House, Senate Democrats Move to Prevent Wage Theft (MI)

Hardworking men and women deserve full amount they’ve earned

Monday, October 30, 2017

LANSING – House and Senate Democrats announced their plan to Prevent Wage Theft today to make sure workers get what they’ve earned. A report from the Economic Policy Institute earlier this year found that Michigan workers across all demographic groups are losing $429 million every year as a result of wage theft. It’s been almost 40 years since Michigan updated many of the state’s laws to protect workers’ pay.

“When we’re talking about nearly half a billion dollars being taken from workers’ paychecks illegally, it’s clear the system is broken,” said state SenatorJim Ananich (D-Flint). “These folks are playing by the rules and trying to provide for themselves and their families. We need to do right by them and bring our laws into the 21st century.”

Data from the EPI report show that 17 percent of low-wage workers in Michigan have experienced wage theft, which includes paying less than minimum wage, failing to pay overtime, working off the clock, confiscating tips, misclassifying employees as independent contractors, or even failing to pay workers at all. Earlier this year, FOX 17 reported the story of 24 West Michigan carpenters who hadn’t been paid $35,000 that a construction company owed them. They had bank accounts frozen, couldn’t afford family medical expenses and even lost their cars.

In addition to holding back Michigan’s workers and its economy by keeping hundreds of millions of dollars out of pocketbooks around the state, law-abiding businesses are at a disadvantage to the bad actors who increase their profits by stealing from their employees.

“When Michigan’s workers do better, our whole state benefits. Sadly, a handful of bad actors are holding us back to the tune of nearly half a billion dollars per year and our state isn’t doing enough to help,” said House Democratic Leader Sam Singh (D-East Lansing). “Democrats are stepping up to ensure that hardworking Michigan workers get what they earn and that everyone plays by the same rules.”

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LCA contractors fined $2.9M over Detroit hires (MI)

Louis Aguilar, The Detroit News
Published 11:38 p.m. ET Aug. 23, 2017
Updated 8:29 a.m. ET Aug. 24, 2017

Dozens of the contractors building Little Caesars Arena have been fined a total of $2.9 million as of March for frequently not hiring at least 51 percent of Detroiters at the ongoing construction site, according to the latest data collected by the city.

And that total is expected to be even higher during the push to complete construction of the $862.9 million sports and entertainment complex by early September, based on the monthly data compiled by the city agency monitoring the workforce agreements on construction sites, said Portia Roberson, director of the city’s Office of Human Rights.

An average of 27 percent of total hours worked at the arena site were performed by Detroit residents from April 2015 to March 2017, the latest monthly data available. It’s been two years, August 2015, since at least 51 percent of hours worked at the site was done by Detroit residents, data shows. The percentage of hours worked is the measure the city uses to determine how many residents the individual contractors have working at the site.

In March alone, the city cited 53 of the contractors with fines ranging from $137,613 to a unit of Motor City Electric to 26 cents to John Papalas & Co. Motor City Electric is a large electrical contractor and the Papalas firm specializes in industrial painting and sheeting services. The other 32 contracting units on site were not fined, according to city records. Several large contractors, it should be noted, have multiple units working at the site.

Currently, crews are working three shifts each week day and Saturdays, with more than 1,100 workers on the site on weekdays, said a spokesman for Olympia Development of Michigan, the firm overseeing the construction.

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Michigan petitioners stretch truth for signatures (MI)

Jonathan Oosting
Published 11:32 p.m. ET Aug. 2, 2017 Updated 7:28 a.m. ET Aug. 3, 2017

Lansing – Summer is petition season in Michigan, where paid circulators are taking advantage of warm weather and public events to collect signatures for at least three statewide initiatives – and sometimes stretching the truth in their sales pitch to voters.

A circulator working a park concert last month in Lansing approached a Detroit News reporter and requested signatures for two separate petitions, including one she said was “for the teachers and construction workers to help protect their wages, benefits and pensions,” a claim she repeated twice.

The initiative actually seeks to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which guarantees union-level wages and benefits for workers on some government-funded construction projects. It has no direct connection to teacher compensation, but supporters contend it would reduce school construction costs. Critics argue it would drive down worker pay on construction projects.

His bill would make it a misdemeanor crime for a paid or volunteer circulator to “knowingly and willfully circulate, publish, or exhibit a false statement or misrepresentation concerning the contents, purport or effect” of a statewide petition. Violators could face up to 93 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

“I believe that the petition process is a fundamental part of our democracy here in Michigan, but you’re stealing that from somebody when you lie to them, when people think they’re signing one thing and they’re actually signing something else,” Hertel said.

Similar anti-lying legislation was introduced in the House by Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, but the proposals have not yet been taken up by Republican majorities in either chamber.

