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TX Anti-Misclassification Legislation, a Potential Bright Spot for the Southern GOP, Dying Under Pressure from Big Box Homebuilders

Davis and Carona (TX)

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In Texas, a pair of Republicans who have led the fight against construction worker employee misclassification are seeing their bills die in the legislature due to pressure from big business interests.

The two bills, Sen. John Carona’s Senate Bill 676 and Rep. John Davis’ House Bill 1925, would have levied fines ranging from $100 to $1,000 per misclassified worker against employers. The fact that protections this slight can’t gain traction gives you an idea of just how out of control unscrupulous construction companies are.

A recent study from the Workers Defense Project found that over 300,000 Texas workers are being misclassified. The bills can be framed as immigration bills as well since nearly 50 percent of construction workers in the Lone Star State are undocumented. Despite early progress, the bills stalled when those who do not wish to change the status quo began to wield influence, according to the Texas Tribune:

Carona’s bill stalled in the Senate Committee on Economic Development and Davis’ bill, despite being unanimously voted out of the House Committee on Economic Development and Small Business, never received a full vote in that chamber. Davis said that while smaller construction companies supported the bill, larger homebuilders like Perry Homes and David Weekley Homes opposed it. Representatives from both companies registered opposition to the bill during a committee hearing last month.

The only chance of action in this session is for these bills to be attached to other legislation.  The only chance of that is if the bills are viewed through the lens of immigration.  Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, an Austin Democrat, supports Davis’ bill and argues it does, in fact, pertain to immigration:

“Of course it’s an immigration issue, but it’s hidden under this umbrella of playing on an even field.”

Anti-misclassification efforts are not frequently spearheaded by Republicans.  However, due to the large sums state governments lose because of the practice, Texas GOPers have begun to change their stance on the issue. In Texas alone, misclassification has led to $54 million in lost unemployment tax revenue and over $1 billion in lost federal income tax revenue.

Rep. Paul Workman, a Republican who serves on the Economic Development and Small Business Committee, passed the blame for the bills’ failure on to the federal government.  Despite supporting Davis’ bill, Workman argued that the federal government must work out immigration reform for states to have any power over misclassification:

“If we can get the federal government to pass a guest worker program that’s meaningful, then we can do a lot more on the misclassification issue.”

This is where it gets complicated. True worker sympathizers understand that meaningful guest worker reform involves limiting the number of temporary, guest workers that are allowed in the United States rather than legalizing the practice of exploiting workers for big business financial gain. Misclassification is a problem not just for foreign workers but for all workers as it results in heightened health care costs and tax burdens that should be taken on by employers but are instead made the responsibility of employees. Expansion of guest worker programs exacerbates these ills.


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