The Chelsea Collaborative's Immigrant Workers' Center celebrated two major victories for workers this month, as two construction companies committed to pay more than $200,000 in unpaid wages to their workers. Our Workers' Center has seen a drastic increase in wage theft cases this year, particularly in cases involving subcontractors. The effects are far-reaching. For workers and families in our community, not being paid in full or on time means they can't secure stable housing, childcare, transportation, or other resources that bring family stability. In our fight for economic justice, the Chelsea Collaborative takes a holistic approach and provides full support for workers impacted by wage theft. While fighting for wages to be paid through legal and public pressure, we also support workers to mediate housing issues and connect to other resources that support stability and well being.
Arc Construction & Young Construction Campaign
The first campaign began earlier this year, when workers hired by Arc Construction attended a know-your-rights training at the Collaborative. After learning about their rights as workers, they reported unpaid wages and met with Collaborative staff to calculate their hours and wages owed. Legal partners Justice at Work provided technical assistance to protect the affected workers and pursue a settlement. Arc Construction was subcontracted by Young Construction and there was some confusion about which company should be held responsible.
Meanwhile, more workers who were owed wages from Arc Construction came to the Chelsea Collaborative to file their own claims. Community organizers from the Collaborative convened the affected workers, legal partners, the Carpenters' Union, and Justice at Work. The group decided to go public with the campaign to compel the responsible parties to pay their workers. We connected with other workers' centers and media outlets, distributed leaflets near the Porter Square job site, and gathered in protest. Ultimately, the owner of Young Construction - who subcontracted Arc Construction - agreed to meet with the workers and pay them what they were owed: nearly $20,000.
The next week, we turned our focus to Avalon, a company that subcontracted Perfect Interiors to redevelop buildings. Twenty workers hired by Perfect Interiors went unpaid after Avalon failed to pay Perfect Interiors. Owner David Villanueva joined our campaign to advocate for his workers. After legal and public pressure from the workers, the Collaborative, and the Carpenters' Union, and hearing about our victory in the Young Construction case, Avalon agreed to pay $190,000 to Perfect Interior workers. The Chelsea Collaborative will distribute this amount to affected workers next week in Chelsea.
Sadly, wage theft has become business-as-usual, especially in the construction industry. In our modern economy where irresponsible employers increasingly use subcontracting and outsourcing deals to dodge responsibility for their workers, the epidemic of wage theft has overwhelmed the capacity of our existing labor laws and enforcement mechanisms. That’s why the Chelsea Collaborative is working with statewide coalition partners to pass An Act to prevent wage theft, promote employer accountability, and enhance public enforcement. The bill will uplift low-wage workers and families while strengthening the state’s economy and ensure Massachusetts remains a leader in strong labor laws and workplace protections.
Please call your state legislators and tell them you support An Act to prevent wage theft, promote employer accountability, and enhance public enforcement. More info here