CHESTERTON, Ind.—Building-trades unions and contractors in northwest Indiana have united in a campaign to outlaw construction companies hiring workers as “independent contractors.” So far, five communities in the region have enacted “responsible bidder” ordinances that hold companies that don’t pay workers as employees guilty of tax fraud. “These workers are being exploited,” Dewey Pearman, head of the Construction Advancement Foundation of Northwest Indiana, told the Northwest Indiana Times. Contractors that hire workers as “independent” to avoid paying taxes and Social Security cost the state of Indiana $405 million a year, according to the Indiana/Kentucky/Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters. The campaign grew out of a partnership between local labor and business interests that began with project-labor agreements in 1995. Both sides share the goal of keeping out fly-by-night contractors, said Randy Palmateer, business manager for the Northwestern Indiana Building and Construction Trades Council. Chesterton, a town of 13,000 east of Gary, enacted its responsible-bidder measure in late August, a month after the death of carpenter Mattias Miguel-Baltazar, a 35-year-old Guatemalan immigrant who fell off a ladder. Porter County prosecutors said they are investigating whether the subcontractor that had employed him was paying taxes and providing workers’ compensation benefits. Read more


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