(La Porte County, IN) - La Porte County has joined the fight against illegal workers.
On Wednesday, the La Porte County Commissioners adopted an ordinance prohibiting illegal workers from being hired at significant construction in the county. Supporters say undocumented workers paid cash, and not having taxes withheld is a considerable problem statewide and across the nation.
The problems range from skilled tradespeople losing job opportunities to money not finding its way back into local economies and billions in tax dollars lost.
Commission President Sheila Matias drew applause from more than a dozen union workers when she praised them for being a significant part of the fabric of the country's success and the families living here since the start of organized labor.
“We cannot turn a blind eye to crooked corporate greed and unscrupulous companies who refuse to follow the law while the rest of us law-abiding workers, including union tradesmen and women, play by the rules. The United States of America rules,” Matias said.
Commissioner Joe Haney voted against the measure calling it a “feel-good ordinance” without the teeth to stop illegal workers from being hired. Haney said the best approach to stop unlawful hiring is for the state to get involved.
John Carr, a business representative from the Indiana Kentucky Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, said Haney doesn’t understand the issue enough. Carr pointed to a similar ordinance in the City of La Porte that was used to expose dozens of illegal workers at The Banks, a resort-type apartment complex going up beside Clear Lake.
The subcontractors have been charged with criminal offenses, including tax fraud. The city has also suspended their license to work here for two years. A lifetime ban on their license could follow if they’re convicted.
“The city was able to use the evidence and suspend the license of that contractor which I don’t know if they would have been able to do that without the ordinance they have,” Carr said.
Carr said other municipalities in Lake and Porter counties wholeheartedly had adopted such measures, and Haney is the only official in the region to vote against it. He said the idea is to have enforcement locally until there’s enough support in the state legislature for such a law that can be enforced statewide.