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NE Construction Workers Call for Crackdown on Tax, Wage Fraud

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Workers protest tax fraud in the construction field at a school administration building in Gretna, Neb. (Eric Leanos/NCSRCC)
Workers protest tax fraud in the construction field at a school administration building in Gretna, Neb. (Eric Leanos/NCSRCC)
 By Suzanne Potter - Producer, Contact
April 15, 2021

OMAHA, Neb. - Nebraska is losing millions in tax money and many workers are being cheated by unscrupulous companies that pay their workers under the table: That's the message of a public-awareness campaign launched today by the regional carpenters' union.

Felicia Hilton. the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters' political director for Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, said a contractor-compliance ordinance just passed by the Omaha City Council is a step in the right direction.

"At least on projects where it's city tax dollars," she said, "they are going to make an effort to hold contractors in compliance with a verified payroll, so that you're not paying people off the books, to make sure workers are not being exploited."

The union estimated that Omaha has been losing $20 million a year in payroll taxes alone. Advocates would like to see Nebraska follow the lead of other states, including Iowa, which already are working on legislation to make sure projects that require a general contractor use only registered employees. The union is hosting a conference online today to raise awareness of tax and wage fraud.

The other states' legislation limits the role of labor brokers, who hire extra people off the books. Adam Duininck, the carpenters' union's director of government affairs, said brokers often prey on vulnerable, undocumented immigrants who may not feel comfortable speaking up.

"It's important for them to be treated with dignity at their workplace," he said, "and if you're selling your work by the hour, your labor by the hour, you deserve to be paid well."

In 2010, Nebraska lawmakers passed a bill to require the state to audit and track employers found to be misclassifying workers, and share that with the Workers Compensation Court. And last year, an omnibus labor bill allowed state inspectors to begin issuing citations on the spot if job sites don't declare all their workers.

Disclosure: North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
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