Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘contractor’

Mad Again: Illinois AG Tracking Down Paving Co. That Skirted $100,000 in Prevailing Wages

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Steve CooperA lawsuit filed against Thoele Asphalt Paving by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan claims the contractor underpaid its employees by over $100,000 on a public works project.  The Department of Labor had demanded back pay for the workers from the contractor but Thoele failed to pay.  Now, they are demanding the back pay plus “penalties of 23 percent of the compensatory damages, punitive damages of 2 percent of the compensatory damages per employee, costs, attorney’s fees and other relief the court deems just.”

According to the Madison-St. Clair Record:

The Department of Labor alleges Thoele Asphalt Paving was a subcontractor that general contractor Baxmeyer Construction hired to repair rip rap along Illinois Route 100 between Alton and Grafton. The construction company also transported materials to work sites for the completion of the project, according to the complaint filed Oct. 4 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Later, the Department of Labor received a complaint about Thoele Asphalt Paving in which a person reported that it did not comply with the Prevailing Wage Act, the suit states. The Department of Labor conducted an investigation and found that Thoele had violated the act, the complaint says.

According to the lawsuit:

“Thoele Asphalt Paving failed to comply with the provisions of the Prevailing Wage Act because it failed to pay the claimants in the amounts as indicated,” the suit states. “The aggregate sum of underpayments owed to all claimants for the work performed on the public works project and required by the Prevailing Wage Law is $108,392.95.”

This article was originally printed on We Party Politics on October 15, 2013.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Steve Cooper is the editor of We Party Patriots. He manages its Twitter (@WePartyPatriots) and Facebook (/WePartyPatriots) accounts, so there are many ways to contact him. Cooper is an avid chef and musician.

Why Picket Lines Matter

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Photo courtesy of Caitlin Vega.   I spent so much time on picket lines as a kid that when I thought my dad’s rules were too strict, I would run to build a sign on a stick and try to talk the neighbor kids into marching around the house with me. I learned early on the power of a picket to protest unfair treatment.

That right is more important today than ever. As our economy has shifted toward a more contingent workforce, companies are increasingly hiring workers as part-time or temporary, or labeling them as independent contractors. This leaves workers more vulnerable to abuse while also shielding companies from accountability. When warehouse workers unpacking Walmart goods in a Walmart-owned warehouse were cheated out of their wages, the retail giant responded that those workers were hired through a temporary agency and are not the company’s responsibility.

These kinds of working conditions make it all the more important that workers be able to share their stories with the public. Consumers have the right to know about the kinds of labor practices they are supporting when they shop at a particular store. In this economy, where workers have so little bargaining power, the ability to picket an employer to expose unfair conditions is more important than ever.

That’s what makes the recent California Supreme Court decision in Ralphs Grocery Co. v. UFCW Local 8 so important. The court upheld two provisions of California law that protect the right of workers to picket. The Moscone Act protects peaceful picketing and communicating about the facts of a labor dispute on “any public street or any place where any person or persons may lawfully be.” Labor Code Section 1138.1 restricts injunctive relief to stop picketing unless a company can show substantial and irreparable injury, the commission of unlawful acts and several other factors. Ralphs sought to invalidate those state statutes, which would have silenced California workers from such peaceful protest.

In upholding California law, the court maintained a critical protection for working people. What is at stake here is far more than where in a shopping center picketers are allowed to stand. The picket line was—and still is—an essential tool in building the American middle class. Workers standing together, making their case in the court of public opinion, helped bring about the eight-hour day, the weekend, prevailing wage, anti-discrimination laws and so many other protections. It also helped working people win wages and benefits that allowed them to buy homes, send their children to college and give back to their community through taxes, service and time.

In essence, the picket sign has enabled generations of working people to achieve the American Dream. Given the economy we face today, it’s time for the next generation to start making signs and marching to demand those same opportunities.

Why Picket Lines Matter,” by Caitlin Vega, originally appeared on the California Labor Federation’s blog Labor’s Edge. You can also view it on AFL-CIO NOW, posted on January 7, 2013.

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