Councilmember, others call foul.
JUL 27, 2017 – 5 AM
With the building boom unabated, one issue D.C. voters can expect to hear a lot about come election year is jobs. Every public land sale, commercial project, mixed-use development, or residential complex comes with mayoral promises of opportunities for a growing labor force.
But the D.C. Apprenticeship Council’s recent certification of an out-of-state contractor and accusations of wage fraud have prompted an investigation by Attorney General Karl Racineand claims by unions and labor advocates that a bad actor is going unchecked. At-large D.C. Councilmember Elissa Silverman worries that the District isn’t enforcing its own labor laws.
“We don’t want to be approving apprenticeships for companies that don’t follow the law, don’t pay employees a fair wage, and engage in bad labor practices,” she says. “We don’t want to rely on bad actors to train employees.”
The apprenticeship council is an 11-member body within the Department of Employment Services that is supposed to ensure compliance with local and federal labor laws and standards. In order to bid on major projects, contractors must have a certain number of licensed skilled workers and apprentices on the job. Certification as an apprenticeship sponsor helps contractors compete for those projects.
Certifying companies that fail to meet wage and overtime standards, labor sources say, is a disincentive for those companies to properly classify and train electricians, plumbers, and drywall and HVAC installers. Profit margins become irresistible to unscrupulous contractors at the expense of workers who are underpaid and struggling to advance in their trades.
Power Design, a Florida-based electrical contractor, received certification from the apprenticeship council last month. The firm has contracts at 16 major building sites in D.C., some publicly funded and most run by the city’s top construction companies. Clark Construction and its related CBG Building Company have hired the firm as an electrical contractor at six of those sites. Other major companies such as Hitt Construction, Davis Construction, Donohoe Construction, and Walsh Construction have also hired Power Design.