More blatant discrimination against construction workers comes to light, this time prevailing wage violations across America

Kinda, sorta follow up to "Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York's underground sweatshop construction industry" from Jan. 2007

http://img524.imageshack.us/img524/9219/59751468do8.png
ow do you under bid the union contractors?

By using a work force that does not understand the law of the land. This construction company forced it's largely Cantonese workers to work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no overtime pay, no breaks and massive safety violations, on jobs that were publicly funded. That's right, if you live in Oakland, California, there's a good chance that the school you send your kids to was built with the help of the criminal activity of a few at the top, who profited on the backs of their workers, while screwing the contracting firms who obey the laws, the public who didn't get what they paid for and the workers who worked in pre-1900 conditions.

I thought the abuses of Chinese workers here in the United States sorta ended after the railroads were built, yes for those of you not well versed in http://img526.imageshack.us/img526/4650/cv1412007623mw7.jpghistory, from the "end of slavery" years of 1864 to 1867, on just one leg of the transcontinental railroad construction it is estimated that 1200-1300 Chinese workers died in that three year span. For more information on the atrocities against Chinese workers on the railroads there's a book written by William F. Chew, who is the grandson of two of the railroad workers. His book is called "Nameless Builders of the Transcontinental Railroad". Mr. Chew isn't just a bump on a log, he's a pretty smart fella, in his 45 year career as an aerospace engineer he created components that were critical for spacecraft travel.

So now back to our story, here in New York the homelands might be different but the story is the same, get workers new to the country and cheat the workers and the public out of their legally bound responsibility. Capitalism at it's finest. Screw everyone to get ahead.

Just two weeks ago it came to light that a local scumbag General Contractor pocketed $550,000 of public money which was supposed to go to his employees, according to The New York Times article from July 31st. entitled "Officials of Building Firm Accused of Cheating Workers and City ":
The officials, Yuly Aronson, owner of the May Construction Company, and Anthony Branca, the company’s accountant, ran their scheme from April 2005 through November 2006 during work on two dozen city buildings and courthouses, according to Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo.

They were charged in Manhattan Criminal Court with falsifying payroll filings to receive roughly $2 million from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services for employee wages and withholdings, of which Mr. Aronson, 46, and Mr. Branca, 50, ended up pocketing about $550,000 that was supposed to go toward the salaries of 84 workers, the attorney general said.
Here's the how to screw your work force part:
May Construction lured many of its employees with an advertisement in the Polish-language newspaper Nowy Dziennik, according to the attorney general’s office. Most of the company’s workers were secured through those advertisements and were each paid the minimum of the prevailing wage, even though the jobs they were doing required they be paid higher wages, the attorney general’s office said.
The good news, if convicted, according to New York State's Attorney General Andrew Cuomo:
“Contractors on public works projects should be warned: Obey the law and pay the prevailing wage, or face the consequences,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

Mr. Aronson and Mr. Branca face several charges including grand larceny. If convicted, they could spend up to 15 years in prison.
So that's the story of how Polish immigrants are getting screwed on prevailing wage violations here in New York, let's get back to what transpired in Oakland, California, it took a Cantonese speaking organizer working with the International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 595) to bring the violations to light and that's a good thing. Here's some snips from the East Bay Business Times, from the August 12th. story entitled "Former employees sue Oakland contractor NBC General":
NBC General Contractors Corp., an Oakland construction company that is working on several publicly funded projects in the city’s downtown, has been hit with a lawsuit filed by former employees seeking millions of dollars for prevailing-wage, overtime, meal break and safety violations.
Sounds like your average non-union construction company nowadays, sometimes it's Chinese, sometimes it's Guatemalan's, Mexican's, whoever they can screw and threaten the best. The less they are allowed to speak up, the less they know about US labor law, the more they can be screwed, but enough of my ranting, the story continues:
NBC General became the subject of the organization’s scrutiny because some contractors perceived its bids on projects were often lower than others and that prompted questions about whether its books truly reflected hours worked, said the partnership’s Alameda County compliance officer, Andreas Cluver. The union group wasn’t able to investigate efficiently, however, until it made contact with a Cantonese-speaking organizer who understood the language and culture of many of the NBC General workers.
That's the way to do it fellas, IBEW did exactly what needs to be done, just because the workers did not speak English, did not mean they were stupid, they just needed someone to explain to them their rights. How bad were these workers treated, heres more:
The suit filed July 17 in Alameda Superior Court seeks to represent a group of what is probably about 150 workers who worked on NBC General projects for a period of four years, from July 2004 to the present, said plaintiff attorney Sharon Seidenstein. A judge would have to grant class-action status.

“The company is working on prevailing-wage jobs and they are not paying the prevailing wage,” said Seidenstein. “They are also working them extremely long hours; for instance, during the summer the workers are alleged to be working 12-hour days, seven-day weeks, with no overtime.”

