CLN Report Documents Rampant Wage Theft in DC Commercial Construction Industry

In an exhaustively-researched report released Wednesday morning, the Catholic Labor Network documented extensive wage theft at Washington DC’s largest construction sites. For most of one year, CLN field representative Ernesto Galeas visited major DC construction sites and interviewed 79 workers from various construction trades. Analyzing the data we found that:

  • Eight workers in the sample (10%) were paid less than the DC minimum wage.
  • Twenty-nine workers (37%) in the sample reported that they were not paid required overtime rates when they worked more than 40 hours per week.
  • Nearly half of the workers surveyed (47%) were part of the underground economy, either paid with a check without required payroll tax deductions or paid in cash.

About half the interview participants employed by electrical contractors, and majority of workers employed by mechanical contractors (plumbing and HVAC) and drywall contractors, participated in the underground economy. A well-developed system of “labor brokers” – employers of record who pay employees on behalf of specialty contractors – has sprung up in these segments between the established firms and their workforce to facilitate payroll violations. Most of the workers recruited by these labor brokers were immigrants unfamiliar with their rights or hesitant to exercise them.

The Catholic Labor Network has provided copies of the report to area labor unions, DC government officials, and area media outlets. The CLN hopes to work with its allies in labor, community, Church and government to inspire strategic enforcement of wage and hour laws in the District to protect the community’s most vulnerable workers.

For details, see the full report: The Underground Economy and Wage Theft in Washington DC’s Commercial Construction Sector


8 replies
  1. Helen Deines
    Helen Deines says:

    Thanks for this report! Are you available to guide local dioceses, Catholic colleges and universities in duplicating this study in our own communities?

  2. Kathleen M Conlan
    Kathleen M Conlan says:

    Thank you for keeping a spotlight on this problem that is so pervasive in the construction industry.

  3. Nick Pollock
    Nick Pollock says:

    This is an ignored illegal activity that many people don’t know about or understand fully. It is a problem that I fight every day on behalf of legitimate law abiding contractors. Thank you for your time and efforts in helping to educate as many people as possible about this growing exploit.

  4. Ken Heard
    Ken Heard says:

    We here would like to see if writers and other content creators have been treated similarly as the hardhat workers have been.

    We are not a Catholic organization but we will be glad to find additional information of this type and introduce it through our AFL-CIO here.

    Please call:
    Ken Heard, Volunteer Treasurer, Philadelphia Chapter National Writers Union

    We are the National Writers Union Philadelphia Chapter

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