This morning on NPR I heard a story on the construction industry in Texas.
Wade Goodwyn was rolling along in his raspy monotone about how the home building industry is booming again in Texas, but wasn’t necessarily a boon for the laborers. He had quotes from a homebuilder who said he couldn’t find American workers, who said he worried about the future of the construction industry thanks to the lack of interest from American students.
Who said he would get priced out of the market if he did everything by the book.
And sitting there in my car, waiting to head into the office, I thought, “Gee, that’s the same thing I hear from landscapers all the time.”
And then comes Trent. This guy, who wouldn’t give his first name to NPR for fear of the government coming down on him, hires guys he knows to be illegal, classifies then as subcontractors and then pays them all cash – about 70 bucks a day.
What happens then just isn’t his concern.
Trent says he doesn’t know if any of his guys are paying taxes. “That’s their business,” he says. “If I were to speculate, I would probably say they are not paying their Social Security [taxes]. I would also say that they’re probably not filing their income tax returns on a regular basis.”
He goes on to say that even with his bargain basement labor rates, he still gets underbid. Now, I don’t doubt that, especially in the DFW market, but his justification leaves a bit to be desired:
“If there wasn’t such a readily available supply of laborers that are looking for work in my exact line of business, then I would say I am doing wrong and that I should play by the rules,” Trent says. “I don’t feel as though I’m doing anything wrong.”
Translation: But, Mom! Everyone else is doing it!
To willfully circumvent the spirit of the law is just as bad as violating the letter, and this landscaper is putting a lot of people at risk. To blame your competition or the market for your own decision to flout the law is shameful. That’s no way to run a business, and no way to improve an industry.