Saturday, January 30, 2010

Employees: Espada Pays Some $1.87 An Hour

CBS 2 Has Learned How Powerful Senate Majority Leader Has Allegedly Ignored Minimum Wage Laws At His Health Clubs

NEW YORK (CBS) ― Can you imagine trying to live off a salary of less than $2 an hour?

Embattled Bronx Sen. Pedro Espada is again under investigation. This time he's accused of luring impoverished members of his community to work as janitors at his health clinics, and paying them way below minimum wage.

Oh the hypocrisy.

Espada went to an upstate duck farm recently to take up the cause of migrant workers and demand they get fair pay and good treatment.

"What you're doing here is absolutely criminal," Espada said.

Pity that he apparently doesn't feel the same way about people working as janitors at Soundview Health Clinics, which Espada owns.

CBS 2 HD has learned that a company he controls that provides custodial services at Soundview was apparently running a sham internship program where workers received no training and were paid dramatically below minimum wage.

CBS 2 HD: "How much were you paid?"

Carlos Gonzalez: "I was paid $150."

That's $150 for two weeks work -- 80 hours at $1.87 an hour. The state minimum wage is $7.25.

Gonzalez is one of about 40 people reportedly sucked into the program with grandiose promises -- good training and a good job.

One person CBS 2 HD spoke with was also an intern, but was so afraid of Espada that the person asked to be disguised.

"We have no time off more than our lunch time," the person said. "If we even take a little five-minute break off, the supervisor goes 'You standing away? You standing up? Why you standing up? Find something to do!" We were pushed."

What about the promised training?

"All she had taught me was keep the bucket straight when you are filling it up with water," Gonzalez said, adding that he was stunned when they didn't teach him anything, "I was shocked. I mean I thought I was going there to get prepped and it was like I worked for nothing."

CBS 2 HD: "Did anybody show you how to do anything?"

Intern: "No."

CBS 2 HD: "Never?"

Intern: "Never."

CBS 2 HD: "Did you feel that that was right?"

Intern: "No, I didn't feel it was right because at times the supervisor would get on me to say you didn't do this good, you didn't do this good, you know, and I asked, well you didn't show me how to do it, do anything."

The interns said Espada's son, Pedro G. Espada, runs the program. He and two other Soundview employees have been subpoenaed by state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo to answer questions about the internships and potential labor law violations.

Senator Espada has repeatedly said he has done nothing wrong and that the Cuomo probe is nothing but a witch hunt.

Late Monday Sen. Espada claimed the program is for people who have had trouble with the law and are seeking a second chance.

He said the money they got was for transportation and lunch.
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