Angry over non-payment of wages and exploitation at workplace, a group of Indian American Sikh construction workers have filed a lawsuit against their employers in a city court.
In the complaint filed Tuesday, the workers, all members of New York Construction Workers United (NYCWU), a worker's body, alleged that even after putting in long hours of work in dangerous conditions they were not fully paid and often discriminated against.
"I was paid only $1,000 by my employer. Sometimes, we have to work with our bare hands because the contractor won't give us equipment. And there is so much discrimination in who gets hired so we don't always get steady work," Kalvinder Samra, one of the complainant said.
Samra added that physical threats and harassment on the job are common. He hoped that other workers would see his coming forward as a sign that they must also protest injustice. "We have to fight together for justice and real change in our industry," he said.
Similarly, Jaswinder Singh, Gurdev Singh and Darshan Singh, all Sikh immigrants from India, worked on contract basis at a hospital in Queens. Their employer paid them for less than half of the days they worked, IndoLink, an ethnic magazine reported.
Another Sikh, Balvinder Singh said he performed steam cleaning, pointing, and roofing work at a large residential building in the Bronx area over the course of two months in 2005 and 2006. Although he was promised over $15,000 for his work, he was paid only $3,000.
The New York State minimum wage is currently $7.15 per hour. Workers must be paid the overtime rate of one and a half times the regular wage for hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. The minimum overtime rate is $10.72 per hour.
"These cases are just the surface in an industry where the exploitation of workers runs deep," said lawyer Tushar J Sheth of Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which filed the case on behalf of the workers.
"Although violations are prevalent, the law is clear in protecting construction workers' right to be paid for all of their labour at the wages they are contractually promised," Sheth added.