Posted by on November 09, 2010 at 12:00 AM
Mike Beaudet of the FOX 25 Boston's Investigative Team reported last night on employers who hire and exploit immigrant workers with little or no regard for getting caught or punished. (story embedded below)
The story includes the tale of drywall carpenters employed Jared Stevens and Elite Drywall to perform work on a new Wicked Pizza location at the Legacy Place Mall in Dedham. NERCC Organizers confronted Stevens about the fact that his employees were owed $15,000 in wages for work they had performed at Wicked Pizza and another job in New Hampshire. The workers eventually went on strike, a story that was the focus of this NERCC video last month.
In the FOX piece, Jessica Vaughan with the Center for Immigration Studies said government efforts to crack down on employers hiring and exploiting illegal immigrants has not been enough of a deterrent so far.
“Essentially what happens is these workers pretend to be legal and the employers pretend to believe them. And that's how everybody is able to keep the system going. “It is easy for them to get away with it because there are no penalties. There's no deterrents for them. In most cases, what they're facing is a slap on the wrist or a warning," she said.
Bruce Foucart, ICE Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England, told Beaudet that focusing on employers rather than individual workers would have a greater impact, but claimed budget issues and the newness of the enforcement efforts has limited their success. He admits the problem exists and the bad guys are the ones making out.
“It exists out there and the bottom line with that is the employers are benefiting. They're benefiting if they have an illegal workforce," Foucart said. "Employers are getting away with it obviously and given limited resources we're doing the best we can."
After years of trying to tackle the problem by targeting immigrant workers, several years ago the New England Regional Council of Carpenters changed their focus in a way that is now being mirrored by enforcement agencies. Since the union began helping immigrant workers who are not paid properly, they are more likely to blow the whistle on employers who win work over honest union contractors by cheating.
The union has also found it more beneficial to bring public shame to contractors and those who employ them, including owners who go out of their way to claim they don't know what's involved in lowball bids. Unlike immigrant workers and some subcontractors, they can't as easily disappear from the jobsites, or the communities in which they do business.