Unions target illegal labor in West Virginia

West Virginia

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK) – Dozens of union workers, many of them carpenters, gathered outside the main post office to make their voices heard.

A growing number of construction jobs in the Mountain State and nationwide,  are using unlicensed workers, who are being paid “under the table.” Because of that, the state and federal governments are not able to collect income taxes for that work.

“It’s estimated, nationwide, that probably 65 to 70 billion dollars of construction wages go unreported every year. 65 billion, with a B,” said Scott Brewer, of KML Carpenters Local 439.

The unions estimate that perhaps 20% of all construction projects nationwide are using underground workers, who are paid cash, and are not reporting their income for tax purposes. A lot of it depends on the honesty of contractors.

“We have really good contractors here who employ local workers, just like our carpenter friends over here. And the money that they geerate goes right back into the communities,” said Andy Walters, West Virginia AFL-CIO.

On the other hand, when underground labor is used, the communities lose millions.

“Therefore payroll taxes go unpaid, the City of Charleston doesn’t get its user fee.  The state gets no state income taxes,” said Scott Brewer, of KML Carpenters Local 439.

And in a state that has struggled with deep deficits in recent years, every dollar matters.

Labor leaders tell us that state agencies need to do a better job of talking to each other. For example, when out of state workers comin to work on highways, the Division of Highways needs to let the Department of Renveue know if income taxes for those workers is being collected.

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