Ponygate: Denial of Worker Protection to Young Kids

PonygateThe high school and college age kids who shovel excrement at the Santa Monica farmers market have no workers compensation protection should their feet get crushed or they develop an infection from contact with the animals — this despite the fact that CA law requires their employer to provide it.

The city of Santa Monica in its contract with the pony ride and petting zoo operators (Tawni Angel and Jason Nester) is complicit in denying this basic protection (even minimum wage protection) by labeling the workers as “independent contractors” — an erroneous label given that they do not set their own hours, have their own business, or determine their working conditions. I learned of this complicity when I submitted a California Public Records request to see the insurance policy (attached) for the pony ride and petting zoo – no workers comp.

In my communication with Jason Harris, Economic Development Division Manager overseeing the farmers market, I wrote, “What makes this particularly egregious is that the market and the department overseeing it promote “sustainability.” There is nothing sustainable, admirable, or legal about the treatment, both by the operator and the city, of these young high-school and college-age “employees” working at the Main Street market. I ask that you comply with the law in the state of California and require that the operators, Tawni Angel and Jason Nester, provide workers compensation insurance for their employees at the farmers market.”

marcy winogradHarris responded with, “The City contract does not require workers compensation and the City cannot unilaterally amend the contract. As for whether the workers are currently acting as independent contractors or as employees within the meaning of state or federal law is a determination needs to be made by the appropriate state or federal agencies. The City cannot determine that. The workers themselves can pursue that if they wish.”

Let’s hear it for a living wage and worker protection, even (Mr. Harris & City Hall management) for the pony ride and petting zoo excrement shovelers!

Marcy Winograd

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