Laborers Make Recommendations for Reforming NYC Housing Preservation and Development

Recommendations Include Reforming HPD’s Procurement and Reporting Requirements To Combat Wage Theft And Worker Exploitation
Greater New York LECET
Oct 31, 2016, 10:35 ET

NEW YORK, Oct. 31, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Before a New York City Council hearing today, the Mason Tenders District Council, Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), called for reforming the procurement and reporting requirements of the Department of Housing Preservation & Development. After years of mismanagement, flawed procurement processes and corruption, Greater New York Laborers-Employers’ Cooperation & Education Trust (GNYLECET), submitted a series of recommendations at today’s Committee on Housing and Buildings hearing on Intro 967, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s and Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s legislation to reform HPD in relation to construction conditions in housing development projects.

“Intro 967 is a great first step towards reforming HPD and leveling the playing field in their procurement process,” said Pat Purcell, Executive Director of Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust. “For too long the same unscrupulous contractors have been receiving a steady stream of work from HPD, while their indiscretions in regards to wage theft and safety violations have been largely overlooked. If amended to include recommendations like the ones we are advocating for at the Council today, Intro 967 has the potential to rectify a long-term problem at one of the City’s most critical agencies and ensure the gold-standard of construction is being upheld when HPD looks to award projects,” Purcell said.

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2017 Labor and Employment Legislative Developments: Illinois, California, New York, Washington D.C., Georgia, Michigan, and Texas

Tuesday, January 3, 2017
Labor & Employment Group

We ring in the new year with our annual reporting on certain employment-related legislative developments slated to take effect in 2017 on the federal level and in Illinois, California, New York, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Michigan, and Texas.

Federal law
  • Executive Order 13706: Establishing Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors: Effective January 1, 2017, federal contractors entering into or extending covered contracts with the federal government must provide certain employees paid sick leave annually for illness or medical conditions, preventive care, care of a sick family member, or absences relating to domestic violence or related proceedings. For a summary of these obligations and the contracts to which they apply, please see here.
  • Executive Order 13673: Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces “Paycheck Transparency” Provisions: For federal contracts on or after January 1, 2017, that exceed $500,000.00 (and subcontracts that exceed $500,000.00 other than commercially available off-the-shelf items), contractors covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Davis-Bacon Act, or Service Contract Act will be required to provide a wage statement each pay period to all individuals performing work on the contract. The statement must include hours and overtime hours worked in the pay period broken down by week, rate of pay, gross pay, and itemization of additions to or deductions from gross pay. Statements to individuals who are overtime-exempt need not include a record of hours worked so long as the contractor informs the individual in writing of his or her overtime exempt status. Contractors subject to these “paycheck transparency” provisions also will be required to inform independent contractors working on covered contracts of their status as an independent contractor. (Note that the provisions of this Order that required disclosure of labor law violations in the contract bidding process (the so-called “blacklisting” rule), and restricted the use of pre-dispute arbitration agreements for certain claims, were enjoined by a Texas federal court in late October 2016.)

Guest Commentary: Apprenticeships beneficial to economy

Sun, 10/30/2016 – 7:00am | The News-Gazette

Students of all ages across our country are back to school.

And while there are many disputes about education policy, there is no disputing its fundamental purpose – to prepare Americans for the jobs of tomorrow.
In Illinois, our fastest growing industry is construction. And construction is projected to grow at twice the rate of Illinois’ economy over the next decade, adding thousands of new
middle-class jobs.

Accessing these jobs in the fastest-growing skilled trades typically requires at least three years of apprenticeship training. And new research from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows that the average impact of that training – in the form of increased earnings over an entire career – is greater than the effect of associate’s degrees and many bachelor’s degrees.

So what is an “apprenticeship?”

Apprenticeships have been around for nearly a century. They are governed by state and federal standards that ensure proper certification of graduates. Funded almost entirely by private entities such as employers, labor-management groups and unions, they require almost no out of pocket costs for students, and better yet, enable students to “earn while they learn” – collecting a paycheck while learning a skilled trade on the jobsite and in the classroom. Best of all, they ensure that our state has a pool of skilled tradespeople to meet our long-term infrastructure and building needs.

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Judge blocks Obama rule extending overtime pay to 4.2 million U.S. workers

POLITICS | Wed Nov 23, 2016 | 8:30am EST
By Daniel Wiessner and Robert Iafolla

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked an Obama administration rule to extend mandatory overtime pay to more than 4 million salaried workers from taking effect, imperiling one of the outgoing president’s signature achievements for boosting wages.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant, in Sherman, Texas, agreed with 21 states and a coalition of business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, that the rule is unlawful and granted their motion for a nationwide injunction.

The rule, issued by the Labor Department, was to take effect Dec. 1 and would have doubled to $47,500 the maximum salary a worker can earn and still be eligible for mandatory overtime pay. The new threshold would have been the first significant change in four decades.

It was expected to touch nearly every sector of the U.S. economy and have the greatest impact on nonprofit groups, retail companies, hotels and restaurants, which have many management workers whose salaries are below the new threshold.

