Workers issued checks for owed wages
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At least two workers employed on a project to convert a former hospital building into affordable housing in Bridgeport, Connecticut are receiving checks totaling close to $50,000 for back wages owed to them. Despite public money funding the project from at least three local and state agencies,the workers were not paid at the legally mandated prevailing wage rate by their employer, Fairfield County Drwyall. The Bridgeport-based company was a subcontractor for Viking Construction.

The workers received help in getting their wages from NERCC Organizers in Connecticut, including Ted Duarte, who says the initial contact was a byproduct of the good work of Organizers in the Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters.

Duarte said that a carpenter on a job in New York was assisted in getting wages he was owed by Empire State Council Organizer Rich Craven. That carpenter was a friend of one of the drywallers on the Bridgeport job, who suspected he was owed wages. Craven spoke to him and facilitated a meeting with Duarte, who helped get state authorities involved.

"This is the way a lot of nonunion carpenters come to us, how they get to know about us and what we do," Duarte said. "They have a buddy who got stiffed on a job and got paid because a union organizer helped them. When we help them get paid hundreds or thousands of dollars, that word can really get around. Rich did good work for the carpenter in New York and it led to us being able to help two more guys get paid here."

One of the workers in Bridgeport was recently given a check in excess of $32,000 for sixteen weeks of pay he was owed. Duarte said he should be getting an additional $1,500. The other carpenter was paid about $11,000 and could have more coming, too, Duarte said.

Prevailing wage laws exist at the federal level and in many states to ensure contractors do not gain a bidding advantage by underpaying workers. Wage rates for building trades crafts workers are established through local area surveys, which determine the fair market value for hourly wages. Prevailing wage laws have helped protect a decent standard of living for the nation's construction workforce. They also ensure highly skilled crafts workers build with public dollars, rather than whoever is willing to work for less.