Some Won't Wait for Texas to Take Action on Payroll Fraud
While the Texas Legislature prepares to wade into the debate over the best way to deal with payroll fraud, some leaders at the local level say they're not waiting for Austin to take action.
Doug Miller, a city councilman in the Fort Worth suburb of Keller says he's going to be in Austin quite a lot during this legislative session a bit to ask that lawmakers “do the right thing.”
Miller, who is also a vice president of a construction company in Fort Worth, wrote on his blog “I have expressed my support for a bill that will deal with this situation with my state representatives. I have also looked into having an ordinance in place in Keller that requires contractors that work for the city not have illegitimate contractors, and in the coming year, if this legislation doesn’t pass, I will push something through on the local level.”
Miller said his plaster, masonry, and stucco firm, Bobby Lee and Company, has been underbid by cheaters by as much as 35 percent.
In an interview with Construction Citizen, Miller said his main concern about the legislature is that “they won't do enough”. He said the Texas Workforce Commission, which has endorsed legislation, needs to go back to the way it used to operate: audit companies for misclassification and penalize them by levying fines. Twenty years ago, Miller's company was fined for misclassifcation. “That stopped that for us. We learned our lesson,” Miller said. He pushed back on arguments from some who say increased enforcement is somehow anti-business. He asked:
“Would you rather put illegitimate companies out of business by fining them, or would you rather let legitimate businesses go under because they can't compete?”
“We need to decide as a state and as a nation whether or not we're going to follow laws or we're just going to ignore whatever laws that we want just because it's convenient for us,” Miller said.
As far as action at the local level, Miller said he's had good conversations with his fellow council members about getting his Fort Worth suburb to take action. He'd like an ordinance mandating that all city contracts – everything from janitorial work to road projects – require that contractors and subcontrators classify their employees properly and use the E-Verify system. He points out, as Construction Citizen has reported, that misclassification is a huge loophole and often allows companies to pay undocumented immigrants off the books. Miller stated:
“This is tax money. If I vote to spend tax money, ...the public has an expectation that that money isn't going to illegal aliens.”