Mayor Bowser and DCRA Say They Don’t Owe Public Any Explanation, Continue to Overlook Anti-Worker Practices at Power Design, Inc
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2022
DC Jobs with Justice (JwJ) began investigating Power Design, Inc. – a national electrical contractor – in 2017 after receiving numerous complaints from workers alleging wage theft. JwJ brought those complaints to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General which subsequently sued Power Design for failing to classify hundreds of its workers as employees and cheating them out of wages and benefits. The company settled and paid $2.75 million to workers and the District.
Over the course of its wage investigation into Power Design, JwJ became aware of potential violations concerning electrical licensing laws. JwJ filed a complaint with DCRA’s Board of Industrial Trades (Board), alleging that the company had a practice of using unlicensed electrical subcontractors to perform electrical work in the District, putting residents, workers and the general public at risk. In February 2020, following a five-month investigation, DCRA issued a 145-page report, concluding that over the last five years, Power Design has hired at least seven unlicensed electrical contractors to perform work in the District of Columbia. Despite DCRA’s findings, the Board – without notice or explanation – summarily dismissed JwJ’s complaint. For nine months, JwJ repeatedly asked the Board and DCRA for an explanation, but received nothing but radio silence. The agency left JwJ with no other recourse than to sue the Mayor and DCRA because they are responsible for ensuring that the Board performs its statutory obligations.
This week, Mayor Bowser and DCRA Director Chrappah responded to JwJ’s suit, arguing that JwJ has no right to the Board’s reasons for dismissing JwJ’s complaint and not taking disciplinary action against Power Design. The Board’s silence is especially troubling given that it only agreed to accept and investigate the case because it believed that the facts alleged in JwJ’s “complaint, if proven, would constitute sufficient grounds for disciplinary action.” D.C. Mun. 5 Regs. tit. 17, § 3314.1. The investigation that ensued revealed that JwJ’s allegations concerning Power Design’s use of unlicensed subcontractors were, in fact, true. Yet, the Board has refused to take disciplinary action or provide a legitimate justification for the complaint’s dismissal.
D.C. licensing laws provide that the electrician occupation requires regulation to protect public health, safety and welfare. Such regulations are necessary because, without the proper training, workers in this high-hazard occupation run the risk of electrical shocks, burns and electrocution. Electrocutions are the third leading cause of death in construction. And electrical fires consistently rank among the leading causes of commercial and residential fires. According to the latest statistics of the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. fire departments reported an estimated 37,910 fires at commercial properties each year, resulting in 273 civilian injuries and $1.2 billion in direct property damage per year. Additionally, the D.C. Department of Employment Services (DC DOES) awarded Power Design the “Outstanding Apprenticeship Program of 2021” award in December 2021, a program which is intended to “empower fair, safe, effective working communities,” as outlined in the DC DOES mission statement.The Board’s role of ensuring that persons and firms engaged in this high-hazard trade have the training required to perform such services is therefore critical and cannot be neglected.
Mayor Bowser and DCRA must investigate the Board’s arbitrary and unexplained decision to dismiss JwJ’s well-supported complaint against Power Design. Time is of the essence given that D.C. continues to allow Power Design to work on major construction projects including Upton Place at 4000 Wisconsin Avenue NW; Washington Gateway Apartments on New York Avenue NE; Thurston Hall Student Housing at George Washington University; and the Georgetown University Student Housing at 55 H Street NW.
DC JwJ is a coalition of labor organizations, community groups, faith-based organizations, and student groups dedicated to protecting the rights of working people, supporting the most vulnerable members of our community, and promoting racial justice in Washington, D.C.
Contact: Melinda Fiedler, 202-907-1725, firstname.lastname@example.org