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Mar
2016
18

NY Congressman with Anti-Worker History Accused of Illegally Underpaying Workers

Chris Collins, wage enemy.

Chris Collins, wage enemy.



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A company that is owned by Congressman Chris Collins has been punished for failing to pay the prevailing wage on a project in New Jersey in 2014.  Audubon Machinery, a medical supply company Collins owns, was required to pay the prevailing wage on a project and failed to do so according to the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health. 

The discovery came after a worker was not issued his final paycheck, which led to an investigation into the project, which Audubon won after submitting the low bid.  The press release, which can be viewed in its entirety here, provides an in-depth look into how the investigation began.

Rep. Collins, a Republican representing New York’s 27th district, was a CEO before entering politics and has a long history of being both anti-labor and anti-prevailing wage.

More from City and State:

The Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health circulated a press release Tuesday detailing the penalties against Audubon Machinery Corporation, a Buffalo-area medical supply manufacturer. The company had to pay $19,000 in back wages to six workers, part of more than $37,000 in fines and fees assessed by the state of New Jersey for failing to pay prevailing wage for work done in 2014, as was a condition on a job with the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

Collins, several other company representatives and the company itself also face possibility of being barred from participating in public jobs in the state.

Collins’ office referred City & State to Joe McMahon, president of Audubon Machinery Corporation. Over the phone, McMahon stressed that Collins has almost no involvement in the company’s day-to-day operations, adding that he thought the press release was a “witch hunt” put out for political purposes.

Public documents show that since 2006 Audubon Machinery has received $9.8 million from the controversial Export-Import Bank of the United States.  In 2014, Rep. Collins was one of 41 GOP lawmakers who wrote then-Speaker of the House John Boehner supporting reauthorization of the bank. In August of 2014 he bragged to the Democrat and Chronicle that he had extensive experience working with the bank and therefore his call for reauthorization should be taken seriously:

“I have been very outspoken and I have found other members very receptive to my firsthand experience with it.  I know it works. And it’s all about jobs and the economy and reducing our trade deficit for all the right reasons. This isn’t a government handout. People pay a fee. It returned $1 billion to the government last year in fee income.”

The aforementioned investigation also found that Rep. Collins and his companies drew millions in taxpayer dollars from federal grants, government loans, and state and federal contracts.  This further exemplifies Collins’ audacity and misuse of his position in Congress to benefit the 11 companies he draws income from. All while refusing to properly pay workers.

Representatives of Audubon Machinery stressed that they thought they were being compliant:

“It is our belief that Audubon Machinery has been in complete compliance with New Jersey state law. When this issue was first brought to our attention, we provided officials with the relevant payroll record information and will continue to cooperate with any additional requests. We fully expect the investigation to reflect our full compliance when a final decision is reached.”

As the Western New York Council on Occupational Safety and Health notes, Collins’ anti-worker track record makes this claim difficult to believe. Sen. Marc Panepinto, a Buffalo Democrat, said in statement:

“The hard working men and women of this country deserve a decent and livable wage.  To blatantly cheat them out of that hard-earned right and the financial stability that they deserve is nothing short of criminal. I encourage those involved to pay the prevailing wage that is owed and urge the Department of Labor to hold those responsible fully accountable for their shameful actions.”

Also releasing a statement was Richard Lipsitz, President of the Western New York Area Labor Federation:

“The prevailing rate was put in place to ensure workers are paid a decent wage and to protect responsible contractors from being underbid. When responsible contractors are put at a disadvantage against one that breaks the law, there must be consequences.”

According to the press release, there have been “over 100″ safety violations at four other companies affiliated with Collins.

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