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Labor organizations rally against wage theft and employee misclassification Station Row project in Providence



The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 11 held a rally Saturday afternoon in partnership with Fuerza Laboral and Rhode Island Jobs With Justice at the site of Trilogy Development‘s Station Row project being built by Tocci Construction at Smith and Canal Streets in Providence.

Trilogy has received $5.6 million in public subsidies in the form of a Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) from the City of Providence, but, say leaders of the Saturday rally, Trilogy and Tocci have “sadly decided to use the broken model of open shop sub contracting,” adding, “Construction workers employed in the open shop model are at a greater risk of suffering substandard wages and benefits.”

“Wage theft, employee misclassification, tax and insurance fraud are all still far too common in the industry in Rhode Island and across the country. While unionized contractors can be found to break the law as well as open shop contractors, the collective bargaining agreements in place give workers the ability to assert their rights and get remedy of grievances” said Raul Figueroa of Fuerza Laboral.

In September 2015 open shop contractor Cardoso Construction came to settlement around wage theft to pay more than $730,000 in back wages, interest and penalties under a settlement agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training (DLT)’s Workplace Fraud Unit.

Rhode Island’s Underground Economy and Misclassification Task Force reported in 2016 that “the Division of Taxation found that 673 employees had been improperly classified as independent contractors instead of employees in 2015, ordering the offending companies to pay more than $220,000 in taxes.”

Rhode Island’s Underground Economy and Misclassification Task Force reported in 2017 that “six construction companies entered into settlement agreements with DLT where they admitted to misclassifying 33 workers on four separate construction projects ”and that “The Division of Taxation found that 590 RI employees had been improperly classified in 2016, resulting in almost $5.6 million in unreported wages and an assessment of $200,988 in additional state taxes.”

“When low road employers are allowed to cheat with impunity it undercuts not only worker’s wages and conditions but also legitimate contractors who are looking to compete in doing honest business”, said IUPAT District Council 11 Business Representative Justin Kelley, noting that these issues cause a cycle of exploitation and poverty and starve our municipal and state governments of much needed revenue.

“We are calling upon the Providence City Council and Mayor Jorge Elorza to engage in a full scale examination of the labor conditions on all job sites that are recipients of TSAs and implement reforms to ensure that workers are given the opportunity for fair workplaces that are free of labor law violations,” said Michael Araujo of Rhode Island Jobs With Justice. “Construction workers deserve to have their rights respected. Construction workers deserve better.”

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A number of issues seemed to be occurring at Trilogy Development’s Station Row project being built by Tocci Construction at Smith and Canal Streets in Providence.

The tube set up to deliver waste the container was over eight feet above the container itself. Large plumes of silica dust from disused pieces of drywall, periodically filled the air, before being blown by the wind in the direction of downtown.

The dust can be seen in the river water here, collecting on the surface. There is also a large amount of debris to the right, outside the picture.

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.