The New York State Department of Labor said it’s now investigating, if only to remind everyone why the People’s Republic of New York is so hostile to business. It’s the kind of bureaucratic overkill that only Comrade Andrew Cuomo could love.
I’m envious of the controversy, which started when Tamarkin posted a tweet innocently announcing, “I have an amazing job for a food writer who is at the beginning of her/his career.”
That sounded promising. Who wouldn’t want to get paid for writing articles like “A Better Way to Make Butter at Home,” “6 Things You Can Do with That Lonely Can of White Beans” or “Why Every Pantry Should Have a Bag of Chickpea Flour”?
Where do I sign up?
Tamarkin ran into trouble when he provided more details about the job, including a tweet that said: “This is a full-time freelance position.” Twitter users asked for more details, such as the definition of “full-time freelance” and whether the job offered health insurance and other benefits.
Tamarkin stepped in it when he responded with a tweet that read: “Paid hourly at 40 hrs/week, no benefits.”
Soon, Twitter’s rampant, underemployed trolls had a hissy-fit, practically accusing Tamarkin of exploiting workers and possibly violating state labor laws, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the Affordable Care Act that mandates big employers provide health benefits.
“This reeks of exploitation,” “you’re willing to destroy human lives,” “you’re incompetent at the basics of posting a job opening,” brayed the Twitter scolds.
Tamarkin sent a follow-up tweet two days later to clarify the job did offer health insurance and benefits, but the damage was done. Condé Nast said the original description was a mistake, and that the job always offered benefits.
“Condé Nast is very proud of how we treat our employees,” a company spokesperson said an emailed statement. “The position that was the subject of the tweet is, in fact, a full-time employee with benefits. While we do use some temporary workers, like many businesses, we ensure that such individuals are properly categorized as employees and eligible for benefits when appropriate.”
Yes, it is quite common for media companies to hire writers, editors and other creative professionals on a contract basis. I'm a full-time freelancer -- working part-time for separate media companies, which is another common practice -- and I pay for my own health insurance. In case you're wondering, Obamacare didn't let me keep my doctor.
So, let New York’s labor department try to justify its existence by opening an investigation into the damning tweets of a site editor. Perhaps its bureaucrats can remake New York's labor market into a sclerotic European system of chronic unemployment. The gig economy will only move elsewhere.
It’s a silly, ginned-up controversy, as if Condé Nast’s editors have nothing better to do than provide “full-time freelancers” with fodder for the next “Devil Wears Prada” -- or in the case of Epicurious, perhaps “The Devil Chaws Chickpea Flour.” Admittedly, that doesn't have quite the same ring to it.