Support Responsible Contractors and Keep our Tax Dollars Local
St. Louis City has a strong tradition of supporting workers. St. Louis is a union town that supports local workers that invest our tax dollars into the communities we live and work. BluSky Restoration Contractors are an out-of-state company that is exploiting out-of-state workers by using our tax dollars to pay them wages below area standards.
Are our tax dollars being exploited?
BluSky Restoration is currently performing work on the Old Webster School Building in St. Louis City (fifth ward). The Old Webster School is currently being rehabbed to be turned into senior apartments.
Last year the Missouri Housing Development Commission approved $8 million in federal low-income housing tax credits, paid over 10 years, to assist the rent-controlled project. The state also approved about $2.2 million in historic tax credits.
The St. Louis Equity Fund will invest $9.4 million to finance the project, and the St. Louis Affordable Housing Commission will make a loan of $500,000.
Not to mention the project has a 15 year 100% tax abatement and an additional 5 year tax abatement of 50%.
Old Webster School Project Problems?
It has been reported that license plates of workers appear to be almost all from out-of-state. Observations of the property seem to show little to no hazardous material waste bags. This building is being rehabbed and in the asbestos abatement stage. There should be hazardous material bags being disposed of the asbestos material. Low-income seniors are slated to live here when the project is finished. Can this vulnerable population trust that they won’t get sick from living there?
BluSky Restoration Contractors do not have a contract with local laborers unions. Missouri Laborers’ District Council (MKLDC) affiliated unions provide a living wage, healthcare, a retirement plan, and safety and skills training for the workers they represent. MKLDC also provides their contractors with a drug-tested workforce. Does BluSky provide any of that?
- Is this the future we want for St. Louis?
- Do we want our tax dollars to be used to fund out-of-state company’s worker exploitation?
- Keep our tax dollars local. Hire contractors that support a living wage with benefits – or they don’t get any of our tax dollars!
BluSky Restoration’s Legal Problems
BluSky Restoration and staffing agency Labor Source LLC are currently being sued in Minnesota by a group of workers from Chicago who were recruited to a BluSky project in St. Paul, Minnesota. Workers allege violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act including failing to pay minimum wage, not paying time and a half for overtime, and making improper and oversized deductions for lodging and other travel expenses. Workers said they did not consistently receive pay stubs, and in some instances allege their time sheets were fabricated by BluSky personnel. The case is still pending with BluSky attempting to get the class action limited to only its projects in Minnesota. In 2020, staff from LIUNA Regional Organizing Funds encountered workers employed on BluSky projects. In Minnesota, workers from “larger loss labor provider” ARG (based in Kenner, Louisiana) were in Minneapolis helping to clean up from the George Floyd protests. Workers interviewed believed they were being paid between $10.50 and $12.18/hour. As of July 1, 2020 the minimum wage in Minneapolis is $11.75 at small businesses and $13.25 at large businesses.
View the lawsuit here.
BluSky Exploits Workers
BluSky has a history of exploiting workers to benefit the bottom line. BluSky has recently come under fire from a jobsite in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where workers and community members are calling for $30,000 in unpaid wages to workers.
The workers described shocking conditions that suggested a variety of legal violations. Based on their descriptions, these potential violations included:
- Nonpayment of wages and overtime. In nearly a month of work for Ramirez and BluSky, the workers had only received wage payments once, in the second week – a cash payment that averaged just over $200 per worker, far less than they were owed at that point.
- Inadequate and unsafe housing. The workers were all housed together in one 2-bedroom/1bath apartment in a building that had sustained storm damage. Their apartment lacked a 2 ceiling (it had plastic in place of a ceiling) and was cold. They slept on the floor in air mattresses the workers had individually purchased.
- Lack of medical care for workplace injuries. One worker was asked to perform electrical wiring work for which he was not trained or certified. His finger was split open in the process, and the supervisor did not provide any medical care when he reported the injury.
- No paystubs or written statements of hours worked, amount earned, and deductions made. Iowa law (Iowa Code, Chapter 91A) requires this, regardless of method of payment.
- Unregistered subcontractor – Painting & Demolition Ramirez Company. All individual contractors and businesses performing construction work within Iowa must be registered if they earn more than $2,000 per year, to ensure compliance with unemployment and workers’ compensation laws, and must file a bond if they are based out of state. Painting & Demolition Ramirez Company does not appear to be registered with the State of Iowa.
- Threats and retaliation against workers for exercising wage payment and concerted activity rights. The workers described that the previous week they had collectively stopped work and met with Pablo Ramirez to insist on being paid. In response, Ramirez told the workers he would “punish” them as a result of their action, and they would not receive any pay for that week.
- Failure to provide PPE, including masks. The workers were directed to handle insulation, among other tasks, but they were not provided masks for that purpose or to protect against COVID-19.
You can read the full document on BluSky’s horrendous working conditions here.