By Douglas J. McCarron
United Brotherhood of Carpenters
For years UBC members and regional councils have been fighting to eradicate employer tax fraud and worker exploitation in construction, and I’m proud of our campaign to clean up the industry.
We are raising awareness among public officials, elected leaders and taxpayers about the crooked business practices that steal tax revenue from federal, state and local treasuries; harm legitimate contractors who are struggling to compete; and devastate workers who are trying to make a decent living for their families.
Exploited workers and law-abiding contractors do not deserve the hands they’ve been dealt because of the greed and callousness that is the foundation of the tax fraud business model.
Our Tax Fraud Days of Action blog recently told the story of Sandra, a drywall finisher in Virginia, who worked hard for months at a Microsoft data center construction site. Suddenly her paychecks started bouncing and she was let go after being injured on the job.
She and her coworkers deserve better, and so does the contractor in Minneapolis, also interviewed for this blog, who is building a strong business despite unfair competition from crooked contractors who don’t play by the rules.
There is much more we can do to make a difference. We must continue to pass stronger ordinances and laws at the local, state and provincial level to deter and punish criminal behavior.
Last year, the Illinois legislature passed a law to hold primary contractors liable for the failure of their subcontractors to pay wages owed to workers. Seven states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws, but this type of legislation is sorely needed elsewhere to help protect workers like Sandra.
Also in Illinois, Bulk Storage, Inc., was ordered recently by the state’s Department of Labor to pay back nearly $500,000 to its workers for failing to meet state-certified prevailing wage and benefit rates. The charges stemmed from Bulk Storage projects that were funded with taxpayer dollars.
Thanks to education by UBC regional councils and the election of more officials who understand this issue, enforcement has stepped up in recent years. But much more is needed to bring perpetrators to justice.
It is also important to educate the business community, and UBC regional council leaders have been meeting with bankers about the tax fraud problem. Banks can play an important role in turning the tide of criminality within the construction industry by spotting the suspicious financial transactions of cheating contractors, and notifying authorities. This can go a long way toward punishing lawbreakers and deterring even more crime.
When UBC members all across the U.S. and Canada gather for Tax Fraud Days of Action events, April 12–18, I hope you will join in. We make a difference when we speak with one voice, and we won’t stop until construction employer tax fraud is eliminated.