Labor & Business

Rhode Island carpenters union fights wage theft & tax fraud at annual tax day of action

Carpenters Union Local 330 hosted their fourth-annual Tax Day of Action event, demanding lawmakers address rampant wage theft and employer tax fraud in Rhode Island. With tens of millions in lost tax revenue and wages, political leaders and union workers gathered to push for legislative change.

April 19, 2023, 9:23 am

By Steve Ahlquist

Carpenters Union Local 330 held its fourth-annual Tax Day of Action event on the south steps of the Rhode Island State House on Tuesday, where political leaders, union workers called on lawmakers to stop wage theft and employer tax fraud, which costs Rhode Island tens of millions of dollars in missed tax revenue every year.

Wage theft in the United States far outstrips all over forms of theft, combined. In 2017, it was estimated to have cost workers around $8 billion dollars. In Rhode Island, a recent report by UMass Amherst showed that more than 20 percent of employers fail to fully report their workers’ wages, avoiding paying proper taxes and contributions to insurance programs.

“At this point, can anyone seriously dispute that the theft of workers’ wages by unscrupulous employers is a real and serious problem in Rhode Island?” asked Attorney General Peter Neronha in a statement. “Can anyone seriously dispute that a change in the law, a change that this Office and others have repeatedly asked for, is necessary to deter conduct that causes real financial harm to working men and women and defrauds the state in the process? As the law stands, a person can steal a laptop worth over $1,500 and it’s a felony, but if a person steals a worker’s wages in any amount, it’s a misdemeanor. Until Rhode Island law reflects the seriousness of wage theft and misclassification, we will continue to see Rhode Islanders impacted. Legitimate businesses will also continue to be at a competitive disadvantage. And Rhode Island taxpayers will continue to lose.”

The Carpenters are highlighting two bills to deal with wage theft and employee misclassification at the event: H5902, which would make wage theft a felony; and H5747, which would make contractors liable for unresolved cases of wage theft perpetrated by their subcontractors on their job sites.

“Both of these bills have been up for consideration at the State House before, and the issue of wage theft has only gotten worse over the years that we have been working on them,” said Benjamin Branchaud, Political Coordinator for the Rhode Island Carpenters. “Wage theft and misclassification in Rhode Island are well-researched problems that the legislature has a chance to tackle this year – once and for all.”

You can read about last year’s Tax day of Action here. Click here for coverage of the 2019 action.

Additional speakers at the Tax Day of Action included Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Director Matt Weldon, Secretary of State Gregg Amore, Rhode Island Lieutenant Governor Sabina Matos, State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence), State Senator Meghan Kallman (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket), Former State Representative Aaron Regunberg, RI Working Families Party Organizing Director Zack Mezera, and North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters Executive Secretary Treasurer Joe Byrne.

State Senator Meghan Kallman (Democrat, District 15, Pawtucket)
State Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence)
Rhode Island Secretary of State Gregg Amore
Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training Director Matt Weldon