NEW YORK, N.Y.—Two weeks after the Legislature passed a bill intended to curb wage theft, about 200 building-trades workers and supporters rallied outside a Manhattan construction project to protest its using contractors that have records of wage theft, according to the Take It Back campaign.
The measure, passed by veto-proof margins in the Assembly and state Senate on June 1-2, would hold general contractors on private construction jobs jointly responsible for wage-theft violations committed by subcontractors on the site. However, the bill has not yet been sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, a legislative staffer told LaborPress.
Sometimes bills passed by the Legislature are not sent to the governor until his office indicates that it’s ready to review them, which could be as late as December. Cuomo’s office did not respond to questions from LaborPress about when that might happen and whether he intends to sign the wage-theft bill.
The measure was the New York building-trades unions’ top legislative priority this year, District Council of Carpenters executive director Eddie McWilliams told LaborPress in April. Construction in the city is going through “a worker-exploitation crisis,” Joe Scopo, organizing director for the Laborers Union’s Cement and Concrete Workers District Council 16, told the rally outside the Terminal Warehouse at 11th Avenue and West 28th Street on Tuesday.
“We’re up against greedy developers and contractors that are factoring wage theft into the bidding process and undercutting union bids,” he said. “It’s criminal what’s going on out here in the construction industry.”
“This is why the wage-theft bill that just passed is so important,” said Rebecca Lamorte, former legislative and communications coordinator at Greater New York Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust, now running for City Council on the Upper East Side.
The Terminal Warehouse, which covers the entire block between 11th and 12th avenues, was built in the 1890s. Developers L&L Holding Company and Normandy Real Estate Partners bought it for $880 million in 2018.
L&L, a privately held real-estate investment company that says it’s “focused on transforming outdated and underperforming properties into 21st-century icons,” is converting the building, now a mix of storage space and offices, to “a cutting-edge office and retail destination.” The project is a joint venture partnership with Columbia Property Trust, a real-estate investment trust, and an institutional investor advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The German bank Allianz has also invested in it, according to Take It Back.
The contractors on the job that have records of wage theft, discrimination against women, and poor safety practices, Take It Back says, include New Line Structures, ECD NY, and Alba Services.
“Greedy companies like New Line Structures continue to build and continue to hire bad actors like ECD with laundry lists of problems,” Scopo said. “They declared war when they decided to create a worker-exploitation crisis.”
“You’ve got Alba, who’ve been sued for nonpayment for workers’ comp,” City Councilmember Francisco Moya (D-Queens) told the rally. “They threatened to turn over their workers to immigration. This is the piece of garbage that we have claiming to build this city.”
Former Manhattan labor-crimes prosecutor Diana Florence said that when she prosecuted Harco Construction for manslaughter in the death of Carlos Moncayo, a 22-year-old Ecuadorean immigrant who was buried alive in 2015 when a trench collapsed, she learned that “his life was not worth 50 dollars worth of shoring to his employer or the developer.”
“These companies have institutionalized wage theft, tax fraud, insurance fraud, as part of their business model,” she added, and “have done this with impunity” because of weak law enforcement.
The City Council is working with the building-trades unions to close that loophole, Speaker Corey Johnson told the rally.
“We’ve got to get the governor to sign it,” Moya said of the wage-theft bill.