Unpaid wages and interest delivered internationally with help from the Ecuadoran Consulate in a “diplomatic pouch”

Contractor debarred for cheating 11 workers out of over $200,000 in prevailing wages

(New York, NY) — This week, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer returned over $40,000 in unpaid wages and interest to a worker from Ecuador who was cheated out of the legal prevailing wage by an unscrupulous contractor. While in New York, he was hired on ten City projects and should have been paid the prevailing wage – however, his employer broke the law, paying its workers less than they should have earned. With the help of the Ecuadorian Consulate and the worker’s former union, the Comptroller’s office located the worker in Quito and sent his check using the Consulate’s “diplomatic pouch.”

In 2016, the Comptroller’s office determined that East Port Excavation & Utilities Contractors, Inc. cheated its workers out of nearly $212,000 in prevailing wages for concrete and paving work performed at various public schools and firehouse, and additionally assessed over $75,000 in interest and civil penalties.

Most of East Port Excavation’s underpaid workers received their payment soon after the Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law recovered their money in 2017. However this particular worker had already returned to his home country of Ecuador.

The Bureau contacted the worker’s former union, Laborers’ Local 1010 which located the worker in Ecuador and assisted him in obtaining the necessary Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. After months of communication and processing of paperwork, the $40,000 in checks were issued and the Comptroller sought the assistance of the Ecuadoran Consulate to safely deliver the checks to Ecuador using their diplomatic pouch.

“This is a very special case to us. We debarred this contractor for cheating 11 workers – most of whom were immigrants – and we are now able to reunite this Ecuadorian worker overseas with the wages he deserved,” Comptroller Stringer said. “We will always go the extra mile – or miles – to connect workers with the wages that they are rightfully owed. Regardless of the policies coming out of Washington D.C., my office will not allow the exploitation of immigrant workers. We will remain vigilant in enforcing prevailing wage laws and ensure workers are paid fairly regardless of their immigration status.”

The Comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law works with Consuls General to find underpaid workers on City public work projects who have moved abroad and safely deliver their unpaid wages to them in their home countries.

Comptroller Stringer continued, “I want to thank the Coalition of Latin American Consuls in New York (CLACNY) for working with us through the years, and in this case in particular the Ecuadorian Consulate’s office, Consulate General of Ecuador Linda Machuca for their assistance in making sure this worker gets his check in Ecuador.”

“Many immigrant construction workers are cheated out of their salaries because they mistakenly think they don’t have the right to ask for a fair payment. Thanks to the efforts of the Comptroller’s office and because an immigrant worker had the courage to tell his story, today we can celebrate that a compatriot of ours will receive fair compensation for his honest work,” said Consul General of Ecuador, Honorable Linda Machuca. “We are very happy to facilitate this process through the support offered by the Government of Ecuador to the migrant community in the United States and we hope to continue working together so that more immigrants can benefit.”

 

Since 2014, Comptroller Stringer’s office has assessed more than $27 million in prevailing wage violations and paid over $12 million to employees who were cheated out of their wages. It has also debarred 50 contractors who took advantage of workers – setting an office record on debarments.

Workers on New York City public work projects that believe they have been cheated out of prevailing wages should call our Labor Law hotline at 212-669-4443 or via email: laborlaw@comptroller.nyc.gov. All calls are confidential.

To read more about how the Comptroller’s Office sets and enforces prevailing wage and benefit rates on New York City public work projects, please click here.

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