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A Downside to Employing Undocumented Workers

October 21, 2013
Plain English Version

Some experts say documented and undocumented immigrants are part of a ‘race to the bottom.’

Businesses that use immigrant labor are able to low-bid jobs versus those businesses that use American-born workers. This is not the fault of people who are willing to work hard for low wages. Building contractors and others who get jobs by bidding claim competitors are using low-wage workers, and they have no choice but to do the same.

Groups of contractors are supposed to regulate themselves. They are helped by state agencies that enforce wage and hour laws. Still, contracting is a business that moves into and out of projects quickly.

More unlicensed companies are moving into the homebuilding business. It is all part of an ‘underground economy.’ These builders do not pay unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation or taxes. The workers are not protected.

The practice is used a lot in Arizona.

A whistle-blower has begun to identify job sites with illegal contractors and undocumented workers.

Trade unions are trying to organize workers. But they face a special problem. Many of the people they are trying to get to join the union are here without documents. Such immigrants are worried that joining a union might put them in danger of deportation.

The homebuilders hire licensed contractors. The contractors hire subcontractors. The subcontractors hire independent workers, who frequently work off the books.

California is issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented people. Some critics are saying there are problems with this practice.

They say people will come from other states to obtain licenses. Fraud rings will emerge and use false addresses, leases and utility bills to get the licenses.

Another detractor says drivers with licenses will use them to get jobs that undermine American workers.

Defenders of the new law say, “With this bill, over 1 million drivers in California will be more likely to have been tested, to have insurance or to know the rules of the road and obey the laws of this state.”

These are all part of the growing pains of the new economy.

Source: The Arizona Republic                                                                                                  October 2, 2013

Source: The Los Angeles Times                                                                                              October 4, 2013




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