Santa Fe judge allows wage-theft enforcement suit to continue

By T.S. Last/Journal NorthFriday, April 28th, 2017 at 4:56pm

SANTA FE – District Court Judge David K. Thomson on Friday rejected a motion by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions to dismiss a lawsuit filed claiming the department was not enforcing state wage theft laws.

The lawsuit was filed in January by four people who say they were victims of wage theft and a coalition of workers’ rights groups. They allege that the department doesn’t hold guilty employers liable for statutory damages during the administrative enforcement phase of a case; improperly imposes a $10,000 cap on investigating wage theft claims; doesn’t investigate or take action against a business when a claim is more than a year old; and refuses claims when workers get snagged by administrative red tape.

“This ruling reaffirms that every hard working New Mexican – not just those with the money to hire lawyers – deserves to be paid for their work,” Elizabeth Wagoner of the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a news release. “Our state government cannot turn a blind eye when employers break laws protecting working people.”

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Requiring higher wages would pay off in more home-building: Guest commentary

By Murtaza Baxamusa
POSTED: 04/28/17, 9:50 AM PDT


For the second straight year, the California Legislature is considering cutting red tape for developers and builders in an effort to encourage construction of more housing. This approach suggests that the state’s affordable-housing crisis is entirely the result of too many regulations and too much public input inhibiting supply.

Not exactly.

A recent study analyzing industry and economic census data by Smart Cities Prevail (SCP) revealed that it takes 13 percent more workers to produce residential housing today than it did 20 years ago. And while construction profits have increased 50 percent more than the cost of labor or materials, inflation-adjusted wages for blue-collar construction workers have actually decreased by 25 percent.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. And by leading a race to the bottom for productivity and wages, the industry has helped create California’s housing crisis.

If we truly want to solve this problem, this dynamic needs to change.

There are more than a million Californians who work in construction. Yet many working Californians simply don’t make enough money to afford a roof over the head of their family.

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Roundtable exposes extent of wage theft

By Steve Share
April 27, 2017

One worker after another, they described how employers failed to pay them for work they performed. They included a truck driver, a home health care worker, a retail cleaner and a school worker. All spoke at a roundtable Wednesday hosted by the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service and moderated by Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith.

The event highlighted the problem of wage theft in Minnesota and pointed to legislation to improve enforcement when wage theft occurs.

“It is so completely wrong,” Smith said. “Wage theft is stealing.”

In some industries, such as construction, employers intentionally and routinely steal wages from workers, said Burt Johnson, attorney for the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters. It is “a business model” that the union refers to as “payroll fraud.”

Lt. Gov. Smith said her understanding of wage theft has grown in recent years.

“I have to admit I thought it was something that was extremely rare and almost done by accident,” she said. “I have learned a lot since then,” noting “There are so many ways employers can steal from their employees, whether it’s five minutes at a time or two weeks at a time.”

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Housing Affordability Prevailing Wage Standards Can Help Improve Housing Affordability


Alex Lantsberg, MCP, AICP

A brand new study by Smart Cities Prevail shows that linking prevailing wage standards with proposed reforms to streamline new housing development would close the affordability gap, save state and local governments tens of millions of dollars annually, and disproportionately benefit communities of color.

Overall, the study notes that it takes 13% more workers today to match the residential housing output that California enjoyed just twenty years ago. This steep decline in productivity has been matched by a 25% decline in inflation-adjusted blue-collar construction wages (the median wage is just $35,000 per year) and housing prices that have soared as high as 54% in the Bay Area.

“A productivity renaissance will be necessary to produce housing units in the numbers that will noticeably shave what Californians pay for housing,” said study author Alex Lantsberg. “Studies have repeatedly shown that the best way to realize that goal is by incorporating prevailing wage standards.”

Prevailing wage is a minimum wage for blue-collar construction work that reflects local market rates for different skilled crafts. Long associated with stronger economic outcomes and more local hiring, most research shows that prevailing wages have no significant impact on total project costs because they promote higher skilled craftsmanship. This triggers increases in productivity and efficiency as high as 15%, reduced reliance on taxpayer funded public assistance programs, and prevents workforce shortages by helping to fund the apprenticeship programs that are used to meet California’s construction workforce training needs.

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(Full PDF Copy of Study)

Pols working on wage-theft bill (MA)

By Katie Lannan, State House News Service
UPDATED: 04/26/2017 09:25:02 AM EDT

BOSTON — Workers’ rights advocates and labor leaders pledged Monday to pass into law this session a bill aimed at preventing wage theft by employers.

During a press conference in support of the bill, its backers said wage theft — a business’s underpayment, non-payment or denial of benefits to a worker — particularly hurts immigrants and can pose a barrier to families trying to move up into the middle class.

“I’m not labeling the entire employer community criminals, because the large majority of them are law-abiding and play by the rules and they deserve protection, but those employers that steal the wages from their workers are criminals,” Massachusetts Building Trades Council President Frank Callahan said. “It’s theft and stealing. They don’t carry guns, they don’t wear masks. They wear suits like this and they steal money from people who wear workboots and go to work every single day.”

The bill (S 999/H 1033) seeks to prevent wage law violations by allowing the issuance of stop-work orders until wage violations are corrected and giving the attorney general’s office the power to bring wage theft cases to court for civil damages.

Attorney General Maura Healey described a growing problem in Massachusetts, saying she has hired new investigators and expanded multilingual outreach efforts to combat wage theft. She said her office last year fielded over 20,000 calls from people reporting stolen wages and received 6,000 complaints.

