A union-led investigation alleges that construction workers building low-income housing for the City of New York are being paid under the table and cheated out of wages.
The District Council of Mason Tenders conducted the investigation, releasing it a day before a vote was expected to override Mayor Bloomberg’s veto of a wage bill that originally passed through the City Council by a 45-0 margin.
One of the affected workers, 40 year-old Nestor Santos, told the New York Daily News:
“The government is giving them the money and they’re paying us cash in the dark. They’re keeping the extra money and not paying their taxes. They’re stealing from us and from the government.”
Mayor Bloomberg and other business leaders have claimed that a prevailing wage law would simply add to the bureaucracy of the city and would effectively “pressure developers to hire union workers,” but proponents of the effort argue that transparency is paramount. According to City Council President Christine Quinn,
The Council voted unanimously to bring transparency to how taxpayer dollars are spent on affordable housing,” Quinn said. “We will override the…veto.”
Now, this timely investigation is stoking the embers of debate. It claims that workers are being improperly paid and paperwork is incomplete. Many of the construction projects that were detailed in the investigation should have been subject to prevailing wage requirements. Santos says he was paid $150 per day under the table for work he did at 270 Alexander Avenue. Others were paid less despite wage mandates.
Jose Pullo says he was paid about $8 an hour for nine days at 749 Jackson Ave., a prevailing wage site where workers are supposed to pull down more than $50 an hour, including benefits.
“I never filled out any paperwork,” said Pullo, 56.
Another worker says he saw other laborers get paid $100 cash off the books for work at 357 E. 150th St., a prevailing wage site. He says he was hired at $85 a day.