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Feb
2016
9

Prolific NYC Contractor Slapped With Sexual Harassment, Wage Theft Suit

U.S. Crane and Rigging is no stranger to justified worker outrage

U.S. Crane and Rigging is no stranger to justified worker outrage


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A female ironworker from the Bronx has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, U.S. Crane and Rigging, accusing them of sexual harassment, wage theft, and exposing her to unsafe work conditions among other charges.  U.S. Crane and Rigging is part of the Auringer family of companies, which includes NY Hoist, Urban Pre-Cast, and others.  Over the past ten years, Auringer companies have racked up over $300,000 in citations amidst initial Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines.  

In recent months, U.S. Crane and Rigging has been at the heart of several protests organized by community workers seeking improvements to safety conditions on affordable housing projects.  
In November, a protest in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn shed light on wage theft and unsafe work conditions at U.S. Crane and Rigging worksites.  In September, unionized construction workers, politicians, labor leaders, and members of community action groups in the Bronx rallied on behalf of workers at U.S. Crane and Rigging worksites who had also complained about wage theft and unsafe work conditions.  

As one of the only female workers on the site, 34-year-old LaFonda Brown found herself the target of many managers’ and coworkers’:

I get all kinds of stuff.  You name it, I get it. But after [tolerating it] for so long, you can’t take it anymore.  One of them grabbed my ass and I almost fell off the scaffold.”

Brown says she was also sexually harassed by a manager who, after several unsuccessful attempts to touch her breasts, exposed himself to her.  Brown reported the incidents to the company’s owner, who then covered them up:

“The way they treated their workers and run their business, it shouldn’t be.  I complained time and time again. They’d say, ‘Miss Brown, don’t worry about that. We’ll take care of that.’ And then nothing got done.”

Brown was employed as a welder’s assistant with Urban Erectors, one of seven companies run by the Auringer family that have landed 24 taxpayer-subsidized affordable apartment projects since 2011.  During this time she worked as a signal person, a fireguard, a welder’s assistant, and a flagger.  In May of 2015 she was instructed to weld despite not being properly trained to do so.  She was not given proper safety equipment and had to be hospitalized after damaging her corneas.  The company stuck Brown with the hospital bills:

“I’m not even a licensed welder, and they [supervisors] have me welding just to get their job done.  But if they want it done, you’ve got to do it. At the end of the day, I have to feed my kids and pay my bills.”

Race was a factor as well, Brown claims. At one point she asked a supervisor if she could use the restroom. His response floored her:

“You’re black and a woman — you’re lucky to have a job. Why should I let you use my bathroom?”

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