Howard Nielsen purchased the former Road House Grill on Jefferson Road and converted it into a Sticky Lips BBQ restaurant. The state labor department is investigating Neilsen, claiming he did not pay contractors a prevailing wage to do the work.
The building is on property owned by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, which is a New York State Authority.
Nielsen hired independent contractors and electricians to renovate the building. He says he paid those workers the wage they wanted.
He says during construction, representatives from the carpenter and electrical unions visited the site, looking for work. After telling them he hired his own contractors, Neilsen says an investigator from the New York State Department of Labor showed up and informed him he had to pay prevailing wages, which are union wages.
Nielsen believes he’s exempt from paying a prevailing wage because he owns the building.
"My problem right now is not with the men and women who are in the union, my problem is with the management of the unions,” Neilsen said.
“This is relatively a small project. This is not your hospital, your bridges or your schools; that's where your union wages come in, but when you start coming to small jobs like this and pushing your weight around, it's very upsetting,” he said.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local Union 86, issued the following response:
”The Genesee Regional Market is owned by Monroe County and construction on the property is subject to New York State prevailing wage. He, Mr. Nielsen, was informed of this fact by the New York State Department of Labor long before the project was completed and made the decision to ignore the information given to him by Robert Bibbins, an investigator with the labor department's Rochester office.
- Under New York’s Constitution and Labor Law, contractors and subcontractors must pay the prevailing rate of wage and supplements (fringe benefits) to all workers under a public work contract. Employers must pay the prevailing wage rate set for the locality where the work is performed.
- There are two conditions which determine whether a construction project is public work:
(1) A public entity must be a party to a contract involving the employment of laborers, workers or mechanics; and
(2) The contract must concern a public work project.
- In the present matter, public documents show that Sticky Lips BBQ constructed a building on publicly-owned land. Specifically, the property is owned by the Genesee Valley Regional Market Authority, which is a public entity. Because the building was constructed on publicly owned land and because the agency received a complaint, the Department of Labor (as it is required to do under law) simply advised the owner that the construction project may well be subject to prevailing wages. There has been no decision as to whether or not prevailing wages apply in this case and the matter is under review, as the Department continues to gather information. Further, the Department DOL has not been in contact with OSHA in regard to this matter.