New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

ConstructionDive

ConstructionDive Worker claims employer had him arrested based on his reporting of safety concerns by Kim Slowey

Worker claims employer had him arrested based on his reporting of safety concerns

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed suit against a Boston-based contractor, alleging that the company took retaliatory measures against one of its employees — facilitating his U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest — after he reported a workplace injury, an event that kicked off an OSHA investigation. 

  • According to the lawsuit, José Martin Paz Flores (Paz) was working as a drywall taper for Tara Construction when he fell from a ladder and broke his leg. Based on Paz's report to a foreman and a referral from the local fire department that day, OSHA began an investigation into safety conditions at the jobsite.

  • The DOL alleges that Tara CEO Pedro Pirez subsequently contacted law enforcement with concerns about Paz’s identity and facilitated Paz’s arrest outside of Tara’s offices, which resulted in his detention by ICE for days. 

 

Dive Insight:

The DOL is seeking back pay and damages from Tara on behalf of Paz, as well as other relief such as a neutral letter of recommendation for Paz, who has since been cleared to work, to present to prospective future employers. Reporting an injury and causing an OSHA investigation to be initiated are protected acts under federal whistleblower laws, which blanket all workers, regardless of immigration status. 

ConstructionDive Details emerge of prevailing wage deal between union, NYC on housing projects by Kim Slowey

Details emerge of prevailing wage deal between union, NYC on housing projects

But the conversation around the prevailing wage and the New York City construction industry is far from over. Last month, New York City Council Member Ben Kallos proposed legislation that would require construction companies to pay their workers the prevailing wage on many projects subsidized by the city, even if those companies do not have a direct contract with the city. If they don't pay the prevailing wage, they would risk the loss of financial assistance for the project and fines of $10,000 a day for noncompliance. The new regulation would apply to projects that receive subsidies of at least $1 million, are 100,000 square feet or more in size or, for residential developments, have more than 50 units per building.

ConstructionDive NYC councilman proposes prevailing wage for all city-subsidized construction projects by Kim Slowey

NYC councilman proposes prevailing wage for all city-subsidized construction projects
  • New York City Council Member Ben Kallos has proposed legislation that would require construction workers to be paid the prevailing wage for projects subsidized by the city.
  • Construction contractors must already pay the prevailing wage when they have a direct contract with the city, but Kallos’ measure would expand this requirement to projects that receive government funds in the minimum amount of $1 million, are 100,000 square feet or more in size or, if residential in nature, have more than 50 units in a building. The new regulation would also provide for classroom and on-the-job training through apprenticeships and require developers to disclose information like the source of all subsidies, how many jobs they create, all the names of contractors and owners and proof of insurance for all parties.
  • The proposal also includes monitoring and reporting by city agencies and the comptroller; fines of $10,000 per day for noncompliance; the potential for withdrawal of financial assistance to the developer; whistleblower protections and a right of private action for prevailing wages. “Any project that receives taxpayer dollars must pay a prevailing wage, invest in workers with training and apprenticeship and provide protection for workers' rights,” said Kallos, who is also an attorney for union labor. “Paying construction workers minimum wage on affordable housing projects is only making our city’s housing crisis worse. Moreover, no one should die in a construction accident that could have been prevented with proper training."