As part of a larger effort to portray itself as a model of safety and responsibility, Gilbane touts its careful selection of subcontractors. “We work hard to put the best teams together for our clients,” the company says on its website, “and that includes having the best subcontracting companies… on site.”1 Gilbane claims that “strong subcontractor relationships… all over the world” has helped it build a reputation for quality work.2
But somehow such efforts to build “the best teams” have not kept Gilbane from working with irresponsible subcontractors on recent projects in New York City. A number of subcontractors working on Gilbane-managed jobsites in NYC not only undermine the family-sustaining wages and benefits that are the industry standard, they also lack state-approved apprenticeship programs which are vital for providing workers with life-saving safety training. Worse, some of the firms have troubling records of workers’ rights violations, including unsafe practices and wage law violations, or workers’ compensation violations.
Some of Gilbane’s irresponsible subcontractors in New York City include:
1. US Crane & Rigging and the Auringer Companies: Rampant Worker Exploitation
Gilbane is the general contractor at 200 East 59th Street, a 35-story condominium tower being developed by Macklowe Properties.3 One subcontractor hired to work at 200 East 59th Street is U.S. Crane and Rigging, one firm among a network of several crane, rigging and hoist companies run by Thomas Auringer and family.4
Allegations of Widespread Worker Abuse by Auringer Firms
- Workers at Auringer’s companies have repeatedly reported that they are subjected to rampant exploitation and abuses including wage and hour violations, racism, discrimination, mistreatment, and retaliation by supervisors.5, 6, 7, 8
Lawsuits for Alleged Wage Law Violations by Auringer Firms
- In May 2015, Auringer faced a class action lawsuit from workers who alleged violations of minimum wage and overtime laws. The case was settled with payments totaling $500,000.9 Auringer settled a class action lawsuit regarding similar allegations of wage law violations in 2009.10
Safety Violations, Including in Connection with 2008 Worker Death
- Auringer’s workers also allege repeated safety violations, a lack of proper safety training, and failure to provide workers with safe personal protective equipment, as required by law.11 From 2004 to 2015, Auringer companies have been involved in at least a half dozen major accidents, including crane collapses, cranes tipping over, and a partial building collapse12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and cited for 72 Class 1 (Immediately Hazardous) safety violations amassing over $250,000 in penalties from the NYC Department of Buildings.18 OSHA has levied more than $100,000 in fines against Auringer companies during the same time period.19
- Perhaps the most tragic among these incidents, in February 2008, an elevator technician employed by Auringer firm SSB Hoist was killed “when his head became caught between a hoist car guardrail and a metal plate” at a condominium project in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. OSHA cited the firm for three serious violations in connection with the incident.20
Previous Debarment of Auringer Firm
- Thomas Auringer was previously the President of Cavalier Construction, a company that was debarred from public works projects for five years by the NYS Department of Labor in 2003, after pleading guilty to felony charges of providing false information to the NYC School Construction Authority.21
2. New York Insulation: Repeated Wage Law Violations and Serious Asbestos Safety Risks
Gilbane is the general contractor at 1681 Third Avenue,22 a 23-story condominium tower being developed by Extell Development Company.23 New York Insulation was hired to perform asbestos abatement at the project.24
Repeatedly underpaid workers
June 2015 – New York Insulation and its owner, Anthony Cardinale, were barred from New York State work for another five years after having failed to pay the prevailing wage to workers on six contracts performed from 2006 to 2009.25 The company owed workers over $70,000 in unpaid wages, $52,000 in interest, and $18,000 in civil penalties.26
- 2013 – New York Insulation settled a class action suit that a group of employees brought against the company in 2008 for unpaid wages on public construction projects from 2002 to 2008.27
- May 2012 – New York Insulation pled guilty to paying workers less than the legally-mandated prevailing wage and filing false documents on a public works project.28 New York State debarred New York Insulation and Mr. Cardinale from performing public contracting work for a period of five years.29
- July 2008 – The New York City School Construction Authority debarred New York Insulation from school construction work due to failure to pay the prevailing wage and failure to cooperate with the Office of the Inspector General to resolve the issue.30 In 2012, the SCA again debarred New York Insulation for school construction work for another five years.31
Health & Safety Risks
- New York Insulation has received over 200 New York City and State citations for unsafe asbestos work in the past fifteen years.32
- Workers on their projects report minimal safety precautions, and friable asbestos falling around them “like snow” on at least one project.33 On one site, the company maintained a ”clean” room for safety inspectors, and ran the remainder of the project without appropriate precautions.34
- In 2013, Williamsburg residents filmed workers breaking up what appeared to be asbestos containing tiles on the roof of the Domino Sugar Complex at the time that New York Insulation was performing asbestos remediation there.35 Workers from the site reported that they did not have enough water to drink or use to wet friable asbestos.36
3. Tradeoff Construction Services: Workers Report Unsafe Conditions, Low Pay, and Haphazard Practices
Tradeoff Construction Services is a subcontractor on Gilbane jobsites in New York City.
