After a 2 month battle, a small siding crew has been paid the wages they were owed on the work they did at Camellia Gardens, part of the new Maynard Crossing (129 Parker St., Maynard). This is a significant victory for worker rights and shows that general contractors can be held responsible for ensuring that crews down the subcontracting chain are treated fairly.
The crew of 4 from Waltham were not paid by the Atlantis Builders Inc., who was subcontracted by Peter DeSalvo Contracting LLC. They reached out to Metrowest Legal Services and the Metrowest Worker Center, who negotiated with all the companies involved. In conjunction with the Metrowest Immigrant Solidarity Network, the group presented a letter to Hawthorn Construction Group, LLC on September 20, 2019, asking them to remedy this injustice by leveraging their power as the general contractor. While neither DeSalvo or Hawthorn knew of this wage theft, both stepped up to right this wrong and today, the work crew received the remaining wages they were owed.
We hope this victory encourages all workers to fight for their rights. And we hope all contractors will be encouraged by the ethical business practices of DeSalvo and Hawthorn.
Metrowest Worker Center Statement on US Department of Labor Lawsuit Alleging Egregious Employer Retaliation Against Injured Immigrant Worker
For more information: Diego Low, Metrowest Worker Center, (508) 532-0575
Metrowest Worker Center is pleased to report that yesterday the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that employer Tara Construction and its CEO Pedro Pirez egregiously and illegally retaliated against a worker who suffered and reported a serious workplace injury -- causing the worker to be arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). We hope that workers throughout the region take heart from USDOL’s
action and feel empowered to pursue their legal and human rights. We also hope that employers take this case as a serious indication of the consequences of using immigration related threats and actions to illegally intimidate workers and to prevent them from exercising their basic workplace rights.
We will not stand for employers who target vulnerable workers to deny them their rights, undermining working conditions for the entire labor force and endangering our communities.
The worker in USDOL’s case, Jose Martin Paz Flores, is a hard-working, devoted husband and father who came to the United States over 18 years ago, fleeing violence and crime in his native Honduras. Since then, Mr. Paz Flores has established a life for himself and his family in the Boston area, raising his five children together with his wife and supporting them as a construction worker. On March 29, 2017, Mr. Paz Flores fell from a ladder while working as a
drywall taper for Tara Construction. He fractured his femur in the fall, requiring immediate hospitalization and surgery. Mr. Paz Flores soon learned, however, that Tara Construction had allowed its workers’ compensation insurance policy to lapse and, as a result, that he would not begin receiving wage loss compensation and medical coverage as required by law.
After being notified that the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) had initiated an inquiry into the accident, and after also receiving notification that Mr. Paz Flores’ workers’ compensation insurance claim had been denied because of the policy lapse, Mr. Pirez and Tara Construction seemingly recognized the seriousness of their failure to meet their legal obligations. In an apparent attempt to prevent Mr. Paz Flores from pursuing his rights, Mr. Pirez and Tara Construction retaliated against him in a dramatic and life-changing way: Mr. Pirez contacted and collaborated with the Boston Police Department to have Mr. Paz Flores arrested and detained by ICE. On May 10, 2017, Mr. Pirez lured Mr. Paz Flores to the Tara Construction office with a promise of financial support. After handing Mr. Paz Flores $500 in cash, Mr. Pirez and others from Tara Construction watched as he left the office on crutches, returned to the car where a friend and his toddler son waited for him, and was detained and arrested by ICE.
Mr. Paz Flores subsequently spent 12 days in ICE detention, causing him great suffering and threatening his precarious medical recovery. He experienced excruciating physical pain in his leg that was worsened by trying to use crutches while his hands and feet were shackled, as well as the denial of pain medication for several days. His family was plunged into a financial and emotional crisis, suffering devastating fear and anxiety that he could be deported, leaving them without a husband and father. His two-year-old son could not sleep after having seen his father arrested.
The nonprofit human rights organization Metrowest Worker Center, together with workers’ compensation attorney Stacie Sobosik and immigration attorney Christina Corbaci, rallied public pressure and initiated government investigations in order to assist in obtaining Mr. Paz Flores’ release from detention. Yesterday’s filing by USDOL is the outcome of its OSHA investigation into the unlawful retaliation against Mr. Paz Flores for the protected activities of reporting a workplace injury and causing OSHA to initiate an inquiry. Attorney Audrey Richardson of Greater Boston Legal Services represents Mr. Paz Flores as a witness in the USDOL matter.
