NY Contractor Owes $1.2M in Back Wages, But Many of Their Undocumented Workers are Afraid to Collect
Last Wednesday, New York City Comptroller John Liu announced that Mascon Restoration had agreed to a $1.2 million settlement for failing to pay prevailing wages on a publicly funded project.
The contractor, which had been hired out on three different city construction projects, was using illegal workers and falsifying payroll. When the violations were discovered by the Department of Urban Housing, they were reported to the Manhattan District Attorney which led to the settlement.
In a display of just how demeaning and harmful the use of undocumented workers can be, many of the workers have not yet showed up to collect their back wages out of fear of being deported for their immigration status. Comptroller John Liu, however, has urged them to come forward and collect their earned wages.
“As an immigrant myself, we know well the contributions that immigrants make to the City, and the intimidation or exploitation of workers, immigrant or otherwise, will not be tolerated. More than 46 percent of working people in the City are immigrants and they should never feel afraid to exercise their rights.
Mascon Restoration will have to pay more than just the back wages according to the settlement. It will be barred from bidding or receiving city funded contracts for a period of five years.
In addition to the $1.2 million settlement, the contractor will pay $75,000 to the DA’s office for the cost of the investigation and prosecution and $243,880 to the State Department of Labor for underpayment of unemployment insurance, according to Liu. In addition, the contractor is now debarred from bidding on or receiving any public works contracts for five years.
Liu stressed, “These settlements send a strong message that contractors working on city projects must pay prevailing wages as required under the law. They also help right the wrongs suffered by these workers hired to do demolition, masonry and carpentry work at sites under the auspices of HPD.”
Constantine Kokkoris, who organized the investigation, suggested the daily wage of $60-$80 that Mascon was paying was a fraction of what was truly owed. “Depending on the trade,” Kokkoris said, “the workers should have been earning somewhere between $225 and $700 per day including benefits under prevailing wages.”
Jack Kittle, Political Director for IUPAT DC 9, also commented on the workers low pay.
“About two-thirds to three-quarters of the workers who are rehabilitating or building affordable housing are being paid off the books, which makes it very difficult for a legitimate contractor to compete.”
Kittle also noted, “I give all the credit to the comptroller and his team for pursuing the case. To pay somebody $60 per day in cash when the work is dangerous, dirty and backbreaking is despicable.”