DENVER – This week, in collaboration with labor unions, workers, and worker organizations from across the state, Towards Justice supported Colorado House Majority Leader Monica Duran and State Representative Meg Froelich’s introduction of a new bill in the State Legislature that would allow Colorado construction workers to recover illegally stolen wages from the general contractors who profit off of wage theft.
Colorado construction workers lose tens of thousands of dollars to wage theft each year, but their ability to recover legally earned wages is complicated by the trend towards outsourcing to subcontractors and other intermediaries. Such outsourcing incentivizes wage theft by favoring inexpensive subcontractors, and creates barriers to wage recovery because undercapitalized or fly-by-night subcontractors can’t or won’t pay wages.
HB24-1008 would change that by requiring general contractors to ensure that workers on their job sites get paid. This will ensure that workers receive the money they have earned, while also incentivizing general contractors to prevent wage theft.
Towards Justice Policy Director Nina DiSalvo explained, “general contractor accountability for wage theft would stop generals from simply pushing economic pressures downhill, and instead encourage them to engage only responsible subcontractors and to help stop wage theft. This kind of industry self-policing is essential to stopping wage theft before it happens. And in the meantime, general contractor accountability also will allow more workers to recover their legally earned wages.”
Said House Majority Leader Monica Duran, “Colorado’s construction industry epitomizes the outsourcing of work to escape responsibility to workers. General contractors should not be able to escape responsibility to the people who do the work on their job sites.”
Mark Thompson of the Western States Regional Council of Carpenters explained, “this bill is about getting workers paid. Colorado’s construction industry is booming, but wage theft is so rampant on job sites that I’ve started calling them ‘crime scenes’. That is not right and this bill will help get workers paid.”
This state legislation takes a cue from Towards Justice’s work with Denver’s City Council and a powerful coalition of Colorado leaders to update Denver’s wage theft ordinance to include lead firm accountability. That law – which applies to all Denver industries, not just construction – passed the City Council unanimously on January 9, 2023, and helped Denver’s public wage enforcement agency to recover more than $2 million in stolen wages for workers in 2023, nearly double what workers got back in the year prior.
“We are so grateful to City Council President Jamie Torres, Councilmember Amanda Sawyer, and all of our City Council champions,” said David Seligman, Director of Towards Justice. “They led the way in passing a city ordinance that helps workers recover unpaid wages from the corporations that profit off wage theft, and that too often hide behind middlemen to avoid accountability. We hope the State of Colorado follows their lead.”