Workers allege wage issues in Fire Island cleanup

Debris from damage caused by superstorm Sandy is

Debris from damage caused by superstorm Sandy is piled high near the dock at Davis Park on Fire Island. (March 5, 2013) (Credit: Newsdsay / John Paraskevas)

Workers hired as part of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project to clean up post-Sandy storm debris on Fire Island say they are not being paid the wages they were promised when the job was advertised.

In a news conference outside the Central Islip offices of Coastal Environmental Group and DS3 Enterprises, Inc., the main subcontractors hired to complete the $10.1 million cleanup, leaders from Brentwood civic groups, Long Island Jobs With Justice, Make the Road New York and Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood) decried what they called unfair wage practices.

"Right after Hurricane Sandy happened, we heard of cases of wage theft within hours," said Amy Richards from Make the Road New York. "Wage theft has been happening across Long Island, and we need to make sure that employers from other places aren't coming in to take advantage of our workers."


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A spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the agency is looking into the alleged wage issues, but he would not elaborate.

Deborah Kirnon, director for St. Anne's Parish Outreach in Brentwood, said she was initially excited about the project's high pay for laborers, advertised as $18.02 per hour plus $3.71 per hour for health and welfare, and encouraged community members to apply.

But after a few weeks, Kirnon said, complaints started to pour in from workers designated as laborers who said they were being paid at a much lower wage than they had agreed to, and that checks from the subcontractors had bounced.

Last Wednesday, some workers walked off the job after receiving smaller-than-expected paychecks. "Workers were told they would be paid a certain amount and were actually paid a lesser amount and then refused to go back to work on Thursday," said Charlene Obernauer, executive director of Long Island Jobs With Justice.

Workers were informed Tuesday that the rate for laborers would be $12.64 plus $3.71 for health and welfare.

Reached at DS3's office, a representative from Coastal Environmental Group confirmed the pay rate but said he had not seen the advertised higher wage. He said he was unaware any checks had bounced.

DS3 Enterprises, hired as a subcontractor by California-based Environmental Chemical Corp., was the first company to win the bid for the cleanup for $8.8 million on Jan. 25. The Army Corps later withdrew the award because another bidder protested.

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