Construction workers walk off Omni Louisville site protesting wage discrepancy

By CAITLIN BOWLING
May 24, 2017 12:53 pm

 

Some of the construction workers who are helping erect the more than $320 million Omni Louisville hotel and luxury apartments walked off the site this morning.

Roughly 100 workers who have been installing metal studs and hanging drywall at the Omni claim that they are being paid roughly $20 less an hour compared with other construction workers on the job, WDRB News first reported.

Marco Cruz, one of the workers who walked off the construction site, told Insider that he is not so much upset that they are making less than other workers as he is troubled by the fact that they were told they’d earn $24 an hour but are only receiving $17 to $20 an hour.

“I saw that that’s not right,” he said. “We feel like they are taking advantage of us.”

Louisville labor attorney Dave Suetholz told Insider in a phone interview that the construction workers, most of whom are Hispanic immigrants, were told that their wages were lowered because Gov. Matt Bevin repealed Kentucky’s prevailing wage statute this year.

Suetholz, an attorney with Kircher, Suetholz & Associates PSC, argued that construction on the Omni “started before the repeal of the prevailing wage,” making the argument invalid.

“Their employer has lied to them,” he said. “It’s all immigrant workers. They are the only ones being paid lower rates. …Just on the face, it looks very bad.”

The prevailing wage law required construction workers to be paid a wage and receive benefits comparable to what workers receive on average construction sites in the area. It applied to public construction projects, according to an article by Stites & Harbison attorney Joseph L. Hardesty.

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Berkeley Makes History With Wage Theft Ordinance

BY JOHNNY MAGDALENO
AUGUST 16, 2016

Last year, at the start of spring, 21 construction workers were hired by a local contractor to hang drywall for a 79-unit apartment complex in downtown Berkeley, California. The workers spent five months on the project, but when they finally wrapped it up, they still hadn’t received a dime from their employer.

They filed complaints with their local trade unions, which were able to pass the message up to the Labor Enforcement Task Force and Joint Enforcement Strike Force, two coalitions of state and municipal agencies that have appraised $4.2 million worth of unpaid wages in California since 2012. Their investigation led California Labor Commissioner Julie Su to place a lien on the contractor for $60,000, the total amount the workers were owed, three months after they left the job site.

For Todd Stenhouse, a spokesperson for the wage advocacy nonprofit Smart Cities Prevail, the state’s response marks a turn for the best in what might have been a tragic finish for those workers. But successes like this represent a drop in the bucket when it comes to the hunt for unscrupulous contractors.

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