The Importance of the Underground Construction Economy
William C. Sproule, Assistant Executive Secretary-Treasurer at Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters discusses the obstacles the union faces today and the importance of the underground construction economy.
"I'm Steve Adubato. It is our pleasure to welcome, for the first time on our set, Bill Sproule, who is Assistant Executive Secretary Treasurer of Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters. Good to see you, Bill. Good to see you, Steve. Describe your organization. Well, Keystone Mountain Lakes Regional Council of Carpenters is a seven state regional council of carpenters. We're approximately 45,000 members... just shy of that. We have everything from carpenters that do heavy construction foundation, up to floor layers and finish carpenters. I think our trade is one of the best-kept secrets out there as far as the diversity of what carpenters actually do on construction sites. What states? Our states are New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, and actually I got to throw in ten counties in Northern Carolina and three counties in Ohio as part of our regional council. Good stuff. I'm curious about this from a... I don't want to say from a policy perspective... but I was reading in preparation for this about underground construction... the underground construction economy. What is it and why does it matter so much, not just to your members, but to the overall economy? I think that it's kind of something that the average public, people, don't understand what's going on in the construction industry, but we refer to it now as tax fraud or payroll fraud in the construction industry, and... That's a big word, why fraud? Because contractors are out there operating unscrupulously. They go ahead and they get big contracts for projects, private... not so much as public projects, but mostly in the private sector... and they're two, three, four million dollar contracts, sometimes even higher than that. They're getting workers that they're actually exploiting by having them do the work for low wages, little or no benefits... most of the time no benefits... most of the... Are they non-union? Yes sir. Yes sir. It's open shop, non-union is where this occurs because there's no collective bargaining agreements there to protect the workers. And what's happening is... they estimate... the economists estimate that this is a 60 billion dollar a year issue in the United States. What about the taxes? Are we getting to taxes? How is the... hold on one second... Social Security. You know, taking out FICA, right? Taxes. Federal taxes. Not coming out? On these particular jobs, and our teams have gone out and investigated this stuff and submitted complaints to the Department of Labor, whether it's a state agency or they're federal agencies. And by the way, state taxes paid or not? No, sir. No? Unemployment, disability doesn't get paid... and you know, what happens is the developers on these projects where they decide..."