For nearly a decade, State Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) has been fighting to pass a bill that would impose more regulations on traveling sales crews that enter Wisconsin. The Middleton Democrat is hoping those efforts will pay off this session.
Erpenbach is again introducing a bill that would require door-to-door sales crews to register with the state, so there's a record of the company they work for, who is being employed, and where they'll be operating. The regulations would also limit the hours those crews can work and how they'll be paid.
Erpenbach says many of the companies that run the crews treat their employees as independent contractors, which he believes can lead to them being abused. The Middleton Democrat says it's lead to workers being overworked, denied pay, and even hurt.
The measure is inspired by a 1999 van crash near Janesville, which killed seven members of a traveling sales crew. The driver of the van caused it to crash, when he tried to switch seats with a passenger while speeding because he was operating on a revoked license.
Previous versions of the bill have been fought by a company called Southwestern, one of the largest companies running traveling sales crews in the nation. The company argues the measure would unfairly target legitimate businesses. Erpenbach argues the company simply doesn't want to change the way it does business, since it would no longer be able to treat employees as independent contractors.
The state Senate has passed the bill before several times in the past, but it's failed to reach a vote in the Assembly. Erpenbach hopes Democratic control of the Legislature will allow the bill to pass this time.