Contractor investigated for wage violations

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NO-LEAD copyBy ED FINKELSTEIN

Publisher

The Wage and Hour Division of the Missouri Department of Labor is investigating prevailing wage charges against Huddy Painting for violating state and St. Louis Board of Education requirements that prevailing wages be paid on work now underway at two St. Louis high schools by a non-union painting contractor.

WAGE VIOLATIONS? Painter from non-union Huddy Painting scraping paint from the walls of Sumner High School are not only are putting themselves in harms way by not having proper lead-paint abatement protection, they’re doing it at wages below the prevailing wage that the St. Louis School Board demanded in its contract specs. – Painters District Council 2 video screen capture.
WAGE VIOLATIONS? Painter from non-union Huddy Painting scraping paint from the walls of Sumner High School are not only are putting themselves in harms way by not having proper lead-paint abatement protection, they’re doing it at wages below the prevailing wage that the St. Louis School Board demanded in its contract specs. – Painters District Council 2 video screen capture.

The continuing investigation by Painters & Allied Trades District Council 2 and the Labor Tribune of the two non-union painting contractors doing work at two St. Louis public high schools hired as subcontractors by the non-union Raineri Construction Company  — Huddy Painting and Rice Painting — revealed that:

Wage Violations: Huddy Painting is not paying the prevailing wages required by the school district, the City of St. Louis and the State of Missouri. Efforts to obtain the records of Rice Painting are underway.

Noted one former employee in an affidavit obtained by the Painters, “On prevailing wage jobs he (Huddy Painting) still paid normal wages as if it was not a prevailing wage job.”

Subs Not Listed: Neither painting sub contractors are listed in Raineri’s response to the school boards Request for Proposals (RFP) that calls for completing a list of subs that are “NOT (RFP’s emphasis) an M/WBE Subcontractor/Supplier.” In the RFPs explanation of services required, “painting” is listed; the RFP calls for all subcontractors to be identified. The two painting subs are not listed.

Violations Not Reported: Raineri and Rice did not report OSHA violations and heavy fines they received for “serious” OSHA violations despite the RFP’s requirement to “List all OSHA Citations and Notifications of Penalty, monetary or other, received within the last five (5) years.”

The violations, from 2011 and 2012 against Raineri and Rice were reported in last week’s Labor Tribune.

Labor Rates Missing: Despite the RFP’s requirement for listing all labor rates. Raineri did not list a painter’s rate. The RFP calls for all labor rates “for all classifications…” Not that Raineri couldn’t afford the rate. His bid for “carpenters” was $75 an hour and for “laborer” $67 an hour, and that does not include any markup for overhead costs or profits, as directed by the RFP.

WAGE VIOLATIONS

In affidavits obtained by District Council 2, several painters admitted that Huddy has not paid them the prevailing wage, no benefits and no pay for overtime, not only at Sumner High School, but also for a project Raineri was hired to do at Cleveland High School.

One painter said he was paid $27 an hour for his time at Sumner when the district’s RFP specifically calls for the painter’s wage of $41.33 an hour (which includes fringes). On another Huddy project at Compton Hill Park, he was also paid $27 an hour despite it also being a prevailing wage project sponsored by the City of St. Louis.

At Cleveland High School, another painter working for Huddy said he was paid $20 an hour to paint the school’s bleachers, which, according to the District Council 2, were supposed to be replaced, not just repainted. It too was supposed to pay the painter’s prevailing wage.

The painters asked that the Labor Tribune not reveal their names, however, we have seen the official complaint and copies of check stubs that confirm the charges.

“I have talked with others who said they were not being paid the prevailing wage but said they are too scared to come forward and sign an affidavit,” said District Council 2 Organizer Page Lucks.

STIFF PENALTIES FOR VIOLATIONS

Lucks pointed out that by not paying the prevailing wage, a contractor or subs are subject to the provisions of the federal Copeland Act where its Anti-Kickback section clearly states that, “…a contractor or subcontractor (is precluded) from in any way inducing an employee to give up any part of the compensation to which he or she is entitled.”

Penalties for violation include fines of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison. If convicted, a contractor who willfully falsifies records that shows the company is in compliance when it was not is subject to contract termination and disbarment besides the fine and jail time.

The Painters District Council has made a Freedom of Information request of the school district to obtain the weekly wage reports required by the federal law and the districts own RFP. The reports have not yet been provided.

OTHER VIOLATIONS

One has to wonder how efficient the Board of Education’s construction RFP review and monitoring policies are when there are so many violations and discrepancies on this particular project?

To date, the Labor Tribune has revealed:

• Serious OSHA violations within the last two years that have resulted in “serious” citations against Raineri and Rice resulting in a total of over $14,000 in fines and penalties.

• Several convicted felons working on the job and one painter with a court ordered protection order against him. This despite the RFP requirement for background checks. A school board spokesman responded to a Labor Tribune Freedom of Information request for this background that these reports are not subject to the Missouri Sunshine law and refused to provide them.

• Violations of OSHA lead paint removal in terms of equipment being used to contain lead paint dust, equipment for the protection of workers scraping lead paint off walls and woodwork, and improper overall containment to prevent lead dust from reaching outside the school where tests have shown lead paint residue has been present. A childcare center is about 30 yards from Sumner.

Lead dust is all over equipment, desks and bookcases filled with volumes.

Noted one painter: “I’m not looking for anything but what is owed to me on the prevailing jobs and to make sure my blood lead levels are not too high for my health.”

The district has said it will require Raineri to clean the schools before fall sessions begin. Given the widespread dispersal of lead-based paint dust, the effectiveness of that will be a serious point of contention. Children’s’ health could be at stake.

“This certainly may have started out as an issue of non-union painters doing the work, but it has become far more than that given what we are discovering,” Lucks said. “There are potential health issues for the children, potential health issues for the workers and certainly for the teaching staff. And there appear to be serious violations of the law that need a thorough investigation. The final responsibility falls on the School Board and its construction management staff who apparently have been quite lax is their duties to let it go this far.”

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