Flagging is a fast-paced construction job that keeps traffic moving on roadwork projects and helps prevent accidents. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door in the construction industry and can lead to higher level positions like a laborer or even a project manager position.
But despite the popularity of the job, it’s a low-paying gig for nonunion flaggers who are paid less than what they’re legally entitled to by state law. And this exploitation not only damages the lives of individual workers but hurts unionized flaggers as well, says Lowell Barton, an organizing director with the Laborers’ Local 1010.
It takes just a few months of training to become a certified flagger. Most states require that flaggers pass a course that covers safety regulations and proper flagging techniques. You can find these courses at local community colleges and through specialized agencies that fulfill the labor needs of construction companies.
Once you’re a certified flagger, you can be hired by companies like Griffin, MDU Resources or Con Edison. These companies often subcontract work to other firms, including smaller flagging companies that pay lower wages. It was this sort of company that evicted Ballast from his apartment and forced him to live in a homeless shelter for a while.
Ballast is now a plaintiff in several lawsuits against these nonunion firms. He and his lawyers are seeking prevailing wage rates, daily overtime and other compensation for their clients. In court filings, both Griffin and Con Edison deny the allegations.