Fleecing America’s builders
“You feel powerless,” said Luis Fonseca. “You see that companies are doing what they want and you can never do anything against them.” Fonseca is one of a hundred licensed workers who spent almost a year removing asbestos from the century-old headquarters of the United States General Services Administration. The workers logged nightly nine-hour shifts, spent mostly in air-tight spaces that reached 100 degrees. Some didn’t wear clothing beneath their protective Tyvek suits, hoping to stave off heat exhaustion and avoid bringing home cancer-causing asbestos fibers. They should have earned $25.47 per hour but were only paid $15.84 an hour. Fonseca and 124 other workers filed a complaint with the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division in 2011, but six years years later, the investigation remains open and the workers still haven’t gotten their back pay. "Weak oversight allows subcontractors in particular to shortchange workers on government projects with little fear of being caught or barred from future contracts," reports the Center for Public Integrity in "Fleecing America’s builders; How workers on government construction jobs are victimized by contractors that stand little chance of being caught." John Monroe, a labor compliance officer at the Foundation for Fair Contracting, said he’s never been to a site where he didn’t encounter a case of wage theft. “The penalty for robbing the bank is to give the money back,” Monroe said, “and that's just not a deterrent.”
photo: A construction worker cuts brick in Washington, D.C. Maryam Jameel/Center for Public Integrity
Comments are closed.