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Wage Theft in Austin

Construction Citizen attended a press conference at the Gables Park Plaza in Austin, Texas last week.  The press conference was called by the Workers Defense Project to announce that they had assisted three workers who claimed that their employer, Capoera Construction, and Greater Metroplex Interiors (GMI), the contractor who hired Capoera Construction, owed them back wages and overtime for work that they performed on this and another project. 

The men say that they often worked up to 70 hours and six days per week without receiving overtime pay and that they were not even paid at all for their work toward the end of the projects.  Last year these men were hired by Capoera Construction to work on the luxury apartments 21 Rio in Austin, where after an accident with a failed scaffold killed three workers on June 10, 2009, Capoera Construction disappeared without paying the remaining workers the wages which they had already earned.  Now after over a year of negotiating and trying to come to a settlement, the workers are filing a class action suit against the specialty drywall and stucco contractor.  The class action suit will allow more plaintiffs to join the suit who may be unaware of their rights or are currently afraid to speak up and defend them.

At the press conference, Patricia Zavala of the Workers Defense Project announced:
“The workers, along with the Workers Defense Project, have decided to file a class action lawsuit in federal court to recover their wages.  We’ve been left with no other recourse, since it seems that no one wants to take responsibility since these buildings have already been completed and people are already living in them.  ...People are making money, however these workers who built these buildings have still not been paid.”

One of the workers, Eligio Cruz, with Emily Timm of the Workers Defense Project translating, spoke about his experience working on these projects:

The attorney handling the case, Craig Deats, said in the press conference that the suit was being filed on the basis of the Fair Labor Standards Act under what is called a “joint employer theory”.   After the press conference, he further explained to Construction Citizen:
“Under the theory, when an employer controls the aspects of the work of the employees of another employer, they can be held liable under the joint employer theory.”

GMI is being named as a joint employer who knowingly hired the sub contractor who routinely employed day laborers and committed wage theft.

Workers Defense Project is an Austin organization dedicated to improving working conditions for low-wage workers in construction and other industries.


Fredd's picture

Its shameful that these workers aren’t paid what they deserve. Its similar to slavery, where the difference is that these people are free and for the name sake are paid with some small amounts. It’s a pathetic action from the authorities.

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