For five years, since members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) and their supporters began holding Tax Fraud Days of Action events each April, our voices have only become louder and stronger.
This year was no exception, as thousands of members and supporters across the United States and Canada took part in nearly 200 educational and protest events, April 12 – 18.
Employer tax fraud in construction hurts hardworking men and women, honest employers and our communities. It undercuts the industry and steals from everyone who pays their taxes. It means more profits for lawbreaking companies while their workers depend on taxpayer funded social services.
As UBC General President Douglas J. McCarron has said, we urgently need to eradicate tax fraud among construction employers.
“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,” McCarron said.
A recent authoritative study found that more than 20 percent of the construction workforce, or 2.4 million workers, are illegally paid off the books or misclassified as independent contractors. Federal and state tax losses reach more than $8.4 billion a year.
Another recent study revealed even more evidence of abuse, finding that 39 percent of U.S. construction worker families, about three million, are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded safety-net programs like Medicaid and food assistance. The researchers attribute their findings to low pay, wage theft and illegal employment practices.
Remedies include strengthening laws against fraud, making contractors accountable for hiring crooked subcontractors and labor brokers, and increasing enforcement efforts to catch and punish those who are breaking laws already on the books.
“We thank our members and everyone who came together to fight against employer tax fraud,” added General Vice President Frank Spencer. “We will not stop until tax fraud and worker abuse in construction is eliminated.”
This year’s Tax Fraud Days of Action events and accomplishments included:
Ottawa, Ontario—UBC Canadian District Vice President Jason Rowe met privately with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss a range of issues on April 19, including employer tax fraud and the underground economy. Trudeau expressed “wholehearted” support for the Days of Action campaign during the meeting. He also spoke of the importance of addressing employer tax fraud during a town hall forum in Manitoba on April 12 in response to a question from Millwright Regional Council Representative James Szmerski.
Michigan—The Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights has taken a leading role in championing a host of worker-friendly bills in the state legislature—all made possible since the 2022 midterm election brought pro-worker majorities to both houses. During Tax Fraud Days of Action, the council supported legislators in introducing 17 bills that will help counter wage theft, payroll fraud and related issues.
Central Midwest—Hosted by the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, nearly 30 elected officials participated in ride-alongs in several Midwestern cities, traveling to different construction sites to see the clear difference between law-abiding contractors and contractors that are paying workers off the books.
In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a state representative participating in a ride-along notified city officials after he observed unsafe conditions and a potential case of child labor on a large residential project. A local television station reported on the case.
Kentucky—Governor Andy Beshear spoke out against employer tax fraud at a groundbreaking event for the expansion of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training Fund campus in Grayson on April 18.
Arizona—In conjunction with the Southwest Mountain States Regional Council of Carpenters during Tax Fraud Days of Action, state Attorney General Kristin Mayes announced the formation of a worker protection task force. Among speakers at the announcement event was Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.
Illinois, Kansas and Missouri—Hundreds of members of the Mid-America Carpenters Regional Council took part in 90 events to educate the public and public officials about employer tax fraud. Rallies, handbilling and other events were held at scores of jobsites and locations including the state capitol steps in Kansas and Missouri, the IRS building in Kansas City and the Mexican consulate in Chicago. In Rockford, Ill., the city issued a proclamation declaring April 17 as Tax Fraud Day.
Ohio—After a year of debate in Perrysville, the city council adopted a responsible bidder ordinance spearheaded by city council member Kevin Fuller, who is also a council representative for the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters (IKORCC)—once again showing how elections have consequences. The ordinance mandates that bidders on construction projects provide healthcare and retirement benefits for workers and that workers are trained in apprenticeship programs.
In Milford, diligence by the IKORCC recently helped secure a federal court order for some $265,000 in back pay for 182 employees of GEM Interiors, which had misclassified workers and falsified payroll records.
