Wage Theft Charged At Farnam Court (CT)

by ALLAN APPEL | Oct 6, 2017 8:35 am

A “fat cat” in a plush three-piece suit dangled and strangled a working guy in a yellow construction helmet on Grand Avenue the other day.

The cat and worker were 15-foot-tall cartoon characters full of compressed air and bobbing in the breeze. But the display was no joke no joke. The blow-up figures were deployed Thursday afternoon by members and supporters of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters (NERCC) in support of Terail Slaughter, a non-union carpenter who had been employed helping to build the tower buildings of the Housing Authority of New Haven’s Farnam Court Townhouses rebuilding project.

About a dozen carpenters and their supporters were on the corner of Grand Avenue and Hamilton Street for two purposes, according to lead organizer Ernest Pagan: to support a wage theft complaint, and to encourage other workers to step forward and make similar complaints when necessary.

The Complaint

Slaughter has lodged an $18,000 wage theft complaint against Palmucci Rivera Construction Concepts (PRCC), a carpentry subcontractor managed by Haynes Construction. The Seymour-based company is a general contractor on the $42 million redevelopment project of the 75-year-old troubled housing complex.

The complaint, which was filed with the state Department of Labor in mid-summer, documents that Slaughter, a nine-year veteran carpenter who had also been a starting guard at Wilbur Cross, was paid $14 an hour. The “prevailing wage” – that is, the nationally mandated wage for a carpenter in Connecticut working on a publicly funded project, is $56 an hour.

Slaughter began work in January 2016. In April he met Pagan, who had come to fact-find and organize. Pagan urged Slaughter to ask for a more appropriate salary. Slaughter eventually took the advice, and PRCC, without acknowledging wrongdoing, raised his hourly wage to $46.

That, however, is the prevailing wage for a laborer, not for a carpenter. This alerted Pagan that, in addition to theft of wages directly, PRCC’s move was misclassifying Slaughter into a lower-paying category than he deserved.

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Forum: Prevailing wage protects the construction industry and Connecticut’s economy

By Roland Lemar
POSTED: 02/26/17, 8:57 PM EST

There have been numerous legislative proposals introduced this year to alter the thresholds that trigger when the Connecticut’s prevailing wage law is applied to public works construction projects. Connecticut’s current threshold is $400,000 for new construction and $100,000 for renovation. That means that a public project must cost that amount for the prevailing wage law to apply.

If a project falls below that threshold, then workers only have to be paid the minimum wage rather than the family-sustaining prevailing wage. Connecticut currently has the second-highest thresholds in the country, and the highest by far in New England.

Those that have proposed an increase to the prevailing wage thresholds have indicated that their proposals will alleviate budgetary constraints on our municipalities. I do not believe that is the case. Further weakening of our state’s prevailing wage law will do just the opposite, and will further eliminate the kind of fair-paying, middle-class jobs that we should try to keep and grow in our state.

Two economics professors at the University of Utah, Peter Phillips and Cihan Bilingsoy, conducted a study in 2010, titled “Impact of Prevailing Wages on the Economy and Communities of Connecticut,” which found that repeal of the prevailing wage law would result in the loss of $21.6 million in income tax revenue. Other studies have shown that every dollar spent on a prevailing wage project generates a $1.50 in economic activity – that’s money spent at local businesses such as restaurants and auto body shops. Prevailing wages keep workers off public assistance and allow them to contribute to our local economies – which is a good investment for our state.

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Prevailing wage: myth vs. reality (CT)

Published February 05. 2017 12:01AM
Kimberly Glassman

Governor Malloy has made a recommendation to raise the threshold as to when our state’s prevailing wage law is triggered on public works construction projects. Connecticut currently has the second highest thresholds in the country, and the highest in New England.

To those who don’t work in the construction industry, this controversial political topic seems wonky and confusing. But here’s how it works: Connecticut’s current threshold is $400,000 for new construction and $100,000 for renovation. That means that the prevailing wage law is triggered when public project costs those amounts. If a project falls below those thresholds, then workers only have to be paid the minimum wage. When Gov. Malloy proposes an increase to the threshold, he is proposing that more workers be paid the minimum wage rather than the family-sustaining prevailing wage.

The truth is this proposal won’t in any way alter our state’s budgetary woes. In fact, it will do just the opposite: eliminate the kind of fair-paying, middle-class jobs that we should try to keep and grow in our state.

One of the biggest takeaways from November’s election is that working families throughout Connecticut are frustrated with stagnant wages and a stagnant economy. Yet, instead of investing in job growth, the governor and some legislators have contended that middle-class wages, including prevailing wages, are too high. But before the public is again sold this recurring bill of goods, let’s break down some of their arguments.

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Battles Over Labor’s Wages Heats Up At Capitol (CT)

February 21, 2017, 6:08 PM

The clash over labor costs intensified Tuesday at the state Capitol.

