Pa. Labor Committee Votes for Construction Industry E-Verification

By Jessica M. Vaughan on December 11, 2009

On Tuesday the Pennsylvania House Labor Relations Committee unanimously approved two bills that would require the state's construction and building trades industry employers to use E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to avoid hiring illegal workers and confirm the Social Security numbers of all employees. Sponsored by Rep. John Galloway, a Democrat from Bucks County, the bills have strong support from the construction and building trade unions. If enacted, this would be the first industry-specific state verification law, and the first state verification law to insist that private employers screen all workers, not just new hires.

The Committee held a lengthy hearing in June to examine the proposal. I testified alongside organized labor representatives, including Gerard R. Waites of the Washington, D.C., law firm O'Donoghue & O'Donoghue, who represents building trade unions around the country. Committee members also heard from a panel of industry employers and their representatives, who opposed the bills on the grounds that mandatory verification would be burdensome. However, each employer on the panel admitted under questioning that they had not ever tried to use E-Verify or SSNVS. The bills were later amended to accommodate other employer concerns, such as legal protections for good faith use of the program and adequate time for employees to correct problems with their record.

Breaking ranks with its organized labor brethren was the state chapter of the Service Employees International Union, whose representative testified in opposition. The representative drew the ire and sharp comments from several committee members for stating that the union makes a point of advocating for all its members, especially illegal aliens. This testimony apparently inspired another bill (HB 2112) that would prohibit unions from accepting illegal aliens as members.

Mr. Galloway's bills also include provisions for the state Department of Labor and Industry to conduct complaint-based and random audits of employers. These three compliance tools – mandatory E-Verify, SSNVS, and audits – together with vigorous enforcement of state laws against id theft and fraud, represent the best practices for states to make sure that scarce jobs go to legal workers, and are vital to augment increasingly anemic federal immigration enforcement efforts.

Topics: E-Verify