Union Carpenters to Protest Alleged Tax Fraud, Wage Theft at 98 Essex St. Project

The construction site at 98 Essex St., Haverhill, as pictured in January 2019. (WHAV News photograph)

Area union carpenters are rallying locally Thursday in a show of support for what they allege is wage theft and tax fraud taking place during construction of the mixed-use Chen Building project at 98 Essex Street in downtown Haverhill. The “No Tax Treats When Contractors Cheat” rally is organized by the Carpenters Union Local 339 and New England Regional Council of Carpenters.

As Haverhill carpenter and union rep Adam DiGiovanni tells WHAV, his union supports the use of tax incentives to aid the city’s growth and economic development, but urges local leaders to consider revoking tax breaks to developers who break state and federal wage and tax laws. On the Essex Street job site, DiGiovanni said, workers are allegedly being paid under the table in cash without state and federal taxes being withheld.

“Haverhill taxpayers, along with taxpayers across Massachusetts, are forced to pay more in taxes because of ‘tax cheats.’ This creates an unfair burden on those of us who play by the rules and follow the law,” he said.

To bring attention to the so-called dishonest business practices, DiGiovanni and his colleagues plan to gather at Haverhill City Hall, 4 Summer St., Thursday, April 11 from 8 -11 a.m., DiGiovanni told WHAV.

The 98 Essex St. job site has long been the focus of controversy. Just this week, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited NEI General Contracting of Randolph and Progressive Roofing of Haverhill in connection with the death of 41-year-old Carlos Ortiz, according to an OSHA spokesman Tuesday. Ortiz was working on the roof the nine-story Chen building at 98 Essex St., when he fell through a tarp-covered elevator shaft.

NEI was cited for two serious violations with $18,413 in proposed fines, while Progressive Roofing was cited for two serious violations with $17,503 in proposed fines. Besides fall protection-related violations, Progressive was also cited for lack of frequent inspections of the jobsite, the spokesman told WHAV.

NEI’s Managing Principal Josef Rettman told WHAV in January “Ortiz chose not wear a harness and tie off.”

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