DA cracking down on wage theft by construction contractors (NY)

By Priscilla DeGregory and Emily Saul
December 4, 2017 | 4:36pm

The city’s five district attorneys have agreed to crack down on wage theft by construction contractors – after an investigation revealed that more than $1.2 million in wages had been illegally withheld from workers.

The state Department of Labor has uncovered some 400 cases since it began looking into wage theft earlier this year. Nearly $700,000 has been returned so far, authorities said, and the investigation is ongoing.

“Every week, New Yorkers lose $20 million in unpaid wages. And every day, construction workers who risk their lives doing dangerous jobs have to wonder whether they’ll actually be paid for their work,” Manhattan DA Cy Vance said Monday.

Wage theft is one of the most pervasive problems in New York City and State, and in the construction industry in particular, workers are all too often preyed upon by their employers, who are able to steal millions of dollars in unpaid wages.

(Read More)

Stiffed electricians get watt they deserve as sleazeball boss forks over $750G (NY)

BY ANDREW KESHNER
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, December 20, 2017, 2:37 AM

Five electricians got an early Christmas gift Tuesday in a check for more than $750,000.

The windfall was way overdue for the hard-working men who were stiffed out wages by a crooked boss.

Now that their greedy superior, Michael Riglietti, has a grand larceny conviction on his head, he’s finally opening his wallet to fully pay the men.

Acting Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and city Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters presented the five checks.

The funds were the money the men deserved for their time on various public works jobs, including many schools. Though they were supposed to be compensated prevailing hourly wages around $50, they were getting a fraction of that – between $13.50 and $25 an hour.

“I am so happy to be able to hand you these checks, which were hard-earned and well-deserved and really will help make your holidays brighter,” Gonzalez said.

Riglietti, 50, pleaded guilty last month to grand larceny and his company, MSR Electrical Construction Company, once in Red Hook, copped to violating labor laws on prevailing wage requirements.

(See Article)

New York Officials Battle Wage Theft in Construction Industry (NY)

By LUIS FERRÉ-SADURNÍ
DEC. 6, 2017

For months, Ariel Ortega’s paychecks would bounce when he went to deposit them at his bank each Friday. He says he never saw the promised overtime pay for his extra hours on Saturdays remodeling a 12-floor apartment building in Brooklyn.

Mr. Ortega considered quitting. But when he voiced concerns, his boss, Michael Stathakis, would grow agitated and threaten not to pay the remainder of what he was owed if he quit, Mr. Ortega said.

“It was December, and it was cold, so it would be hard to get another construction job,” Mr. Ortega, who is owed hundreds of dollars in wages and overtime pay, said in Spanish. “I had to stick through it.”

Mr. Ortega, 30, was vindicated last week when his employer, Whisk Remodeling Corp., owned by Mr. Stathakis, pleaded guilty to fraud, admitting he failed to pay Mr. Ortega and dozens of other workers, many of them immigrants, more than $90,000 in wages.

Mr. Ortega’s case is not unique – and prosecutors in New York have taken note.

District attorneys in all five boroughs of New York City and in other counties, in coordination with state agencies, have ratcheted up efforts against wage theft in the construction industry. A string of indictments this year detailed more than $2.5 million in unpaid wages for more than 400 construction workers in Manhattan and beyond, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, said at a news conference on Monday.

(Read More)

Houston Is Being Rebuilt on a Foundation of Wage Theft (TX)

The exploitation after the storm.

JANUARY 22, 2018
BY BRYCE COVERT

Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a measure that would require a $15 an hour minimum wage for employees of some contractors.

The bill would apply to companies in professional service contracts with the city over $100,000.

According to data from the City Controller’s Office, 31 contracts over $100,000 were approved in 2015. Most were related to construction projects, health care and software upgrades.

When the measure was introduced on Monday, Nov. 20, Mayor Bill Peduto said implementing it would have a minimal effect on the cost of contracts and the city’s finances.

“We want to work with companies that also believe a worker’s value should be a minimum of $15 an hour,” he said. “We are hoping this will be the standard for which Pittsburgh companies will recognize the worth of their workers.”

Peduto said this was the second part of a city wage plan that began in November 2015, when he signed an executive order to gradually increase minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour by 2021. It’s currently $12.50.

Wage theft and safety violations were rampant in Houston’s low-wage construction industry even before the storm hit, according to local worker centers. One study found that 12.4 percent of construction workers in the city suffered injuries on the job. “The Texas construction industry is … incredibly dangerous,” says José Garza, executive director of the Workers Defense Project. “For years, the industry has absolutely failed to prioritize safety.”

(Read More)

Federal contractor pays $200k in back wages to employees (WV)

Dec 15, 2017
Charleston Gazette-Mail

A federal contractor has paid more than $200,000 in back wages to seven employees to resolve three violations of federal law.

B&F Contracting Inc. is the prime contractor for repair and renovation projects at federal buildings in West Virginia and Kentucky, according to a news release from the United States Department of Labor.

The company paid employees less than the prevailing wages required by law, failed to pay overtime to one employee, and failed to maintain required payroll records, according to
an investigation completed by employees in the department’s Wage and Hour Division.

Those actions violated the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts and the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act.

The company paid approximately $213,282 in back wages to the affected employees, and all back wages have been paid in full, according to the news release.

“The resolution of this case helps to level the playing field for federal contractors who play by rules and must not be underbid by those who do not,” District Director John DuMont, who is based in Pittsburgh, said in the release.