Hard Work for Low Pay37
- Some Trade Off workers make as little as $15/hour.38
Workers Report that Safety is NOT the Priority at Trade Off
- Trade Off workers report starting without training and working in many specialized fields.39
- They say they are working at heights without adequate fall protection,40 and using dangerous machinery without any preparation.41
- Workers also claim that when they speak up about safety, the firm puts them on “stand by,” with no work or pay.42
4. Structure Tech NY: Serious Recent Safety Violations and 2011 Workers’ Comp. Violations
Gilbane is the general contractor at 1681 Third Avenue,43 a 23-story condominium tower being developed by Extell Development Company.44 The concrete subcontractor at 1681 Third Avenue is Structure Tech NY.45
Seven Serious OSHA Violations in Just Last Three Years
- In the last three years, Structure Tech has been cited by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for six “serious” worker safety violations.46 OSHA defines a violation as “serious” when it involves a hazard that could cause workers “death or serious physical harm.”47
2011 Fine for Nearly Two Year Lapse in Workers’ Compensation Insurance
- In January 2012, Structure Tech was fined $136,000 by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board for having failed to carry workers’ compensation insurance for its employees for a nearly two year period from December 2009 to November 2011.48
5. RCI Plumbing: Safety Violations and Wage Law Violation Allegations
RCI Plumbing, Inc. is another irresponsible firm hired to work for Gilbane at 1681 Third Avenue.49
Serious Fall Safety Violations
- Following a January 2016 inspection at a job site in Manhattan, OSHA cited RCI for three serious safety violations carrying initial fines totaling $11,700.50 One of the violations involved a failure to provide sufficient protection against falls.51 (According to OSHA, falls are the leading cause of worker deaths on construction sites.52) RCI is contesting these violations.
Wage Law Violation Allegations
- In 2010, two RCI employees brought a class action suit against the company for allegedly willfully violating federal and state wage laws and failing to pay legally-required overtime pay.53 In 2013, the matter settled for $250,000.54
4. Complaint, Rosado v. NY Hoist et al, pages 10-12; www.nyccommunityalliance.org/docman/1-explotation-at-every-level-apr-2015/file.html
9. Settlement Agreement, Rosado v. New York Hoist et al, filed 5-27-15.
10. Complaint, Flores v. SSB Hoist; Minute Entry (case settled), Flores v. SSB Hoist
11. www.nydailynews.com/blogs/dailypolitics/construction-workers-protest-wage-theft-poor-working-conditions-pace-university-dorm-job-blog-entry-1.1775609; http://laborpress.org/sectors/building-trades/3646-iron-workers-union-leaders-rally-around-striking-workers; www.laborpress.org/sectors/building-trades/4535-ironworker-walks-off-job-cites-sexual-abuse; www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ex-worker-nyc-housing-claims-wage-theft-harassment-article-1.2385066
18. Auringer, DOB Violations
19. Inspection Detail for Inspection Nos. 939627.015, 313623787, 313236937, 1064033.015, 313999930, 388383.015 OSHA Integrated Management Information System (IMIS).
21. Letter dated July 17, 2003 from Linda Angello, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, to Super Structure Builders Inc.; Letter dated September 24, 2003 from Diane Wallace Wehner, Legal Assistant II, New York State Department of Labor, to Super Structure Builders Inc.
24. Amended Summons and Complaint, Aguirre and Gonzalez v. Imico Third Avenue, LLC, et al.; New York State Asbestos Reports
25. Stipulation of Settlement, In the Matter of the Complaint against New York Insulation, et al., City of New York Office of the Comptroller; Debarred Employer Details, Employer Name: New York Insulation Inc., New York State Department of Labor
26. Stipulation of Settlement, In the Matter of the Complaint against New York Insulation, et al., City of New York Office of the Comptroller
27. Stipulation to Certify Class, Velez v. Nicks Insulation Corp., et al.; Order Approving Settlement, Velez v. Nicks Insulation Corp.
28. Press Release: “Queens Insulation Company Pleads Guilty to Stiffing Workers Out of More than $30K for Work Performed at Wheatley School,” Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, May 16, 2012.
29. Press Release: “Queens Insulation Company Pleads Guilty to Stiffing Workers Out of More than $30K for Work Performed at Wheatley School,” Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, May 16, 2012.
30. Letter dated July 29, 2008, RE: Prequalification, from Barbara J. Gavosto, Director, Prequalification Unit, New York City School Construction Authority, to Anthony Cardinale, President, New York Insulation, Inc.
31. “Disqualified Suspended Ineligible Firms” – New York City Construction Authority
32. New York State Department of Labor and New York City Department of Environmental Protection files.
35. Sherrell Dorsey, “Neighbors Report That Domino Sugar Compley Workers Are Removing Asbestos Illegally,” inhabitat New York City, April 12, 2013, http://inhabitat.com/nyc/neighbors-claim-domino-sugar-factory-illegally-removing-open-air-asbestos-video/
46. Inspection Detail for Inspection Nos. 1089347.015, 1063090.015, 1010640.015, 1003635.015, 922962.015, OSHA Integrated Management Information System (IMIS).
48. Structure Tech Workers Comp Judgment and Application for Judgment Structure Tech Workers Comp 2011.
53. Complaint, O’Connor v. RCI
54. Settlement, O’Connor v RCI