Carpenters Fight Payroll Fraud at the University of Tennessee

There’s a startling and pervasive problem in the construction industry across the United States, one that drains billions of dollars from local economies and puts millions of people at risk, and it’s happening in Tennessee.

Corrupt contractors are intentionally and falsely labeling employees as independent subcontractors, or, more often, are paying workers off-the-books, in cash. This is commonly called “misclassifying” workers, or Payroll Fraud. Doing so enables the employer to not pay federal and state taxes and fees, such as Social Security and Medicare, state and federal unemployment contributions, overtime, and workers’ compensation premiums.

Off-the-books workers are also often the target of abuse. They are denied basic middle-class safety net protections, are paid less than what they’re worth, and are often forced to work in unsafe conditions. At the same time, healthcare, schooling, and government aid is provided to these cheating contractors and these undocumented workers - courtesy of taxpayers and law-abiding employers - leading to rising insurance rates and healthcare costs.

The Mid-South Carpenters are staging protests when they detect Payroll Fraud to be occurring. The Carpenters have protested at the University of Tennessee several times in past years to call attention to the problem of misclassification of undocumented workers, Payroll Fraud, and immigrant abuse on campus construction sites. The most recent protest centers around the Strong Hall project at 1560 Cumberland Avenue, Knoxville.

The Carpenters have filed an unfair labor practice charge centering around this project.

“This is not a union vs. non-union issue. We all live and work in the communities that are affected by this practice, This is about protecting our neighbors, our communities, and those workers who don’t have the ability to stick up for themselves,” said Mike Boner, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Mid-South Carpenters.

“We are committed to bringing attention to project owners such as the University of Tennessee regarding contractors who may be committing Payroll Fraud. We urge them to take action.”

Learn more about Payroll Fraud by visiting