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Workers in Austin Fight Back Against Gables

Workers' rights advocates in Austin are ramping up a push to hold Gables Residential accountable for the kind of working conditions that are reportedly prevalent on many of the Atlanta-based company's jobsites.  Led by organizers with the Workers Defense Project (WDP), about 200 people marched to the Gables Park Plaza in Austin on Saturday to demand safer conditions and better treatment.

In addition – and this is key – a worker the day before filed a lien on the property as a way to recover unpaid overtime.  The lien, of course, is a legal claim for unpaid wages that holds the owner legally responsible.  Heriberto Mendoza was a painter on the unfinished Gables Park Tower project who told Workers Defense that Flores Painting Services, a subcontractor on the Gables site, has failed to pay him overtime since he began work on the project in early January.

“Supervisors would mistreat us, making us work much longer than anyone should have to work without water,” said Filemon Salas, who also worked for Gables on the site.  “I saw several co-workers faint because they were made to work in 100 to 110 degree heat without water.”  Salas was the main plaintiff on a wage theft lawsuit filed against subcontractors on the Gables site.

After reaching out to Gables for years, the company finally agreed to meet with Workers Defense this past week.

“WDP is asking Gables to join the organization’s Better Builder program.  The program calls for workers to receive a living wage, have safe working conditions, and for companies to invest in workforce training,” said Emily Timm, Deputy Director of WDP.

In a statement to the Austin American Statesman, a spokeswoman for Gables said the company is committed to a safe working environment.

“We are an industry leader in providing quality homes for our residents as well as a safe working environment for our employees and contractors,” said Gigi Giannoni with the company.  She also confirmed that they are meeting with Workers Defense.  “Gables has always been and will continue to be committed to safe working environments for our associates and contractors, as well as being committed to continuing to be a responsible member of the Austin community.”

“When we build, we want to make sure our workers are safe and receive a fair wage.  That’s why we’re proud to participate in Worker Defense Project’s program,” said Floyd Akers, Executive Director of the Pflugerville Community Development Corporation.

“We need to set the bar higher for developers across Texas so that companies that prove to be good stewards can compete, and the workers building our communities have the wage and safety protections they deserve.  Companies that come to Austin should know that we value our workforce and expect them to invest in our city and the people who build it,” said Council Member Mike Martinez.

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