Users Browsing this Thread
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)
- 05-18-2006, 11:14 AM #1
Bricklayer: Playing by rules is costly
http://www.tulsaworld.com/NewsStory.asp ... Brick25860
Randy Sissom and his father, Carl, work on a job.
MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World
Click on a thumbnail above to view photos.
Bricklayer: Playing by rules is costly
By TOM DROEGE World Staff Writer
View in Print (PDF) Format
COWETA -- The bricklaying business is falling in around Randy Sissom because he refuses to break rules and hire illegal immigrants, he says.
But people in the trade who take a less scrupulous route are profiting, he says, along with home builders who look the other way.
With the influx of illegal immigrants to the Tulsa area in recent years the situation has only gotten worse and Sissom is ready to quit.
"If I can't make money and do it legally, I'm not going to do it," said the 25-year-old who learned the trade under his father. "Somebody has to have integrity."
With a home building boom rippling across the Tulsa area, there's plenty of work to go around. There's plenty of workers, too. But the number of illegal immigrants has altered the way people do business.
It boils down to a numbers game. Sissom says he pays good hourly wages: $22 for a skilled mason and $10 for a general laborer.
But he withholds money from his workers' paychecks to cover taxes and insurance. So the amount taken home drops considerably.
Some in the business pay lower wages, often in cash, but they don't withhold taxes and insurance. For a worker with no proof of U.S. citizenship, this is often the only choice.
"They want to work, but they don't want to pay taxes," said Jim Hargrove, another area mason. "People always say you'd be paying a lot more if they weren't here."
But that's only true if you play the game. There are a couple of ways to do that. You can simply pay your workers cash under the table with no withholdings. Or you can hire the workers as independent contractors and let the Internal Revenue Service worry about collecting.
Opinions about this underground economy vary. Some say relatively cheap labor is critical to the economy's health. It makes goods and services more affordable and benefits consumers.
But in the home building business, Sissom thinks illegal immigrant work is only helping the bottom line of the builders and other people cutting the checks.
"The builders are profiting a lot because they are not dropping their house prices," he said. "The house prices are going up."
Hargrove said when he bids a brick job he can't compete with the price of an all-immigrant crew. Sissom faces the same problem. He usually charges builders about $245 per thousand bricks installed. Immigrant competitors charge about $200 per thousand, he said.
Sissom says immigrants, mainly from Mexico, stop by his job site almost on a daily basis looking for work. "They say, 'You pay cash?' " he said.
When they find out he takes out money from their checks to pay taxes they often lose interest, he said. But if they still want the job, Sissom says he makes a copy of any documentation they provide like a Green Card and Social Security card.
"I feel like my country and the lawmakers of our country have turned their back on their own," said Sissom. "I feel abandoned."
U.S. Census Bureau estimates put Tulsa's total Hispanic population at about 40,000, while unofficial estimates that include illegal immigrants say as many as 75,000 Hispanics live here.
Carl Sissom, Randy's father, has been in the masonry business 43 years. He says there is still money to be made in specialty masonry projects where more skill is required. And more regulated trades like electricians and plumbers don't face much competition from illegal immigrant workers.
Sissom and Hargrove say most people in the home building business like the way things are now.
They don't blame people from Mexico for wanting a better life. They just want an equal playing field, and they're frustrated that there don't seem to be any referees.
"I'm all for the American dream, but when it turns into a nightmare, something is wrong," said Hargrove. "I'm just an old bricklayer. I don't know what to do about it except voice my opinion."
- 05-18-2006, 11:23 AM #2
- Join Date
- Dec 1969
- Lone Star State of Chaos
We have a home building boom right here in Tyler..have had since the mid-90's. But the Mexicans are the ones who have profited from it...
We were in the masonry business...had been for a quarter century and all of our sons were trained in it ( 4). It had been a good living but sometimes a bit difficult due to the winter rainy season.
Now, it's almost impossible to bid on residential properties as the illegals so badly underbid. Their work is sloppy. But the contractors have a better profit using illegals.
We had to go into commercial work...it's much more costly in equipment...so far no illegals have entered commercial work.
- 05-18-2006, 12:08 PM #3
An electrician friend of mine has been complaining about this issue since 1998. Companies that use illegal workers often submit the lowest bid. He claims that the work is sometimes not up to code, but nothing is done about it.
This is why it is important that home buyers have a complete and independent inspection performed on any house that they make an offer on.
The cost of this inspection is worth every penny and can save you lots of money and trouble in the long run. BTW, never let the seller or the seller's real estate agent recommend the home inspection company alone. Hire an inspector your self and make sure that they are ASHI and ICBO certified, as well as bonded and insured PI and PL.
- 05-18-2006, 12:57 PM #4
- Join Date
- May 2006
[quote]"I feel like my country and the lawmakers of our country have turned their back on their own," said Sissom. "I feel abandoned." [quote]
As well you should, we all do