Better Late Than Never: Day Laborers Win Back Unpaid Wages

Five of the seven workers who won their case before the Labor Department and recovered 80 percent of the salary owed to them by the owner of a Westchester construction company. (Photo by Cristina Loboguerrero/El Diario La Prensa)

Here’s another story of unpaid wages, but this time the workers — day laborers in Westchester County — won a victory. Below is a translation from Spanish of an El Diario La Prensa article.

Seven Mexican day laborers finally managed to recover – through the New York State Department of Labor – a large part of the more than $15,000 in unpaid wages owed to them by the owner of a construction company in Westchester County.

During a hearing at the New York State Department of Labor in White Plains, John Bindela, the owner of Bindela Construction in Scarsdale, agreed to pay 80 percent of the wages that he owed to the young plaintiffs for work that they completed between the end of May and the beginning of July in 2009.

The workers originally filed a complaint with the United States Department of Labor through Obreros Unidos de Yonkers (United Day Laborers of Yonkers), which is part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York – in April 2011. The case was sent to the state Department of Labor because at the federal level, salaries can only be recovered up to two years earlier, while at the state level, they can be recovered retroactively for up to six years prior.

Hilario Cruz, one of the plaintiffs, explained that they decided to accept the 80 percent settlement because they didn’t want to wait any longer to receive their pay. “We talked amongst ourselves and we decided that we didn’t want to waste any more time. The only thing we wanted was for them to pay us for our work.”

Demetrio de los Santos, another plaintiff who worked with a demolition team in the Bronx, explained why the workers had not been able to recover their salaries.

“First of all, Bindela deceived us,” he said. “He told us to return the following week, only to end up insulting us and shouting at us. He told us we could do what we wanted [to complain about his actions], and that we wouldn’t get anywhere.”

The young men range in age from 23 to 30 years old and are from the state of Puebla in Mexico. They were hired to work for Bindela on a street corner in Yonkers, where they would seek employment on a daily basis.

Bindela, who did want to comment for this article, said during the hearing that he had paid the plaintiffs’ salaries to one of his subcontractors. Still, the mediator assigned to the case by the Department of Labor did not find his explanation to be justified.

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