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Enforcement against cheating businesses jumps in Mass Posted by on

More than $21 million has been collected from employers in Massachusetts who violated labor laws in the last 18 months, according to the annual report of the Joint Enforcement Task Force on the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification. The amount represents more than the total that was recovered in all previous years.

The joint task force was created in 2008 as a result efforts by the Carpenters union and others to educate Governor Deval Patrick, state legislators and leaders of several executive branch agencies who enforce laws and policies related to employee misclassification. Tens of millions of dollars in state and federal revenue are lost each year due to employee misclassification while employers who play by the rules are put at a competitive disadvantage and workers are stripped of essential protections such as workers' compensation coverage and eligibility for unemployment insurance, Social Security and Medicare.

The issue is especially acute in the construction industry, where the fairness of direct competitive bidding can easily be undermined by a bidder misclassifying employees as independent contractors to save 20-30% on labor cost. Perhaps the largest recent case involved more than $1.1 million in unreported wages found at the renovation of the Boston Marriot Copley Place, where one contractor was paying $4 an hour to employees who were recruited from a substance abuse program in Connecticut. Contractors were issued more than $100,000 in fines on the project.

"The work of the Task Force is invaluable in reducing the growth of the underground economy in the state's construction industry,” said Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. “Taking on the illegal practices of wage theft, misclassification and tax and insurance fraud creates a more level playing field, which ultimately benefits legitimate employers, tradesmen and women and taxpayers."

The joint task force brings together various state agencies, including the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the Attorney General’s Fair Labor Division, the Insurance Fraud Bureau and others.

Both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald covered the issue.





Violations at Marriott reported again Posted by on

The massive wage and hour violations at the Boston Copley Marriott, which were investigated only after loud and repeated protests by union carpenters joined by other trades workers and union workers has hit the news again. This time reported by HR.BLR.com, a site that reports on business and legal issues pertaining to human resource management.

The article lays out the nearly $1.2 million in violations by numerous contractors hired to renovate rooms at the high-priced downtown Boston hotel, including one that misclassified 28 employees as independent contractors and failed to report more than $410,000 in wages and another that failed to report more than $460,000 in wages to the Department of Unemployment Assistance.


TAGS: Marriott



Marriott management "asleep at the switch" Posted by on

Banker and Tradesman ran a piece this past Sunday about the lack of awareness shown by property owner Host Hotels & Resorts Inc. and Marriot management regarding what was happening on their $18 million renovation project.

Earlier this year, Union carpenters, painters and other union members demonstrated twice a week for months at the site against Baystate Interiors, Inc. of Woburn for undermining area standard for carpenters' wages and benefits.

Investigators for the state task force on the underground economy found that contractor’s working on the renovation project failed to report $1.2 million in wages, which cost the state $86,000 in taxes. Investigators from the state task force on the underground economy also found that 63 employees were misclassified as independent contractors. Read more here. http://www.nercc.org/blog/p/1713

Scott Van Voorhis, the author of the piece notes that “the allegations that recovering drug addicts imported from Philadelphia were paid $4 an hour – half the state’s already measly minimum wage – are sorry enough. But the defense of the hotel’s owners – they just didn’t know what was going on with the contractors – is just as indefensible when it comes to savvy business management in a major metro market.”

Read the Banker and Tradesman piece in its entirety here.





Investigators find widespread labor violations at Copley Marriott Posted by on

As a result of the the protests  by union carpenters at the Boston Marriott Copley Place renovation project, state investigators found improper activity by fifteen companies that worked on site.

Contractor’s working on the renovation project failed to report $1.2 million in wages, which cost the state $86,000 in taxes. Investigators from the state task force on the underground economy also found that 63 employees were misclassified as independent contractors.

In the article printed in the Boston Globe, a lawyer representing Baystate Services, the general contractor that oversaw the renovation of the hotel said “it, too, was unaware of labor violations.”

Earlier this year, Baystate agreed to pay $31,000 in back wages to 37 Victory Outreach workers who received illegally low wages for 3 months of work. Read more about Victory Outreach here

Unfortunately, state law protects the privacy of companies accused of tax violations. Even in a case like this, with widespread labor violations, investigators are blocked from state laws from charging contractors and property owners.

Read more about the results of the investigation by the state task force online here.  To view a PDF of the article, click here.





A look behind the scenes: Copley Marriott Boston Posted by on

Remember the protests by union carpenters at the Copley Marriott in Boston? In his article "A story of hope, and a lopsided deal," Boston Globe reporter Casey Ross reports on what was was going on behind the scenes at the hotel that was uncovered as a result of those demonstrations. 