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Wage theft is stealing, hurting vulnerable workers (MN)

APR 27, 2017

Lt. Gov. Tina Smith has been shedding some light recently on wage theft in Minnesota. She has been urging the Legislature to pass legislation cracking down on wage theft this session. She took part in a Capitol rally in February and on Wednesday she joined legislators and Minnesota workers in a roundtable discussion.

According to Smith, wage theft occurs when employers do not pay workers what is owed to them for work performed. According to Smith, more than 39,000 Minnesota workers lose out on nearly $12 million in unpaid wages each year.

“Wage theft is stealing. It’s not how we do business in Minnesota,” Smith said Tuesday.

She says Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposal would strengthen workers’ rights and crack down on non-abiding employers.

It proposes the following:

* Providing funding to enforce wage theft protections
* Defining the law by making it clear wage theft is wrong and illegal
* Give investigators the power to subpoena documents
* Require notice of information to be provided to employees at the start of employment, including rate of pay, the legal name of the employer and the employer’s address and phone number
* Creating stiffer penalties to prevent and crack down on wage theft
* Increasing the fines for willful and repeated violations of wage theft laws from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation
* Requiring employers pay employees every 16 days rather than every 31. Under current law, an employee could work 41 days without knowing whether they are going to be paid or not.

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National Poll: Most Voters Support Prevailing Wage on Public Infrastructure Projects


“While voters may have disagreed on many issues this past November, they agree that prevailing wage laws should be preserved by a wide margin,” said pollster Brian Stryker. “Only 21% of voters want to eliminate prevailing wage laws-even after hearing a commonly referenced argument for doing so. And support for prevailing wage extends to large majorities of Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Trump voters.”

Construction is America’s fourth largest industry, and directly supports more than 6.6 million jobs. About a quarter of annual construction output, or $363 billion, is spent on government owned construction projects-including roads, bridges, schools, transit systems, water projects and municipal buildings.

Prevailing Wages are determined by surveys of existing market wage and benefit rates for skilled craft workers-such as carpenters, plumbers, electricians, ironworkers, cement masons, heavy equipment operators and others-in more than 3,000 communities across America. The Davis Bacon Act requires prevailing wage on most federally funded construction projects while about thirty states have laws requiring prevailing wages on state or locally funded projects.

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(See Poll Summary)

USDOL Wage & Hour Division – 2017 Prevailing Wage Seminars

Join us at a Prevailing Wage Seminar in your region in 2017!

The Wage and Hour Division (WHD) Prevailing Wage Seminars (Prevailing Wage Seminars) are three-day compliance trainings designed for regional stakeholders (unions, private contractors, state agencies, federal agencies and workers). In these seminars, conference participants will learn about the following:

  • The Davis-Bacon Act and McNamara O’Hara Service Contract Act
  • Executive Order 13495 “Nondisplacement of Qualified Workers”
  • Executive Order 13658 “Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors”
  • The process of obtaining wage determinations and adding classifications
  • Compliance assistance and enforcement processes
  • The process for appealing wage rates, coverage, and compliance determinations


Prevailing Wage Seminars for 2017 are being scheduled in the following cities

  • Pittsburgh, PA – August 15-17, 2017


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Stand up for vets by rejecting prevailing wage repeal

Josh Wallis
Published 7:23 p.m. CT April 15, 2017

Despite all the election year rhetoric about lifting wages and taking care of veterans, Missouri legislators are considering doing just the opposite by repealing our prevailing wage law.

A repeal of prevailing wage will hurt Missouri veterans, our economy and the construction industry. It won’t save money, either.

This is not hyperbole. It is literally what the research tells us.

Prevailing wage is a minimum wage for publicly funded skilled construction work. In fact, it is the local market rate, based on surveys that reflect what workers in different skilled trades actually earn in the community. Prevailing wage laws were enacted by Republicans more than 80 years ago to promote local hiring and quality workmanship. When it comes to tax dollars and our critical infrastructure, both of these virtues are important.

Construction skills are also vital to the work our military does in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Our service men and women are trained for project leadership, maximizing productivity, and as members of teams that depend on efficiency. In addition to fighting, we also help rebuild schools, roads and bridges.

In fact, the military provides more than one in five registered apprenticeships in the U.S. today. So, not surprisingly, veterans are far more likely to pursue careers in the skilled construction trades than non-veterans. Prevailing wage standards actually increase these trends by making these occupations more than jobs – but genuine middle-class career pathways.

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Rep. Pocan: Repealing Wisconsin’s Prevailing Wage Laws Will Take Money Out of People’s Pockets

State Senate proposal will do little to improve Wisconsin roads and could undercut wages throughout the state

Apr 25, 2017 – Press Release

MADISON – U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (WI-02) released the following statement after the Wisconsin state senate heard arguments on a bill to repeal the state’s prevailing wage laws.

“Once again, Governor Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans are putting corporate cash and the 1% ahead of working families. This bill to eliminate prevailing wage requirements for public projects will literally take money out of people’s pockets and could allow companies to bring low-wage workers from out of state, undercutting wages throughout our state.

“We also know this legislation will do little to improve Wisconsin’s roads, which are ranked as one of the worst in the country. I hope my former colleagues in the Wisconsin legislature see this for what it is, another boost for big business that winds up costing working Wisconsin families, and reject it.”

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