to CleanCo.

  4. A conflict of interest actually involves three parties. For example, in the cartoon it could happen that the guy on the left is sponsoring the fight and thus paying the referee, but the guy on the right is the ref’s brother to whom the ref owes a lot of money.

    And in DB-LD’s example, why does a company hiring a cleaning service never consider that the cleaning service may have other clients that are competitors to the company? Who would pay good money for the contents of the first company’s wastebaskets? That’s another conflict of interest.

  5. Sorry, I was so busy making it specific, I did not articulate the main point. both of these — declaring individuals “independent contractors” and out-sourcing essentially internal services — are tactics for severing the employer-employee relationship. And with it, responsibilities (ethical or legal) for treating people right.

  6. I’ve mentioned that I view some live-stream court cases from Michigan. One of the arraignments was set for trial, and the judge mentioned that there would be a “special prosecutor”. The defendant asked what that was. The judge explained to her that the recently-elected county prosecutor had done a lot of defense work over his career, including representing her in the past. So it would be a conflict of interest for him to then prosecute her. The special prosecutor is just one from a neighboring county.

  7. “Conflict of interest” could be referring to the general entertainment value of the conflict. i.e., there are a lot of lesser conflicts happening that evening, but now it is time for the main event. The conflict that will be of interest to most people.

    No, that isn’t at all what was intended. It was just another way to interpret the expression.

  8. And as a followup to Danny Boy’s comment – and they (companies) wonder why employees have no “loyalty” any more…

  9. Employers love to classify employees as Independent contractors – no minimum wage, holiday, union or overtime rules apply, not contributions have to be made to state/federal unemployment insurance/taxes, do not have to be covered by employer’s medical insurance or retirement plan – basically none of the rules of employment apply as Independent contractors are presumed to be the equal of the person who they contract with and they are self-employment.

  10. @ Danny Boy – that’s democracy. The scenario you describe is what people want, that’s why they keep voting for parties which espouse that ideology.

  11. Mike P maybe you are half right, it is an unfortunate side effect of representative democracy that policies may be supported by elected officials who owe that to some powers that be, while the policies themselves are disliked by most voters. The voters are offered two plates, neither of which is entirely to their liking; claiming that the contents of the winning platter are all chosen by the people is quite unrealistic.

  12. I refuse to allow people to cop out like that. “You voted for it/them/him, now suck it up and enjoy it” is the message to deliver.

  13. Mike P, you “refuse to allow” those opinions!? How lucky for me that the choice of views I can hold, and express, are not subject to what you will allow! Lol!

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