NEW YORK ( In an unprecedented move, six Mexican immigrant construction workers announced a lawsuit they filed against two companies that have failed to pay them prevailing wages, which are guaranteed under New York City law.

The workers stated in their press release that they “routinely” worked 24 hours a day, performing demolition duties and security at night. According to the complainants, they were paid $2 per hour for 14-hour security shifts and were not provided heating equipment in the winter, water, bathrooms or adequate protection from would-be burglars.

“By night, they sent us to guard their construction sites without thinking about our safety,” Similiano Martinez contended. “I was robbed and beaten twice. When I asked the bosses’ for help, they didn’t do anything.”


“They forced us to do the heaviest, dirtiest construction work–removing and reinstalling steel beams and large pieces of sheet rock, demolishing walls and floors without safety gear,” he further charged.

“The city of New York definitely has to know what is going on,” quipped Michael Andrade Lalan, a local organizer for the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops. “We deliberately focused on the employers for this lawsuit, but in the future we want to talk about the city’s complicity in this matter,” he added.

Calls to the New York City office of Housing Preservation, which oversees the contracts, were not returned.

The six workers are represented by the law office of Outten & Golden LLP, who recently filed the civil lawsuit in federal district court seeking damages for violations of federal and state wage laws.

According to Mr. Lalan, the employers also “lied” to city inspectors about the wages paid to workers for construction work. He said, instead of the $40 hourly rate dictated by law, the workers were routinely paid just over minimum wage. “And when they complained, four of them were fired,” Mr. Lalan alleged.

“We knew we were being exploited and we complained to the employers about the conditions and pay. But when I spoke out to the boss about the wages he owed me, he fired me,” Donato Santiago maintained.

According to Mr. Lalan, the six workers are also demanding that their former employers, who continue to work on city-funded housing renovation projects, rehire them at the wage rate stated in the contracts, and make a public apology to the workers for the years of abuse and mistreatment.