Springfield Bars Companies Cited For Wage Theft From Municipal Work (WAMC)
The largest city in western Massachusetts has put a law on the books that aims to curb wage theft in the construction industry.
Under an ordinance given final approval by the Springfield City Council Monday night, companies that have been cited for wage theft would be barred from receiving municipal contracts for a period of five years. Firms hired for projects by the city would have to submit certified payroll records and daily work logs to an oversight committee to prove they are not cheating their employees.
City Council President Marcus Williams congratulated his colleagues after the final approval, which was by unanimous vote.
" I think it is a great step for the city of Springfield," Williams said.
The ordinance was introduced in March by City Councilor Jesse Lederman.
"The taxpayers of the city of Springfield deserve to know that nobody who is cheating ore really committing a crime against their workers essentially is receiving tax dollars," Lederman said.
Companies that are found to be committing wage theft while working for the city would be subject to financial penalties and barred from bidding on future municipal contracts. The city already had on the books an ordinance allowing for the claw back of tax breaks given to developers if a contractor or sub-contractor commits wage theft.
Lederman said wage theft is more rampant than many people know.
"It should be a fundamental understanding that men and women who head in, put their hours in, and do their jobs deserve to be paid what they are due," Lederman said.
It is estimated by trade unions that $700 million dollars in wages are stolen from workers in Massachusetts each year by means such as misclassification of jobs, nonpayment of overtime, uncounted work hours, and withholding of final paychecks. The lost tax withholdings are estimated at $13.5 million annually.
Several local tradespeople spoke in support of the legislation during the public speak out portion of the City Council meeting.
Samantha Clinton said the ordinance will protect working people from being ripped off.
" People are losing money when they are not getting paid and it is just not right," Clinton said. "We want to make sure those people get their money because they've got families, they've got kids. How are those kids going to eat?"
Charlie Payne, the business agent for Carpenters Union Local 336, praised the Council for taking a progressive stand.
"This is a very important ordinance," Payne said. "It sends a message to contractors that we don't want that to happen to our citizens, our people. That is what is all about: people."
Similar laws are on the books in about 10 other Massachusetts municipalities including Amherst, Easthampton, Northampton, and Worcester.