August 20, 2015
By Joe Maniscalco
New York, NY – Workers cheated out of nearly $4 million over the last decade are being urged to come forward and reclaim their losses this week — while the crooked developers and contractors responsible for the rampant wage theft still occurring throughout the city have been put on notice: you will be caught.
“I think it is absolutely unacceptable that people who work a very long, hard day in some very hazardous conditions end up getting ripped off in this manner,” NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer said on Wednesday.
The Comptroller’s Office has launched a multi-faceted outreach effort in an attempt to locate the more than 1,000 workers owed withheld wages. In all, the city says that 1,056 workers, many of whom may have moved and become difficult to immediately locate, are entitled to an average of $3,576 in prevailing wage settlements.
One worker from Queens is owed $77,909. Another from Brooklyn stands to recoup $59,002, and a third worker from the Bronx is owed $36,427.
Low-wage workers from a variety of sectors, grassroots advocacy groups and representatives from Locals 78, 79 and 580, joined Stringer at his Centre Street offices this week to announce the new outreach effort.
According to Stringer’s office, the majority of those now entitled to $3.7 million in prevailing wage settlements are immigrant, non-union workers.
The comptroller’s finding come as no surprise to NYC Community Alliance for Worker Justice organizer Eddie Jorge, who said the exploitation of low-wage workers of color remains pervasive in the construction industry.
“The only solution for this problem is widespread procurement reform which would guarantee a level playing field for highroad contractors and developers, and assure a life with dignity for the hard working men and women in our city,” Jorge said.
Make the Road New York’s Elizabeth Joynes said that workers cheated out of prevailing wages across a variety of construction and service industries are at “the bottom of a very long chain of suffering.”
Over the last 19 months, the Comptroller’s Office has actually debarred 21 organizations from doing business with the city – at least temporarily. And since 2014, the office has reached settlements totaling more than $8.6 million — including one in May with North American Iron Works in which the company paid nearly $1 million to 33 workers that was rightfully theirs.
On Wednesday, Stringer directly addressed persistently bad actors now doing business with the city.
“We are not playing around here,” the comptroller said. “You’re going to get debarred. You’re not going to be working wtih us for a very long time if we catch you. We’re not just going to find the workers — we’re going to find you.”
The hotline for unclaimed wages is 212-669-4443. To search online for those eligible for restitution, visit: comptroller.nyc.gov/prevailingwage.