Worker, Back in Ecuador, Recovers 40K in Stolen Wages

(Photo via El Diario)

On Tuesday, an Ecuadorean man who lived in New York City for more than six years and returned to his country four years ago learned that he will receive $40,000 in unpaid wages owed to him by the company for which he used to work in New York. The man who chose to remain anonymous worked for a city contractor for four years and thought he was not entitled to claiming the money his employer owed him because he was undocumented and did not speak English. Below are excerpts from a story by El Diario’s José Martínez:

“At first they paid us normally, but then they started giving us $100 checks and telling us: ‘We will give you everything next week,’” said the worker by phone. He lives in Quito, Ecuador, with his wife and their two children. (…)

On Thursday, Comptroller Scott M. Stringer informed him that he would use the Consulate General of Ecuador in New York’s diplomatic pouch to send the worker checks totaling $40,000 for unpaid wages.

According to the comptroller’s office, it was determined in November 2016 that East Port Excavation & Utilities Contractors Inc. lied to its workers and failed to pay them close to $212,000 in wages for concrete and paving jobs done in a number of public schools. Interest and civil penalties of more than $75,000 were also assessed against the company.

Stringer said that most of the workers received their payments soon after the comptroller’s Bureau of Labor Law recovered their money in 2017. However, the Ecuadorean worker never responded to the office’s notices because he had returned to his country, so they turned to the Local 1010 workers’ union – with which the employee had been affiliated – to locate him in Ecuador. Upon finding him, the office helped him obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, which he was required to have to receive the unpaid wages he was owed.

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The comptroller’s office has reported more than $27 million in wage violations, returned over $12 million to employees who were lied to, and debarred 50 contractors. Since 2014, they have been collaborating with consuls general to locate workers who have moved abroad whose labor in public construction projects went unpaid.

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Consul General of Ecuador in New York Linda Machuca said she was grateful for the comptroller’s commitment to immigrant workers, adding that the money would be delivered in about 10 days.

“Many immigrants [who are] dedicated construction workers are being hurt with their wages because they mistakenly think that they do not have a right to demand fair pay,” said Machuca.

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