McHenry County Board approves prevailing wage, ending three years of protest votes

June 26, 2017

WOODSTOCK – The McHenry County Board approved the state prevailing wage rates, ending a three-year streak of casting a symbolic protest vote against them.

Board members voted, 19-3, to adopt the wage schedule, which requires local governments to pay workers hired for public construction projects a specific wage set by the Illinois Department of Labor.

Audience members, many of whom were union members and local residents who came to encourage a vote to approve, applauded when the final vote was tallied.

The County Board since 2014 had voted against prevailing wage, while being careful to instruct county staff to follow the law.

Board member Donna Kurtz, R-Crystal Lake, said voting against prevailing wage sends a negative message to the community, and disputed the notion that the wages are responsible for the county’s sky-high property taxes.

“I think in the end, the overall benefits well outweigh the negatives that some may perceive regarding prevailing wage. It’s the right thing to do – we know it’s the law. It’s the right thing to do,” Kurtz said.

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Push for Prevailing Wages at State Transit Hubs Passes Assembly

By Alyana Alfaro * 06/22/17 5:43pm

The New Jersey General Assembly on Thursday passed legislation requiring that subcontracted Newark Liberty Airport, Hoboken Terminal and Newark Penn Station employees be paid prevailing wages, a move that is estimated to bring wages for those employees up to $17.98 per hour according to the New Jersey Business and Industry Association.

The bill, A-4870/S-3226, was sponsored in the Assembly by Democrats including Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) and in the state Senate by Democrats including Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester). It passed the Assembly on Thursday with 51 yes votes, 23 no votes, and one abstention and will now go to the state Senate for consideration. The measure passed without Republican support.

“When you look at Liberty International, it is one of our biggest employers,” said Prieto (D-Hudson) from the Assembly floor prior to the bill being posted for a vote. “When these individuals live near these centers that should be an economic engine for the region, they should be able to be paid fair wage that is put back into the economy.”

The New Jersey minimum wage is currently $8.38 per hour. Subcontracted workers at Newark Airport make $10.20 per hour. Labor groups around the country are pushing for those wages to be boosted to $15 per hour, a figure lower than NJBIA estimates for the prevailing wage bill.

While Democrats in the legislature favor the initiative, the NJBIA says that the sharp wage boost would “substantially increase the costs for business, which will then be passed along to consumers.” While they estimate the $17.98 prevailing wage for these workers under the legislation, NJBIA says that mandated sick leave, health insurance and paid vacation days would have the same effect as boosting the minimum wage to $22.25 an hour. Michele Siekerka, President and CEO of NJBIA, said that by including such “expensive fringe benefits” as part of the legislation, the bill also eliminates collective bargaining and contract negotiation.

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NYC invests $10M to boost minority, women participation in construction

Kim Slowey
June 22, 2017

Dive Brief:

  • New York City has created a $10 million fund to assist women- and minority-owned businesses win construction projects, according to Crain’s New York Business.
  • The money will go toward paying for up to $500,000 of surety bonds per contract. City contractors are required to furnish the bonds, which guarantee they will satisfactorily perform work and pay their bills, but they are difficult to obtain for smaller companies without a track record of completed projects.
  • Aside from helping women- and minority-owned firms become successful, New York City building officials said the program will help other contractors who are required to hire a certain percentage of these firms but can’t find enough of them to meet their mandated quotas.

Dive Insight:

The city aims to issue $16 billion worth of contracts to minority- and women-owned businesses by 2025, and the bond assistance program should help it meet that goal.
Considering that federal and state governments spend hundreds of billions on public construction work and typically set aside 5% to 10% for MBEs and WBEs, the potential payoff is substantial. However, many contractors have reported difficulty finding enough qualified firms.

Drivers Strike Against XPO Logistics in Latest Misclassification Fight

JUNE 19, 2017

Every day Jose Herrera picks up his Kenworth T600 truck from a rented lot in Moreno Valley, Calif., and fights traffic on the 60 Freeway to the office of his employer, XPO Logistics, 70 miles away in Commerce.

The commute puts wear and tear on the vehicle, leads to pricey fuel bills and accelerates the maintenance schedule. But Herrera doesn’t have a choice. XPO, one of the largest shipping companies in the world, doesn’t allow drivers who own their trucks to park overnight at that location, he said.

“You have to spend more money to keep the truck going,” Herrera said.

Herrera was one of about a dozen drivers on a picket line in front of the XPO office Monday. The strike involves more than 150 drivers at XPO’s Commerce location, said Santos Castaneda, an organizer with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which is lending support. Drivers also struck at XPO locations in nearby Rancho Dominguez and farther south in San Diego.

It’s the latest effort from drivers to put pressure on shipping companies in the ongoing nationwide dispute over driver claims that they are misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees of the company. Monday’s strike is the 15th at Los Angeles ports in the last four years.

“There has been no impact to customers,” said Erin Kurtz, a spokesperson for XPO.

“We know firsthand that the majority of owner-operators prefer to work as independent contractors, and we will continue to advocate for their right to do so,” XPO said in a statement.

Truckers have filed more than 800 employee misclassification wage claims since 2011 and have been awarded about $40 million over 300 cases, according to the California Labor Commissioner’s office. About 200 cases are still pending, according to the state agency.

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VIDEO: South Bay construction workers demand higher wages, local hiring (CA)

By Vince Cestone, KRON and Rob Fladeboe
Updated: May 31, 2017, 4:20 pm

SAN JOSE (KRON) – South Bay construction workers are demanding that developers hire locally and pay fair market wages.

