Labor-contractor group's leader says illegal workers stealing jobs
By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer
Posted on: Tuesday, June 17, 2008
The head of an organization that represents contractors and unionized carpenters said the recent arrests of undocumented workers in Hawai'i is just the “tip of the iceberg” and he fears many more people could be working illegally in the state.
Kyle Chock, executive director of Pacific Resource Partnership, said he doesn't know how widespread the problem is, but believes the number of illegal immigrants is significant. Pacific Resource Partnership is an organization of contractors and the 8,000-member Hawaii Carpenters Union.
“For us it's problematic because we've got about 1,500 members in the Carpenters Union who are unemployed and these are law-abiding, local people who are losing their jobs to illegal workers. It's just not right,” Chock said.
He cited the arrests last month of 22 alleged illegal immigrants who were working at restaurants on Maui, and the arrests of 19 others last December at two Downtown construction sites as examples of the growing problem.
“If you peel off more layers of the onion, there's a lot there,” he said. “I wouldn't even want to venture to guess a number, but it's significant enough where we have rising unemployment and we have the airlines going out of business and you've got undocumented workers taking jobs away from local people. I really think there's a lot more there.”
Chock called for greater enforcement of immigration laws, as well as harsher punishments for companies that hire illegal aliens. He said most contractors employ workers who are in the country legally, but said a few companies choose to break the law and hire the cheaper labor.
Chock said he is also concerned that recent comments by City Council member Rod Tam about illegal workers may be diverting attention from the problem. Tam recently was censured by the City Council for using a racially insensitive word to describe illegal Mexican workers during a committee meeting.
“We're not out there to go after any ethnic group at all because our union is built by ethnic minorities,” Chock said.
Reach Curtis Lum at firstname.lastname@example.org.