December 12, 2006
Vol 1 | Num 27


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News to know

Companies take steps to avoid hiring illegal immigrant workers

Read part one, part two and part three of the e-glass Special Series on immigration.

In the Nov. 28 edition of e-glass weekly, several company managers reported that their immigrant workforce has helped them get through the growing labor shortage in the glass industry. However, industry representatives such as Keith Sitzler, southern region sales representative for Glassline Corp. in Perrysburg, Ohio, warn companies need to take all appropriate steps to ensure they hire legal immigrant workers.

“Let’s be clear about immigrants—there are legal immigrants and there are illegal immigrants,” Sitzler says. “We need to maintain our legal integrity and expect other countries to respect our borders and enforce tight border security.”

Sitzler is not alone in his concern, particularly since companies can be fined if they are caught with illegal workers. About 40 percent of respondents in the Nov. 28 e-glass poll said not knowing whether immigrants are legal is the main reason that immigrants don’t make up a larger portion of the industry workforce.

Immigrant workers make up 10 percent of the workforce at Downs Glass in Sarasota, Fla., and company president Mike Downs says all applicants are carefully screened ahead of time to ensure they are in the country legally.

Downs says a copy of all applicant driver’s licenses is sent to the insurance company and the sheriff’s department. If the license number does not match the name, the document is false and “we don’t take it any further,” Downs says.

For detailed information about U.S. immigration laws and requirements for employers, click here.

Union glass companies may also have an advantage in ensuring their workers are legal, says Rod Van Buskirk, president of Bacon & Van Buskirk Glass Co. in Champaign, Ill. “Union employers generally don’t have issues in commercial construction with illegal workers, since union employers must report and contribute benefits and wages into union benefit programs,” Van Buskirk says.

However, even if glass companies carefully screen and only hire legal immigrant workers, they still can be affected by the hiring of illegal workers from competitors, Downs explains. Companies that knowingly hire illegal immigrants can have an advantage during bidding, he says.

“I know of companies that don’t care—they hire illegal immigrants and pay them cash,” he says. “What happens, then, to the market is that the bids coming in aren’t the same. If I’m paying above scale to a legal, someone else paying an illegal under the table will of course have a big 10 [percent} to 12 percent lower. And they will still make more money.”

 

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