Recovery workers protest in St. Thomas for payment

“You told us that you would feed us, you lied. You got us on the plane here and you said you were going to pay for our baggage and our plane tickets and you lied again,” Michael Sterns said.

Sterns is a contracted worker brought down from the states to help with the on-going recovery of the Virgin Islands after the 2017 hurricanes.

He said everything from their plane tickets, to their food, to their wages- haven’t been compensated since he arrived three weeks ago.

“Sittin’ in the Ramsay Motel with no toilet paper to wipe our backsides with, no running hot water, no clean water period for us to digest and so we can combat dehydration,” he added.

They said they tried to speak out and ask for pay, but without success.

Now they’re taking their cause to the streets of St. Thomas, calling on Washington and local elected leaders for help.

“I have text message in my phone that was sent to one of the gentlemen here that says  that the reason why we’re not being paid is that this gentleman here and myself Robert Sandt, spoke at a safety meeting the other morning with some of the other big dogs there and told them that this was unfair and it wasn’t right the way that they were doing it,” another worker, Robert Sandt said.

Now they’re taking their cause to the streets of St. Thomas, calling on Washington and local elected leaders for help.

It isn’t just stateside workers this is happening too.

Nathaniel Phillips said 45 local Virgin Islanders haven’t been paid either.

“If you’re local you’re not getting peridium you’re not being flown in you’re not getting the pay rate that they pay the stateside guys or you’re not getting housing and that is ridiculous right!?” he said.

The workers are calling on all contractors and subcontractors under the FEMA roofing program to make sure they’re paying up.

So these workers can get back to doing what they were brought here to do.

“The main companies, APTUM, AECOM, need to get under their subcontractors and deal with them not paying all of these guys,” Phillips said.

We’re continuing to follow this story as we reach out to contractors the workers mentioned.


FEMA provided this statement in response to our story. 
“The contractors (in the video) work for AECOM and AECOM works for Emergency Home Repairs VI.
FEMA provides funding for emergency home repairs VI through a public assistance grant.
The sheltered and temporary essential power program (STEP) is extended through March 31, which will provide significant additional funding for the residents of the territory.
It would be unfortunate for this to overshadow the vast amount of good work that VITEMA has performed on behalf of the residents of the US Virgin Islands with support from FEMA.”