Construction is booming in downtown San Jose. There are several new high rises going up, and while that means more badly needed housing and property taxes, one group is feeling left out of the boom-local construction workers.

Plumbers and pipe fitters from Local Trade Union 393 picketed Wednesday at the construction site of the silvery towers luxury condominium high-rise project going up in downtown San Jose.

They’re upset that the developer of this and other such projects are not hiring local workers, and they’re not paying the prevailing wage.

“It’s bad not just for our workers like the ones here, it’s also bad for the local economy because those workers who are working these jobs are taking their paychecks, going back to Texas or some other place, and they’re spending them there, and we think that’s got to stop,” South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Ben Field said.

Union labor says “the last straw” was the recent approval of another residential condo project on the site of the former Greyhound bus depot. The developer has agreed to pony up $15 million in park fees and millions more for affordable housing and property taxes.

But the city cannot require the developer to use specific contractors or the payment of prevailing, union-scale wages.

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Illinois legislature passes groundbreaking anti-wage theft bill, measure will help economy, taxpayers, workers and businesses

07 Jun, 2017, 14:36 ET

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., June 7, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The Illinois legislature has passed groundbreaking legislation (SB1720) to address wage theft in Illinois. Wage theft is estimated to cost American workers over $50 billion per year and news reports have shown Illinois is a very difficult and complex state for workers seeking to recoup stolen wages. The legislation prohibits businesses who violate state law on the payment of wages from receiving taxpayer-funded state contracts for at least five years. SB1720 also increases the penalty for disobeying a court order to pay back wages the court finds to have been stolen from an employee.

“In this time of fiscal crisis, we need to make sure that taxpayer-funded state contracts are only going to companies which treat their employees fairly. The vast majority of Illinois businesses, which play by the rules and do right by their employees, deserve a level playing field. Taxpayers deserve more confidence on how their money is spent. I was proud to support this common-sense measure,” said State Rep. Bill Mitchell (R-Forsyth) who voted for SB1720.

According to HourVoice, wage theft takes many forms, including: shorting workers on their hours, not paying the minimum wage, and not properly paying overtime. It impacts employees in every region of Illinois – at all wage levels and in a wide array of industries.

“Wage theft is estimated to drain $800 million – $3 billion a year from the Illinois economy,” said State Representative Lisa Hernandez (D-Cicero) who sponsored the measure. “It can also push people below the poverty line and make it harder for working parents to support their children. But when low-income workers get the full pay they have earned, they improve the local and state economy with the dollars they spend.”

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AG: Company failed to pay correct wages at Bresnahan, other public works jobs

Bresnahan School one of public works projects involved

Staff Reports
July 13, 2017

NEWBURYPORT – A New Hampshire construction company was fined more than $160,000 in restitution and penalties for failing to properly pay employees on nine public works projects, including Bresnahan Elementary School, the attorney general said Wednesday.

Attorney General Maura Healey’s office issued three citations against Northeast Partition Specialties Inc. and owner Fredrick Breth for their failure to pay the prevailing wage, pay overtime and submit accurate certified payroll records for the projects done in 2014-15.

“Companies that do business in Massachusetts must play by the rules,” Healey said. “Prevailing wage laws are intended to ensure a level playing field for companies and provide a real, living wage to workers.”

Northeast is a small, privately held corporation in Manchester, New Hampshire.
The Attorney General’s Office began an investigation of the company after the Fair Labor Division received a complaint from a former employee claiming he was not paid the prevailing wage rate for two public works projects between April 2015 and September 2015.

The investigation found that Northeast failed to pay the proper prevailing wage rate to 27 employees for these public works projects: Staff Sergeant James J. Hill School, Revere; Bresnahan Elementary School, Newburyport; the Acushnet police facility; the Chelmsford Fire Department; Dracut Town Hall; the Sudbury Police Department; Park Avenue Elementary, Webster; West Bridgewater Middle-Senior High School; and the Westborough Fire Department.

Under the Massachusetts Prevailing Wage Law, contractors and subcontractors working on public projects must pay their employees a special minimum wage, which is based on the occupational classification for the type of work the employees perform.

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Carpenters Union takes on wage theft at downtown development

By Bill Shaner
July 13, 2017

The Carpenters Local 107 was out in force earlier this week in front of the 145 Front Street development, rallying around accusations that a subcontractor from New Jersey has systematically stiffed local carpenters on overtime hours and pay.

Dozens of union members and advocates marched in a circle across the street, banging on buckets, blowing whistles and chanting slogans like “no justice, no peace.”

At the heart of the matter are five formal U.S. Department of Labor complaints filed by local contractors against the New Jersey-based P and B Partitions.

One such complainant, Edward Vazquez, said time-and-a-half overtime pay and some overtime hours were withheld from his paychecks for about eight months. When he spoke up and attempted to organize other laborers, he was let go, he said.

“Basically, I was getting paid a check, and the rest was in cash, but I wasn’t getting that cash,” he said. “Someone was pocketing that money.”

The five workers who filed the complaint were paid for 40 hours on the books, then overtime in cash, but two hours of overtime were left out and they were straight paid, instead of the legally required time and a half, according to the union.

Vazquez, a Marlborough resident and Worcester native, said unfair treatment was extended to local carpenters and workers formally employed by the company.

“I was let go when I was talking to workers about standing up for their pay.”

He said the case against the company is a home run, and consequently got him into unionizing. After filing the complaint, he joined the Carpenters Local 107.

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