Monday, March 14, 2011

Slavegate 2011: Indentured Servitude in north Minneapolis – Part 1

The City of Minneapolis’ Civil Rights director sat silent as she listened to what could probably turn out to be one of the worse violation of state and federal laws in Minnesota’s history as it pertains to prevailing wages and non-payment of salvage workers from the Network for Better Futures. Rather that sitting silent, Ms. Velma Korbel should have excused herself from the committee citing the violation and demanding an explanation and immediate corrective actions be taken. By the way, where is Legacy Construction?

Watch the video below – why doesn’t the Black community qualify for pay?



by Donald W.R. Allen, II – Editor in Chief of Black Politics in Minneapolis and IBNN NEWS

Minneapolis, MN (Source: IBNN NEWS)… The Minneapolis Public Schools ESC New District Headquarters Oversight Committee held a meeting at the District Headquarters located at 807 Broadway Avenue NE on Thursday, March 10th at 5:30 p.m. – shocking revelations came to surface about a group of men, associated with a non-profit group that worked on the project for no payment at all.

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry states, prevailing wages are the wages required to be paid on state-funded construction projects. If $5 bucks came from the state, the unpaid workers need to get paid…period!

Wage rates paid for comparable work are certified by DLI as the prevailing wage rates after the department conducts a survey of contractors, labor organizations and interested parties statewide. This information is furnished to entities covered by prevailing wage laws that are letting contracts for inclusion in their bid specifications.

The Minneapolis Public Schools – District 1 and Mortenson Construction clearly understand the consequences to what IBNN alleges as a blatant violation of federal and state law.

Wage rates are established for construction to include commercial construction, which is building projects exclusive of residential construction.  This means the Educational Service Center salvage project done by the Network of Better Futures and unpaid workers qualify for payment immediately.
The Minnesota Constitution, Article I – Bill of Rights – Section 2 titled “Rights and Privileges” says, “No member of this state shall be disfranchised or deprived of any of the rights or privileges secured to any citizen thereof, unless by the law of the land or the judgment of his peers. There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.”

The original demolition bid does include ALL work done at the site. Which means anyone who “worked” on the site, by law should be paid. Without payment, this amounts to Slavery.

How was it that 728 man-hours worked by personnel from the organization Network for Better Futures was not compensated based on Davis Bacon or prevailing wage federal and state regulations?
If anyone on the construction site for the two-weeks Mortenson representative Lynne Littlejohn speaks of received any compensation, workers from the NFBF are owed the same.

Mortenson Construction and representatives from the Educational Service Center’s Oversight Committee have not given full disclosure on which minority contractors have received or awarded contracts, nor have they provided dollar amounts of the mysterious awards. Mortenson/Thor Construction cites Women and Minority Participation currently at 45%, according to a document dated March 4, 2011.  IBNN alleges this is not the case based on workers-on-site, payroll information and the inclusion of workers from a non-profit agency who did not receive payment.

One item of concern is were does Legacy Construction and president Archie Givens fit in. At a June 10, 2010 community meeting at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis, Givens stated that he was in on the deal (new district headquarters construction) for 40%. Year-to-date, no documents have been provided to establish a connection between Mortenson/Thor and Legacy – which could mean Legacy is nothing more than a “pass-through” for minority goals on this project.

The blog, Construction Adviser Today reports, “Subcontractor “pass-through” claims, sponsored by a prime contractor against a public project owner, are both useful and controversial. A pass-through claim results from a claim liquidation agreement between the prime and the sub. The prime agrees to pursue the project owner, at the prime’s expense, for the subcontractor’s increased costs. The prime will pass through the recovery, if any, to the sub. In return, the sub agrees to accept only what the prime is able to recover from the owner and otherwise hold the owner harmless. The prime seemingly cares little about the entitlement, the accuracy of the quote or for that matter much of anything other than the modest mark up associated with the possible yield.

But pass-through claims are not viewed favorably in all circles. They expose public entities to liability to parties that never received a public contract. A recent Tennessee case held that pass-through claims are not allowed in that state.

This could possibly be the worse example of contract negligence in Minneapolis’ history, second only to the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights Contract Compliance Unit.

The Educational Service Center project, or known in the community has the New Minneapolis Public Schools Headquarters Project is flawed in community engagement to include women and minority contractor outreach, community benefits agreements and a total disregard for homeowners who are concerned about a process that has not been informative or inclusive.

The Educational Service Center Oversight Committee must call an emergency meeting and take corrective actions.

More to come…

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Don Allen, M.A. Ed