24/11/2020

Amherst adopts wage theft bylaw

Both bylaws were promoted by the Carpenters Labor Management Program and the Pioneer Valley Workers Center
and sponsored by District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen, District 2 Councilor Pat DeAngelis and At Large Councilor
Mandi Jo Hanneke.
The wage the bylaw, which will be enforced by the Board of License Commissioners, the human rights director
and the police department, can include nes of $300 per violation. The bylaw is in place to make sure that workers
are getting at least minimum wage for the work they do in town.
The responsible employer bylaw ensures that Amherst awards contracts for goods and services and public
construction, and grants tax relief agreements, only to responsible contractors who are able to certi that they are
in compliance with wage and hour laws. The bylaw is enforced through the written contracts when bids are
awarded.
In addition, the bylaw includes a clause that promotes a more diverse workforce in Amherst, with the idea that
contractors should strive to have 15.3% of hours on a project worked by people of color, 6.9% of hours worked by
women and 5% of hours worked by veterans.

The bylaws have been reviewed by councilors since being introduced last winter. Town attorneys KP Law also
examined them.
Numerous residents spoke in favor of the bylaws being adopted before the council vote, with some citing the
investigation by the state attorney general’s o ce completed in April into subcontracting work at North Square.
That led to the state o ce issuing separate citations to Combat Drywall of Billerica and Alvarez Drywall of
Manchester, New Hampshire, and the companies were then forced to make restitution totaling $23,978 and to pay
civil penalties of $19,500.
Isolda Ortega-Bustamante, a member of the town’s Racial Equity Task Force, said the bylaws will ensure that
workers at projects like North Square are paid in a timely manner.
Cedric de Leon, director of the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, spoke of the critical need
for the bylaws.
“We need laws to deter contractors

om ever doing this in our town again,” de Leon said.

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Ruthie Weinbaum, an Amherst Regional High School senior, said that victims of wage the live in the community
and many are likely the parents of her fellow students. Having preventive measures in place, Weinbaum said, will
give assurance to students that businesses are treating their employees fairly.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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