Governor Chet Culver has formed a task force to find out how many businesspeople misclassify their employees as independent contractors in order to avoid paying them overtime, or in some cases the minimum wage. "The message that we’re sending loudly and clearly is that we’re going to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to these employers knowingly breaking the law," the governor says.
According to Culver, it’s particularly important as construction work heats up in the wake of last month’s flooding. "We have seen in other states with similar types of rebuilding efforts that you do have, in some cases, some unscrupulous contractors out there and we’re not going to tolerate that," Culver says, "and those individuals and those companies need to be reported to the Department of Labor immediately if we see that kind of illegal activity going on."
Earlier this year, the Iowa Legislature considered a crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants and label them as independent contractors as a way to avoid the paperwork that might catch them in the act of employing illegal immigrants. But lawmakers adjourned for the year without reaching consensus. Culver, a Democrat, says he hopes legislator’s revisit the issue next year. House Republican Leader Christopher Rants of Sioux City says Democrats who controlled the legislature’s agenda this past spring "never had any intention of solving the problems associated with illegal immigration."
Unions also complain contractors hire cheap illegal immigrants as laborers, making it harder for businesses that don’t to win bids. Culver’s move to attempt a crackdown on contractors that hire illegal immigrants is perhaps an olive branch to Iowa labor unions upset by Culver’s veto of an unrelated bill unions favored. That bill dealt with bargaining rules for union contracts covering government workers who’re represented by a union.