Several Ohio public officials recorded video messages during Tax Fraud Days of Action to speak out against employer tax fraud: Congress Members Emilia Sykes and Marci Kaptur, Lt. Governor John Husted and State Representatives Haraz Ghanbari and Tavia Galonski.
Southwest Mountain States—Members gathered locally throughout the Southwest Mountain States Regional Council to record solidarity videos protesting employer tax fraud. Members stood up in Spokane, Wash., Great Falls, Mont., Boise, Ida., Las Vegas and throughout Southern California. Elected leaders in New Mexico and Arizona posted videos in support. In downtown Los Angeles, members marched in a picket line protesting suspected fraudulent activity at a prominent construction project.
New England and New York State—Members of the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters rallied in several cities including Albany, N.Y., Hartford, Conn., Manchester, N.H., Providence, R.I., and Boston and Salem in Massachusetts, to urge passage of anti-fraud state legislation and local ordinances. Dozens demonstrated in Framingham, Mass., to protest suspected fraudulent practices on a large project there.
Across Canada—UBC regional councils held events and activities to reach banking and financial institutions, governments at all levels and the community. Members wrote letters to their Members of Parliament and the UBC in Canada launched a year-long campaign for general contractor liability legislation at the federal and provincial levels. In addition, the UBC Canadian District has developed a “Community Builder” recognition program to highlight honest contractor partners who are working with the UBC to combat tax fraud through their dedication to fair practices, worker rights and responsible industry standards.
Pacific Northwest—Members of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters rallied on the state capitol steps in Olympia, Wash., and met with legislators to discuss solutions to construction employer tax fraud. In Oregon, members rallied in Salem at the state capitol and on the steps of Portland City Hall. Several public officials in both states recorded video messages, including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, who said, “Wage theft is a barrier to equitably sharing the benefits of economic growth with all workers, who deserve to be paid what they are owed.”
Indiana—Representatives of the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters met with officials of an Indianapolis bank to discuss the ways that perpetrators of fraud may engage in banking violations such as wire fraud, money laundering and labor trafficking. Banks are being urged to add the characteristics of financial crimes in the construction industry to their alert systems.
Northern California—Hundreds attended Days of Action rallies at the State Capitol in Sacramento and at the city halls in San Francisco and San Jose. Public officials speaking at the events included Sacramento District Attorney (DA) Thien Ho, San Francisco DA Brooke Jenkins, San Jose DA Jeff Rosen, San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, county officials and several state assemblymembers and senators.
San Antonio—The Central South Carpenters Regional Council hosted an event at City Hall to speak out about the effects of construction employer tax fraud on the community, and ways to stop it. Speakers included San Antonio City Council members Terry Castillo and Mario Bravo, as well as a worker who has been a victim of employer tax fraud.
Florida and Alabama—Council representatives visited banks and talked to executives about financial crimes in the construction industry and the need for banks to initiate construction industry fraud detection alerts.
Tennessee—Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy announced on April 18 that he will partner with Memphis Local 345 of the Southeastern Carpenters Regional Council to combat misclassification of workers in the area.
New York City—Some 1,500 members of the New York City District Council of Carpenters rallied at the New York City Public Library in Manhattan to urge passage of the Wage Theft Accountability Act in the state legislature. Speakers included Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, Brooklyn District Attorney (DA) Eric Gonzalez, Bronx DA Darcel Clark and New York City Comptroller Brad Lindner.
Mid-Atlantic States—the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters held an online conference on construction employer tax fraud with Delaware Attorney General (AG) Kathy Jennings, District of Columbia AG Brian Schwalb, Maryland AG Anthony Brown, New Jersey AG Matthew Platkin and Pennsylvania AG Michelle Henry.
Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council—Political Director Jason Clark will be a panelist in June at the Attorney General Alliance’s annual summit of attorneys general from across the U.S. The invitation is a direct result of the council’s work during this year’s Days of Actions events. Jason will speak on labor trafficking as it relates to human trafficking.
Visit the Wrap-Up page to view the 2023 Days of Action video as well as photos from regional councils.