Despite today’s Democrats not being working class friendly at all, labor unions have been a Democratic Party mainstay for decades. But it seems that the left’s having gone all-out #SocialJustice is putting them in conflict with labor unions. From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Controversial tax abatement bill pits Philly building trades unions against concerns for immigrant workers
by Sean Collins Walsh | November 30, 2020 | 7:03 PM EST
A City Council bill designed to prevent unscrupulous contractors from receiving construction tax benefits sparked a debate about whether it could also open the door for a crackdown on undocumented workers in an unusually contentious committee hearing on Monday.
At issue was a bill by Councilmember Bobby Henon that would prohibit projects using construction firms that improperly classify workers as independent contractors from qualifying for the city’s residential property tax abatement, which provides 10 years of tax benefits on the value of new construction and renovations.
“How do we ensure that the application of this isn’t discriminatory toward undocumented workers who have no recourse?” City Councilmember Maria Quiñones-Sánchez said during a Finance Committee hearing on the bill. “There’s no other way for the communities that I represent to see it any other way than they are potentially being targeted.”
After heated debate, the committee eventually approved the bill in a rare divided vote of 6-3, but not before Henon was forced to provide assurances that, before the bill comes to the Council floor for final passage, he would work to identify regulations that would ensure it does not endanger immigrant workers.
Bobby Henon used to be political director of Local 98 of the powerful International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Philadelphia is a union town. Unions have tried to retain a stranglehold on all construction in the city, and they make projects more difficult for non-union contractors.1 Kensington, where Maria Quiñones-Sánchez’s2 district is based, was 38.9% Hispanic according to the 2010 census. While the exact percentage of the population which is in the United States illegally isn’t known, in 2016, the Rev John Olenick, then pastor of Visitation Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) Roman Catholic Parish in Kensington, said that his “parish consists of many undocumented people from places like Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, [the] Dominican Republic, and other countries.” Visitation BVM Church celebrates one Mass in English on Sundays, but three Masses in Spanish, which lets you know just how busy the parish is.3 We may not know the exact percentage of legal vs illegal immigrants are in Mrs Quiñones-Sánchez’s district, but it’s clear that there are a lot of them.
Henon said the bill was not meant to target immigrants and that it was merely meant to ensure construction firms were following employment law.
“This is not penalizing workers in anyway. This is protecting workers,” he said. “I am always open to having a conversation to try to work out some of the unintended consequences with our Revenue Department.”
But Quiñones-Sánchez said that filing as an independent contractor is the only option available to undocumented immigrants — who make up between 15% and 25% of the local construction workforce, according to a 2018 estimate by the city controller — aside from working completely off the books.
Quiñones-Sánchez said if Henon was primarily interested in safety, he would propose a bill aimed at ensuring undocumented workers are protected by safety rules, not one that would keep them off job sites.
Mrs Quiñones-Sánchez has just pointed out, though I doubt she meant to do so, that the illegal immigrants haven’t broken the law only by having crossed into the United States illegally, but continue breaking the law, every day, because they have to work for a living, but they have to violate our employment and tax laws to do so. Either they are presenting forged documents to employers to work on the books, which is a felony, or they are working off the books, for cash, meaning that they are breaking our income tax laws, another felony.
Economically, labor unions bargain for higher wages through the law of supply and demand. If they can force a company or an industry to use only unionized workers, they have effectively reduced the supply of potential workers to the population of union members. For non-unionized workers, allowing illegal immigrants4 to compete for jobs is to increase the supply of workers vis a vis the demand for them, which exerts negative pressure on wages in general.
Mrs Quiñones-Sánchez, a liberal Democrat, opposes the ideas of Mr Henon, another liberal Democrat, because, as will inevitably be the case, the goals of the #SocialJusticeWarriors are inevitably contradictory. I just enjoy watching them fighting with each other.
1 – This is something I have seen first hand, having jobsite experience while working for a non-union ready-mixed concrete supplier in the Philadelphia suburbs, while providing concrete for a few projects in the city itself. Unions can make it difficult for non-union workers to get to the jobsite, and concrete is a perishable product.
2 – While the 2020 election in Pennsylvania was, according to the Democrats, completely free of fraud, Mrs Quiñones-Sánchez herself said that “the ward leaders opposing her have a history of Election Day shenanigans and campaign finance violations.” WHYY, the NPR station in Philadelphia, reported: “After the election, the city’s Board of Ethics found that the 7th Ward/Friends of Angel Cruz and Quiñones-Sánchez campaign committee had committed campaign finance violations for accepting excess contributions from other political committees.” Both campaigns, and Mrs Quiñones-Sánchez personally, had to pay fines levied by the city’s Ethics Board. Who knew that there were ever ethics in Philadelphia?
3 – According to the church bulletin, the church has a Pastor, two Associate Pastors, another Redemptorist priest in residence, and a deacon. That’s more staffing than any parish of which I have been a member.
4 – I do not use the mealy-mouthed adjective “undocumented” to soft-peddle the fact that such immigrants are here illegally.
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