by Mike Miletich News 3 WSIL
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Carpenters across Illinois are standing up against tax fraud in the construction industry. On Thursday, union leaders explained the state is losing out on $186 million annually due to contractors paying employees in cash. They feel this practice also creates dangerous situations for employees working without protection.
Democrats hope to end the practice of mislabeling carpenters as independent contractors. The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters says subcontractors continue to evade state and federal income taxes as well as contributions to Social Security, Medicare, and workers compensation.
Union members say many of these subcontractors don’t provide any benefits like health insurance. House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch says there’s an undue burden on everyday workers when subcontractors don’t pay their fair share.
“As we consider our state and local procurement, we need to work with community groups, work centers, unions, and legally compliant employers to make sure we’re steadfastly addressing this issue. And you have my commitment to that,” Welch said.
Senate President Don Harmon and Attorney General Kwame Raoul also stood in solidary with the carpenters. Harmon stressed Illinois needs to make sure there’s fairness and justice in the construction industry.
“We cannot tolerate tax cheats,” Harmon said. “Whether it’s multi-million dollar corporations misconstruing tax loopholes or unscrupulous contractors misclassifying workers, we need to fight for working families. Everyone gets ripped off by the people who cheat.”
Harmon and Welch said that’s even more important as Illinois is at a precipice of a $45 billion state infrastructure bill and another plan coming from the federal government. Harmon emphasized that those will create enormous opportunities for jobs. However, there’s unfortunately also opportunities to cheat without oversight.
Raoul: “These rogue contractors are slick”
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office recently created a worker protection unit focused on tax fraud to tackle unfair labor practices. Raoul told union members outside the Capitol Complex that this problem impacts all taxpayers. He renewed his dedication to workers and law-abiding contractors. Raoul also mentioned that this problem is a huge disadvantage for law-abiding contractors and taxpayers.
“While we have our investigators and prosecutors, we cannot do this without a cooperation. We need people bringing us information because these rogue contractors are slick,” Raoul said. “We need to line up the ducks and get the evidence so we can go after them.”
The Attorney General added that every employee should be treated fairly and make a livable wage.
“It’s not hard to do the right thing,” emphasized Sen. Michael Hastings (D-Tinley Park). “Just pay your taxes. Pay your employees the right way, pay them a decent wage.”
Hastings said the state should hold all of the “cheats and frauds” accountable for their actions.