NW Carpenters Fight Fraud and Trafficking
In Montana and Oregon, new task forces have emerged to crack down on unlawful practices bubbling beneath the surface within the construction industry.
Across the US, dishonest contractors operate in the shadows of an underground economy that includes human trafficking, wage theft, and insurance fraud. Here is how the Northwest Carpenters are combatting these issues:
Oregon forms Task Force to Combat Modern-Day Slavery
On January 11th, the Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced the creation of the Labor Trafficking Task Force. She had this to say:
“Human trafficking includes both sex trafficking and labor trafficking, but almost all of our public awareness focuses on sex trafficking. What we hear so far is that labor trafficking is very real, and it is happening under the radar in all corners of the state.”
Labor trafficking is another form of modern-day slavery where traffickers exploit and enslave both foreign nationals as well as US citizens. Under threat of force, fraud, or coercion, individuals often work in inhumane conditions—paid far below minimum wage, if at all. The new task force, which includes Matt Swanson, Northwest Carpenters Union Political Director, will focus on eliminating labor trafficking in a variety of industries, including construction, farm, domestic, factory, and other day labor.
This task force is a move in the right direction, but our industry needs your help. With your support of legislation that holds employers responsible for worker rights, we can crack down on labor trafficking in America, ensuring the fair treatment of workers in all industries.
Montana Gains Ground in Fighting Labor Fraud
Meanwhile, Montana’s Task Force on Integrity in Wage Reporting and Employee Classification has put forth new ideas for developing legislature, education, and outreach to address the concern of worker misclassification and payroll fraud in the construction industry. Along with several local contractors and other unions, Mario Martinez, from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters and Lead Representative of Montana, sits on this task force.
Lieutenant Governor Mike Cooney, chairman of this new task force addressed this unseen problem in the industry:
“Misclassification and unreported payments rob workers of their lawful protections to wages, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation. This fraud burdens ratepayers by creating uninsured and underinsured claims and puts lawful businesses at a competitive disadvantage. This Task Force has worked together to protect Montana’s workers, businesses and taxpayers.”
These issues hurt everyday Americans by affecting our infrastructure, as income taxes pay for roads, schools, police, libraries, fire departments, and other important community services. Honest contractors also suffer, unable to beat lower bids by contractors that are undercutting the system through labor trafficking.
The task force has proposed recommendations such as:
- Start a tip hotline where workers can report abuse
- Build a web-based directory for easy verification and compliance search connections curriculum
- Better education for hiring agents who will be able to vet reliable contractors who are in compliance to fill job site employment needs
- Change rules that will help inspectors to determine if a contractor is within compliance
- Change the renewal process for Independent Contractor Exception Certificates so eligibility can be easily confirmed
- Increase penalties imposed for hiring an unregistered Independent Contractor knowingly; one who has had their license suspended, revoked or denied
- Enforcing penalties for hiring or allowing unregistered Independent Contractors to work outside their listed scope of work on their registration, or misclassifying employees
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