The article looks into Victory Outreach, the Christian drug rehabilitation ministry hired for furniture installation on the job. Twelve laborers working for Victory Outreach worked for three months on the project, making about $4 an hour, half the required minimum wage in Massachuseets. 

Check out the entire article online here or in PDF format here





Area Standards Demonstration: Baystate/Marriott Posted by on

Carpenters in Boston will be holding an area standards demonstration on Saturday, February 4 from 11am-1pm against Baystate Services, Inc. The demonstration will take place at the Marriott Copley Place on Huntington Avenue.

More information about Baystate and Marriott Copley Place.





Area Standards Demonstration: Baystate/Marriott Posted by on

Carpenters in Boston will be holding an area standards demonstration on Tuesday, January 31 from 3-5pm against Baystate Services, Inc. The demonstration will take place at the Marriott Copley Place on Huntington Avenue.

More information about Baystate and Marriott Copley Place.





State investigating use of shelter workers at Boston Marriott Posted by on

A prominent article in the Boston Globe today revealed that state investigators are looking into the use and treatment of out-of-state shelter workers in the renovation of rooms at the Boston Copley Marriott. Union carpenters, painters and other union members have been demonstrating twice a week for months at the site against Baystate Interiors, Inc. of Woburn for undermining area standard for carpenters' wages and benefits.

Baystate is renovating several floors of rooms at the pricey downtown hotel owned by Host Hotels and using a California-based company named Installations Plus. Installations is using workers from a missionary shelter in Philadelphia to do work at the Marriott and allegedly violating wage and hour laws to do it.

The workers come from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation shelter in Philadelphia run by Victory Outreach International, an evangelical group based in the San Diego area.

“Our concern is that Host Hotels is trying to take advantage of the recession by bringing in out-of-state laborers to do work that has traditionally been done by local union tradespeople,’’ said Mark Erlich, president of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

The investigation is not the first trouble enforcement authorities have found on the site. The subcontractors working on the project--including Installations Plus--have been issued "Stop Work Orders" and paid fines for not having proper workers' compensation insurance.

Click here to view a NERCC-produced video about the demonstrations at the Boston Copley Marriott.





Carpenters continue mass demonstrations at Marriott Copley Posted by on

December 16, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Mark Erlich

Carpenters continue mass demonstrations at Marriott Copley
Members of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, Painters District Council #35 and other Boston Building Trades unions will be demonstrating at the Marriott Copley Place this Saturday, December 17 from 11am-1pm to call attention to substandard conditions for construction workers renovating 1100 hotel rooms. Demonstrations featuring as many as 200 members have been held two to three times a week for the last month and will continue indefinitely.
 

Host Hotels, the owner of the downtown hotel, hired Baystate Services, Inc as a general contractor. Baystate and its subcontractors pay substandard wages, and minimal or no benefits. In addition, many of the subcontractors illegally misclassify their employees as "independent contractors", a violation of state and federal tax and insurance laws. Three subcontractors on the site, RB Wallcovering, of Jacksonville Beach, Florida, Jayson Connor, a Marshfield, MA flooring contractor and Installation Plus, a Corona, CA contractor were issued Stop Work Orders (attached) by the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents within the last five weeks for failure to properly cover employees with workers’ compensation insurance.
 

“Host Hotels is part of an unfortunate trend to drive standards down and jeopardize middle-class careers in construction," says Mark Erlich, Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "Host is taking advantage of the recession to bring in low-waged out-of-state workers and hiring contractors that participate in the growing underground economy.”
 

“If guests used the same logic as Host Hotels—that price was the only issue for making a decision—would any of them stay at the Copley Marriott?" asks Jeffrey Sullivan, Business Manager of Painters District Council 35. "Guests pay up to $400 a night while these trades workers make as little as $12 an hour. With room occupancy in Boston back to pre-recession levels, Host has no excuse for these kinds of choices."
 

Video of past demonstrations can be viewed in the nercc.org video gallery under the “Workers Rights” heading. 





Union demonstrations at Boston Copley Marriott to continue Posted by on

Union carpenters joined by union painters, electricians and members of UNITE/HERE (hotel workers) will continue to demonstrate against the undermining of area standards at the Boston Copley Marriott hotel. Bay State Interiors has been hired to renovate rooms and does not pay carpenters area standard wages and benefits on all of its projects. More than 200 workers turned out at a demonstration last week and another 100 attended a demonstration Tuesday. Demonstrations will be scheduled regularly each week, including this Wednesday from 3:00-5 p.m. and Saturday December 17, 2011, 11:00am-1:00pm.





Saturday, December 10, 11a.m.-1p.m. Demonstration at Copley Marriott Posted by on

Demonstration for area standards at the Boston Copley Marriott.


TAGS: Events, Marriott