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Productive, High-Skilled, and Well-Paid

March 1, 2015

Road and Bridge Construction Workers in the Midwest was co-authored by Frank Manzo, Policy Director of the Midwest Economic Policy Institute, and Professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations.  It  looks at the economic and construction-related benefits of skilled workers in the Great Lakes region, which the study defined as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Executive Summary

Construction workers who specialize in road and bridge infrastructure projects are productive, high-skilled, and well-paid in America’s “Great Lakes” region- which comprises Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Key findings from this report include:

  • Employment in construction jobs is expected to increase by 21.4 percent over the next decade, the second-fastest growing occupation. The majority of these new employment opportunities will require the completion of a three- to five-year apprenticeship program.
  • In 2013, three out of every five new construction jobs in the Great Lakes region were filled by a candidate with an associate’s or apprenticeship degree.
  •  Road and bridge construction workers each produce an average of $155,100 in economic value for the Great Lakes region, second only to their counterparts in the Far West states ($162,461 per worker). Wisconsin’s street, highway, and bridge construction workers were the most productive in the Great Lakes region, annually contributing an average of $184,592 to the economy.
  •  Construction workers in the Great Lakes region build highways in a cost-effective manner, constructing each lane-mile up to 43 percent cheaper than the national average.
  • The apprenticeship share- the ratio of active apprentices to total workers in construction occupations- is higher in states with a prevailing wage law (7.7 percent) than in states without a prevailing wage law (5.4 percent). Additionally, 10 percentage-point increase in a state’s construction industry unionization rate is associated with a 3.2 percentage-point average increase in its apprenticeship share.

Construction workers across the Great Lakes region are well-compensated and can support a middle-class family. Road and bridge construction workers receive significant training in the Great Lakes states and, in turn, translate their increased human capital into higher levels of productivity for employers. Unfortunately, there are threats across the Midwest to weaken the institutions that are statistically correlated with increased worker efficiency, including prevailing wage laws and trades unions. If the Great Lakes region is to remain one of the nation’s leaders in worker productivity on public construction projects, these institutions must be both defended and strengthened.

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US Labor Department investigations result in more than $415,000 in back wages for workers on Detroit Palmer Park Square HUD project

DETROIT — U.S. Department of Labor investigations have resulted in over $415,000 in back wages for more than 90 employees performing construction work on the federally funded Palmer Park Square affordable housing in Detroit. The investigations, conducted by the department’s Wage and Hour Division, were part of a multiyear strategic enforcement initiative aimed at combating widespread labor violations on federally funded construction projects in the Detroit area, such as affordable housing construction projects funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The investigations found that Malino Construction and several project subcontractors violated provisions of the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts, the Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The companies failed to pay prevailing wages, fringe benefits and overtime to construction workers on the project, failed to keep accurate time and payroll records for employees, and provided falsified, certified payroll records to the government.

Due to the extent and willful nature of the violations, Detroit-based Malino Construction, the prime contractor on the project, has been debarred from bidding on federal contracts for up to three years

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Unionized Ironworkers Aid Non-Union Jobless

HUDSONVILLE, Mich. –  Proving once again that unionists jump to the aid of all workers – union or not – the Ironworkers are trying to find jobs for 280 non-union colleagues left high and dry without pay when a large non-union Michigan contractor suddenly shut its doors last month.  And the union hopes they’ll eventually become members, too.

The crisis arose when Lamar Construction Co., a large, long-time nonunion contractor headquartered in Hudsonville in west Michigan , abruptly closed July 9, throwing about 280 workers onto the jobless rolls.

Lamar, established in 1938, shut down after a bank cut off its credit line, MLive reported.

The company employed about 170 workers in Michigan and also operated in Kentucky and Colorado.  Lamar’s statement said it would continue operating its structural steel erection business, but nothing else.  That prompted quick offers of help for workers from the Iron Workers International Union and the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors.

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Lansing Prevailing Wage Law Upheld in Michigan Court of Appeals Decision

LANSING — A prevailing wage law passed by the city of Lansing does not violate the Michigan Constitution nor home rule restrictions passed by the Michigan Legislature, a divided Michigan Court of Appeals panel decided Wednesday.

The decision overturns a lower court ruling in favor of Associated Builders and Contractors, which had challenged the Lansing ordinance as unconstitutional, and says a 1923 court decision that barred cities from setting prevailing wage laws has been superseded by decisions over the last 90 years.

Lansing’s ordinance requires contractors working on city construction projects to pay a prevailing wage, which ABC had challenged as being outside the city’s authority under state law. ABC also cited a 1923 Michigan Supreme Court decision that barred the city of Detroit from enforcing a prevailing wage law. That opinion concluded that unless the state had given cities the authority to set such laws, cities could not enact rules governing wages.

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(Copy of Decision)