They stood in front of Bar Harbor Grill on 181 E. Boston Post Rd. in Mamaroneck on a bright, sunny afternoon passing out flyers to incoming patrons, alerting them to an inconvenient fact: day laborers who worked to renovate the premises may not have been paid wages owed to them.
Luis Quiros, a local community activist and author of An Other’s Mind, along with several day laborers who came out to support the cause yesterday, handed out flyers with a simple request:
This new establishment in our neighborhood was renovated entirely by day laborers whose work has gone uncompensated for months. The workers are owed upwards of $1,500 and have been patiently waiting for their wages to be paid. Deadlines established by the owner have passed without payment. The workers and their families are hurting tremendously. They had to endure the holidays without resources to meet their basic needs let alone celebrate. At this point, their housing and their next meal is at risk. Please stop patronizing this establishment in solidarity. Remind merchants who abuse workers that this neighborhood will not stand for injustice.
Jesus Vasquez told Patch through a translator that he worked at Bar Harbor during its renovation from April-October 2012, but that payments started falling short in July. He said that he was given wages to distribute to four other workers, but when the payments dried up completely, he stopped bringing in the others.
According to Vasquez, the workers are owed a total of $1,800. Initially, he was told that there would be a delay in payment as owner Kevin Moynihan did not have the funds to pay for the work. Vasquez said that several attempts made to collect funds were either rebuffed or ignored.
Moynihan did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Luis Cuavarrama also spoke to Patch through a translator about $3,150 owed to him by a Mamaroneck-based landscaping company owned by Michael Castellano.
He said he is on the verge of eviction and behind on his rent due to the unpaid wages originating from work performed several months ago. Cuavarrama said that he was originally told by Castellano that the delay in wages was due to him not being paid by customers for work that was done. Later, he said Castellano told him that the work was not finished properly.
But Castellano says the withholding of wages was not without cause. “He was not finishing houses. I had a lot of trouble collecting money from houses.”
Castellano said some customers complained that work was not being completed properly or left unfinished, and that, as a result, he eventually lost two clients.
But the issue of unpaid wages is one that Quiros sees frequently among day laborers, for whom steady hours and regular pay are not always guaranteed.
“They’d rather not get involved with the court system because they have them going back and forth between court dates…if they go to court they’ll miss a day of work,” said Quiros, referring to the tendency of some workers to simply give up on the idea of recovering lost wages.
Vasquez said that he previously went to small claims court to obtain $3,500 in lost wages from a Harrison-based contractor he’d worked for. Despite the judge ruling in his favor and Vasquez having to pay for the judgment to be delivered, has still not seen payment.
The Wage Theft Protection Act, which took effect in NY in April 2011, requires employers to provide all new hires with written notice of wage rates in both English and the employee’s language. According to the enhanced law, employers can be fined up to $10K for firing, penalizing or threatening an employee who complains that wages were unpaid.