Also named in the complaint is J.H. Fitzmaurice Inc., the Emeryville-based firm that is the general contractor for the Fox Courts housing project.

It is unclear how much plaintiffs will recoup if they prevail, although Seidenstein said it could be “millions.”

Cluver stated that he had calculated about $6.6 million in underpayments to workers, based solely on his calculations and not taking into account any penalties a court might issue.

Monica Mui Ung, president and CEO of Oakland-based NBC General, and J.H. Fitzmaurice, did not immediately return telephone calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
I just hope the owners of these companies in NY and CA see the inside of jail, they really deserve it. One can only wonder how badly they treat workers on non-prevailing wage jobs, but you can see that in my first article entitled "Blatant discrimination! Another disposable worker death in New York's underground sweatshop construction industry"

Immigration: the wedge issue of the labor movement

This country is delving deeper into the 3rd. world as anyone is allowed to enter here illegally without penalty, and until recently one of the only times ICE, our Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, has raided a work place it was in the middle of a union organizing drive. Here's just a few facts to ponder.

In Iowa, ICE raided AgriProcessors, the countries largest Kosher meat packing plant and found almost 400 illegal alien workers, reports of weapons and get this, a Crystal Meth lab! There were over 60 underage workers at the plant, the youngest of which was 13 years old.

In California, a pregnant Mexican teenager died on a California vineyard, she wasn't allowed to have water! 5 more immigrant farmworkers in California have died in the fields since.

In New York, undocumented immigrant construction workers were threatened with guns if they decided to join a union. On other sites workers are told to say that if hurt at work, they are to report the injury as happening on the soccer field. On a nearby house getting remodeled I asked the owner of a construction company why he only gave his Guatemalan workers doing siding one plank for each teir of the 32 foot high scaffold, he told me they were like monkeys, they would be OK. I could go on about New York, about how when Fresh Direct, the internet supermarket was raided by ICE right in the middle of a NLRB wait period for a unionization vote. But lets get to the legal issues that are encouraging more illegal immigration, the laws against working rights and the laws that are helping to fracture labor protections. Here's two I reported on recently. Oh yeah, by the way they are both in Right to work states.

Kansas, a state in this United States, has passed a bill through it's Senate that will exclude punishment for the employers of undocumented workers, but would fine a union who lets the worker into it's ranks. You got that? They do not blame the employers and they want to stop anyone from helping the workers.

Utah, there is now a law which will exclude an injured worker from getting Workmans Compensation who has committed any crime, BUT the law does not hold the company responsible for hiring the illegal immigrant, nor will their premimum go up. Now theres a couple of great places to open up business.

To Be Continued, what I've been up to lately

I can continue with this but I really need some rest, you may have noticed I have been writing scarcely recently at Joe's Union Review, there's just so much to write about and so little time lately, I too have a full time job and I'm teaching an apprentice in my trade, it's an honor and a privilege to help her in her career, I was a little concerned that I might not have been ready to train someone, but I'm doing my best, she is my union brother (talk about a weird line) and it's important.

Something you may want to check out

http://img230.imageshack.us/img230/6408/walmartstomppb0.jpgJust in case you don't read Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, you may have missed the news of the meeting they had with their workers that threatened that if Obama were to be elected President, that there would be almost nothing standing in the way of the Employee Free Choice Act getting passed, which would of course pave the way for those damned unions to corrupt the wonderful working environment that their workers currently enjoy by giving them a fighting chance to seek collective bargaining representation. Was it illegal what they did? Was Wal-Mart being a good employer and informing their workers about the candidates or did they threaten them as to how they should vote?

Here's a little fact that slipped through the media unreported, Wal-Mart was recently sued by none other than the US Dept. Of Justice, why would you ask? They refused to rehire a returning veteran in their Florida store. That's right, Wal-Mart, that great American franchise said a big F you to someone who went out and risked their life for them. They of course settled for $12,000 out of court.

Wal-Mart is most likely a big contributor to the organizations against The Employee Free Choice Act, but I'll have more on that soon. As American Right's At Work puts it:
What Wal-Mart is doing for November's political elections is what it, and hundreds of other anti-union companies, do all the time when workers say they want a union: intimidating them to go against their own self-interests.

The most ironic part of this news is that Wal-Mart's political ally, the Chamber of Commerce, sees itself as "David" versus the supposed "Goliath" of unions in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act.
"This is a David-and-Goliath confrontation, but we believe we'll have enough stones in the sling to knock this out," said Mr. Steven Law, chief legal officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Maybe, if David first set up a front group to defame Goliath with a $30 million television advertising campaign before he loaded up his slingshot.
I'll write some more on this soon, but for now,

Peace, have a great weekend

Joe

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