To Ecuador: NYC Comptroller Stringer "Goes" Many Extra Miles to Deliver Cheated Worker's Check

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Stringer shown with Consul General Machuca

His check was in the mail for two years but given the $40,000 amount, money that an employer had skimmed off his wages, the wait was well worth it when the worker received it in his native Ecuador, from New York City.

Since 2014, New York City Comptroller Scott 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.

In 2016, Stringer'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 one particular worker -- he's not been identified by the Comptroller's office-- had already returned to Ecuador.

While in New York, the worker was hired on 10 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.”

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 Stringer 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,” 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.

Stringer added: “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.”

Ms. Machuca said some employers exploit workers who are unfamiliar with the laws. “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," she said. "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."

The Consul General added: "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.”

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.

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