In addition to the back wages, the company will hire a certified public accountant to oversee its compliance with federal laws and to provide the department with copies of certified payroll records and corresponding time records on a semi-annual basis for a one-year period, according to the release.

If the company commits another violation of the same labor laws, it will be debarred from bidding on federal contracts for three years after the violation.

(See Article)

Without prevailing wage laws, guess who loses? Taxpayers. (IL)

By: JAMES M. SWEENEY
November 28, 2017

James M. Sweeney is president and business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150.

Mark Glennon recently argued in a column for Crain’s that municipalities’ budget challenges can only be solved by lowering wages of workers who build our schools, transportation systems and other public infrastructure projects.

Setting aside the irony of a self-described lawyer and venture capitalist calling for middle-class construction workers to take a pay cut, let’s unpack these assertions a little.
Read more: Illinois prevailing wage mandate hurts the economy

Prevailing wage functions as a local market minimum wage on skilled construction work that is paid for by government. It ensures that things like schools, bridges and roads are built by local people who are trained to do the job right the first time, and that local tax dollars do not undercut local wage rates by attracting low-wage, unskilled workers from other parts of the country. Most prevailing wage workers complete three to five years of industry-financed, post-secondary apprenticeship training for occupations that are consistently recognized as among the nation’s most dangerous.

While construction wages and benefits represent just 22 percent of total public works costs, legions of economists have reached the consensus that prevailing wages have no impact on total project costs because they result in higher productivity, fewer safety issues and less spending on materials, fuels and equipment.

If you don’t believe in peer-reviewed facts, consider that Republican Indiana Rep. Ed Soliday said last year that Indiana’s repeal of its prevailing wage law “hasn’t saved a penny.”

What is also known is that states without prevailing wage laws have more income inequality, see more of their tax dollars shipped to firms out of state and spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on programs like Medicaid, food stamps and low-income tax credits for construction workers.

In other words, without prevailing wage laws, taxpayers lose far more than just good local jobs and quality workmanship.

For the record, unions do not set prevailing wage rates. These rates are based on surveys of what union and non-union employees are actually paid in the marketplace. For each craft in each community, the most common wage rate prevails.

(Read More)

Employees of TIF projects in Portland to receive prevailing wage (OR)

NOVEMBER 22, 2017

The Portland City Council voted to require contractors working on Tax Increment Financing-funded projects in the city to pay their employees a prevailing wage.

“We will be the first community in the state to put this in their TIF rules,” Mayor Ethan Strimling told the Portland Press Herald.

Prevailing wages are set on an annual basis by the Maine Department of Labor on a county-by-county basis for state construction projects exceeding $50,000.

However, the city council shot down another provision requiring contractors on TIF projects to participate in an apprenticeship program registered by the state or federal government, a move supported by union workers. Instead, the council will explore offering grants for a broader job-training program that would help other industries as well, the newspaper reported.

Also removed was a requirement that at least 25% of work hours be performed by Portland residents, minorities, women or veterans.

(See Article)

LABOR COUNCIL HOPES TO MAKE CONTRACTORS PAY IN LYNN (MA)

BY THOMAS GRILLO|
November 28, 2017

LYNN – If a group of union organizers gets their way, contractors who violate the state’s labor laws would be barred from doing business with the city.

Three dozen members of the North Shore Labor Council, a coalition of 50 unions representing 18,000 workers, crowded a City Hall hearing room Tuesday to urge the City Council to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit the city from hiring companies who have failed to pay their workers.

“Our goal is to protect workers from being cheated and keep them from getting these contracts while helping honest businesses,” said Kathryn Cohen, an organizer with the North Shore Labor Council.

Of the 14 firms prevented from doing work for the state or municipalities for public construction or public works projects by the Attorney General Maura Healey’s office over the last two years, one is from Lynn. Since 2015, there have been 26,767 wage complaints and citations issued statewide, 69 to Lynn companies.

At issue is the failure of some employers to pay their employees for work performed. While the state prohibits employers who have violated labor laws from seeking government contracts, some are able to sign deals because no one is checking, Cohen said.

“We know some debarred contractors are still getting work and we need to strengthen enforcement,” she said.

Under the proposed ordinance, a volunteer Wage Theft Advisory Council would be appointed by the mayor and City Council. The six-member panel would review lists of companies who violate labor laws from the Attorney General’s office and sign off on the company seeking work from the city.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center reports $700 million worth of wages go unpaid annually to about 350,000 Massachusetts workers. Of that number, $5.2 million in wages is recovered by the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division.

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano said the ordinance is crucial because without it, honest employers are at a disadvantage.

(Read More)

Higher Minimum Wage For Employees Of Some City Contractors One Step Closer To Implementation (PA)

By KATHLEEN J. DAVIS
11-29-17

Pittsburgh City Council gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a measure that would require a $15 an hour minimum wage for employees of some contractors.

The bill would apply to companies in professional service contracts with the city over $100,000.

According to data from the City Controller’s Office, 31 contracts over $100,000 were approved in 2015. Most were related to construction projects, health care and software upgrades.

When the measure was introduced on Monday, Nov. 20, Mayor Bill Peduto said implementing it would have a minimal effect on the cost of contracts and the city’s finances.

“We want to work with companies that also believe a worker’s value should be a minimum of $15 an hour,” he said. “We are hoping this will be the standard for which Pittsburgh companies will recognize the worth of their workers.”

Peduto said this was the second part of a city wage plan that began in November 2015, when he signed an executive order to gradually increase minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour by 2021. It’s currently $12.50.

(Read More)