News Releases

April 14, 2022: District Attorney Gascón, Carpenters Union Announce Efforts to Protect Workers, Create Safer, Healthier Communities

Greg Risling, Assistant Chief
(213) 257-2000

In recognition of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters’ National Tax Fraud Days of Action, Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón and representatives of The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters today announced efforts to protect workers and build safer and healthier communities.

“I want to thank the Southwest Carpenters for their diligence in helping prevent wage theft and tax fraud,” District Attorney Gascón said. “We must do more to protect both the physical and financial well-being of our workers. When hard-working people are not paid the money they have rightfully earned, they lose their ability to feed, clothe and house their families, creating a cascading effect that causes our entire community to suffer along with them.”

“We are thankful to have a willing partner in Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón to help fight against wage theft and fraud in the construction industry here in Los Angeles, the majority of which is happening in the multi-family residential housing sector,” said Frank Hawk, President of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters. “Tax fraud robs our communities of much-needed tax revenue that funds our schools, roads, hospitals, and housing. Having the District Attorney on our side on this issue underscores the value of the work that we are doing to combat these criminal actions in Los Angeles County."

District Attorney Gascón announced an agreement with the California Labor Commissioner to bolster the investigation and prosecution of wage theft, also known as tax fraud, and a pilot pretrial diversion program for young adults facing criminal charges in collaboration with Southwest Carpenters.

The pilot program, called READY, will provide 20 people, ages 18 to 25, with a pathway to a middle-class career as a union carpenter with full benefits and a pension. The READY program will partner with Homeboy Industries, Second Call, and Volunteers of America creating a pipeline to Southwest Carpenters’ many pre-apprenticeship programs including the Brothers’ Keeper program run out of the union’s training center in Whittier. Brothers’ Keeper is a four-week program geared toward the underserved people of Los Angeles including the formerly incarcerated.

The District Attorney’s Office also has increased resources to address wage theft and tax fraud, which result when employers fail to pay overtime wages, underreport their employees’ work hours or simply do not pay their workers for the work they have performed.

Under the new agreement, the state Department of Industrial Relations will identify and refer investigative leads, complaints and referrals of possible violations to the District Attorney’s Office for civil and criminal prosecution.

A 2020 study found that up to 21 percent of the construction workforce -- some 2.4 million workers --  are illegally paid off the books or misclassified as independent contractors. Losses to federal and state treasuries amount to some $8.4 billion.

A just-released study by the University of California Berkeley found that 39 percent of U.S. construction worker families, about 3 million, rely on taxpayer-funded safety-net programs. The researchers attribute the numbers, which are higher than those for all workers, to low pay, wage theft and illegal employment practices.

Both studies can be found here: National-Carpenters-Study-Methodology-for-Wage-and-Tax-Fraud-Report-FINAL.pdf (

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the US Construction Industry - UC Berkeley Labor Center

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters represents over 58,000 union carpenters in six states. The union is dedicated to raising the safety and standards for all skilled carpenters and advocating for the rights of workers, their families, and their communities. The SWRCC is proud to be affiliated with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.