While one legislative panel split down the middle over whether to raise Connecticut’s minimum wage, unions and their allies rallied to battle proposals that would allow communities to cut worker wages on public construction projects.

And while the labor committee battled over the minimum wage, the Connecticut Building Trades Council, other unions and their allies rallied to block proposed changes to Connecticut’s prevailing wage statute.

Currently, municipal remodeling projects that cost more than $100,000 and new construction projects costing more than $400,000 must meet a competitive wage scale based on the regional market. Municipal officials say, though, that this standard generally reflects artificially inflated costs paid chiefly to unionized construction workers.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, proposed new parameters in January of $500,000 for remodeling work and $1 million for new construction.

House and Senate Republicans also have introduced bills to raise the thresholds.

“I just don’t know what’s wrong with this building,” said Lori J. Pelletier, president of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, who was referring to both the prevailing wage proposals and to the opposition to the minimum wage hike. “That’s not the kind of state that we are.”
“We understand that raising thresholds are not good for workers,” said David Roche, president of the building trades council.

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Collecticut: $6.5M in Back Wages Recovered Over Past Year in CT, but Much Work Remains

Over the past year, the Connecticut Department of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division recovered $6.5 million in back pay for workers.  While the organization has stepped up its efforts since the recession, the amount collected represents only a percentage of the wage theft that occurs in the Constitution State, according to the Stamford Advocate:

A significant portion of the complaints – nearly 2,800 of them, accounting for $3 million – were from workers reporting that they were not paid at all. Another $1.2 million was distributed to workers who were not paid minimum wage or overtime as required by law. And more than $2 million was distributed to construction workers who were paid less than the state’s prevailing wage for government projects.

The Wage & Workplace Standards Division gets about 4,000 complaints a year, said the director, Gary Pechie. Most are from workers in the construction industry, service industries such as hotels and restaurants, and the transportation industry employing taxi, limo and tractor-trailer drivers, Pechie said.

“I don’t think people understand how tremendously workplaces have changed since the recession,” Pechie said. “There’s a lot of shenanigans going on.”

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Report: CT Healthcare Construction Most Active in New England

Hospitals and other healthcare providers are spending more money on major Connecticut construction projects than in any other New England state, according to a study by Revista.
Ongoing and upcoming hospital and medical office building construction projects this year have a total construction value of $1.76 billion, the Maryland-based healthcare construction data provider said.

That’s ahead of Massachusetts’ $1.15 billion worth of ongoing and upcoming projects, as well as Maine’s $337 million and New Hampshire’s $124 million, Revista said.

Leading the way in Connecticut is the $450 million replacement of Stamford Hospital, which broke ground last year. Next up is UConn Health Center’s patient tower and $203 million outpatient pavilion, and John Dempsey Hospital’s $163 million expansion – all in Farmington.

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Conn. Contractor Cited by US Labor Department’s OSHA for Wall Collapse, Fall Hazards at Construction Work Site

IRVINE – An Irvine construction company owner and his foreman pleaded not guilty Monday after authorities charged that they committed multiple acts of payroll fraud.
Mustafa Mohamed Bdaiwi, 41, of Irvine and Antonio Naranjo Jr., 40, of Costa Mesa have been charged with 11 counts of taking a portion of a employee’s wages, two felony counts of recording false or forged documents and sentencing enhancements for property loss more than $150,000, according to court records.
Bdaiwi, who owns Malcon Civils Inc., was awarded a contract from the city of Irvine to build a wall at an elementary school in late 2010, prosecutors said. Authorities said around the same time the company was also awarded a project by the city of Hemet.During these two projects, which took place from January to August 2011, Bdaiwi and Naranjo are accused of requiring workers to return a portion of their wages. Naranjo is suspected of threatening to fire the workers who did not comply, prosecutors said.

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Manafort fined $2.4M for minority-contractor breach

Plainville contractor Manafort Brothers Inc. will pay a $2.4 million federal fine and undergo independent monitoring for lying about its use of minority contractors on a state highway project, authorities say.

The Connecticut U.S. Attorney’s office and other state and federal investigators announced Monday Manafort’s agreement to settle its role in a criminal and civil probe into the corporation’s misconduct surrounding the relocation of Route 72 in Bristol, work that dated to April 2007.

According to investigators, Manafort admitted lying to the state Transportation Department about its use of socially and economically disadvantaged contractors for its $39.7 million roadwork contract.

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Construction poised to be CT’s growth industry

Construction will lead Connecticut’s industries in job growth over the next 10 years, economists and labor analysts say.

The industry hit hardest by the Great Recession is poised for a strong rebound this year and beyond as public projects move forward and the backlog of private projects built up during the economic downturn starts to clear, said Andrew Condon, director of the state Department of Labor office of research.

“It is coming back, but it is coming back from a very big fall,” Condon said. “You have to put that in context because construction was coming from a very low place.”

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