Wage Theft at the North Square Apartments in Amherst, Massachusetts

Tom Juravich

Executive Summary

This report examines construction practices at the North Square apartments in Amherst, Massachusetts. Based on over a dozen in-depth interviews with workers and staff from the North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (NASRCC), as well as a review of corporate and legal documents, it reveals that major wage theft took place with workers who installed drywall at the complex. Key findings include:

  • Developer Beacon Communities, a major builder and operator of multi- unit properties, will receive $2,795,009 over ten years as an affordable house tax credit for 26 units of low- and moderate-income housing.
  • General contractor Keith Construction Inc. (KCI) awarded a contract for drywall to Combat Drywall. Combat itself did none of the drywall installation but hired Alvarez Drywall to do the installation.
  • Alvarez did not have direct employees but acted as a labor broker and brought nine undocumented Honduran workers to hang drywall.
  • Nine workers hung sheetrock for five six-day weeks, averaging ten hours daily, yet they received no compensation for their work.
  • On July 28, 2019, with assistance from NASRCC, charges were filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General for $50,173 in unpaid wages.
  • In took ten months for the AG to act on this case. But on April 16, 2020, the AG office issued citations for Violation of Massachusetts Labor Law to both Combat and Alvarez. However, only $23,977.85 in back wages were awarded—less than one half of what the workers were owed and the companies were only fined $17,500.
  • Current law and practice in Massachusetts did not provide workers what they deserved and fines against the violators were too small to act as deterrents moving forward.
  • Despite receiving substantial tax credits from the Town of Amherst Developer Beacon Communities made no efforts to remedy this wage theft despite being aware of it, and the firm itself was not held responsible for it.
  • It is clear that we need new legislation to guard against this kind of wage theft.
  • Executive Summary

Download Report