WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.14.2012
 
 
u-square-at-the-loop

U Square Worker Payment Investigation Continues

Committee members want to change way contracts are written to ensure fair wages

A City Council committee wants Cincinnati’s leadership to investigate whether workers in a Clifton Heights development project are being paid what they’re supposed to. The Strategic Growth Committee on Wednesday passed a motion asking the city administration to report back on wage payments to workers on the U Square development. The project includes a parking garage as well as residential and commercial units. Under Ohio law, workers on projects funded by cities must be paid a prevailing wage, which is equivalent to the wage earned by a union worker on a similar project. The city only has money invested in the garage, and the state  of Ohio recently ruled that workers on other parts don’t have to be paid prevailing wage. Council members Wendell Young, Cecil Thomas and Laure Quinlivan produced a video in which they interviewed carpenters who said they were being paid less than the prevailing wage. At issue is a letter from developer Towne Properties that says the company will pay all workers prevailing wage anyway. Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said his company cuts a check to subcontractors respecting that agreement, so if workers aren’t being paid the proper amount it’s their fault. City Solicitor John Curp told members of the Strategic Growth Committee that under city and state law, the subcontractors are not required to pay workers a prevailing wage on parts of the project that are not getting public funding. He said the letter from the developer does not hold the weight as a legal contract. Young, Thomas, Quinlivan and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld all expressed the need to overhaul the way the city enters into development contracts to better protect workers. However, City Manager Milton Dohoney hinted that overzealous requirements for high wages could chase off some development projects. He said that a project like U Square is tied to the Clifton location because of its proximity to the University of Cincinnati, but the city can’t be too restrictive when it comes to businesses that could expand elsewhere. Dohoney said the city also doesn’t currently have the manpower to do the kind of aggressive enforcement that the council members were asking for. Councilman Young countered that he would like to see the city be as aggressive with enforcement as they are with making economic development deals. “We want to change the rules of the game to make sure everyone is treated equal,” Young said. 
 
 
by Andy Brownfield 11.01.2012
Posted In: Development, City Council, News at 04:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
quinlivan

Worker Mistreatment Alleged at U-Square Development

Council members urge city to investigate worker wages

Some members of city council agreed that the city needs to take a hard look at the way it inspects projects done with taxpayer money, but they took no action during a special joint committee meeting Thursday to discuss allegations that workers were being underpaid at the University Square development in Clifton. Council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young presented a video investigation they conducted, which included interviews with workers on the project who claim they were being taken advantage of by the University Square developers. Under Ohio and Cincinnati law, workers on projects funded by taxpayers must be paid a so-called “prevailing wage” (the same as a unionized worker) and be given benefits.  In Cincinnati, that wage is $23.17 an hour for the carpentry work done by the workers interviewed for the video. The workers in the video claimed they were paid $500 for working a 60-hour week. “Five-hundred dollars a week to me when you don’t have a job, that’s a lot,” said Garrick Foxx, a construction worker on the project.  “But actually when you average it out, it’s not. Like to the hour-wise it’s probably like 9-something, so like I could actually make that working at McDonalds.” The University Square developer — a collaboration between Towne Properties and Al. Neyer, Inc. — is building a complex with a parking garage, residential units and retail space. The City of Cincinnati has $21 million invested in the parking garage. The State of Ohio recently ruled that the prevailing wage provisions apply only workers constructing the garage that the city has money invested in. Arn Bortz with Towne Properties said the controversy was ginned up by unions and it hasn’t been proven that workers are being underpaid. “All of this was started by the unions themselves because they became very unhappy when the State of Ohio said a sizeable portion of our project was not subject to prevailing wage,” Bortz said. “They tried then to discredit and intimidate anyone who is on the other side of the table.” Bortz said he agreed to pay a prevailing wage even to workers who worked on parts of the project not subject to the law. He said he cuts a check to the subcontractors based on that agreement. “Whether any of those subcontractors might have been unfair to the workers, we do not know,” Bortz said. “If they were, they should be made to be fair.” Deputy City Solicitor Aaron Herzig said if the contract required a particular wage be paid and it wasn’t, the city can bring a breach of contract action against the developers. But to start an investigation, a complaint must first be made.The council members asked that their investigation be considered a formal complaint.
 
 

Owners Lodge Spurious Claims Against Protestors

3 Comments · Wednesday, October 19, 2011
There is a certain appropriateness that it is representatives of Big Business and corporate America who are trying to have the Occupy Cincinnati protestors removed from their encampment at downtown’s Piatt Park, which is a public space. In trying to capitalize on their oversized influence with politicians at City Hall, those corporate bigwigs are proving the main point behind the various “Occupy” protests taking place across the nation — that people with money have far more clout in our political system than those who don’t.  

Mara Pushes for Ethics Ruling Against Bortz

0 Comments · Wednesday, July 13, 2011
In a letter sent July 8 to the Ethics Commission, attorney Tim Mara alleges that Towne Properties, a firm owned by the family of Councilman Chris Bortz, holds a 50-percent stake in a newly created firm established so the project could receive $21 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) from the city. City Council approved the TIF deal at its June 29 meeting, with Bortz abstaining from the vote.  

Local Case Goes to Ohio Supreme Court

0 Comments · Wednesday, May 12, 2010
A local child custody battle involving a same-sex couple that could establish an important legal precedent is headed to the Ohio Supreme Court. The case involving former partners Michele Hobbs and Kelly Mullen about access to their 4-year-old daughter Lucy was featured in a recent CityBeat cover story.  

Bortz Bungles Ethics Disclosure, Harms Streetcars

2 Comments · Wednesday, May 5, 2010
If anyone is to blame for the controversy over why Councilman Chris Bortz ignored an Ohio Ethics Commission advisory opinion regarding his votes on the city's streetcar plan, it's Bortz himself. Why ask for an opinion at all if he wasn't going to follow it? And once the opinion has been issued, it would be better to come clean about it rather than wait for the slow burn of its release almost a year later, which makes the whole affair look sordid.  

NAACP, Councilman Clash Over Streetcars

2 Comments · Wednesday, April 21, 2010
While much of the local media attention during the past several days was focused on Cincinnati City Council's vote to approve $2.58 million for the proposed streetcar system, another controversy involving the long-discussed project was brewing that went barely noticed.  

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