Wages disputed in DC Water project

Several dozen labor union members, including some who work for Arlington’s Corinthian Constractors, protested in front of the company’s office Tuesday, charging that the firm does not pay federally required wages and is threatening them with immigration action.

The workers were employed on a pipeline project for DC Water. They wrote Corinthian a letter Dec. 2 saying they were being underpaid by $7 to $10 per hour, based on the wages and fringe benefits due under the Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Act.

Four days later, federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents appeared at 5 a.m. at the home where the workers routinely met to share rides to work. Two workers were deported and three others are appealing their arrests, said a spokeswoman for the Laborers International Union.

Corinthian’s vice president of operations Erin Teague said in a written statement Tuesday that the firm pays at or above the prevailing wage on all federal contracts and it played no role in the ICE raid, nor has it taken retaliation to have workers terminated, arrested or deported.

The National Labor Relations Board dismissed the initial claims as baseless, Teague said, and the union withdrew other charges. Other allegations should be addressed through the NLRB, she said. Her statement said the company periodically checks employment and immigration status of its workers.

Some of the demonstrators said that after the immigration reverification Dec. 31, Corinthian fired almost half of those who were working on the DC Water project.

Arlington County Board chairman Walter Tejada, a naturalized American citizen who came to the U.S. as a teenager from El Salvador, also appeared at the demonstration Tuesday to show his support.

D.C. Water spokesman Alan Heymann said Tuesday that the utility takes wage and hour violation allegations “very seriously” and has thoroughly analyzed the claims against Corinthian.

“After that well-documented review, we concluded that Corinthian Contractors appears to be in compliance with the Davis Bacon prevailing wage requirement; is paying its workers the correct prevailing wage; and in some cases paying slightly above the prevailing rate,” he said.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.
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