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In this economy, Latinos are most frequent victims of wage theft

October 27, 2016, 08:01 am
By Paco Fabián, contributor

Wage theft is epidemic and it hits Latino workers the hardest. A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute found that wage theft across America is costing workers $50 billion per year. Compare that to the robberies, burglaries, larcenies, and motor vehicle thefts in the FBI’s uniform crime report, which cost victims an estimated $14 billion over the same period, and you can see that calling wage theft an epidemic is no exaggeration.

Paying workers below the legal minimum wage, not paying for overtime hours worked, forcing workers to work off-the-clock or, for workers on federal contracts, not paying the proper wage rate for their occupation, are just some of the sleights-of -hand that employers engage in to cheat workers. Although all of these maneuvers are illegal, they are rarely punished.

In a survey conducted of three metropolitan areas with high Latino populations, the largest percentage of workers who suffer minimum wage and overtime law violations are Latinos. And amongst foreign-born Latino workers the problem is even worse.

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Justice for Children Exploited by Utah Construction Company

Nov 30
By Karen Bobela and Joe Doolin

Bobby Johnson and Danny Steed, former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, attended homeschool through the seventh grade, then started working in the construction industry. While other children their age were focused on passing math exams, Bobby and Danny were working full-time jobs in construction, operating equipment to prep and pour concrete on large-scale projects.

For nearly two years, starting when he was 13, Bobby worked for Phaze Concrete Inc. in Arizona, Kansas, Missouri and Wyoming. When Danny was 14, he worked for the company in Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska for approximately nine months.

Working between 12 and 14 hours per day, six days per week and earning roughly $200 every two weeks, Bobby and Danny were paid an effective rate of $1.19 per hour – not even close to the required federal minimum wage of $7.25.

During their employment with Phaze, Bobby and Danny were required to operate forklifts and use various types of saws to cut rebar and concrete.

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Happy Holidays From The DOL: User-Friendly Webpage On Independent Contractors Misclassification Arrives

Monday, December 19, 2016
Greg Guidry

On December 19, the United States Department of Labor (DOL) issued what it describes as a “user-friendly webpage where workers, employers, and government agencies can find information and resources” about misclassification of workers as independent contractors.

In the announcement about its new educational and resource tool, the DOL states that the misclassification of employees as independent contractors is a “huge problem for workers, employers who play by the rules and our economy.” It also quotes two alleged victims of misclassification, a taxi driver who said he was underpaid and subjected to terrible working conditions akin to “modern day slavery,” and a masonry contractor who said that misclassification “makes for an unfair playing field” that “has to stop.”

In the cover page, the DOL states that it supports the use of legitimate independent contractors, but when employers deliberately misclassify employees as independent contractors in an attempt to cut costs, everyone loses. The DOL then states that “this new resource offers information about how misclassification affects pay, unemployment insurance, safety and health protections, retirement and health benefits, and taxes. It then pleads to the user: “Help us address this problem by learning more.”

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(USDOL Misclassification Resource Tool)

Tackling Wage Theft in Silicon Valley

11/29/2016 10:55 am ET
Ruth Starkman

The Santa Clara County Wage Theft Coalition is currently working with The Workers Lab in Oakland on a phone app that will help workers more easily report wage theft from employers and work to recover their rightful payment. Complementing the Coalition, advocacy and the Workers Lab’s technology the Stanford Center for Facility Engineering (CIFE) is leading a team of subject matter experts and DataKind data science volunteers to take a ‘big data’ approach to spotlighting wage theft using employee demographic and employer violation data.

Recently, we sat down with Santa Clara University School of Law Adjunct Faculty member and Supervising Attorney of the Workers’ Rights Clinic of the Katharine & George Alexander Community Law Center’s, Ruth Silver Taube, CEO of The Workers Lab, Carmen Rojas, Data Scientist, Annamaria Prati and Stanford University Engineering PhD student, Forest Peterson to discuss fighting wage theft in Silicon Valley.

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Two entwined Massachusetts companies deliberately misclassified hourly workers as independent contractors

December 06, 2016

The Labor Department said today that Anderson Dos Santos, owner and president of AB Construction Group and Juliano Fernandes, general manager at Force Corporation cheated 478 construction workers out of overtime wages and employment benefits.

The Labor Department said Force prepared and controlled the payroll and payment procedures for both companies. AB Construction was formed to supply Force with labor. The pair used a combination of payroll checks and cash and check payments to pay their employees straight time when overtime pay was required and kept inadequate and inaccurate time and payroll records, in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

“To be cheated out of wages and denied other workplace protections by an employer who deliberately flouts the rules compounds the struggles too many middle-class Americans already face,” U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. “Workers who play by the rules deserve nothing less than to be paid what they are owed.”

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Subcontractor on UH-Hilo project sanctioned, fined

Hawaii Tribune Herald
Published November 1, 2016 – 12:05am

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations said Monday it has assessed Tradewind Plastering and Drywall Inc. a total of $143,000 for violating wage laws on the University of Hawaii at Hilo College of Hawaiian Language Building construction project.

According to a written statement, $130,367 is for wages owed to construction workers with $13,037 added for penalties. Tradewind Plastering and Drywall was a subcontractor of Jacobsen Construction Co. on the UH-Hilo project.

The most costly of the violations was underpaying construction workers by misclassifying them as apprentices, and paying lower apprentice wages, with no registered apprenticeship in evidence. This was in violation of Hawaii’s prevailing wage law covering public works construction.

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