Unions Opposing E-Verify In Construction Hurts All Workers—Especially Members


For a union to fight efforts to curb undocumented workers taking work away from union (and non-union) workers hurts all workers.

For many years, the construction industry has been one of several dominant industries where undocumented immigrants have been able to obtain employment, albeit unlawfully.

From laborers, to roofers and every trade in between, union construction workers have watched union contractors lose market share to companies who employ undocumented workers, pay them less, and underbid the union contractors.

This, in turn, means less work for union members and lowered living standards…which ripples to other potential unions members’ services.

Unemployed construction workers, for example, are less likely to purchase a pickup truck made by UAW members, which contains parts made from the steel, rubber and other materials often made from workers who are unionized.

Image credit: Washington Examiner

This is why it is somewhat surprising to see the United Steelworkers opposing legislation in Pennsylvania that would mandate construction industry employers use the federal E-Verify system to determine if their workers are eligible for employment.

“Passing this legislation would be a mistake that would hurt workers, companies and all Pennsylvanians,” said USW International Vice President Fred Redmond stated in a press release.

“It could result in hundreds, perhaps thousands, of workers unfairly losing their jobs, and it would be another unnecessary expense, which would disproportionately harm small businesses,” Redmond states.

The USW then states that the E-Verify system is “costly and riddled with errors.”

“Requiring construction companies to use the system could also open them to legal risk if system blunders prompted them to wrongly fire workers,” the USW says. “In addition, E-Verify creates privacy and security risks as the federal government compiles and maintains sensitive information on all workers.”

Normally, these are arguments from employers who prefer to use cheap, undocumented labor—not a union that represents American workers.

In testimony before Pennsylvania legislators in April, the General Contractors Association of Pennsylvania explained the problem:

“The association members of GCAP were founded to serve as management’s collective bargaining agents in labor relations. GCAP association members negotiate with such trades as: Carpenters, Laborers, Operating Engineers, Cement Masons, Drywall Finishers, Plasterers, Millwrights, to name a few. Along with labor relations, GCAP association members have evolved over the years to provide additional services to union contractors, like; safety, education & training, career development, community service, government relations, etc.”

“Because of the growing underground construction economy, construction companies are losing market share and this is hurting the companies that belong to the association members of GCAP. HB 1170 and HB 716 are two pieces of legislation that can help stop the downward trend that the industry has been heading in over the past few years. We must stop this race to the bottom.”

In its testimony, the GCAP described how the Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters “shined the spotlight on construction owners, developers, and general contractors that hire companies that use labor brokers to supply workers to projects.”

The labor brokers are producing workers that are not documented, the GCAP explained.

“These workers are not asked to produce a social security number, they have no insurance coverage, and they are paid in cash through the labor broker and this cash transaction results in no records that these workers even exist,” according to the GCAP. “These labor brokers are promoting a system that hurts all of Pennsylvania as NO TAXES ARE PAID. NO TAXES ARE WITHHELD. NO WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURANCE IS PROVIDED.”

Companies who employ undocumented workers to lower wages have been undercutting American workers—union and non-union alike—for decades.

That some unions are now fighting efforts to curb undocumented workers taking work away from union (and non-union) workers hurts all workers.



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