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FRAMINGHAM – The local carpenters union was protesting outside the construction of a Framingham Housing Authority project today, March 23.

“This project is a perfect example of wage theft. It’s funded with taxpayers money,” said Rick Anketell, organizer with Carpenters Local 336.

In January of 2023, the Framingham Housing Authority awarded a contract to TRAC Builders of Rhode Island for a project in South Framingham for $26.774 million.

The Framingham Housing Authority project modernizes the Beaver Street federal public housing site, by converting it into a tax credit property for families at or below 30% of area median income.  

The first phase – called Carlson Crossing West – is made up of 68 units in 17 buildings. 

The project will rehab all the units and create a recycling center on the site, too.

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“The Framingham Housing Authority followed Chapter 149 Bid Laws and publicly bid the Carlson Crossing West Modernization Project. General Contractors and Filed Sub-Contractors were required to follow a pre-qualification process which is required for all projects of this size. TRAC Builders submitted the lowest bid of the pre-qualified General Contractors,” said Framingham Housing Authority Executive Director Paul Landers.

“The project site is made up of both Union and Non-Union sub-contractors. A M Enterprises is a sub-contractor of TRAC Builders for interior demolition,” said Landers to SOURCE. “This project is subject to Massachusetts prevailing wage law. It requires the submission of Certified payrolls for all Contractors and Sub-Contractors working on this project.”

But members of the North Atlantic Carpenters Union Local 336 said workers are not being paid the prevailing wage, per the contract.

And when employees question the contractor & subcontractor, they are fired.

“I’m standing here in solidarity to these workers,” said Local 336 organizer Frank Gomez. “These workers were getting $22 an hour initially. After Rick and I explained to them it was a prevailing wage job, the foreman came around and said, we can only give you $27.50 an hour if you like it. If you don’t like it, leave.”

Gomez explained that the four “gentleman” protesting in front of the Carlson Crossing project today, “confronted the foreman” and “he actually fired them for requesting the proper pay.”

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Gomez explained that the workers then had “to wait two weeks in order to get their money, because they were not paid that week. When they were paid the week after, they receive an envelope of cash.”

Gomez said the workers filmed the cash payments and they reported the contractor and sub-contractor to the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office.

The four workers fired were all from Lawrence. They all spoke Spanish.

“It is wrong. They don’t play by the rules. They don’t pay taxes,” said Anketell about Rhode Island-based TRAC Builders.

SOURCE reached out to TRAC Builders, who did not respond by the time this report was published.

The Framingham Housing Authority has no affiliation with the City of Framingham, which instituted a wage theft law. The City Council enacted it in 2022.

Formed in 1946, the Framingham Housing Authority has a five-member Board of Commissioners.

The Commissioners and the Executive Director maintains more than 1,000 units of public housing and administers rent subsidies for more than 800 units of private housing, in cooperation with federal, state and local authorities.

Ironically, one of the five Commissioners of the Framingham Housing Authority is Steve Joyce, who is Contractor Relations Director at North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters.

The “general contractor hired a subcontractor who is cheating, and not paying taxes,” said Anketell. “This is how contractors underbid projects. Responsible contractors, that play by the rules, can’t compete. TRAC comes in as the low bidder, and they got to make the money up somewhere, and this is how they do it.”

“TRAC Builders subbed the demo work to A.M. Enterprise, out of Lawrence, who comes in dirt cheap because they cheat and don’t play by the rules,” said Anketell.

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“The state has what they call the wage sheet. The general contractor had to display that in clear sight so people know what they’re supposed to get paid. It wasn’t posted,” said Gomez on Thursday afternoon. “These guys had no idea this was a prevailing wage job. This is a problem with the underground economy. The guys need the money, but they are afraid to come forward and complain, that they will be fired, too. There are 11 men who are impacted but some didn’t want to speak up for fear of retaliation.”

“Those who complain, they get rid of and they just bring more men from Lawrence here to Framingham to work,” explained Gomez.

“What we have here on site is wage theft, because these guys didn’t get paid properly. We got tax fraud. And we got insurance fraud,” said Gomez, who said because they are paying some workers in cash, they are not carrying enough workers; compensation insurance for all the workers on the site.

Gomez said he observed 20-22 workers on the site.

He said that if they are paying cash to workers, they are not paying them properly.

State Rep. Priscila Sousa joined the workers’ protest today. The project is in her district.

“Sad that a taxpayer-funded project has these type of contractors committing wage theft and tax fraud,” said Anketell.

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State Rep. Priscila Sousa joins workers protesting in front of Framingham Housing Authority Project

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By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.