The brazenness of Tara Construction and Pedro Pirez’s retaliatory actions in this case are stunning. However, the basic pattern of employers who threaten retaliation, or who more subtly retaliate against workers to deter them from asserting their rights by reporting workplace injuries and other violations of their rights (including sexual harassment and wage theft), is a daily reality. While we are extremely concerned about the role of the Boston Police Department in this case and in collaborating with ICE more generally, the Metrowest Worker Center and allies reiterate that USDOL’s filing is a victory for workers’ rights and immigrant rights in the Commonwealth. This case is an important first step toward protecting workers, especially immigrant workers, from unlawful retaliation for exercising their basic workplace rights.
For news coverage of this issue:
The Metrowest Worker Center - Casa is happy to share the news with you that Liz Garrigan-Byerly will be assuming the role of Assistant Director for Casa. It will be a full time position, which will include shepherding Metrowest Immigrant Solidarity Network as it continues to evolve. Liz has been Associate Pastor at the Village Church in Wellesley since 2014 and lives in Framingham with her husband and daughter. You all have watched as she has made time to help shape the formation of MISN and helped guide it through its growing pains. She will continue to support MISN in her new role at Casa and we hope will be able to devote more time and focus to developing our outreach and trainings. She will also be doing program support with Casa's work on wage theft and injured workers and help with fundraising for all of this work. She will begin two days a week in March, three days a week in April and then transition to full time in May. It is a great gift for Casa that she feels called to do this work full time.
In more big news, Brenda Quintana, our Quaker Service Volunteer/Fellow will transition to being full time staff supporting the injured worker project in particular when her fellowship ends in July. Brenda brings a wonderful presence to her work and we are delighted that she wants to continue to work with us next year.
This is a time of amazing and wonderful growth for Casa. I am so grateful that both of these amazing women will be helping Diego carry the work of Casa forward. As you know, the work of both addressing people's immediate needs and efforts to change the system that creates their nightmares has grown these past few years. It is essential that we build a strong community that cares for all in our midst and together work to undo the systems that oppress and terrify people. We are also grateful for what each of you contribute to this work.
Angelica and her daughter were reunited in a briefing room at Logan Airport on July 5th. After a bit of time together, they came out to face a huge bank of cameras and reporters. Also gathered were children and friends of the folks who had been working for their reunion. Angelica, her lawyers and Re. Katherine Clark all spoke, then Sandy read a poem she had written for her mom. The lights dimmed, and they rode with new friends to start their new life together in Framingham. The next day the friends regathered to celebrate her 8th birthday, which had taken place while she was in detention. Of all the press about their story, we particularly like this one by Rupa Shanoy, of PRI The World. www.pri.org/stories/2018-07-10/mother-and-daughter-have-been-reunited-there-still-much-their-life-they-need-put
In case the lessons about bureaucratic rigidity hadn't been clear enough, MWC-Casa has had another lesson. We began working to help get a father still in detention reunited with his 51/2 year old child. One is in NY state and one in the south. Using the ICE locator system, we were able to find him, but we can't contact him. And he can't call out because he has no money in his account. We called to put money in the account, but that was deemed impossible as we don't know his "A-number" (Alien ID number). We have contacted lawyers and people in our Congressional delegation, but so far we are stuck in the crazy little circle that is an impossible barrier. Please, keep calling your Congressional delegation and ask them to put pressure on ICE and the detention facilities to make these reunions happen.
This week the Metrowest Worker Center has been standing with Angelica in her efforts to be reunited with her daughter. The pair fled terrible violence in Guatemala a few months ago. They were picked up near the border in Arizona and taken to a detention center. One morning they were awakened at 5am. She was ordered to dress her daughter in an oversized shirt, a blue jacket and blue pants then placed in a line with other children to be taken away. That mid-May morning was the last time she saw her daughter, then 7 years old. A few days later her daughter turned 8 years old alone with total strangers. They have been able to speak by phone 5 times in the past 6 weeks. Angelica was released by ICE after making her case for asylum and came to Framingham were she knows a few people.
MWC-Casa was contacted about the situation on a Friday. By the end of the weekend, Diego had met with Angelica, obtained an excellent immigration attorney (pro bono), and set up a meeting with the Attorney General’s office. The lawyer immediately began efforts to obtain the daughter’s release. When that effort failed they held a press conference on Wednesday June 27th to announce that they filed suit in US District Court to get the agencies involved to speedily release the child to her mother.
You can listen to the press conference https://www.facebook.com/aclumass/videos/10155668756312475/
You can read the Boston Globe coverage of the story www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/06/27/guatemalan-seeking-asylum-sues-for-daughter-return/VgFMzzGC3EiqcKqRJHfrsO/story.html
You can make a donation to the fund that has been created to help buy the airplane tickets that we hope will be needed soon, help with counseling costs, help with emergency housing and other basic needs that will continue until Angelica is given permission to work. https://fundrazr.com/01MyA8?ref=ab_c7MkU5