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NY Gov Cuomo Encourages Underpaid Superstorm Sandy Cleanup Workers to File Claims

Sandy Cleanup

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Speaking at an event at Stony Brook University, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged workers who believe they were underpaid for Superstorn Sandy cleanup work to contact the Labor Department.  Workers have two years from their last day of work to file a claim.

While answering questions about prevailing wage violations, Cuomo stated:

“Anyone who believes they were entitled to prevailing wage and didn’t receive it, should go to the New York State Department of Labor and they’ll investigate the claims. If they’re right, they will be compensated.”

State Sen. Philip Boyle believes that prevailing wage laws are not effective in emergency situations.  Cuomo said that he would be willing to review the law after the Labor Department first does its job.

I don’t know if we just didn’t enforce the prevailing wage law, or if the law was flawed. But we’ll know when the Department of Labor looks at these situations. If we need to make changes, we’ll make changes.”

The question came a week after a Long Island Newsday report suggesting the legal system is not moving fast enough to meet the needs of those who participated in cleanup efforts:

Four workers who’ve waited more than a year for a hearing into whether they were paid proper wages and benefits to help clear the Long Island Rail Road of Sandy debris learned Wednesday they’ll have to wait another month.

The four worked for Custom Tree Care, a Topeka, Kan.-based subcontractor of Huntington-based Looks Great Services in November and December 2012. The hearing, scheduled for yesterday, was adjourned until Dec. 11 and 12 after a lawyer for Looks Great sought a different hearing officer.

The department has estimated the four workers together may be owed almost $60,000. For the four, the administrative hearing can’t come soon enough.

“I hoped to have this money for Christmas,” said William Moore, from Orange, Texas. His former co-worker Aaron Mathis, of Topeka, said: “I’m disappointed. I was looking forward to hearing some good news and getting the money — it’s holiday time and I need to pay some bills.”

Hearing officer Jerome Tracy had written “a departmental memorandum that offered opinions on whether prevailing wage applied to tree trimming and tree cleanup after a storm,” prompting lawyers to delay the trial due to what they viewed as a conflict of interest.

Cuomo is not the only politician pushing for speeding delivery of fair compensation:

State Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), who wrote two letters over the summer to department Commissioner Peter Rivera urging speedy resolution for the workers, said he was stunned by the delay. Hannon said Wednesday he has yet to receive a response from the commissioner.

“I’m astounded that workers who came to help us in a storm more than a year ago are still being denied rights they’re meant to have under statute,” he said. “This is the epitome of the cliche, ‘justice delayed is justice denied.’ ”


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