Let’s Bulldoze Wage Theft in NYC

05.03.2024 jwatson

By: Joseph Geiger, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New York City District Council of Carpenters and Matt Capece, Representative of the General President, United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America

Each year that our legislature fails to act, New York State loses nearly $400 million to tax fraud and wage theft at the hands of crooked contractors. It is time we put our foot down and say enough is enough.

Tax fraud runs rampant in our state and across the nation – with some of the biggest names in the industry underreporting their income or misclassifying employees as independent contractors. A recently completed study from the Century Foundation, of construction-employer fraud nationally, disclosed that up to 2.1 million construction workers who should be treated as employees are not – resulting in unchecked wage theft, with employers withholding wages, paying below minimum wage, or denying workers their hard-earned overtime pay. This scourge not only harms construction workers and taxpayers but also undermines the law-abiding employers who struggle to compete against these cheaters.

The issue goes beyond the construction industry – it impacts us all. When contractors cut corners to evade their taxes, they deprive the government of revenue and create unfair competition for law-abiding businesses. It’s estimated that construction industry tax fraud in the U.S. amounts to $10 billion annually. That’s billions of dollars that should be going towards bettering our schools, fixing our roads, supporting the health care system, and uplifting our communities. In the end, this fraud shifts the employer’s tax obligations onto the families of construction workers. Annually increasing the taxes of working families by $329 million in New York state and $5.1 billion nationally.

Urgent reforms are necessary to address this issue. Each year, New York City District Council of Carpenters joins our national brotherhood to tackle tax fraud head-on and raise awareness of the pervasive issue at our annual Tax Fraud Day of Action.

Through collective action and advocacy, we strive to create a more just and equitable New York for all. Over the years, we’ve used these events to support key legislation that helps combat this issue – including the recently passed Wage Theft Accountability Act and the LLC Transparency Act. With these wins under our belt, we look towards the future to continue the fight against tax fraud and ensure workers get the pay they deserve.

That’s why this year, our Tax Fraud Day of Action is centered around advocating for the Wage Theft Attachment Act, which bolsters workers’ rights by granting employees the grounds to hold shareholders of private corporations liable for any wage theft the company commits. By increasing enforcement mechanisms, this measure provides critical avenues for victims of wage theft to hold companies who have cheated them out of their fair share accountable.

The Wage Theft Attachment Act is the next step in our mission to end tax fraud and wage theft and do right by the workers who have been taken advantage of already. By addressing the pervasive issue of wage theft and advocating for reforms like the Wage Theft Attachment Act, we not only safeguard the livelihoods of construction workers but also contribute to the overall prosperity and equity of our communities. The Tax Fraud Day of Action is a testament to the commitment of union carpenters to protect the rights of working people and law-abiding employers and serves as a powerful reminder that when we stand united, we can affect meaningful change and build a better New York for all.