For Immediate Release, March 12, 2013
Cathy Junia, IWJ
Nashville, TN – A group of Nashville community leaders and worker advocates are asking city officials to conduct a formal investigation into allegations of wage theft at Music City Center, one of the city’s biggest and most expensive public construction projects.
At a community hearing, Saturday, March 9, several construction workers shared stories of underpayment and intimidation by their respective employers - drywall companies subcontracted by Georgia-based Roswell Drywall. Roswell is the project’s primary interior systems contractor.
“I understand that the pay for [drywall installers] is supposed to be $17.21 per hour. I was paid less,” said one worker employed by subcontractor, Obando Construction. “I did not ask for more because I did not want to be fired for complaining.” Dry wall installers at the convention center were paid at least $3 less than the prevailing rate of $17.21 per hour.
Intimidation was a common theme in all of the stories. Another worker talked about a supervisor who told workers they could leave if they did not like what they were being paid.
“Roswell’s subcontractors may have underpaid their workers by over a million dollars.” said Matthew Capece of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. “With the help of the greater Nashville community, underpaid workers will feel more protected if they come forward.”
In separate letters to Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, District Attorney General Victor Johnson III, and Nashville Convention Center Authority Chairman Marty Dickens, the group of community commissioners laid out recommendations to help address the wage theft and intimidation problems at Music City Center:
- Investigate the potential fraudulent behavior of Roswell Drywall subcontractors for cheating workers and taxpayers.
- Appoint an experienced agency other than the Convention Center Authority to investigate complaints from workers paid less than the prevailing rate.
- Create a project labor agreement for future projects to ensure that Tennessee-based construction firms and Tennessee residents get first priority on contracts and jobs.
“When companies agree to hire adequate skilled trades people and then don’t pay them the agreed upon wages, those companies have committed fraud,” the commissioners said. “We are concerned about the workers and their basic rights to a fair practice. We are also concerned about the use of public funds.”
Members of the fact-finding commission: The Rev. Jim Sessions, Interfaith Worker Justice board member; Dr. Melissa Snarr, worker rights advocate; The Rev. Dr. Daryl Ingram, IWJ board member; The Rev. Angela Hawkins, UMC Tennessee Conference Interfaith Council chair, and Ms. Dorit Kosmin, synagogue cantor.
IWJ has been educating, resourcing, and mobilizing the religious community in support of justice for workers and working families since 1996. For more information about IWJ, visit our website www.iwj.org or contact Cathy Junia firstname.lastname@example.org, 773-710-9837.