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Wage theft plagues construction industry

Testimony
February 12, 2018By Janet Bauer

Testimony of OCPP policy analyst Janet Bauer on HB 4154-2, submitted to the House Committee on Business and Labor, February 12, 2018

Among all industries in Oregon, the construction industry is one of the most fraught with wage theft. Many construction workers are being robbed of the wages they have earned, making it harder for them to support their families. HB 4154-2 would help clamp down on wage theft in the construction industry. The Oregon Center for Public Policy urges a “yes” vote on this bill.

Wage claims data filed with the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) shed light on the industries where illegal non-payment of wages is most common. Our analysis of yearly BOLI wage claims finds that the construction industry has one of the highest, if not the highest, number of wage claims as a share of workers in the industry.

A snapshot some of our analysis of the BOLI data shows a persistent problem:

Wage theft harms Oregon in multiple ways. Clearly, wage theft harms Oregon families and their communities, many of whom are some of the lowest paid in our state. It also drives down wages and labor standards in industries where it is most prevalent.

Honest employers also suffer when unscrupulous ones gain an illegal advantage. Cracking down on wage theft helps even the playing field.

Wage theft also robs public coffers of needed revenue. The taxes that would have been paid on the stolen wages never materialize, placing a greater burden everyone else.

For the sake of Oregon workers, their communities, honest employers, and the state budget, I urge the committee to approve HB 4154-2.