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Undocumented (Illegal) Workers in Construction

by Michael Stone

It is estimated that 5% of the U.S. work force, and 14 - 25% of construction workers are illegal aliens. (It's politically correct to call them undocumented workers, but let's get real, they are undocumented because they are here illegally.)

The booming housing industry in the past few years has been cited as one reason so many illegals are in construction - and you frequently hear, "they are doing work that U.S. citizens won't do." Baloney. If you are in construction, you know that's not true.

Remember when most of our clothing was made in the U.S.? Manufacturers discovered they could find workers outside the country who would work for less. How about the automobile industry? Many cars purchased in the U.S. are either completely assembled outside the U.S., or parts are manufactured outside the U.S., because labor outside the country is cheaper.

In the construction industry (and other industries with a strong illegal work force, such as agriculture and janitorial services), it is impossible to send the work to other countries, so instead of exporting the work, we import the workers. Or rather, we look the other way when they come in the country.

Just like the textile and automobile industries, these workers are doing work that U.S. citizens are willing and able to do. In the construction industry, they are hired under the table by unethical contractors who can charge much less for their work because their labor costs are lower. Contractors who follow the law, who document all workers, pay all payroll taxes and worker's compensation insurance, are penalized.

This ain't the way it's supposed to be. Legal U.S. workers should have first shot at all jobs, and all employers should be required to follow the law. That's why it's called the law.

If you agree, call your lawmakers. They need to know what you think. Call, because allowing illegal workers to continue to work will hurt your business.

Comments

Dale Wiley (not verified) /

I agree with Mike here. In our area, not to far from Michaels home, the illegals have taken over the trades.

One of my competitors has a couple of crews on the books, and at least again that many off the books. He is selling work 30% below my cost. Call the state, and they say we are too overwhelmed to help you out.

My business is off over 40K for the year right now. The owner of the cheating business is driving a new Lexus, and we drive 12 year old vehicles (paid for of course).

I guess paying taxes, licenses and insurances makes you the odd ball these days. We have some bench marks in place, and if those are not met by Nov 30, 2006 we are going to liquidate.

Scrapr says that many illegals are on payrolls, and that NAHB and AGC are on board for guest worker provisions. The fact remains that there are still a large number of "UNDOCUMENTED" workers who are not on payrolls in the work force, and they do create an unfair advantage for those who use them. The acceptance of this program by these organizations still documents all of these workers, thereby, to some degree, leveling the playing field once again.

We desperately need to get this situation under control.

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we have to ship them all out. Some of the finest workers, craftsmen, and people I know are hispanics. We just need to quit turning our backs on the issue at hand. If we get it right, it works for the whole country.

Scrapr (not verified) /

Well, I think you have oversimplified the issue. Do I wish that all construction jobs were done by Americans, Yes. Will that happen? No. Jobless rate is at 5% or less. All the people that want to work are working. And the labor pool right now is poor. I just read an article on the trucking industry that turnover was 136% and getting worse. Trucking companies are just stealing from one another. Drivers are jumping back and forth. We don't have enough labor force in this country.

Believe it or not there are a lot of undocumented workers on payrolls. Maybe even a majority. SS paid, WC paid, UI paid, etc. Even health insurance.

You want to start a depression send the undocumented workers back. They own a heck of a lot of homes. And fill up Apt buildings. It would make 1980 look pleasant.

Michael I like your program but you are wrong on this issue. NAHB and AGC are both on board for guest worker provisions. It is the only way to fill our jobs and keep our economy humming.

Dan Stepnik (not verified) /

I'm wondering where these folks leave us liability wise.

I was led to believe by my granite supplier that his workers were all legal.

The other day he sent guys to one of my jobs in a truck that had a "rejected" inspection sticker. The truck was involved in a fender bender. When the police arrived, is was found that none of the guys had any papers- including a Brazillian drivers license that one worker claimed to have.

I can't help wonder the "what if" consequences could have been if it had been a major accident. Is this sub's workers comp and liability insurance valid for undocumented workers?

Dan

The worse the accident, the more "deep pockets" the victom's attorney go looking to get into. If they were headed for your job, you would probably be named in any litigation.

I would check with your attorney as to the coverage in your state for illegal workers.

Michael

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