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Press Release: Systematic Wage Theft Alleged in Construction of Pasadena Housing Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                        December 19, 2017

CONTACT:     

Lizbeth Mateo, lizbeth.mateo@poppasadena.org, 310-367-7774
Caleb Soto, Esq., csoto@ndlon.org, (305) 582-8868

Systematic Wage Theft Alleged in Construction of Pasadena Housing Project 

Two workers at a Pasadena housing project have filed a complaint with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency to collect up to 1 million in wages and fines.

Pasadena, CA, December 19, 2017 – Two Pasadena construction workers at an affordable housing project that is partially funded by the City of Pasadena filed a complaint on December 14, 2017 alleging “systematic wage theft” against the project’s general contractor.

The complaint by Pasadena residents Lorenzo Aragon and Bayron Lopez alleges that RAAM Construction Corp. and its agents required them and other low-wage workers to give kickbacks to the project’s foremen, failed to pay them for overtime and weekend work, denied them statutorily-required meal and rest breaks, and misclassified them as independent contractors rather than as employees.  Aragon also alleges that he was fired after he objected to the wage theft.  Lopez alleges that he quit because of the wage theft and was therefore “constructively discharged” (a legal term for quitting when working conditions are intolerable).

The Aragon-Lopez complaint, filed with the Labor and Workforce Development Agency (“LWDA”) seeks to recover, under the Private Attorneys General Act (“PAGA”), fines for both themselves and other affected workers, keep 25% of the fines, and pay 75% of them to the LWDA. The complaint alleges that RAAM and its agents are liable for more than $1 million dollars in such fines.

The Aragon-Lopez complaint provides that, among other things: “[RAAM and its agents misclassified] low-wage workers doing manual work on a housing construction project at Summit Street and Orange Grove Avenue in the City of Pasadena, California (“the Summit-Orange Grove Project”) and other sites both inside Pasadena and in other areas, failing and refusing to make required reductions from their pay, requiring them to work for no pay for overtime and weekend hours, requiring them to kickback to the contractor or its agents portions of their wages in order to preserve their jobs, failing and refusing to allow them statutorily required meal and rest breaks, failing to provide them at times any itemized pay stubs, failing at other times to provide them accurate pay stubs, and terminating their employment when they objected to Labor Code violations.  The claimants [ . . . ] courageously objected to the wage theft of the general contractor and its agents and [were] consequently discharged from employment.”

Caleb Soto, a staff attorney for the National Day Laborers Organizing Network (“NDLON”) and one of the attorneys representing Aragon and Lopez, explained that the complaint filed with the LWDA is a necessary step before bringing a lawsuit. LWDA will have 30 days from the filing date to decide whether it will prosecute the claims; if it elects to not prosecute them, then the workers’ attorneys will file an action in Los Angeles Superior Court to recover unpaid wages, damages for wrongful termination, and the fines for the violations against all of the construction workers.

Lorenzo Aragon said during today’s press conference, “all I want is justice and to be paid for the work that I did. We have families to feed and we work hard to provide for them. I think that the fair thing to do is to pay us for all the work that we did.”

Bayron Lopez expressed how difficult is for workers to speak out and said, “At first I was afraid to speak out for fear of losing my job. I thought it would be best to stay quiet, keep my head down and keep working. Now I realize that I have rights and so do all workers. We all deserve to be paid what we are owed.”

Pablo Alvarado, Executive Director of NDLON, said: “The Summit-Orange Grove Housing Project, which is being developed by Heritage Housing Partners (“HHP”), is a laudable effort by the City to address Pasadena’s affordable housing crisis. We fully support City funding of the project. However, it is unconscionable that low-income workers who are part of the class for whom the affordable housing is being developed are exploited by wage theft from a contractor’s agents during the construction of the housing.  Failing to pay workers for their time is a minimum wage violations, therefore we urge the City to also take enforcement action against RAAM and its agents for violating the City’s minimum wage ordinance and to begin to monitor more carefully all construction for which it provides any funding.”

Kimberly Douglas, co-chair of Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP!) stated that “our coalition of faith, labor and progressive communities organized in 2016 to improve the wage conditions for low wage workers who otherwise have little or no political leverage.  We believe a society is best measured by the conditions that prevail among those with the least.  Pasadena can and should be a fair and just community.  Our coalition is committed to that goal.”

Wage theft is a big problem, especially in low wage industries. Just this week, a study by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recovered $2 Billion in stolen wage in 2015 and 2016. In California, $116,723,603 in stolen wages were recovered for both years by the state labor department. But as the study points out, it is just a drop in the bucket. In that context, our efforts to recover the wages of Aragon and Lopez are more important than ever.

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Celebrate with POP!

Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP!) invites you to celebrate the progress we have made so far!

Please RSVP and invite others!

We know there is still so much work we must do to make Pasadena a real progressive city. But we have accomplished a lot in the short time we’ve been around and we want to celebrate with you!

  • We passed an immigration policy preventing local police from acting as ICE.
  • We fought for $15 and won! And now we are working to implement the minimum wage increase.
  • We helped prevent the loss of much-needed affordable housing and we are fighting to increase the affordable housing stock in Pasadena.
  • We raised over $6,000, stopped the deportation and secured the release of Carlos Ortiz, long time Pasadena resident, from ICE detention.
  • We continue to advocate for local and state policies that make Pasadena & California beacons of hope & progress.

This is a great opportunity to meet POP! members, learn what we are working on and what our goals are for the future.

 

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We are hosting a DACA Renewal Clinic!

FREE DACA RENEWAL CLINIC!

POP! has joined several of our partners to host a Free DACA Renewal Clinic on October 1st from 1- 6 PM at the Pasadena Community Job Center. Help us spread the word —  send this to students, teachers, community organizations, etc. Share it on social media! 

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED:  http://poppasadena.org/daca-regisration-form

Who qualifies to renew? Any current DACA recipient whose work permit expires between September 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018. But time is running out, all applications must be received by October 5, 2017.  

There is a $495 renewal fee that must be paid to the “Department of Homeland Security”, if you wish to support a DACA recipient or volunteer at the clinic, contact lizbeth.mateo@poppasadena.org.

CLINICA GRATUITA DE RENOVACION DE DACA!

POP! se ha unido a varias organizaciones para tener una Clinica gratuita de renovación de DACA el 1 de Octubre del 2017 en el Pasadena Community Job Center. Ayudenos a difundir la noticia — dejele saber a estudiantes, maestros, organizaciones comunitarias, etc. que tendremos esta clinica totalmente gratis.

SE REQUIERE REGISTRACION: http://poppasadena.org/daca-regisration-form

Hay un costo de $495 por cada renovación de DACA que se debe pagar al “Department of Homeland Security”,  si usted desea ayudar a algún joven con el costo de la renovación 0 si quiere ser voluntario para la clinica, por favor contacte a lizbeth.mateo@poppasadena.org.

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