June 27, 2013. A Newsday op-ed by David Dyssegaard Kallick stresses the need for labor standards enforcement as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
Paying people off the books is, of course, illegal. But does it happen? We know it does.
The good news is that there’s no great mystery about how to stop it. Labor departments — at the state and federal level — are responsible for enforcing workplace standards. They are the ones who can ensure that employers are paying employees on the books, withholding payroll taxes, and paying into state unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation funds.
Unfortunately, as the number of border patrol agents around the country has soared in recent decades, the number of labor inspectors has shrunk — by 31 percent between 1980 and 2007, even though the labor force grew. At the same time, not coincidentally, the number of people being paid off the books — both immigrants who lack the proper documentation to work and others — has dramatically increased. There are now only around 1,000 labor inspectors to cover the entire country.